Spread Fatigue

I’ve been thinking lately that, in the creation of new layouts, I seem to have exhausted the range of geometric spread patterns commonly used in the performance of tarot readings. So far – and often more than once – I’ve tried circles, squares both small and large, rectangles, crosses, “X”-es, spirals, horizontal lines, vertical lines, parallel strings in both directions, antipodal (or “backward”) lines and even a “random scatter” throw. I’ve also used hidden cards, alternate outcome cards, built-in clarifiers and “shadow” cards on occasion. I realize that three-card and five-card, left-to-right horizontal lines are the bedrock on which many readers build their practice, but I prefer more detail and less intuitive gap-filling guesswork in my readings. I also like the idea of not having to flail around for the sense of perspective and direction that is already present in a well-designed spread; the precarious thrust of such ad-hoc maneuvering reminds me of a predator trying to circle in for the kill while the prey is still moving. Having a preloaded format certainly saves time and trouble in “on-the-clock” professional readings.

I’ve toyed with the ideas of “build-it-on-the fly” spreads that follow the querent’s lead and “no-spread” readings in which cards are pulled until “something” tells me to stop, but they hold little appeal for me. I like a coherent structure that revolves around a central theme; relationship readings are a good example, in which there are two or more parties represented by separate but cross-connected strings of cards and sometimes more than one deck. I’ve used this approach successfully in both romantic and business scenarios for the purpose of comparing positions and motives.

However, I suspect that there may be more mileage to be had from blending the “build-it-as-you-go” approach with the concept of a more transparent and fluid spread architecture. (I’ve already created one spread that does this.) I’m thinking of the “near/far” method for reading the Lenormand Grand Tableau, in which the influence of the cards becomes more attenuated the farther away they fall in all directions from the main topic card. I’m going to work up this notion into a formal design, but right now the idea is to start by pulling a single card and then, based on its testimony, involving the sitter in choosing where to take the reading from that point. Should it dwell on past issues that are still unresolved, present circumstances that need clarification or the forecast for changes that are already in motion? Subsequent cards would be drawn with the selected target in mind.

Obviously there will be a “future” element in all of these readings (otherwise why bother), but lessons learned from decades of working with the Celtic Cross have shown me that the residual consequences of past events can loom large in the predictive outlook. Giving the sitter the opportunity to push the reading in that direction right from the start rather than simply treating it as incidental “oh, by the way” background information sounds like a productive way to zero in on behavioral drivers before trying to figure out what the querent should do going forward. The ultimate size and scope of the rest of the spread would then depend on how far and in what direction we need to take it in order to arrive at satisfactory closure.

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