llewellyn publications

Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads

Teresa Michelsen, Llewellyn Publications, 2003

This is the third in Llewellyn’s Special Topics in Tarot series. The Llewellyn website says “These tarot guides are designed for advanced beginners and experienced readers. You won’t find any basic card definitions or common spreads in these books, which means there’s more space for innovation and a deeper exploration of the power and possibilities of the cards.”

Michelsen’s goals for her readers are that they will be able to

  • Modify existing spreads to make them more personal.
  • Create spreads you can reuse for common questions you may encounter.
  • Develop custom spreads that are specific to individual clients and their questions. (p. xx)

The first half of the book provides basic elements of spreads, and the second gives the reader inspirations and examples of constructing spreads. Each chapter after the introductory one has exercises that assist the reader in design process. When I first read through the book I felt that there wasn’t enough attention paid to the way a spread gets constructed. Taking a second run through the exercises, however, showed that Michelsen has provided everything the reader needs to go through the process. She has kept illustrations to a minimum so as not to cramp the reader’s imagination.

But more than creating spreads, Michelsen gives a lot of practical advice about reading the cards. Ethics is one issue she covers early on–the first exercise in Chapter 2 is about formulating ethics–and continues to bring up throughout the book. One example comes when she discusses handling when clients ask about the future. She writes

It is very helpful when receiving a question like this to have a firm sense of your own beliefs surrounding the future. That way you can communicate your ideas to your clients and set appropriate boundaries for your readings. Most importantly, stick to what you are comfortable with and do not agree to do readings that may go beyond your ethical boundaries. Without a clear sense of your beliefs, it is easy to find yourself doing readings that may make you feel uncomfortable. (p. 116)

The chapter on Practical Spreads includes a section titled “Use Your Imagination and Contextualize,” which covers looking at contemporary issues and situations when you have traditional Tarot imagery:

It is possible to provide some guidance if you are willing to read your cards more literally. This means forgetting about the underlying meaning of the cards and simply looking at it. For example, the Six of Wands may be a monument in the town square of a Civil War hero riding a horse rather than the usual meaning of victory. The Five of Pentacles may be a hospital, shelter, or mission. The Three of Wands may indicate a port or waterfront area. Aside from the overall scene, look for small details that could be relevant. Perhaps there is something about the scene that particularly draws your eye and gives a clue. (pp. 102-3)

Even if you are not particularly interested in creating your own spreads, the book is well worth looking at for its advice on reading Tarot.

Weekly Tarot Card for Capricorn

The Devil

You are at a point when you need to break free from the things that are holding you back. No matter what it is that has held you back in the past, know that it no longer will have power over you.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Sleep Oil

For the person who messaged me about problems sleeping because of nightmares, here’s the sleep oil I use.

1/8 cup (30mL) carrier oil, such as grapeseed
2 drops Rose essential oil
1 drop Jasmine essential oil
1 drop chamomile essential oil

Mix together. Anoint your temples, neck, and wrists before sleep.


Citation:
Cunningham, Scott, and Scott Cunningham. The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1989. Print.

Weekly Tarot Card for Taurus

Ace of Pentacles

This is a time that will be filled with new financial opportunities but you have to take advantage of what comes your way. You will have a chance to better yourself but you need to put your best foot forward and show others you are worth the investment.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Weekly Tarot Card for Leo

Seven of Cups

This is a time when you have been living in an illusion where you thought things were better than they were. Now that you know how your situation truly is, you have some serious choices to make about it.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Weekly Tarot Card for Aries

Two of Cups

At this time, you are finding a balance among yourself and the new people that are coming into your life. This is an important time for you meet new people and to form new relationships with them.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Weekly Tarot Card for Sagittarius

Page of Wands

This is a time for you to start something new even though you don’t completely understand what your new venture will hold. Know that you will learn as you go and that you aren’t supposed to have all of the answers right now.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Mid-Week Oracle Update for Pisces

Out of Darkness

This is a time when you need to trust that you have the inner strength to overcome the challenges that you will face. Know that you are going through difficult times but they will make you a stronger person and prepare you for your future.

Deck: The Divine Circus Oracle: Guidance for a Life of Sacred Subversion & Creative Confidence, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

The Deck of 1000 Spreads

Tierney Sadler
Llewellyn Publications, 2013

First I need to say that I knew Tierney briefly when I first moved to this area nearly five years ago. She ran the local Tarot Meetup and gave the group a pre-publication look at this deck at a meeting that I missed. Shortly after that she stepped down from running the Tarot Meetup, and I haven’t run into her since.

From the very beginning it is evident that Sadler is a teacher. The book is organized and easy to use. In the Introduction she articulates her objectives clearly:

Using the Deck of 1000 Spreads, you’ll be able to:
- Lay out spreads you get from books, then put the books down and focus on your reading…
- Craft your own spreads…
- Discover new spreadcrafting strategies…
- Collaborate more closely with your querents on readings…
- Divine spreads for the first time ever… (p. xvii)

In the first chapter Sadler explains step-by-step how spreads are structured and how they work. Through that process she gradually introduces her deck. Her system is deceptively simple. The deck consists of 69 cards divided into five color-coded sets, including blank cards for each set. The five categories are Topic/Theme/Plot (green), Story/Elements/Plot Twists (blue), Characters/People (orange), Timing (purple), and Outcomes/Endings (red).

By selecting cards from each category and laying them out, you have the spread in front of you, and you don’t have to remember what each position means. Your tarot cards get placed on top of each of the meaning cards, and you’re off and running. No more referring to notes or back to the book or website where you found the spread to remember everything.

From there Sadler moves on to talk about “Retooling and Revisioning Classic Spreads” (Chapter Three). She provides the reader with a complete list of the 59 labeled cards. However, they are not color coded–or even headed by their color or category–and they are not listed in the same order as the color coding descriptions that appear immediately following the list. I just labeled them myself:

For her first example Sadler uses the Celtic Cross. She explains how to select cards from her deck that fit the meanings of the traditional spread. Then she walks the reader through retooling the spread by changing or adding cards. The next step is to completely rework (revision) the spread by replacing each card in the original with a different one of the same color. She also gives sample readings of each of the three spreads.

One of the things I appreciate about Sadler is the way she frequently provides little hints and ideas to expand the reader’s use of the deck.

But if you think even more abstractly, you can use many of the spread cards in the Deck of 1000 Spreads to represent positions that aren’t noted in the cards themselves and weren’t even intended by the deck’s creator. Here are just a few examples of how you can creatively reenvision [sic] some of the spread cards to expand your reading possibilities:

- Health topic card. Instead of representing the querent’s physical health, you can use this card to represent a question about health insurance or the condition of a person’s house or car…

Of course those three examples are just the tip of the iceberg… You’ll think of more. While you’re reading this book, just be aware that it shows you the way the deck was intended to be used–but once you know that, you’re free to go off-road and create your own rules! (pp. 64-65)

Chapter Four demonstrates how to create original spreads from scratch. Sadler begins with one card and works up to four followed by some advice for creating larger spreads. The example she gives shows a 15 card spread. While reading this chapter I realized that Sadler was repeating certain pieces of information–specifically a summary of the organization of the deck (colors and subject areas). Any good teacher knows that repeating key information helps a student absorb and integrate it! Sadler incorporates these repetitions of the familiar as she moves the reader into new territory. She also makes effective use of illustrations to show what she is describing.

In Chapter Five she discusses divination and spreadcrafting. “While readers have been creating their own spreads for a while, have you ever heard of anyone divining their own spreads and letting the universe decide the content?” (p. 103) Actually, I have. A number of years ago I took a class on “channeled spreads” with another tarot teacher. However, I do like Sadler’s process It’s a great way to sit and play with spread ideas. I also like the idea of picking a topic card at random to determine a question for a reading when the client doesn’t have one. Beyond that one use, I don’t think I would use the whole system to design a client-specific spread during a session with a client, as it would take up too much time in most standard reading time slots (30 minutes or an hour).

The last two chapters of the book consist of sample spreads that give the reader further insights into the way the Sadler’s system can work. There is nothing too complicated here, but the reader will finish this short book with a good foundation from which to create a myriad of their own spreads for personal use and work with others.

Weekly Tarot Card for Gemini

King of Cups

Take a deep breath and know that you are coming upon a time when your emotions won’t be able to rule your situation like they have in the past. You are in control of your situation and others won’t phase you.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Weekly Tarot Card for Aquarius

Seven of Pentacles Reversed

This is a time when you have a lack of long term planning and it has left you without a sense of purpose. It is time to start planning for the future and being proactive by taking steps towards your goals.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Weekly Tarot Card for Pisces

Queen of Wands Reversed

You have experienced an event that caused you to lose your confidence and you have taken a huge step back from where you were. Don’t let yourself give up just because you have faced a difficult time in your path.

Deck: Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and Scott Murphy, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

Mid-Week Oracle Update for Sagittarius

The Juggler

You are a master at multitasking but you keep adding responsibilities that you have to balance into your existing situation. Keep in mind that if you are to add too many commitments, you may lose track of all of them.

Deck: The Divine Circus Oracle: Guidance for a Life of Sacred Subversion & Creative Confidence, Copyright 2016 Llewellyn Publications

A roadmap for action that came up in a client reading: You can control the change, so what do you know already, what additional facts can you dig up, how can you synthesize all of this, and how can it best be used to move forward.

Of course, I’ve left out specifics and identifiers, but I think I have the beginnings of a new spread.

Card images L-R:
Tarot Apokolypsis © Lo Scarabeo, 2016
Wizards Tarot © Llewellyn Publications, 2011
Tarot Illumunati © Lo Scarabeo, 2013
Wizards Tarot © Llewellyn Publications, 2011