Monday, March 29, 2010

Reading for Strangers

There is a moment when the owner of a Tarot deck has to decide to be more than a student and become a reader. In the prospect of reading for a stranger there is a certain amount of fear and anxiety. Going public with the Tarot is a defining moment. Many use Tarot privately and personally and some who venture to layout the cards for family and friends. These are all relatively safe ways in which to explore the cards, their meanings and reading them. Yet there is a divide to be crossed to read for a stranger for the first time.

It is my guess that along with the issues of fear and confidence there may be an barrier of opportunity. Some locations do not lend themselves to an open acceptance of the Tarot. Small towns, conservative communities and even some family members may be obstacles for some to be able to find opportunities to do it for the first time. In a great many areas there is an openness to non-traditional spiritual exploration and even an excitement to search out the mysteries of life in a myriad of ways. These areas are encouraging and lend themselves to sharing about and using the Tarot. Yet for some they live in an area that is a closed, restricted and hold to limited social conventions. For the new and ambitious reader there is a compounded sense that along with the normal first time jitters there is the consideration of being a Tarot ambassador in a potentially hostile environment.

There are many obstacles that block and deter us on our pursuit to develop. Crossing the threshold of Tarot for myself and into Tarot for others is one of many testing grounds. The battle to find yourself with a stranger and a tarot spread between you is worthy and full of rewards. Without the attempt there will always be lingering questions about if it is possible for you to read for a stranger. This question may linger perpetually over your understanding and confidence.

So what are the rewards that are the fruit of reading for others? First and primarily is the sense of self-understanding. What is your depth of knowledge about the meanings of the cards and the ways they communicate to you? Do you have the skill to verbalize the symbolic language of the cards to another who has limited or zero understanding of Tarot? The very attempt at in your reading skill will help you gain a perspective on where you are in your understanding of a subject. When you are out there for the first time you may need to remind yourself that it is a reward. Remember that important rule of Tarot reading, insight is always a gift.

A second reward is practice. It may seem odd to discuss practice as a reward but for many it is a sweet opportunity. Being isolated and feeling alone, there is a claustrophobic feel knowing that there are only so many ways of using the cards alone and by yourself. Engaging the challenge of reading the cards for strangers is insightful, fun and confidence building. I am staying away from the issue of reading professionally but simply focusing on the act of reading. When you read for family and friends you know there stories and can connect the cards with greater ease than with a stranger you know nothing about and simply have to rely on the cards. The very chance to discuss Tarot with another live person is amazing but greater than that the chance to use your skills is a validation.

Finally there is a truth in life and practice that we all must give as well as receive. As a tarot reader, I believe that the very truth of the universe is waiting to be revealed in a spread of cards. To receive that blessing of revelation demands that I in someway bless others. By reading for others we are able to complete that cycle and renews the balance. One of the best ways to break through a dry spell or a learning plateau is found in pouring yourself into a spread to give someone else a clearer picture of their life and place in the world. Giving back to the universe in this way you reopen yourself up to the cycle of recieving again. In this idea there are more ways to give a blessing than performing readings but for me it is a ritual part of my practice read for others to prime the pump for my own personal insights.

If you have not yet taken the leap into reading for strangers but are excited by the possibility take heart there are opportunities available! In my next post I will be discussing how I learned learned to read for strangers in a safe and rewarding environment and how you can as well.

Be well,


Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Look and Direction

We had a great class this week (Wednesday, 3/24) and it was great to see many new folks with interest in the Tarot. It is my hope that you felt welcome and left the class more than you knew when who came into the class. I have decided that I am going to adapt the blog a bit and write it more as a conversation from me to you rather than just continuing to post the notes. I would like to see this become more an extension of the class than simple a place to download and print the notes. Please feel free to e-mail me at by clicking on the Contact tab. I am also playing around with Twitter and if you would like to follow me there then my username is thefifthtrump as well. NO Promises! I don't know if Twitter is going to take but it will be a chance to see.

I will be posting the notes on reversals first and then in a couple of days posting the notes on Dignities. The posts get quite long because of adding the material into the post. I have also been considering that addition of exercise to augment the conversation that he have in class and on the topics that we cover. Since we will be having a break from the class for a couple of weeks I might do in the next post for you to try at home and on your own for practice.

Thanks for coming and adding to the class.


When you begin to work with spreads there is something that you will have to figure out for yourself. That issue is what to do with cards that appear in ways other than in upright positions. This is most commonly seen in Reversed cards or cards that appear upside down from their normal orientation.

Reversals have been and will continue to be an interesting topic for many. It is my purpose to expose you to a variety of ways in which you can understand the meaning of a reversed card. I hope that with this information and that you will be able to find your own way that will work. It will take some doing and personal experimentation to figure out what will work.

The use of reversals is not universal and there are many who do not use reversals at all, there are some that don't use them until they have a firm understanding of all the upright meanings, and there are some that will use reversals with some decks but not others.

I want to give you some avenues of understanding that will give you a chance to find your way to understand them and their special meanings.

First things First

If you are going to look into using Reversed cards then there is a first step that you have to take. You will need to work through the entire deck and make certain that you have a clear understanding of the cards in their upright orientation.

It is my belief that no card is inheriently good or inhereintly bad. They are images that convey ideas. These ideas have a wide spectrum on understanding and they can be favorable in some areas and unfavorable in others. Now I will not say that some cards are not more troubling than others as to sugar-coat the meaning of the cards like Death, Tower, Ten of Swords or the Devil. Each card has a place where it means something different.  If you are able to see the whole spectrum of the card's meaning then you are well on your way to understanding the way that the reversed cards may show up in a reading.

What Are Our Options?

There are many ways to look at reversed cards. I want to give you a broad view of the options that will help you to see how you can use them.

1. Blocked or Resisted

The energy or movement in this card's meaning maybe blocked, repressed, denied, rejected or resisted. This could be a correct and normal expression of fear, depending on the circumstances. This is a very common way to look at a reversed card and one that is very good to consider.

2. Projected

Projection is a psychological term used to mean the unconscious attribution of one's own characteristics (including emotions, attitudes, and desires) to someone or something else. Simultaneously, the originator denies or rejects these qualities in themselves. This would look in a reversed card that the seeker is confronting or rejecting one set of characteristics that they possess in others.

3. Delayed, Difficult, Unavailable

This may seem similar to "Blocked or Resisted" but it is different. Blocked hints that there is an action that needs to be taken to get "unblocked." Here it shows some hesitation, uncertainty, or unavailability. The card may illustrate what is going to take longer than expected, be harder than expected to accomplish or not to be expected at all. It may be that in a relationship reading this shows what a partner is not willing to do.

4. Inner, Unconscious, Private

The upright meanings can illustrate what is active, dynamic and externally expressed in a situation. Here the reversed card may illustrate what is happening behind the scenes. It may show a true emotional state that is being hidden or suppressed. It may show actions that need to be taken in a seekers inner life rather than an outer expression.

5. New or Dark Moon (and other round deck variations)

With rectangular cards it is very easy to see when cards are upright or reversed. In cards that are round you have a greater chance to engage the cards in a variety of degrees of reversed nature. One idea that can work well for both is to look at the cards orientation as part of the lunar cycle. The reversed card can signify the dark or new moon phase and show instinctual, hidden and suppressed energies.

6. Breaking through, Overturning, Refusing, Changing directions

This could show where the seeker is overturning, getting out from under, breaking free of or turning away from the conditions pictured. It can also show what is ending or passing away of a situation, a loosening or a change in direction.

7. No or not the upright meaning; Lacking

The most common understanding of the reversals is the opposite meaning of the upright. You could simply put a "no" or "not" in front of the upright meaning. This is an easy way to begin using reversals but it is not necessarily the best way. It is good to see the card in contrast and know that in the course of a reading there is a chance that you will see that a reversed card can illustrate that Seeker or a person discussed in the reading is not acting in a way that they should. For the Seeker it is good see if they are not acting in a way that is needed.  If so then the reading can discuss how to get them back on course. If they are interacting with someone else who is not acting the way that they should then the Seeker has a chance to acknowledge this.  They can begin to compensate and act in new ways.
8. Excessive, Over- or Undercompensating

The reversal may intensify or lessen the meaning of the card. This may take the meaning to extremes of overindulgence, immaturity, condescending attitudes, overdeveloped, obsessive attention to, or even senility. The reversed card can act like a child in the middle of a restaurant or grocery store that sits and throws a fit to just get some extra attention. Often when I see a card that is expressing this meaning it will stick out like a sore thumb and will at first just not fit into the flow or a reading. When I then consider how this may show what the Seeker is over doing or excessive about then it can come into view.

Now on the other hand, this is can also show where the Seeker is too laid back. Where they are choosing to ignore the issue, not act when they should and not give attention to an issue that is painful, demanding or difficult. This may seem like it is the opposite of what was just discussed but the truth is that obsessing about an issue comes from the same place as when a Seeker chooses to ignore a situation. There is a wisdom that takes place when you choose and are able to walk the middle path of just the right effort and attention.

9. Misused or Misdirected

This reversal indicates that something is not right in the timing, that there may be a faulty start or that the efforts in this area are not coming together very well. This is a warning to look at how all the elements are interacting and to be sure that there aren't any weak links, loose cannons, or flat tires.

10. "Re" words: Retried, Retracted, Reviewed, Reconsidered

This may seem a bit like a catchall category but it isn't. The prefix "Re-" is dead useful and can denote backwards motion, withdrawal, opposition, negation or to do again. This is especially important if this comes up to represent a past action or event. The Seeker may do well to look at the event or the situation to examine to ensure that they have a full understanding of what happened, what the consequences were, what it cost them. This is the card of evaluating the past and so often the tide of a reading is to the future and what can be in potential but it is often important to look back and carefully reflect on what was to see how it shapes what will be.

11. Rectification: Disease into Remedy

Got a reversed card and you don't like it, Change it! This is a great chance to look at what is not going right and needs attention. This may be a potentially immediate action that needs to take place. I have been using this method from the moment that Kris taught it too me. I love the idea of a reversed card illustrating what needs rectification. Rectification is the alchemical process of refining and purifying to the essence through distillation and by adjusting the "proof" of liquid spirits. In electrical terms, to rectify is to convert alternating to direct currents.

By Rectification we change what harms us or a situation then we move to remedy. A remedy is what will heal us. Remedy is that which will take action against what is causing harm. I like to think of this as the idea that a reversal can show us the "poison and the antidote."

12. Unconventional, Shamanic, Magical, Humorous

Now we come to the this way of looking and examining the reversed cards in a spread. Now if you have worked with Tarot for a while there are a couple of things that you will observe and come to know that are a bit harder to explain. One thing is that Tarot decks, if you work with them long enough, will develop what can be referred to as a voice. They will develop their own personality. There is a lot we don't know about how Tarot works and how it can seem that with time a deck of pictured cards can seemingly take on a personality. You will find that the Tarot can play jokes, tricks and generally mess with you head. So at times you will see a reversed card that is just going to throw you for a loop and it might be that there is something about that card that you should not look at in a conventional way. When do you do this? I don't know if i can teach it but it is something that your own intuitive sense will just need to look for and act.

Another thing about the Tarot is that there are a lot of potential uses for the cards. I have found that if one card comes up reversed in a spread then it needs to get special attention. I may be that this is a card that holds special depth or significance and not necessarily in a reversed meaning sort of way. This card may demand that the Seeker meditate on the meaning for a while. It may be the something that the Seeker needs to affirm in themselves. I often have used affirmations in my readings. If I get a sense that a Seeker needs to build these concepts or ideas into their daily life I will write an affirmation for them to repeat to themselves.

Finally, one area where I don't have a lot of experience but know that some have had great success at is using the cards in magical acts. I am using the term in the widest sense possible. While I am a straightforward Tarot reader, I also know that there is a lot more going on in this world than what I see with my own physical eyes. If a card comes up reversed it may be worth a few minutes of consideration of who this may imply or speak to the spiritual in our lives.

13. Court Cards and Reversals

Working with Court Cards and Reversals needs a bit of specialized instruction. While all of the previous ideas will work with the Court Cards here are a couple of other ideas that you might want to keep in mind as you do readings.

First as Court cards can represent specific people the reversal may give us an additional set of ideas on how to identify who they are in the Seekers life. If the card is reversed, it may indicate one who is not necessarily bearing ill intent but is bumping heads, in disagreement with or opposed to the Seeker. This may be the wife or husband who has different ideas in how to raise the kids or spend the family money. It may be the boss who is pursuing different goals than the Seeker. It can just show the conflict in the dynamic with the Seeker.

Second the Court card reversed can be referring to a person of the opposite gender than the one depicted on the card but acting the same manner as the person on the card. Example would be a nurturing Father showing up as a reversed Queen of Pentacles or a commanding officer which is a woman showing up as the King of Swords reversed.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spread Theory Session One

Teaching Tarot Spreads

Defining Spreads


Over the next couple of weeks we will be looking at how to use spreads and who card appear in those layouts to give us more depth of meaning and understanding to us as readers. In the weeks to come our goal is to better understand what is a spread, what makes a spread a good spread, how do we use reversals in a spread and examine in detail the classic Celtic Cross spread.
Tonight we will focus on ground work of what defines a spread and who to examine spreads as well as develop our own unique spreads.

Spreads . . . a beginning

Tarot is a great tool that can be used in a wide variety of ways. One thing that has evolved with the use of Tarot cards is the use of spreads or layouts.

Tarot is a flexible tool that does not require the use of a spread, but for many it is an important part of the ritual to a Tarot reading. I personally both use and don't use spreads. So while spreads may not be essential to a Tarot reading I think that it is understood that they can be very helpful. Tonight we will begin our study of what I call "Spread Theory." Spread Theory is the understanding and application of the parts and use of spreads or layouts to facilitate a deeper, clearer, or organized use of Tarot cards to gain information. Spreads deserve a lot more thought than we give them at times.

First I would like to begin by trying to find a definition for Tarot Spreads.

*How you would define what a Tarot Spread is?

*What is required to make something a Tarot Spread?
Jim Wells in a Tarot Connection Podcast gave a great set of definitions for Spreads.

A Tarot Spread is:

• A diagramed plan to how we will lay out the Tarot cards
• A plan of our intent, predetermined meanings, questions (When we use a spread it will shape the way that the reading will go.)
• A map of a Consultation
• Contract between the Seeker and the Reader
• Show what we will look at in the reading
• Sets the goal of the reading
• Allows both the Reader and the Seeker to understand the purpose of the consultation
• Sets the intention with the Universe
• Muddled intentions, questions lead to unclear readings
• Refines the question being asked
• A mandala of the Seeker and their life
• An information filter
• A visual storyboard of life
• James Wanless, "Spread is a hall of mirrors reflecting different views, perspectives or a cross-section of ourselves.
• Cynthia Giles, "An information environment" (almost the idea of a landscape of meaning that we enter into so that we may examine an issue, question or idea.)
• Mary K. Greer from "21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card"
• A combination of cards answering a question
• A series of one-card readings answering sub-questions

What is a Good Spread?

While we believe that all men are created equal, not all spreads are created equal. Now that we have defined what a Tarot spread is we will look at what makes a good spread.

How do we identify what is a good spread?

1. Spreads are maps. A map must get you to your destination. The destination of a spread is an answer or clearer understanding. When you look at a spread you will want to see if the positions will get you to that answer.

2. Layouts should be clear and organized. The spread will work best if it makes sense to both the Reader and the Seeker.

* Does the Spread progress in an easy to understand way? Are the positions logical? Is there a flow of connecting ideas?

*Are the cards grouped in a way that makes sense” Do the cards located by each other relate to each other? Is there meaningful geometry?

3. Is the spread grounded in a worldview, climate, process or outlook that is relevant to the seeker?

*Will the spread use terms, ideas or concepts that the Seeker is unfamiliar? The spread must make sense to the Seeker

4. As few position as possible

*Positions for the sake of positions are not helpful

*Keeping the number of cards in a layout to as few as possible will help keep the message/answer clearer

*More cards can confuse as much as they can help

5. Adaptable? -- Is the spread versatile enough to be used in a variety of questions or is it limited to one type of reading?

6. Perspective -- Does the spread give the Seeker a variety of information from different points of views?

What do you think is the most important first step in a Tarot reading?

The Role of the Question

One thing that must not be overlooked in talking about using spread or even talking about readings is a carefully phrased question.

1. The Question rules everything!

A. When we begin to shuffle the cards, choose a spread there is one thing that must dominate the whole process and that is the question. Choosing, phrasing, rephrasing (if necessary), and clearly stating the question that the Seeker has is essential to a productive and effective Tarot reading.

B. Questions can be tricky but here are a few guidelines

*Open-ended Questions (What, When, Where, How, Who, and Why)

*Best (What, How)

* A word about "When" questions . . .

i. if you are going to make predictions then you will want to work out a clear system of timing.

ii. If you are not going to predict then "When" questions may revolve around a sequence of actions or choices and not the calendar. (Example: When will I get a boyfriend? 7 of Cups When you open up to more options and see what is available to you. When you get your head out of the clouds looking for mister perfect who is just a fantasy man.)

*Where and Who will always be a bit tricky

*Why questions are fine unless they become "Why-ning"

-Why does everyone hate me? vs Why is this job offer good for me?

-Why don't I have a lover? vs What can I do to attract love?

*Clear topics and specific question vs. Vague, unsure or general questions

*What actions should I take at my job to succeed vs. What do I need to know about my job?

C. Your Question will shape your choice of spread

*With thousands (if not infinite) number of spreads to choose, knowing what you are asking will help you decide which is the right spread to find your answer.

*A ten-card relationship spread might not be the best choice for a career reading

2. "Series of One-Card readings answering sub-questions"

A. Any question can get an answer from a one card
*One-card readings are good, useful and legitimate
*They are to the point and focused. They give precise answers.

B. By choosing a larger spread you gain a greater breathe of meaning
*More cards equals more information
*Cards will begin to work together, oppose each other
*A broader perspective

C. Choosing a spread with positional meanings
*You choose which area of the question to focus on
*You work with a collection of one-card readings
-Each position has its own question
-Each position will have its own voice.