Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Omily Tarot: Useful Spreads

It's Tarot Time! Last week we talked about reversals, and the fertile ground they provide for delving deeper into your interpretations. This week we'll talk a bit about spreads. Spreads are pre-chosen lay-outs for your cards.  You shuffle your deck, then lay out a set number of cards into a set number of positions with pre-set meanings.  This simplifies the act of interpretation since the cards are already in context, and there's a set order to look at them in, and generally even high lighted positions that you already know will hold cards with extra important information.

In the beginning, I used a spread every time I read the tarot.  Without it, I just felt completely lost.  It felt like reading a book in which the words are in no particular order.  These days I'm a lot more comfortable throwing down a couple cards, and teasing out the rhyme and reason without the hard and fast boundaries a spread provides.  In fact, I like reading without spreads better because I find there's more freedom, and where there's more freedom, I get a clearer message.

That said, there's a time and a place for both methods. I find that when I'm reading for querents who aren't very familiar with the tarot, I use a spread more for them than for me.  The road map a spread provides makes the tarot a lot easier to relate to, and I need my querent to grasp what's going on so he or she can provide feed back and context for the cards.

There can be a temptation sometimes to purposefully keep the querent in the dark, flipping cards and spitting interpretations in as mysterious a way as possible to impress the querent with your clairvoyance.  Fun yes, but ultimately a shitty thing to do.  The guiding principle of tarot ethics is that your querent should leave you feeling more empowered than he or she came in, and having someone play psychic with you, and offer advice without actually relating to your situation is not empowering. Save that parlor trick for your friends who know how a tarot reading is supposed to go, and can sit back and enjoy a good show of prowess without confusing the two.

There are lots of good spreads out there, and when you're trying to choose the right one for a particular reading, the easiest way to narrow it down is to consider how much time you have.  If you're having a clear day, you can easily explain a three card spread in ten or fifteen minutes. That makes these spreads a great choice for parties.  Popular ones include: past, present, future; problem, obstacles, tools for solutions; two options, and what you need to consider before choosing between them...the list goes on.  If you've never made up your own spread before, a three-card spread is an easy place to start.  These spreads are simple because the cards don't generally refer back to each other.

If you're working with a client for the first time, the Celtic cross ten card spread is a great one to have in your back pocket. It will tell you a lot about the querent in general, as well as what issues are pressing for the querent.  The celtic cross doesn't offer advice on how to handle a situation, but the way it lays out all the different factors surrounding a situation usually leads to a clear idea of what to do next when discussed with the querent. If not, a simple advice reading via a three-card spread can clarify the question of the next steps the querent should take, and both querent and reader will benefit from the wealth of information laid out in the Celtic cross spread. To lay out this spread, after shuffling, place one card down, then place another on top of it, rotated 90 degrees so its sideways.  Place one card below these two, and one above, then one to the left of these two, and one to the right.  Now do a vertical row of four, from bottom to top, to the right of the cross formation.  Flip them over, look for general patterns, then read them in the order you laid them out. Here's a picture of the Waite-Smith deck laid out in a Celtic Cross spread.  You can interpret it for kicks and giggles. I'll go over it too, and next week I'll talk about my conclusions, so you can compare/contrast. Fun!
There are lots of ways to consider the Celtic cross spread, but here's how I look at it:

Cards 1 and 2 describe your immediate personality or the heart of the situation, and the obstacles you're facing
Card 3 describes how you got there
Card 4 describes the highest good that can come of your situation
Card 5 describes a past event relating to your situation
Card 6 describes a future event relating to your situation (that will occur roughly as far into the future as the past even occurred in the past, assuming the future is not changed)
Card 7 is your hopes and fears about the situation
Card 8 is what your friends, family, and society are telling you to do about your situation
Card 9 is how you view yourself in the situation
Card 10 is the final outcome of the situation, assuming the future is not changed

Another spread I frequently come back to is a seven-card spread designed to answer a yes/no question.  I don't break this one out for querents often, because the last thing a querent usually needs is the suggestion that the tarot can tell them what to do.  For this spread, after your deck is shuffled and/or cut, lay out three cards, put a fourth next, slightly above the first three, then lay out three more.  Turn over all the cards, and count them up.  Uprights are yes, reversals are no, and the slighter higher card, the focus card, is worth two points.  That allows for the reading to come out a tye, in case you aren't supposed to know the answer, of it's too up in the air to predict.  The focus card will give you a basic explanation of why the answer is what it is, and the other six cards will offer further insights into the circumstances leading up to the question on the left, and likely issues between now and when the situation is resolved on the right. When I'm really nervous about something and can't seem to be at my best when dealing with it, I find knowing how it's likely going to come out, and why, to really help me clear my head and start addressing those problems, yes, even when it looks like things won't end up how I want them to.

Do you have a particular spread you come back to again and again? Do you not usually use spreads at all? Which of these is your favorite?

Happy Taroting!

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