Tarot-Heritage Tenth Anniversary Roundup: Spreads and Techniques
Celebrating my website’s tenth anniversary: 174 blog articles and 42 website pages on tarot history, reading with non-scenic pips, and decks of historic significance. Throughout the summer, I’m going to group the most useful articles by topic and send out links in a series of blog posts. Today’s links are all about reading techniques.
The Spreads page of the Cartomancy section of this website gives simple techniques for reading with two and three cards.
I rarely use spreads, but the following articles describe ones I like, plus a few of my favorite techniques.
This article gives the nuts and bolts of the Quintessence Spread, also known as The French Cross, which appears in every European LWB and how-to-read book. It’s quite versatile, especially for decision making.
In Cross Spread with the Rosenwald Deck I ask the cards a “should I do this….” question and give myself a reading with the Quintessence spread using the historically significant Rosenwald deck reconstructed by Sullivan Hismans.
At the bottom of my review of the Rosenwald deck with folded paper borders, Bordi Rivoltinati, by Marco Benedetti, I show a Cross Spread layout using my favorite technique.
A report on my dismal failure with Yes/No Spreads.
My favorite All-purpose Three-Card Spread you can adapt to any situation where you want a peek at the most likely outcome.
Reading with a Significator is a three-card technique with a designated significator for the question.
A line of three cards is standard TdM practice, but I prefer two cards. Reading Between the Cards talks about how I read two cards as a vortex of energy.
Illustration at top: Quintessence Spread with the Ancient Italian Tarot published by Lo Scarabeo.
What deck is that in the Quintessence spread picture? Im still very new at historical tarot.
Argh, never mind, I just found the photo credit. 😳 Anyway, it’s beautiful.
Me again. In a comment thread on an older post, you mention preferring dignities to reversals. Do you have a post explaining dignities or can you point me to someone with a good explanation?
I’ve been meaning to write an article on dignities, but it’s probably not going to happen very soon, so here’s a brief summary of my thoughts.
Elemental Dignities comes from astrology and alchemy. Fire and Water are incompatible and can harm each other. Same with Earth and Air. Fire and Air are compatible and help each other – you fan flames with air. Earth and Water are compatible – you water the ground to make it receptive to seeds. So if you associate the elements with the four suits you can use this in your readings.
There are many ways of assigning elements to the suits, but I find the Golden Dawn system is as good as any. Batons/Fire, Swords/Air, Cups/Water, Coins/Earth. So, if you get a three-card line of 5 Batons, 4 Cups and 7 Swords, the Cups card is in trouble. It’s sandwiched between a hostile fire card and an indifferent air card. This would color my interpretation.
There’s another consideration: quantity. Fire needs air to fuel it, but too much air will blow a flame out. The earth needs water to make it fertile, but too much water and you have mud or a swamp. So 2 Swords and 8 Batons next to each other – even though they are friendly elements, the Swords seems overwhelmed by the baton energy. The 8 of Batons flanked by 2 of Cups and 2 of Coins is a strong card that is not supported by its environment.
Since I’m a fanatic about not imposing other systems on tarot, I have another version of dignities that refers to the cards themselves. In a regular set of playing cards, there are two red suits – diamonds and hearts, and two black suits – clubs and spades. The red suits are also called the round or feminine suits, and the black suits are long and masculine. This way of looking at the cards goes back to the very beginning of European playing cards in the 14th century. You can see this division clearly in some early Italian decks like the Visconti-Sforza where the Batons and Swords are all straight. Then there are round coins and round bowls to the cups or chalices. So a coin card and a baton card are very incompatible – in a reading they aren’t supporting each other and may even be antagonistic.
It gets a bit more complicated with the Tarot de Marseille since most of the swords are curved, and cups have a straight stem. It requires a little more intuition to read them. For instance, the 4 of Swords and 4 of coins seem compatible since they both have a feeling of containment. But the 5 of swords and 4 of Coins don’t seem quite as compatible because of that straight sword cutting through the center.
I hope this makes sense. If you need clarification, don’t hesitate to ask.