I’m currently working on a new tarot book aimed primarily at people beginning to learn tarot. One of my aims in writing my book is to simplify various elements of tarot and help beginners see how the cards work together in a reading. Currently it’s a work in progress, but while writing a lot of ideas are filtering through as to what elements of tarot reading people find most difficult to grasp.
I’ve been teaching tarot for many years and one thing I’ve noticed is that finding the right tarot spread is often a confusing journey when starting out as there are so many spreads to choose from. What students are looking for is a spread that is easy to use, and can be quickly built upon to create an in-depth tarot reading. Many of the people I have taught have found the tarot spread I devised and outline in my book The System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot becomes the spread they continue to use because with practise it is very easy to understand and make your own.
My new book is going to teach a really simple tarot spread, with lots of comprehensive guidelines on how to fully understand how the cards work together…but that book isn’t completed yet. In the meantime I’d like to share an excerpt from The System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot on how to lay out a tarot spread.
First the shuffle
There is much ritual written and expressed about the keeping of Tarot Cards and the shuffling and cutting of the cards in preparation for a reading. Although I have many packs, which I use for teaching purposes, I keep one pack especially for readings. Some people say that Tarot Cards should be wrapped in silk to protect them from negative vibrations, or perhaps kept safe and sacred in a wooden box. Each to their own, nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Mine are kept in the same cardboard box they came in, their protection….respect. They are only taken from their box to be used for a reading. They are kept shuffled in a mixture of upright and reversed, and never stacked in order for teaching purposes. I do not let students handle them for study; or take them to lectures or workshops, where they might become “sorted”. I call them my “working pack.”
I do not start a reading until my client and I are sitting comfortably, opposite each other across a low table. I take the cards and shuffle them while asking the client if there is any specific reason why they have felt the need for a reading. They do not have to give a specific answer, a simple “yes” they have a problem, or “no” they’ve never had a reading before and have come out of interest, will suffice. I then hand the client the cards and request they shuffle them. When they have finished I ask the client to place the cards on the table and cut them with their left hand. I then ask the client to place the bottom part of the pack on the top and hand them to me. The reason for asking the client to pass me the cards is that if they put them on the table and I pick them up then I am making a decision about which way round the pack is used. This crucial determination must remain with the client. It’s useful to practice both disciplines initially to see what occurs. For example, let clients place the pack on the table and see just how many lay it sideways on, unable to make a decision about which should be its top or tail. Then investigate asking clients to pass you the pack, and watch just how many people unconsciously turn the pack around 180 degrees, so that the end initially facing you is now facing away.
The Initial Spread
Once the shuffle and cut are complete it is time to lay out the first six cards of the spread. I start by placing them face down, then explain the meaning of their positions before turning over only the first five cards to start with. See diagram.
Positions 1 & 2
These cards sit in the centre of a downward axis representing the present time in the questioner’s life. I call them “the central pivot point” of the current situation. Card number 2 crosses card number 1 and by its symbolism will indicate whether it is helping or hindering something at the core, or heart, of the situation.
This card also sits on the axis of the present time and represents “the mind;” which includes thoughts, aspirations and desires. It quite simply suggests what is on the questioner’s mind and might additionally indicate what they would like to happen, or intend to happen.
Again on the line of the present time, but this time representing the “physical world,” that which is manifest, or happening in the questioner’s life.
This card represents “the past,” but it is that part of the past which has helped create today. We are working in the realms of cause and effect, where every action has a reaction somewhere in the future. This card of “the past,” can therefore indicate the cause behind current circumstances, early conditioning or obstacles which have been overcome. On occasions it indicates residue from previous incarnations which has created present life karma.
Once the questioner has recognised that these initial five cards are relating to their life and personal circumstances I turn over card number 6.
This card represents “the next step in the future.”
I then take cards from the top of the pack and place them in positions 7 to 12.
Positions 7 to 9
These cards sit on the top line and continue to represent “the mind,” and the client’s thoughts and wishes on the problem as the future unfolds.
Positions 10 to 12
Likewise these cards sit on the bottom line and continue to represent “the physical world,” and what happens as the reading unfolds in the future.
I then take cards 13 and 14 from the top of the pack.
Positions 13 and 14
Cards 13 and 14 continue to represent the future unfolding, the base card once again either being helped or hindered by the actions of the top card.
Once these cards are laid I spread the entire pack out, face down, and ask the questioner to take further cards, to either add information to what is already there or proceed into the future. At this point cards can be taken in response to questions, either concerning what has already been outlined or other issues.
This spread is fundamentally simple and very easy to use. Practice will bring confidence and show you endless possibilities. Each card will slightly change according to its position in the spread; for example a card depicting sorrow will symbolise hidden sorrow when appearing in the line of “the mind,” and open grief when seen on the line of “the physical world.” Continue to build upon this theme and you will find that a card showing sorrow in “the mind” might well be directly above a card on the physical level showing happiness. Thus you will be able to deduce that your client is inwardly very unhappy but puts on a smiling face to their family or friends, who probably don’t know how unhappy the client really is.
For beginners and more experienced tarot readers I have two books available in many popular formats.
Ever wondered what the Moon tarot card means in a tarot reading about sex and relationships? Find out in…
Sex & Tarot
Paperback via Lulu (possibly best price)
Also on Nook and other platforms
The System of Symbols, a new way to look at tarot
Paperback via Lulu (possibly best price) Also on Nook and other platforms.
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