Black Swan Divination Part 2

Part 1 is here. This won't make much sense unless you read that one.

So, you've done your Black Swan divination and you now know something major is coming. You've got some idea of where to look for more information and you have a outcome based on the current path you're on. But what do you do if the outcome is bad?

Anyone else get this card before 9/11?
First, to repeat my caveat from last time. I have done these readings for myself, but they haven't been stress tested. I haven't gotten and mitigated a Tower card or predicted any wide-scale event at this point. I'd like to have more opportunities to road test this, so I'm extending a limited time offer. If you're interested in having me do a free Black Swan divination (all three parts) for you, email me.

First of all, let's review the three possible outcomes to the reading:

Negative Black Swan and positive Result -- something bad is coming but you will manage to weather it. You want to build on the positive results to strengthen your position. Let the Result card and your Where to Look Now cards guide you. Consider additional protection magic and active enchantment along with whatever mundane action makes sense. For example, if the Black Swan is in the financial area and you believe that you will be OK because you have savings, then save even more.

Positive Black Swan and positive Result -- something good is coming and it's going to turn out awesome. You want to make sure you don't screw up the results. Pay attention to the Result card and your Where to Look Now cards so you don't inadvertently change your good path. Consider blessing and gratitude work along with whatever mundane action makes sense. For example, if the Black Swan is in the career area then you continue to do your good work and build bridges with people who might be a bit miffed if you suddenly got a promotion or big deal.

Black Swan either positive or negative and Negative Result -- so the Black Swan is coming and it's going to suck. You need to change your path right now to try to mitigate the risk. That's what this part of the divination is all about. Note that it's completely possible for a positive Black Swan to have negative outcome, as a number of lottery winners could tell you. But what can you do?

I already talked about divination in terms of making changes to affect the future and will talk more about it soon, but Black Swans can't necessarily be eliminated outright. Remember my story about selling our house? We didn't change the housing crash by selling, we just dodged some of the impact. If our house was long paid off and we had no need to move, we would have been more robust to the Black Swan (who cares what the market is doing?). If we had a million dollars, we could have taken advantage of the Black Swan by buying a bunch of foreclosed houses cheap and then renting them out (though I might question our ethics). Then for us it would have become a positive Black Swan. Finally, if we already owned a bunch of rentals, we would have been anti-fragile to the Black Swan. The worse the housing market got, the better off we'd be.

So briefly, these are the options:
  • Avoid: Dodge the situation so that it doesn't affect you. Depending on the Black Swan, this could eliminate it outright (as with an accident you don't have), but could also just eliminate the impact for you.
  • Strengthen: Reduce the impact by being more robust. The risk here is that being too robust leaves you inflexible, but in the case of dealing with a specific future risk, it's still a useful tool.
  • Benefit: Turn the Black Swan into a positive by taking advantage of some upside. Note, this isn't optimism. Looking on the bright side gets you nowhere... you have to act.
  • Gain: Find a way to be antifragile and actually benefit. Gain from disorder, as per Taleb's Antifragile)
These are in order of increasing difficulty (and ironically also in order of increasing benefit). They are also not mutually exclusive. There was really only one possible option in our situation with the house, but that's not necessarily always the case. It's completely feasible, and probably quite smart, to try to avoid, strengthen, and get some benefit or gain from a Black Swan. This is in the agile management category -- try different solutions and see what sticks.

A note on the last two options, because they sound very similar. Sometimes you are in a position to benefit from a Black Swan when it happens and sometimes you are in a place where the Black Swan actually benefits you because of your position.

Example 1: If the stock market crashes, one way of looking at the situation is that stocks are a terrific bargain (another perspective is that the stock market is a shill game, no better than gambling, designed to hoover wealth from the middle class and into the pockets of a few oligarchs -- but go with my example for now). If you have some cash, you could buy the newly deflated stocks and then benefit when the market increases. This is turning the situation into a positive for you. However, if you had purchased a bunch of put options (this is a bet that a stock will fall), then you are antifragile to the market going down... the more it drops the more money you make. This, BTW, is how Taleb made what he calls his "Fuck You" money. He was convinced that we were headed for a major crash and bet against the market in a big way.

Example 2: If you lose your job, you could take the opportunity to switch fields, learn a new skill, or start a business. Again, you've turned a negative into a positive by using the situation to your benefit. However, if you already have several side concerns going, ones that give a benefit in proportion to the time you give them, then losing a job could make benefit your bottom line by freeing you up.

Note that being antifragile requires that you have something set up in advance. I don't always find it easy to think of antifragile solutions, but it's worth pondering the options. Worried about the cost of energy? Start a distributorship to sell alternative energy solutions to others. The worse it gets the better you do. Concerned about the stability of our food supply (you should be)? Maybe you don't want to start a farm, but you can support sustainable agriculture through investment in other local farms (through a CSA or herd share).

I'm assuming that between your initial divination work and your follow up research, you have some idea of what could be coming your way. Now, the key is what do you do in order to deal with it. So, on to the tech...

For this reading, you will work on one Black Swan at a time. You will need your Black Swan card (what's coming) and your sucky outcome card. Pull those from the deck. You will also need something to symbolically represent the outcome you want instead. I recommend being nonspecific here since the point of the reading is to give you suggestion for a more positive outcome. First, because you may still not know enough about the result to enchant against it in a real pointed way. Second, because being less specific opens the door to more options for change. So think health for illness, happiness for loneliness, hope for despair, prosperity for poverty... like that.

Here are some options:
  • Another tarot card that is the opposite of the outcome card (the Sun for the Tower?)
  • A sigil that you create and charge for the positive outcome.
  • A picture that represent the outcome, charged with your intent.
  • Another symbol from any symbol set you commonly use (a hexagram from the I Ching, a rune, and so on).
  1. Place the outcome card face down in the center of your reading area and announce "this is what I do not want."
  2. Place the Black Swan card face up on top and announce "I face the future." 
  3. Cover both with the symbol of your desired outcome and announce "I find a path to my desire."
Feel free to season this process with your own foo. I like to announce the meaning of the cards as I lay them so that both myself and any forces in play know what I intend. I often do this with my own layouts, announcing the positions "this is the past, this is the future" before and when I lay the cards and I ALWAYS do them with readings for others "this is what (name) desires." Pedantic? Perhaps. But it works for me. There may also be spells, chants, snippets of poetry involved here, but I'll stick to describing the tech and you add the rest according to your taste.

Now shuffle the deck and lay four cards around the central stack:

     Reading: So, the four cards indicate what to do to reach your desired outcome for the four Black Swan options (avoid, benefit, strengthen, gain).
  • If any negative card appears here, it indicates that the option may be closed to you. For example, you may not be able to benefit from this situation, but instead need to focus on avoiding or strengthening.
  • If any of the cards from the first reading in Part 1 reappear here, look to that domain. For example, if the 4 of pentacles appears in the strengthen position, you should look for opportunities at work to be more robust to the Black Swan.
         On the other hand, if the 6 of cups turns up in the benefit position, you need to be looking at your family in terms of opportunities to benefit.
  • If court cards come up, there may be a person who you need to work with or go to OR it could indicate the kind of person you need to be in this situation (more aggressive, more thoughtful, etc.).
  • For reversed cards, take the warning but don't assume that the option is closed to you. In the deck I use (The Gilded Tarot) the reversal are often a "yeah but" to the upright reading. Advice with caveats basically.
  • For major arcanum, consider making major changes, really upending your current perspective, working with Deities/spirits/ancestors, and praying for miracles.
You'll notice a couple of things about the readings in this Black Swan divination process. First, they often include adjunct pieces (labeling card positions like domains, using symbols for outcomes). Second, they don't use a ton of cards in a single reading (I'm a big believer in the power of recurring cards). Third, they take an active position (what should I do) rather than a passive one (what will happen if). These are common themes in all my readings. The next set of readings will be the startle the right butterfly readings. But first, I'll be talking about risk mitigation, initiating projects magic workings, and goal setting.


  1. Tarot is a big part of my mojo working. I'll be coming back to these ideas. You're on to something awesome here.

  2. Thank you! If you do try any of the readings, I'd greatly appreciate feedback on how they worked for you. I'm starting to have the opportunity to try these for other people and it's caused me to adjust my methodology just slightly. I'll be following up on that sometime soon.


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