A spread is a preset pattern for laying out the tarot cards. It defines how many cards to use, where each one goes, and what each one means. A spread is a template guiding the placement of the cards so they can shed light on a given topic. It is within this template that the meanings of the cards come together so beautifully.
The most important feature of a spread is the fact that each position has a unique meaning that colors the interpretation of whatever card falls in that spot. For example, the Four of Pentacles stands for possessiveness, control, and blocked change. If this card were to fall in Position 4 of the Celtic Cross Spread (the "Past" position), you would look at how these qualities are moving out of your life. In Position 6 (the "Future"), you would instead view them as coming into your life - a quite different interpretation.
Tarot spreads can be any size or pattern. Rahdue's Wheel includes all 78 cards and creates a vast tableau of one person's life. A spread can also contain just one card. In lesson 5 I show how a one-card spread is useful for daily readings.
Most spreads contain between six and fifteen cards. This range is small enough to be manageable, but large enough to cover a topic in some depth. The pattern of a spread often forms a design that reflects its theme. For example, the Horoscope Spread is in the shape of the traditional circle that forms a person's birth chart. The twelve cards of this spread correspond to the twelve houses of astrology.
When cards are related to each other in a spread, an entirely new level of meaning is created. Combinations appear, and a story line develops with characters, plots and themes. The weaving of a story from the cards in a spread is the most exciting and creative aspect of a tarot reading. It is an art, but there are many guidelines you can follow. I discuss these in later lessons and give examples of the story-making process.
In these lessons, I refer to just the Celtic Cross Spread. I think you will be able to concentrate more on developing your intuition if you stick to just one spread at first. Once you know the cards well and feel comfortable reading them, you can expand your tarot practice by exploring other layouts. Before you continue with the lessons, read over the Celtic Cross Section. (See exercise 4.1.) We'll be using this spread throughout the course.
You are now ready to begin putting your tarot knowledge to work. Lesson 5 describes the Daily Reading. In this reading, you select a single card that becomes your theme for the day. The purpose is to heighten your awareness of one approach to life for a single twenty-four-hour period. It also helps you learn the tarot without strain or tedium.
Let's say you have drawn the Two of Cups for a daily reading. As you go through the day, you will watch for signs of this card's special energy. The keywords for the Two of Cups card are connection, truce and attraction. In the morning, you notice that a colleague, who has been rather hostile, comes to your office to talk. You sense a truce, and you take advantage of it. In the afternoon, while working on a problem, you look for the connection between two approaches and find your solution. Later, at a party, you talk to someone who attracts you. On each occasion, you access the energy of the Two of Cups and allow it to guide your decisions.
At first, you may want to choose your daily card deliberately so you can avoid repeat selections and learn the deck more quickly. (See exercise 5.1.) If you prefer, you can choose your card without conscious intervention. (See exercise 5.2.) Here is the procedure:
Shuffle the deck once or twice.
Hold the deck face down in one hand and cover it with your other hand.
Pause a moment to become calm and centered.
Ask your Inner Guide to give you the guidance you need for the day.
Place the deck face down in front of you.
Cut the deck to the left and restack it.
Turn over the top card as your card of the day.
Return this card to the deck, and shuffle once or twice.
This procedure is easy to do on a daily basis, and it gives you an opportunity to connect with your Inner Guide regularly. Choose a time that works for you. Mornings are good because you can pick a card during your wake-up routine. You can also select one at night. You will be ready to put your card to use as soon as you wake up. It isn't necessary to pick one time since your schedule may change. The main goal is to make the Daily Reading a part of your day so that your tarot work progresses.
Keep a journal of your selections. Later, you will find it interesting to trace the pattern of your choices. I started studying the tarot in earnest when I was spending my days caring for my two boys, then under five. One day I calculated the distribution of my daily cards to that point and found the following:
How clearly this describes my life at that time - heavy on the real world (Pentacles) and basic forces (major arcana) and not so heavy on individual creativity (Wands).
In your journal, jot down a few highlights of the day next to your entry. This will help you correlate the cards with your moods and activities; but keep it simple, or you will soon tire of the effort.
I wrote my journal entries using five pens of different colors - one for each category:
• Pentacles = Green (Earth, growth, plants, nature, money)
• Major Arcana = Purple (spirituality, higher purpose)
Color coding helps you see at a glance the shifting tarot patterns of your weeks and months.
You will probably be surprised to find that you draw certain cards over and over. Of the fifty-seven Pentacles I recorded early on, I drew the Ace and Queen eleven times each! At home with my children, so many of my days reflected the themes of these two cards. The Queen of Pentacles is the ultimate nurturing mother. The Ace of Pentacles offers opportunities to enjoy the material side of life, and it doesn't get more material than cleaning dirty diapers!
I picked these two cards so often that I became suspicious about them. I examined them closely one day to see if I had damaged them in such a way that I would be more likely to select them. They appeared no different from the others. I was simply drawn to them because they expressed my situation at that time. The cards you select frequently will also tell you about your concerns.
The most important step in learning the tarot is to take the cards out of the box regularly. The Daily Reading is the ideal solution. If you do one each day, you will absorb the character of each card quickly and easily.
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.