When a client comes for a reading they inevitably want to know 1) what ever it is that they're there for, if it will manifest, and 2) when will it manifest. This can be more than tricky, because the cards don't always give a clear "time". But quite often it will give a general time frame. It's rarely absolutely specific as to an exact date.
If the cards do give a general, or even specific time frame, it's good to know a few methods from which to see this. There are several methods for figuring out timing in a Tarot reading.
There are specific spreads for timing, such as the Clock or Wheel of the Year ~ each of which is a circle of 12 cards with one in the center (there are several variations, but this is how I was taught).
For the Wheel of the Year the cards are read clockwise, starting at the top and continuing around, until reading the center card last. Each card represents a month of the year, with the center card being the querent's overall influence on that year.
The Clock spread is also read clockwise, but beginning with the card at the 1 o'clock position and continuing around, until reading the center card last. In this spread the time frame is decided up before laying out the spread. The 12 cards can represent 12 days, 12 weeks, 12 months, 12 years, even 12 hours, if you really want to get extremely specific. This latter one though, I would reserve for emergency situations only. To do a 12 hour reading every day would be excessive and, honestly ridiculous in most circumstances. Oh, and again, the center, 13th card represents the querent's overall influence on the time frame.
But what about when doing a "regular" spread, such as the Celtic Cross? It is also possible here as well, but with certain cards having to be in specific locations in the spread. These positions are 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 of the Celtic Cross:
4 1 & 2 6 8
The timing card is an Ace. If an Ace falls into any of these positions (5, 6, 7, 8, and 9), then Card #10 is also looked for the final piece to the time frame involved.
Each Ace represents a season:
Ace of Cups = Spring (beginning March 21st)
Ace of Wands = Summer (beginning June22nd)
Ace of Swords = Autumn (beginning September 22nd)
Ace of Pentacles = Winter (beginning December 21st)
The card in the 10th position gives the number of weeks into that season. For example, as you can see in the picture above, the Ace is in position #6, and the 7 of Cups is in position #10.
Ace of Swords = Autumn
7 of Cups = 7 weeks into Autumn
Thus putting the date time frame in mid November.
So, that's one method. Personally, I find it a bit too limiting, because unless you get an Ace in the right position, then you have to use another method. Not a problem for those that know other methods, but for a novice reader it can be frustrating.
The next method I'll present is actually my favorite, and I rarely don't get a time frame when doing a spread, regardless of the spread style. So I could get a picture for this part of this post, I did a quick 5-card Pentagram Spread. And, as almost without fail, I get a timing set up in the spread. This layout is:
Here is that spread:
In this method of timing there are what are referred to as "Conjunctions". These are when timing cards fall immediately before or after a Major Arcana. The timing cards are any 2, 3, 7, or 9. A Minor Conjunction is when a timing card falls before a Major Arcana, and means that a new cycle is beginning (determined by the timing card itself and the underlying aspects of the Major Arcana). A Major Conjunction then, refers to when a timing card falls after a Major Arcana, and means that a cycle is ending (also determined by the timing card itself and the underlying aspects of the Major Arcana). What's really fun is when a timing card falls between 2 Major Arcanas!
As you can see in the spread above card #1 is a Major Arcana, the Wheel of Fortune. The next card in the spread (following the form of a pentagram, this is then the bottom left card, as shown in the diagram above) is the 9 of Wands.
Before I go into determining the timing in the reading, I'll first explain how this method of timing works. First note that the timing conjunctions are read separately from the rest of the reading, so do the reading first, then interpret the timing cards, which in all probability will refer to completely separate events.
Here then is how this method of timing works: