Rorschach Tarot

Whenever I despair of coming up with fresh ideas for tarot spreads, I reach deep for inspiration. If I may say so, this one could be a winner for all the reasons I usually dismiss in spread creation: it’s free-form and completely unstructured; it’s nuclear rather than linear, resembling a “vortex” like the Lenormand Grand Tableau; and it has no beginning or end except as decided by the reader, and thus no single “outcome” card.  Some readers shun “positional” layouts and just keep laying down a line of cards until they feel like stopping. This seems so “19th Century” to me so I sought to rev it up a little. Rather than laying cards down in a careful row, I decided to throw them up in the air and see how they land, similar to the way one would cast and then read stones, sorts or lots in lithomancy. (This is also the perfect come-back for those intuitive purists who loudly pan positional spreads since it ups the ante at their own game.)

I would do this by randomly grabbing a chunk of cards out of a shuffled deck (only a modest number so I get a fairly concise and thus coherent result), then toss them in an arbitrary manner onto a table, floor, bed or other large surface and look at their arrangement. I would either sling them underhand the way one chucks a Frisbee so they spin around a bit, or just flip them loosely up in the air and let them drop. Some will obviously land face-up and others face-down, but this doesn’t matter; their orientation and spatial relation to one another are the important factors. The higher you throw them, the more desirable “scatter” and less uniform “clumping” you’re likely to get. You could even create a formal “casting circle” as is done in lithomancy, with any cards falling outside its borders to be disregarded in the reading.

Cards that land in a small sub-group are considered more significant, while those that fall singly as outliers or “satellites” would provide additional information to the main narrative. If there is more than one central cluster, there could be competing agendas (or parties) at odds in the matter. For example, two discrete clusters could show a one-on-one relationship conflict, three a “love triangle” and four or more an organizational face-off. Cards that land on top of one another could be treated as a two-tiered (or more) combination, perhaps with the bottom one to be read as a “base” card and the other(s) as offering three-dimensional nuance to the story. There will typically be no easily-discernible  organization in these patterns so you will have to envision your own structural alignment, but it’s unlikely to show a linear, left-to-right progression unless you force it to.

I would read the patterns using the Lenormand “near/far” method, in which single cards lying close to the core array(s) are more influential, while those farther away are less potent. If all of the cards are singletons, “connect the dots” in any way you choose and read them in a web, a spiral, a maze or any sequence of cards that strikes your fancy.  Judgment may also be used to determine whether intervening satellite cards are shared by more than one situational “hub,” complicating their testimony.

Cards that land upright would be considered “normal” for interpretation and those that land reversed would represent something unique affecting the situation, while those that land sideways at any off-axis angle would be ambiguous in their impact, in which case other factors regarding their meaning would be more important. It’s up to you how much rotational “slop” to allow in assigning orientation to the cards.

I’m going to have some fun with this one (although it’s doubtful I would ever spring it on a paying sitter), and will post an example reading or two in the near future. In the meantime, here is a “test throw” to give you an idea how it works (but no interpretation). I randomly pulled a segment of 20 cards after shuffling my RWS Centennial pocket edition (I would recommend staying with such smaller cards for this). I used my plastic chair pad as a casting surface with its four edges as the “out-of-bounds” lines. I held the cards in a wide fan to ensure “mixing” in flight and then flipped them into the air from about four feet up. Five of the cards fell completely off the pad so I ignored them and nine cards landed entirely within bounds; interestingly, three linked pairs dropped with one of the two cards in-bounds and the other one out, so I decided to keep them all in the reading for a total of fifteen to be interpreted. For the purpose of these photos, I tightened up the layout while keeping the spatial relationships and orientation unaltered. The first picture shows the cards “as-cast,” while in the second one they’re ready for reading.



Clearly, the central five-card cluster will provide the main thrust of the reading, while the rest of the cards have arranged themselves into pairs suggesting eight co-conspirators who are more-or-less on the fringes of the situation, with two additional singletons more casually aligned. Alternatively, the bottom card in each pair could be interpreted as the “shadow side” of the behaviors and attitudes exhibited by four individuals connected to the matter. I would read the cluster first, then the closer pair on the right, the pair above, the upper pair on the left, the two singletons at the lower right, and finally the bottom pair on the left, with the increasing separation of the satellite cards showing a progressive reduction in ability or opportunity to influence the situation.

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