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.