A little while ago a reader commented in the birdhouse, asking how she should read yes/no questions. Because I have since been asked the same another time, via email, I decided to create this here blog post with a more elaborate answer. It is definitely going to be of interest to beginners; if you are already familiar with Lenormand, part a) of this article won’t bring up much new. Part b) might.
Yes/no questions often appear in one of the following three forms:
- “Is X the case?”
- “Will X happen?”
- “Should I do X?”
And there are two radically different general ways a card reader could deal with such yes/no questions. They could:
- allow yes/no questions, and try to infer yes/no(/maybe) answers from the cards drawn, or
- rephrase yes/no questions into different types of questions with more complex answers which empower the querent to figure out whether X is the case / how to discourage or encourage X / weigh important pros and cons regarding X.
The next section of this article outlines how yes/no answers are most commonly inferred from the cards. And it explains why I don’t follow this approach. The last section of the article explains and uses examples to demonstrate how yes/no questions can be rephrased.
a) get yes/no answers
Allowing yes/no questions and producing yes/no answers seems to be the more common, and more traditional, approach. While the exact proceedings can vary, most people in some way or another get yes/no answers by counting how many positive, negative, and neutral, cards they have drawn, and interpreting a majority of positive cards as a “yes”, a majority of negative cards as a “no”, and a tie, as a “maybe”. I won’t go into depth here for two reasons. One is that there are already plenty of instructions to be found online in other people’s writings and videos. Donnaleigh of Tarot Tribe, Beyond Worlds, for example, has at least two detailed videos about it on YouTube, with lots of examples! The other reason is that I don’t use this approach. Here’s why:
- Sure: The advantage of this method is that it gives you a (seemingly) clear answer – a yes, or a no, or a maybe. However!
- If it is true that the cards can’t tell the future, if it’s true that they can’t “know” anything about reality other than what the card reader projects onto them, then a yes/no/maybe answer isn’t just not useful. It also can be dangerous to base our actions on it.
- And put in a different way: I believe that our actions and decisions should be based on reliable information and sound reasoning. While this doesn’t guarantee the outcome we are hoping for, it means that at least we did our best and won’t have to reproach ourselves even if things still go wrong. A “yes” or “no” deducted from a few colourful pieces of cardboard that were picked by chance doesn’t count as reliable information or sound reasoning to me!
- Especially when I read the cards for others: As a card reader I do not want to be responsible for someone’s decisions. I can help the querent come to a decision themselves. But I won’t allow them to hand over something that should be their own responsibility to the cards (and thus, to me).
b) rephrase the question
I wrote above that yes/no questions often appear in one of the following three forms:
- “Is X the case?”
- “Will X happen?”
- “Should I do X?”
Let’s go through them one by one.
questions in the form of “is x the case?”
Basic rephrasing: “How/where can the querent find out whether X is the case?”
For example: The question “Is Bob in love with me, too?” I would rephrase into “How can I find out whether Bob is in love with me?”. Then I pick a 3-card String and read it from left to right as the answer: “I need to focus (Anchor) on broadcasting / making obvious (Sun) my own feelings for Bob, even if that is difficult for me / even if I fear that it will cause some pain (Cross) in case he doesn’t return my feelings – or: and then what is supposed to happen will happen (Cross)!”
Alternative/additional rephrasing: Usually when people ask questions of the type “Is X the case?” they have a strong preference. They either hope very strongly that X is the case, or, that X is not the case. It can be productive to have the cards show a positive implication of the undesired outcome. This can help the querent understand that even if things turned out to be different from what they wanted, that wouldn’t be the end of the world and might even offer unforeseen chances. In other words, this approach helps to put things in perspective.
For example: The querent asked “Is Bob in love with me, too?” and is hoping that this is the case. Now we ask the cards “What would be a positive implication if Bob didn’t love me back?”. And we draw a 3-card String to answer this question. In this case, I read the String from the centre outwards. “If Bob didn’t love me back, a good thing about this would be that it would give me as a person (Woman) the chance to reorient myself (Stork) and find new strength in myself, by myself (Bear) / and find someone else who is a stronger, more capable person than Bob.”
questions in the form of “will x happen?”
Basic rephrasing: “What can I do to make it more likely that X happens?” (if X is a desired outcome), or “What can I do make it less likely that X happens?” (if X is an undesired outcome).
For example: We rephrase the question “Will I get the job?” into “What can I do to make it more likely that I get the job?”. Then we pick a 3-card String. Now, especially because we’re asking about an action, we might also read the String from left to right. But in the case of these cards, relating to this question, I was immediately drawn to reading the String from the centre outward, with the central card as the main answer and the two side cards as specificators. The Sun says to me very clearly that in order to get the job, the querent needs to avoid hiding their light under a bushel; they need to make very obvious how great they are (Sun)! The Anchor and the Cross both hint to me that an especially important aspect to emphasise could be how reliable, hardworking, and responsible, they are.
Alternative/additional rephrasing: As before, when people ask questions of the type “Will X happen?” they usually have a strong preference. They either hope very strongly that X will happen, or, that X won’t happen. And again, it can be productive to have the cards show a positive implication of the undesired outcome. This can help the querent understand that even if things turned out different from what they wanted, that wouldn’t be the end of the world and might even offer unforeseen chances. In other words, this approach helps to put things in perspective.
For example: The querent asked “Will I get the job?”, and getting the job is the desired outcome. Now we ask the cards “What would be a positive implication if the querent didn’t get the job?”. And we draw a 3-card String to answer this question. Again, I would read the String from the centre outward. “If the querent didn’t get the job, an advantage would be that this would give her (Woman) time to reorient herself (Stork) and become more proficient in other areas of her life / more proficient for other types of jobs (Bear).”
questions in the form of “should I do x?”
Basic rephrasing: “What would be positive or negative consequences of doing X, and what would be positive or negative consequences of not doing X?”.
For example: We rephrase the question “Should I move in with my lover?” into “What would be positive or negative consequences of moving in with my lover? And what would be positive or negative consequences of not moving in with my lover?”. Then we pick a 3-card String for each of these questions and read each String from the centre outward. Here are the cards pointing out “consequences of moving in with my lover”:
“At least on the surface, or even on the whole, moving in with my lover would bring much joy (Sun). Beneath that though, I need to consider that there will also be new duties and responsibilities (Cross) because of the shared daily life (Anchor) – and/or, having to share daily routines (Anchor) might also add a hitherto unknown feeling of burden to the relationship (Cross).
Then we pick a 3-card String to show “consequences of not moving in with my lover”:
Here, the cards might be saying that “Not moving in with my lover could have the consequence that my girlfriend (Woman) will be more likely to feel drawn (Stork) to someone who is willing to play a more dominant role in her life (Bear).”.
Just to be clear: there are probably other ways of dealing with yes/no questions out there! If what I wrote is not helpful, just go and look for different approaches.
Also, my use of 3-card Strings is not an integral part of my own “rephrase the question” approach. You might as well draw just one card, or two cards, or use a 5-card String or even a Tableau. It’s just that I personally prefer 3-card Strings for these types of questions because 3-card Strings balance depth of information and conciseness so well.