Four Questions, One Card--A New Method Using the Comparative Tarot Deck
Article by Valerie Sim-Behi

I began exploring the comparative method of reading tarot cards in the late 1980s and used the process both to read and to teach new students card meanings. The Comparative Tarot email list was formed in August 1999 and became an international online workshop for learning and using this method. Riccardo Minetti of Lo Scarabeo, an Italian publisher of tarot decks, approached me with his innovative idea of a "four-cards-in-one" deck and asked me to write the accompanying instruction booklet for this landmark pack which would enable readers to do comparative readings with just one deck of cards.

When I use the deck in my personal readings, I find simultaneously viewing dramatically different interpretations of each card's energies opens up a range of ideas and associations I might otherwise have missed. It is a way of tapping into the unique voice of four different decks at once in order to arrive at a chorus of meaning richer and fuller than via a one-deck solo. My e-mail list has seen me work with this method for years now and I am delighted to say that several of the listmembers now far surpass their teacher. Some of the comparative readings published over the last three years to the list have absolutely amazed me. Usually, the comparative method is utilized for study, or in answer to one specific question in a tarot reading. Recently, though, a new use occurred to me. Here’s that story…


I do paid readings and I also donate time online to reading for both the Free Tarot Network (FTN) that provides one-card readings, and the Free Reading Network (FRN) that provides three-card readings. This is a question I actually received on FTN for which I was supposed to give a one-card answer. “What do you see in the future for me regarding love, career, health and money?”


Normally when using the Comparative Tarot deck I use it to answer one specific question and utilize the different pictures on the card(s) to lend amplification to the reading. I had never considered using it to answer more than one question at once… but I couldn’t resist trying when the above question hit my roster on FTN. That which follows is an actual reading demonstrating the way I used the Comparative Tarot Deck to handle four questions with one card. (Client’s name changed & reading changed slightly to protect his anonymity.)


Dear Bill,

Thanks for this opportunity to read for you!

I have been reading tarot cards and casting astrological charts for over 30 years and both are passions of which I never tire. Though some tarot readers use the cards to "divine" (to tell the future), and true psychics don't need the cards at all, I am technically neither a diviner nor a psychic. Though my psychic ability is improving as I progress along my shamanic path, I am certainly no Sylvia Browne, nor do I claim to be. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't want that burden. I find I do best when I simply listen to the advice of the tarot as it consistently empowers those for whom I read, and myself in the process. The tarot has never deserted me in this respect. It always speaks. It does not require that I be psychic, merely that I listen.

I definitely don't believe that the future is set in stone. That is a good thing! As human beings with free will, we are the masters of our own destinies. The tarot can empower us to make positive changes in our own lives by nudging us in directions we may previously have missed. I use the tarot to help me to find the correct directions on a path that either I and/or my clients may have over-looked prior to consulting the cards. Together, as reader and client, we are able to use the wisdom of the tarot to point out an option or options that we may not have seen on our own. 

Bill, as you probably already know, the Free Tarot Network uses "one card" answers for all the questions it receives. Whether you realized it or not, your question was actually four completely separate queries. The tarot is an incredible oracle, but answering four totally different questions with one card is a demanding task even for it.

Normally, when something like this happens, most readers tend to "re-phrase" a question diplomatically and in a positive manner in order to make the multiple questions answerable, to combine them into one, or to at least render them approachable in a way that will prove beneficial to our clients. I was going to do just that, and even considered re-phrasing in a manner similar to this: "What advice does Bill most need to pay attention to in regards to love, career, health and/or money?"

But then I decided to have ultimate faith in this oracle that has not failed me in over thirty years of almost constant use. I decided to take your question *as is* and answer it, precisely as dictated...and with ONLY one card.

To do so, I chose to use the multiple voices of the Comparative Tarot deck, a tarot deck in which each card pictures four card images from four different decks. (It allows one to compare various artistic interpretations for every card, sort of like consulting four different decks at once.) I will use this deck to answer all four of your questions, one question each per one illustration on the single card drawn. I will admit this is not the way I generally recommend using the deck, so it will be an experiment for both of us.

The card I drew after shuffling was the World. Here are the four answers to your four questions:

What do you see in the future for me regarding love? - The World - Universal Tarot by Roberto de Angelis:

From the little white instruction booklet included with the deck (LWB) "perfection; completeness; union; integration; fulfillment"

Here we see the world-dancing lady in her completed glory. This swan song marks the end of the journey for the innocent Fool that began long ago. As the completion of one journey, this card marks the beginning of another... It is, in effect, the portal to a completely new existence. Here we glimpse Lady World dancing confidently with a wand in each hand... (Whereas the younger Magician had only one) This card heralds the success and mastery of those forces the young Magician merely invoked. The World Dancer is in complete mastery of, and in synthesis with, her environment. All of the elements are present (Air-Water-Earth-Fire)

This is the cosmic version of an "All systems go!" I believe based on the card drawn that you are at a stage in your life when you are ready for a union that can make both partners whole. Remain balanced elementally and you will discover a union that may surprise you. Remember that both life and love are a cosmic dance. Step lightly, but confidently, and remain open to the Universe around you.

What do you see in the future for me regarding career? - The World - Tarot of the Sphinx by Silvana Alasia:

From the Comparative Tarot LWB: "full result; perfection; reward; accomplishment."

This card is a visual vignette of the goddess Nut, sky-goddess of the Heavens.  She was the sister-wife of the earth god Geb, to whom she bore Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys. She was sometimes represented with her hands and feet on the earth and the curve of her body forming the vault of heaven. She was goddess of the skies. Even though the god Geb was her twin brother, Nut was still compelled to marry him. Ra was so upset by this that he commanded the god Shu to separate them. She was married to Ra, but also took Thoth for a lover. Nut was then made to form the sky and her husband/brother Geb was made to form the Earth.  Nut is usually depicted as a woman with blue skin covered in stars, standing on all fours. She is leaning over her husband representing the sky.

Seems there are some conflicting opinions here amongst all the positivity?... My advice: The "reward" keyword is still accurate. It cannot be denied that there are multiple agendas present. Notice that there is a recumbent figure on the card while another stands erect and is infused with the energy of Nut. You are not the "recliner." You are the figure that is connected to the goddess and realizes that your career is in your own capable hands. At this point in time, Nut frames the sky for you. Use this time to come into you career potential. This could very well be the time you reach your goals and/or find your calling... and in spite of competition, known or unknown.

What do you see in the future for me regarding health? - The World - Tarot of the Origins by Sergio Toppi:

From the Comparative Tarot LWB: "complexity and reward expressed through megalithic circles of primitive men"

Looks *rock solid* to me! You are young. Your body is still rewarding you effortlessly. If you are eating well and exercising it will continue to do so for quite some time, if not... who knows what the tarot will have to say next time? ;-) This is not to wax morbid. The World card is a positive affirmation of that which is coming into fruitful completion. You are physically not only what you have inherited, but also that which you have built. I suspect that you actively take care of yourself and are building a physical temple to house your spiritual nature. If that is not the case, please consider doing so before youth betrays you.

Saturn rules this card. Take care of your bones & teeth and make sure you do nothing to hurt your back. Remember: This card is a super card. It is not an augury of problems, but rather a friendly reminder to take care of those bones that literally support you.

What do you see in the future for me regarding money? - The World - Tarot de Marseilles:

From the Comparative Tarot LWB: "reward; completion; success; celebration."

Here we can not fail to miss the angel, eagle, bull and lion at the four corners of the card, also representing the four cardinal points, north, south, east and west. As the early origins of tarot are intertwined with Christian iconography, here we are also viewing the creatures mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel.

Some attribute the dancing figure to the culmination of the Greek mystery rites. Others think that perhaps the floating scarf refers to the Olympian stole that could be won only by the triumphal initiate. Some of my favorite observations are those by scholar Robert V. O'Neill who says "The wreath forms the number “0,” thus balancing the Fool “0” at the beginning of the trumps. The shape also may refer to the Tattwa for Spirit. On the other hand, the cross made with the legs and the triangle made with the arms inverts the image on the Hanged Man, symbolizing that the mystical journey is completed. " (from Sources of the Waite/Smith Tarot Symbols )... Likewise, the wreath surrounding the dancer reminds us of the mandala, a symbol of totality and wholeness.

Simply put: This is no Lotto jackpot. This is financial reward accrued by lessons learned... This is success via hard work.

So, are there ANY pitfalls to this marvelous card? There can be:

1) Do NOT wax complacent. If you achieve one goal (in any area), set another! This is vital. The wholeness of the World is not an "over and out" proposition. It is an infinite journey of growth and development.

2) Do not forget that synthesis is the key. Look at the *whole* picture. Draw from all of the elements, all of your experiences, all of your lessons... and continue to learn...

Bill, the tarot has astounded even me! I feel that together we have accomplished the near impossible and answered four different questions with only one card! I must be honest, however, and tell you that though tarot has "passed the test" here, I still feel that your four questions would better be answered individually and in-depth. Please consider that to be a further option.


Thanks again for choosing me to read for you.






As was alluded to above, this is just one way to use the comparative tarot deck and method. It is not a use I have experimented with often, generally preferring to answer one question per reading.


The Comparative Tarot Deck and method both are great aids to reading on an entirely different level. I hope that many tarot readers and teachers will take advantage of this unique new tarot tool and find it as beneficial as I have. (NOTE: This is not an English-only deck. This deck has card titles and the complete instruction booklet included in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and German.)


For more information on the Comparative Tarot Method, you may purchase the Comparative Tarot Deck, visit the website of the same name, or join the elist. The best source of working with this method and many other new tarot techniques will be via my upcoming book, Tarot: Out of the Box, to be published soon by Llewellyn Publications.


Valerie Sim-Behi serves as the VP of Communications for the ATA. She is the Listowner of the popular tarot email list, Comparative Tarot, a list populated by tarot students, readers, teachers, authors and artists. She is currently finishing up her book about the Comparative Tarot method and ways to keep tarot fun and exciting, called Tarot: Out of the Box; and has written the pamphlet, or "little white book," for the recently published Lo Scarabeo Comparative Tarot Deck. On the shamanic path and active in animal rescue, Valerie has many favorite decks including Animal Wise, Vision Quest, Shining Tribe and Tarot of the Crone.


Article © 2003 Valerie Sim
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes