Quick-And-Dirty “When?” Divination With the Wheel

We as readers know one of the trickiest tasks in Tarot is answering a “when?” question. This provides an astrology based “quick and dirty” method that I’ve seen at several sites such as this one. I have used it and had some success. It may not be a full substitute for more complicated methods. For example, I’ve seen at least one numerology based method that someone has told me is very useful. But this method is also a demonstration of the uses that the Tarot Wheel can be put to, and so, I’ve decided that this might be a useful post as the first one following its “1.0” release. (After all, we did call it “A Calendar of all the Cards!” The simple method we’ll describe here starts with a version of the wheel without coloring. We’ll open a paint program and color-fill the shapes for the cards drawn. Once we’ve filled in our card shapes, we locate the most important card(s) drawn, and we also look for “concentrations” of colors (colored shapes on top or next to each other). We then read the associated dates and/or durations. Voilà! We now have a rough time period or idea of the duration in answer to the “when?” question. This has actually worked for me more than once. I’ll detail that below.

Miscellaneous update note: I am re-instituting the mandatory confirmation of email addresses for those that wish to register to download the “source” files. A “bad actor” has returned, and is submitting multiple phony addresses, most likely probing for a spam conduit, or to grab files. My sincere apologies for the inconvenience, and thanks for understanding.

The organizing principles in this method are as follows:

  • For all minor arcana, we use the date range of the decan associated with the card, as defined by the Golden Dawn.
  • For court cards and Aces, we use the assigned decans or seasons, respectively, as defined by the Golden Dawn.
  • For any major arcana card associated with a zodiac sign, we use the dates of that sign.
  • For any major arcana card associated with a planetary sign, we call it a duration. This means that the answer may be, or include a period of time rather than a time period. It may indicate that the indicated activity will last X days. The exact duration defined by these cards placed under planetary signs will be equal to the length in Earth days of the planet’s revolution around the Sun. For example, the Magician is associated with Mercury. Mercury’s orbit is 88 days. Therefore the Magician represents a duration of 88 days. If some durations look outlandish, such as those expressed in years, recall that the outer planets do in fact take years to make one orbit of the Sun. As for the Sun having a one year “orbit”… that’s what it would have looked like back when Earth was at the center of the celestial spheres! Ditto for the Moon… 28 days.
  • For cards assigned by the Golden Dawn to a classical element, we assign the date range of a season based upon the traditional association of the element and season.

Let’s have a look at what that looks like. The following was produced from the Visio source for the Wheel. The fill colors were changed to white or no fill. The font and line colors were changed to black (or gray in some cases) if they were previously white. In the underlying Excel spreadsheet, all the meanings were deleted. We added duration and periods as text in column “B,” the title column of the spreadsheet, taking care not to touch column “A,” the IDs. We then refreshed the data. Seeing as how we had extra space, we then increased the font size for the calendar and decan shapes. We then exported to a bitmap (as opposed to a vector file). You’ll see why we did that a little further down. But as you look at it… note that if you were to take a highlighter pen, virtual or real, and fill in the shapes according to the cards drawn, you could easily see where everything falls on the calendar, or have a “note” that tells you a duration.

Tarot Wheel with no colors or divinatory meanings. Click to fill browser window. Backspace to return. Right-click, Save As to save.

Now, let’s apply it to a recent and successful “when?” question. This was a seven card horseshoe spread. The spread is nicely diagrammed here, though they are not the originators of the spread. The positions denote:

  1. Past events that affect the current situation.
  2. Current state or very near future.
  3. Hidden influences the querent may not be aware of.
  4. Obstacles ahead which may or may not be possible to avoid.
  5. External influences, usually people around the querent.
  6. Suggestions, or a recommendation to consider as a part of a strategy.
  7. The final outcome.

Process of Filling in the Drawn Cards Using Microsoft Paint’s Fill Tool

The actual question concerned a “love” outcome, regarding when a specific desired event might happen. We can add that the reading took place December 1st, 2018. We load the “blank” (white) calendar file into Microsoft Paint (though we can use any bitmap editor). We zoom in. We pick a yellow color from the palette, and the “Fill” tool from the tools. Then we located the drawn cards, and clicked inside the shape of each. You can click on the illustration at right to see how that process looks in the Paint application. (Backspace will take you back to this page). You may notice that the insides of any closed letters (such as “o”) aren’t filled in. That’s the way the fill tool works… we only want quick-and-dirty for now.

We determine that the Two of Pentacles and the High Priestess are the most important cards, based upon the former being in the “outcome” position, and the latter in “external influences” (since this was a question relating to someone external). The Eight of Wands was in the “suggestions” position; since the query wasn’t asking “how to” so much as when, it may or may not have been important, but we will accept it as important. The Devil was probably important, insofar as the question was of a quite physical nature. Below is the wheel we saw above as it looks after all seven were colored in:

Zodiac Wheel - seven cards filled with color
Zodiac Wheel – seven cards filled with color

By looking for cards that overlap in time, we can graphically map three cards, two of which we said might be particularly important (Devil and Two of Pentacles). Of the two other cards we said might be important, one actually indicates the decan during which we drew the cards, and the other a duration of 28 days, which takes us into the period of the three cards if we start from the day we drew the cards!

To reveal the ending: the event took place, at the very end (December 29th) of the decan covered by the Two of Pentacles, exactly 28 days after the cards were drawn. As an odd sidenote, approximately three months later, in line with the 88 days predicted by the Magician, a related event took place, though it had not been part of the original question. I can’t say that any other “when?” question that I’ve done has been answered with quite this many alignments, but overall, I haven’t done badly with this method.

Additional Notes on Time Telling

As I had said, this is a quick-and-dirty method. It’s much simpler than some more powerful methods that have been recommended to me. I wouldn’t bet the ranch on this method. But it has worked for me, more than once (in fact, I have a small bet going on an event that I predicted will take place between mid-October and mid-November based on the same process, though we haven’t revealed the bet to the person at the center of it!).

Of greater relevance, it represents the flexibility of having the source for the Tarot Wheel and tools to work it. It took very little time to customize the wheel. To remove color fills, I unlocked the layers one by one, clicked on a shape, set fill to white, clicked on the next, pressed function key F4 (repeat), repeating for each layer. I have already described editing the spreadsheet. Where I increased font size, I clicked the first shape, increased the font, clicked the next, pressed function key F4… and so on. This is what technology is for: to cut down the labor of repetitive tasks, and free us to actually understand the thing in front of us.

If you liked the simple method of “coloring in” the cards to arrive at a date/duration, by all means download (remember, right-click, save as) the completely white wheel that appears near the top of the page.

There is, as I mentioned, a more elaborate time divination method that has been recommended to me. I have not used it, but the person who has recommended it generally knows her way around Tarot. It is specific to the Celtic Cross. The process is ably explained in Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice by Eileen Connolly (New Page Books, 1979). The recipe for that process is something like this:

  1. Identify the time-related and feelings-related positions in the spread. The latter is important because they influence how the actors will influence the outcome. In the Celtic Cross, the positions are 5-6-7-8-9.
  2. If an Ace appears in any of those particular spread positions, you’ve identified a season (see the Zodiac wheel—the aces cover seasons, but starting at the beginning of the calendar month of the first day of the season. See revision note at the bottom of this page). If no Ace appears, there is not enough information to predict a date. For our example, we will say the Ace of Wands is drawn.
  3. If the outcome card (position 10) is a minor card between two and ten, the time indicated is that number of weeks into that particular season. If the outcome card is a major arcana, reduce the numeric value to one digit; but also inform the querent that the answer shall be of special significance due to the nature of the card in that position. If the outcome card is is a court card, work back through the positions (9-8-7, etc.) and use the value of the first minor numbered or major arcana (reduced) that you see. Note that the court card as outcome may also identify a person that has something to do with the timing.
  4. Determine the reduction of the current year as the Christ cycle number. For 2019, it would be 2+0+1+9=12; then 1+2=3, with 3 being the number we want.
  5. We then use that to determine the personal life cycle for the querent in this current year (“carrying the 3”). Let us say the birthday for the querent is February 29😉. The calculation is the Christ Cycle plus month plus day, 3 + 2 + 29 = 34; equals 3 + 4 = 7.
  6. Take the number of the month you found by counting the weeks into the season. Let’s say you started in the summer season, June 1, as per the Ace of Wands’ Julian calendar alignment and the number of weeks (the minor card in the tenth position) was four. Four weeks then brings us to June 28. So, the month number is 6, as an example. Add that to the personal life cycle number: 6 + 7 = 13. We reduce once more, 1 + 3 = 4. This last number is called the individual day cycle.
  7. In our example, as we said, we’re in the week starting June 23. We must now look for a day in that week which when we add it to 4, which was the card in the tenth position, reduces to 4, which was the individual day cycle number. The week contains the dates 23,24,25,26,27,28 and 29. We identify the number by inspection; esoteric reduction is easier than multiplying Roman numerals, at least!
    27+4=31; 3+1=4
  8. That is the divination according to this method: the 27th of June.

Note that the method will not work with every drawing, nor even with every birthday. In those cases the tarot either does not have enough information to supply a definite answer, or the answer is so subject to change that there is no possible answer.

Final Word

I’m tempted to create a javascript program to programmatically execute Connolly’s method and put it in a web page. Though I think I’ll take a short break from computer intensive tarot projects following the “building” of the Tarot Wheel! The main point of this exercise is to let everyone know that the Wheel is for customizing!

Update Note and Revision History:

Update 1.1 2019-08-01. (1) Moves the four Aces 1 1/3 decans clockwise to align with the Julian months rather than the equinoxes/solstices; (2) fixes three typos and (3) edits the start of the calendar calculation according to Connolly based on the Aces’ move. Thanks to Robert Seidel and Julie Sharp of the Facebook Tarot Professionals Group. Note that only the blank wheel was updated. Because the move did not affect the yellow highlighted ones, they were left as before.


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John Iacovelli

I have spent 30+ years in the computing industry. In it I've pretty much done everything from tech support for elderly people doing genealogy, to documenting compilers, to software evangelist, to direct mail guru, to CIO of an international corporation. And here I am, older and gray, getting interested in Tarot?