This mini lesson is about: How and when to cast a spread, what spread to use for each occasion, how to know the strengths of various spreads
Tarot Article 3 │ Part One
Warning: This is a long lesson. It will take you at least 30 minutes to work through but it is one of the most important lessons you will ever do. Please set aside some time and do this. Take short notes on a pad of paper so you can apply this information to any reading you do. I might just break it up into two parts if it gets long enough. I want you to take a short break between them but make it your most important priority to read and do this entire lesson.
Open any book on the tarot and you will find spreads. In fact many authors have attempted to collect spreads like one collects trading cards, or stamps, and compile them in a book as if there was one right spread for every occasion. This is one of the things that limits tarot learning and confuses students. While it is good to see what other people think makes a good card layout, the sheer assault on the senses of hundreds of spreads tends to paralyze the average reader or force them to retreat into the spreads they know that work for them.
I invite you to learn new spreads, casually perusing the various offerings and spread variations offered by authors who come from different parts of the world and different backgrounds, but I want you to remain skeptical at all times. I do not want you to join the ranks of overwhelmed tarot students and readers who have been bludgeoned to death with far too much useless information. The term “information paralysis” refers to a state where one is so saturated with data (data=information; and not necessarily “useful information”) that one cannot make forward progress. Information paralysis becomes toxic mental stress overload and the body reacts violently, shutting out all external awareness to “flush the toilet” of crap that has been crammed into your conscious awareness.
Don’t do this to yourself. Have a handful of spreads that you have tried and found to work for you. In The Easiest Way to Learn the Tarot—EVER!! I have given you a short ensemble of basic spreads that are easy to learn and real workhorses. They will serve you well over the years. You may use these or ignore them, but find a collection of spreads that is roughly similar to what I offer: a handful of 1, 2, and 3 card spreads, a good Celtic Cross variant, and at least one form of astrological spread. These will handle any situation you encounter; remembering that you can always open cards up or extend a reading. Trying to build an overly large collection of spreads or inventing new ones to be cool is a recipe for disaster. If you want to design your own spreads that is fine but learn and master some basic spreads first or you will just be another pedestrian reader, and we have far too many of them as it is.
So . . . which spread is right for the occasion? What spread should you use when _____? Let’s start with the smallest spreads and discuss their best uses and add cards and see when larger and larger spreads are more effective. A word of advice here however: Spreads can become ineffectual when you try to use too many cards. When you start creating spreads that are over 12 cards for the initial layout (this does not include shuffled and focused on clarification cards or extenders) you are requiring that every card be just right. Spreads are based on random probability enhanced by “divine intervention” in direct proportion to your skill and attention level. If you are untrained, or worse unfocused, you will get truly random cards that are nowhere near accurate no matter how you try to twist their meanings. The more cards you add to the initial cast, the more likely that some cards will be wrong. A 1, 2, or 3 card spread with a good clear focus can be highly accurate as you only need to get one answer to one question about one thing. You can do one card readings all day long in the course of an overall reading. This requires great sensitivity and focus, and frequent reshuffling of the deck, but it is an acceptable method of divination that has worked for tens of thousands of readers.
When you add more cards to a spread you clarify the answers you do get, allowing for greater finesse and detail. This all works to a point. After that you start to muddy the waters. “More” is not always “better.”
When to use one-card spreads: One-card spreads are great for simple answers of quickie clarifications. Yes/no, did he/didn’t he, or any variation of a yes or no question. These are also great to subtly indicate whether your querent/client is telling the truth or not. If you hear something that sounds suspicious as they are talking casually draw a card from the middle of the pack. Know in advance what your qualifications are: reversed means a lie, or Swords or Wands means they are lying; whereas a “major” Arcana can mean that they don’t really know what they are talking about or are missing too many facts for their opinion to be correct. Whatever you choose—be consistent. You can’t change the rules in the middle of a reading. Well, you can, but you risk becoming so chaotic that the answers you get are random and unreliable.