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Tarot Spreads

Most of the spreads on this page are all of my own design, and were constructed to answer the types of questions I receive regularly but which other spreads don't handle as well. Feel free to use these and modify them to suit your own individual reading style. At the bottom of the page I explain my Stream-of-Consciousness technique for reading without spreads.

The Spread of Changes

Most spreads are good at assessing static situations. They give a snapshot of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and so on. Such spreads are not ideal, however, for assessing dynamic situations - changes in one's life or beliefs. To fill this void, I designed a spread that is flexible enough for many different situations yet powerful enough to provide a strong answer.

The layout is so simple that a diagram is unnecessary. The Spread of Changes is made up of five cards arranged in a horizontal line, dealt from left to right.

Position One (far left)
A past event or influence that is the root cause of the change at hand. Something that is behind you but which is still having an impact on your life.
Position Two (near left)
Your initial state. The attitude or opinion you held before the change. How you saw yourself before the change, or how you think you were.
Position Three (center)
The change itself, which may already have happened, which may be in the process of manifesting itself or which may not occur for some time.
Position Four (near right)
Your changed state. The attitude or opinion you hold after the change. How you see yourself after the change, or how you want to be.
Position Five (far right)
A future event that will happen as a result of the change. A new option that opens itself because of the change. A desired outcome.

The Elemental Pentacle

The pentacle has been said to symbolize many things throughout the centuries, but the system with which the Elemental Pentacle spread concerns itself is the attribution of each point of the pentacle to one of the four elements (plus the pseudo-element Spirit). Each point is also assigned one of the five magical virtues (To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent, and To Go). These help define the positional meanings.

The spread itself is laid out in the form of the pentacle, starting with the upper point, then the lower left point, and proceeding until the pentacle is completed with the card in the lower right.

Spread layout diagram

Each point of the pentacle represents a different element, as shown above. These elemental positions influence the cards that are placed there; some elements naturally oppose each other. Fire and Water are opposites, as are Earth and Air; they weaken when placed near each other. This means that a Cup card in the Fire position loses a lot of its power. Also, a strong Wand card in the Fire position will gain strength, and will weaken the card in the Water position.

Here are what the five positions mean:

1. The topmost point - Spirit (To Go)
Represents outside influences in the matter, or the essence of the matter (a synthesis of all the other cards and a key to the reading as a whole). It may also show the best possible outcome of the situation. A card in this position is made more powerful if it is a Major Arcanum. The first position is not modified by any of the other positions.

2. The lower left point - Earth (To Keep Silent)
Represents stable energies in the situation, not likely to change in the near future, lasting influences. May also represent the foundation of the matter; why things are the way they are. This foundation may be known or unknown to the seeker. The card in this position is strengthened if it is a Pentacle or an Earth Major, but weakened if it is a Sword or Air Major. This position is also modified by the card in the fourth position.

3. The upper right point - Water (To Dare)
Represents somewhat stable but still fluid energies, which may change but are likely to remain. May also represent the action to take at this point which would lead to the best outcome. The card in this position has its power increased when it is a Cup or Water Major, and decreased if it is a Wand or Fire Major. This position is influenced by the fifth position.

4. The upper left point - Air (To Know)
Represents dynamic energies in the situation that are likely to change in the future. Can also reveal a secret to the seeker, or show them what they must know or learn in order to act. The card laid here is made more powerful if it is a Sword or Air Major, and weaker if it is a Pentacle or an Earth Major. The position itself is influenced by the second position.

5. The lower right point - Fire (To Will)
Represents those forces which are in a constant state of change, or that are entering or leaving the matter. Also shows what the seeker wants to do; the action which they are planning on taking at this time. This position is influenced by the third position. The card here is made more powerful when it is a Wand or a Fire Major, but weakened if it is a Cups card or a Water Major.

The Heart Spread

This spread is designed to aid clients who want to know more about the possibility for a relationship with a particular individual, or the factors involved in an existing relationship. Romantic relationships are almost always the subject, but this spread is open-ended enough that any kind of relationship could potentially be explored. Note that the spread does not tell anything about the person the client asks about, it focuses on the relationship as a whole. So for questions such as "Who is my true love?" this spread would not work. But "Is John my true love?" could be answered with a Heart Spread.

Positions 1, 2, 3
These represent one group of factors, either in favor or the relationship or acting against it. Based on the natures of the cards you should be able to tell whether they are favorable or unfavorable; by default it shows the forces in favor.
If you wish, this group can be treated as a body/mind/spirit triad or something similar. The first card would then be a physical factor in favor (or against), the second would be a mental factor, etc.

Positions 4, 5, 6
Essentially the same as the previous group, but it represents the opposite of the first group. So if the first group shows factors in favor, this second group shows factors against the progress of the relationship. By default it is factors against.

Position 7
Basically a synthesis of the first six cards, this position shows how the relationship will most likely unfold or change in the near future.

Position 8
This is a "factor for change" position shows something that can affect the outcome. If the outcome is favorable, this position will show something to avoid; if the outcome is not favorable, look here for a way to bring about something more desirable.

The Mountain Stream

So named because a mountain stream often switches channels while still flowing down the hillside, the Spread of the Mountain Stream is used to assess where a situation is going and what changes should be made or avoided to favor the best outcome. The single timeline branches into three lines, each of which can show a different message and a different possible future.

  1. The distant past, the foundation of the matter and also the reasons why it is so important now.
  2. The recent past, and any recent events which have served to set events in motions
  3. The state of the situation at the time of the reading
  4. Can reflect the present state or show what kind of changes are currently taking place.
  5. The short-term future of the situation, if nothing changes.
  6. The long-term future of the situation, if nothing changes
  7. A possibility for change, another option that can be taken.
  8. The long-term future of the situation, if the change that is described by #7 is made.
  9. A second possibility for change
  10. The long-term future of the situation, if the change that is described by #9 is made.

A variation of this spread involves removing cards 1, 6, 8, and 10 for a shorter and more localized spread. This is useful when you are more concerned with short-term than long-term effects.

The Lemniscate

Laid out to resemble the sign of infinity, the Lemniscate Spread is designed for giving advice and aiding decisions. Two different views of the matter are contrasted and synthesized; usually these will correspond to the client's two main choices in the matter. By looking at the four cards for each question, it becomes easier to see which option will be best for the client to pursue.

  1. The first option, from the emotional perspective
  2. The first option, from the spiritual perspective
  3. The first option, from the practical perspective
  4. Synthesis and outcome if the first option is taken
  5. The second option, from the emotional perspective
  6. The second option, from the spiritual perspective
  7. The second option, from the practical perspective
  8. Synthesis and outcome if the second option is taken

The Event Spread

This spread is the brainchild of a good friend of mine, Michael Shannon, who uses it to analyze specific events in a client's life or predict when they will likely happen. (I've made a couple of modifications to his original design, most notably the addition of a seventh card in the middle.) The layout is simple but powerful, and it answers what are usually the six most important questions on a client's mind.

  1. Who - could be the client or another person that will play an important role in this event.
  2. When - can provide an explicit time frame or some other occurence that must precede the event in question.
  3. Where - can provide an explicit location where the event will take place, or a symbolic one.
  4. What - describes the event itself in terms of what will happen or what impact it will have on the client's life.
  5. Why - The underlying cause of the event; when properly understood the card in this position can often be used to speed up the occurence of the event.
  6. How - How the event will manifest; there may be some surprises here if something is going to turn out differently than the client expects.
  7. An optional card, used when necessary to provide a summary of the reading or clarify any ambiguities (especially in the second and third positions).

Reading Without Spreads

To become a really versatile reader, I believe that you must be able to do readings without spreads of any kind. I personally feel that, spreads sometimes can't explain everything you want answered. When those times come, you can try to find a spread online that suits your purpose, or you can make a new one, but the easiest thing to do is simply to go without spreads of any kind.

Spread-based reading is like writing down a list of questions you want to ask, and then handing it to someone else for answers. This works well if you have a fixed list of questions to ask, but if there's something else you want to know, or if one of the answers you get is ambiguous, or if a particular card makes you think of more questions, you have no second chances - the monologue is over.

If you don't use spreads, on the other hand, you can treat your reading as a two-sided conversation - you ask a question, you get an answer, then you ask another question, and get another answer. This is the natural way to communicate, and after a few practice runs to get used to it, the answers flow very naturally. You can ask almost any question, and get a complete answer in the span of time it takes to turn over one card.

I refer to this method as Stream-of-Consciousness reading, because you're basically asking questions as you think them up, and getting answers just as quickly. You're basically writing the story as you go along, pausing only to contemplate the cards you lay out. The best thing about this method is that everything is up to you - how you lay out the cards you draw (if at all), how many questions you ask at a time and how specific they are. There are no restrictions except those that you decide to impose, to bring structure to the readings.

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