Happily, I just got tapped yesterday to do a Tarot reading of some considerable scope for someone. As most of the rest of my day today had been previously spoken for, I’ll be doing the reading and then writing it all up tomorrow (it’s for someone at a distance from me, so not of the face-to-face variety). Meanwhile, I’ve cooked up a personalized spread for the reading…that is, I’ll be using a spread I’ve never used before, and may never use again. If I’m pulling more than just a simple card or two for someone, I tend to believe that the very best results come — by far, no contest — from spreads that take into account the individual nature of the person receiving the reading.
Sure, you can find a veritable mountain of standardized spreads that readers will employ, and depending on circumstances, they have plenty of valid utility. Say, for example, you’ve gotten a gig reading at a big public event, like a fair or a party or some such, and it looks to be a high-volume, high-distraction kind of affair…busting out standardized spreads will not only be helpful in a case like that; such spreads may even be necessary self-defense and survival skills, all wrapped up together in handy little packages. Unless you can improvise with the rapidity of a Robin Williams, you likely won’t be able to generate a flood of individualized spreads for the high-pressure stream of sitters you’ll be greeting at your table during the event. So in situations of this nature, then yes, by all means, making use of handy, “pre-programmed” 2- and 3-card spreads will be a life-saver (here, I’m referencing things like a 2-card “yes/no” or “night/day” spread, or a 3-card “past/present/future” spread, etc.).
But outside of a situation of that nature, where you have the time and space and relative quiet within which to work — and especially if you’re doing a reading via email! — I don’t believe such generally employable spreads can really match the depth and insight achievable via something unique that’s created specifically for one person and their unique set of circumstances.
Here’s an example… A while back, I was asked to do a reading for someone about the year ahead. Subsequent conversation revealed that this person felt a deep connection to the Chariot Card of the Tarot’s Major Arcana. As with any card in the Tarot, the Chariot boasts a wide array of possible meanings, but if I had to distill the most common and prevalent of those down into a quick sound-bite sort of phrase, I’d say that the Chariot is about the harnessing of various disparate elements into a unified whole that at least temporarily works together like your basic well-oiled machine, so as to yield up a configuration that’s greater than the sum of its parts, and that can be ridden onward to some significant triumph so long as that unity of parts is maintained. Tarot has evolved as a field to the point where there are literally thousands of decks out there, many with symbolism that diverges tremendously from what’s considered “classic,” but the elements most often associated with the Chariot Card would include: the Chariot itself, the Charioteer driving it, a White Horse and a Black Horse (or other suitable creatures capable of towing a weighty conveyance like a chariot, representing powerful forces that might not normally work together without application of some outside influence), and the environment around them all (i.e., some “field of battle,” whether that be an actual or a metaphorical one).
So with all that in mind, here’s the Chariot-based spread itself that I devised, with each number in the diagram below representing a different card to be drawn from the deck, and the diagram showing how these cards are to be laid out (and when I say “the querent,” I mean either another person if that’s who you’re reading for, or just you if you’re doing the spread for yourself):
The main question of the spread is: “To realize the best possible outcome, what does the querent need to know about the coming year?”
1 = The Charioteer — The querent, and her/his available energy, luck, current strengths and weaknesses
2 = The Chariot — The “conveyance” that the Charioteer will ride, be it a literal or a figurative one
3 = The White Horse — The obvious primary forces that the Charioteer must harness
4 = The Black Horse — The more hidden and subtle primary forces that the Charioteer must harness
5 = The Battlefield — The obstacles and opposition the querent will need to overcome in order to reach her/his goal
6 = Outcome — This is the current likeliest outcome, given all other presently prevailing factors…although the querent can work to change and improve this outcome
And I’m pleased to report that the spread was a great success, offering up a reading that really resonated with the querent receiving it, who felt it was very on point and applicable as a whole, and yielded up excellent food for thought and illumination. This isn’t to say that a “pre-packaged” spread used for anyone and everyone can’t also result in great depth of results — they totally can! — but just that I think that the odds of a profound experience greatly increase when a personalized spread can be created and used, and that the depths of meaning arrived at can very often be much, much deeper.
So there you have it: no spread will optimally and equally apply to every querent and every situation, and while the more standardized ones are terrific for many sets of circumstances, I heartily recommend the more unique and individualized spread whenever it’s possible to fashion one…