I’m sure I’m not the first one to use this technique, but I don’t recall ever seeing it discussed, so I’m sharing here because I find it very helpful.
Seeing as the Majors tell a sequential story, I like to examine the pre- and proceeding cards for any Trumps that show up, particularly in non-predictive readings; readings where I’m examining a situation or idea. I see the preceding card as the force that led up to the Major that appears in the reading, and its successor as the outcome or solution. This can be especially enlightening when drawing eg. 3 cards with no specific assignations to position meaning.
The 3 of Swords is the issue at hand – let’s say, heartbreak -, but that’s not important for now. I’m looking at the Tower and the Hierophant and what their place in the tarot storyline can tell me about the issue. It seems the Tower is the “what”; the Hierophant is the “how”.
The Tower tells me what is happening as a result of the 3 of Swords – a house falling down. What led to this point of heartbreak and disharmony (card preceding the Tower)? The Devil, which shows the Lovers chained (issues of heartbreak?), underground, feeling out of control of their own lives but not realising they can escape at any time. Back to the Tower, which shows a need for rebuilding and communication. If this is successful, the Star brings hope, healing and harmony in a new beginning.
The Hierophant is the one who must set this in motion. Unlike the Emperor – who gives orders and brooks no dissent to his rule, because he knows what’s best for you -, the Hierophant communicates in a gentler way, sharing in a non-threatening manner that encourages discourse. If the Hierophant succeeds, the Lovers result (and isn’t it interesting that a reading about a love issue includes both iterations of the Lovers?)
Furthermore, I note that the Emperor – due to his having to keep the place running smoothly etc. etc. – can become burdened by his responsibilities.
It sounded far more eloquent in my head at 3am, but that’s my technique in brief.