I’m not a fan of spreads that have no specific meaning for each card (also known as non-positional spreads). Speaking strictly for myself, I think they can leave the reader groping for relevance and potentially taking far too long to come to closure on a reading if the goal is to be diligent about providing value to the querent. But I do think there is a place for them as long as there are broad boundaries to work within and landmarks to steer by. One of my favorite paradigms in spread creation is the “above-and-below” model which uses a “horizon of visibility” to distinguish aspects of a situation that occur under the full disclosure of symbolic “daylight” from those that are more fugitive. Here I join it with a “past/future” meridian to create a four-quadrant design that the cards can populate in a more or less free-form way. In this design, the upper-right quadrant is the most transparent and the lower-left is the most obscure.
I’m using several conventions to create movement within the spread. Upright cards appear above the horizon and reversed cards below it, and the facing of a card dictates whether it lands in the past or the future. (If a card exhibits no facing, it is laid in the same direction as its predecessor.) The first card is placed at the hub of the layout and represents the “present,” with the rest of the cards emanating from that location in all directions according to their nature, suggesting an unfolding flower or maybe a Rorschach “ink-blot.” In most cases the “past” quadrants suggest unfinished business or something the querent can’t let go of, and the “future” quadrants show a hopeful, forward-looking perspective on the matter. Cards that align above the horizon pose no difficulty in assessing their meaning, while those below can be more ambiguous, in some cases showing circumstances that “can’t stand the light of day.” As a starting point, I’m arbitrarily using seven cards in this spread, but it may turn out to be better with more or fewer. Seven cards might be useful for a one-week look-ahead, but not if most of the cards fall to the left of the meridian; the best use of this spread may be longer-range life reading.
The court-cards are a special case that occur outside the above parameters, being placed above (upright) or below (reversed) the previous card rather than next to it in a linear progression. The idea is that they always show other people who have an interest in the affairs of that card, whether trying to hold back its evolution (facing left) or nudge it along (facing right); if they are reversed their motives may be unclear. In simplistic terms they indicate “friends and enemies” of the querent’s best interests.
The first step is to select a deck that supports both reversals and facing (most Tarot de Marseille decks fail on one or both counts with their non-scenic pips). The Waite-Smith deck is ideal for this purpose.
Next, section the reading surface into four quadrants using two straight-edges or pieces of string; alternately, a specially-marked panel can be created with poster board.
Thoroughly randomize the deck for both sequence and orientation (upright or reversed) via the shuffle and cut. Here is the method I recommend:
Pull the top card from the deck, taking care to maintain its orientation, and lay it at the midpoint of the pattern in the quadrant stipulated by its features. If the figure on the card faces straight out, center the card on the meridian line and above or below the horizon as necessary. (In such cases it shows being torn equally between past and future considerations.)
Place the second card next to the first one, either immediately adjacent or on a diagonal depending on whether it has the same or opposite orientation. If it is left-facing, place it to the left, and vice versa for right-facing. If it faces straight out (as with Temperance below), lay it in the same direction as that indicated by the previous card. In the rare instance that they both face straight out, place the second card directly above or below the first one and treat it as a qualifier (aka “clarifier”).
The third card can create a break in the flow. If it faces in the opposite direction from the second card, place it on the other side of the first card instead, opening up a new trajectory. In this way the spread will eventually straddle the “past/future” divide.
Continue placing cards left or right of the meridian and above or below the horizon in the directions indicated until all seven have been laid. Be sure to place court cards above or below the previous card instead. Just to be perfectly clear, the sequence of the draw in this hypothetical reading was 7 of Cups; Temperance; 2 of Pentacles; 8 of Pentacles; King of Cups; Hermit and 4 of Cups.
Read the spread by starting at the center card as the “focus” of the reading and explore both past and future conditions in the querent’s situation. The approach is similar to that used with the “cross” section of the Celtic Cross spread, but with more detail.
In the example reading here, I would say that the querent has lead a fairly humdrum life up to the present, perhaps dominated by a well-meaning but ineffectual older male (since the King of Cups modifies the 8 of Pentacles it could show a boss), and has been in denial about it (all the reversals) but is now facing a dilemma (7 of Cups). The position of the 7 of Cups gives the impression of a man cautiously sticking his head out of a foxhole. Just over the horizon, big things are brewing if he or she could only see them (the two reversed trumps in the future). Perhaps it will mean well-orchestrated (Temperance) independence (Hermit) from that tedious former existence. In any event, the querent appears to be facing a major reboot of some kind, the particulars of which are unclear but apparently not disagreeable..