Teaching Tarot 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.