How To: Create Tarot Spreads

The Wild Unknown Tarot

Creating spreads for use with tarot can be an immensely rewarding practice. It can deepen your relationship with your cards and your knowledge of the tarot as well as providing more clear and specific information than a traditional spread might. Have you ever stared at a beautifully laid out Celtic Cross spread and puzzled over how exactly to interpret the card that came up, the position name, and your question all into one coherent answer? Perhaps it’s time to start building your own spreads! Below I’ve given three methods I use when creating spreads to use in readings for myself and friends.

Method One: Start With a Question

Seems easy enough, right? Sometimes, especially if you’re building spreads on the fly, it’s easiest to start with the question at hand. Let’s use one I’ve created as an example.

Two Paths Tarot Spread

I call this spread my “Two Paths Spread”. It was created when I needed some help deciding between a couple of different paths through the treacherous maze of my college education. I began with a simple “What happens if I choose X? What about Y?”

Then, I broke down what information I needed in order to feel that larger question was satisfactorily answered. I needed to know, for each path, the pros and the cons of choosing each path. I wanted to know what my biggest challenge would be on that path, and also how I’d best be able to overcome that challenge. Finally,  I wanted to know where I would most likely end up if I chose that path and followed the advice I’d been given.

I laid the cards out into two rows, one representing choice one, and the other choice two, and voila! The spread was born. To this day, this particular spread remains my most useful, as it can be applied to any number of choices. Stuck between three choices? Add another row! It’s pretty versatile and is driven by the questions I specifically want answered about a particular situation.

Method Two: Start With and Significator

Many spreads ask you to use an significator, a card chosen to represent yourself, the issue at hand, or the goal you want to achieve. Sometimes, picking an significator can be another great way to get some ideas for a spread. I’ll give a couple of examples:

Ace of Cups Spread

This particular spread was created for a friend, I call it the Ace of Cups Spread (simple, right?). He’d been having the Ace of Cups appear repeatedly and felt called to pursue the vibrant, healing, creative, and intuitive energy of the Ace of Cups, but wasn’t exactly sure how. 

So, I pulled the Ace of Cups from the deck to act as a significator, and placed it in the middle. Then, much like the last spread, I thought about what sort of answers we might want. The Ace of Cups, to me, always represented that which fulfills you spiritually, emotionally, and creatively. It is the Holy Grail. The cauldron of Awen bubbling forth. I wanted to show a comparison of how one is living in the present, and what modes of life would be more fulfilling in the ways the Ace of Cups is. So the questions “What am I doing now?” and “What do I want most to be doing?” were the first two cards to be placed in the spread.

No grail can be found without a quest. So I asked “What is it I lack to find this fulfillment?” and then “Where do I find that missing piece?” The final questions were about “Which blockages or challenges will I find along this path?” and “How do I overcome them to achieve that fulfillment?”

The Hunter's Arrow

Another spread I built around the use of a significator was The Hunter’s Arrow. It was meant to be used for pursuing a goal or a project through to fruition. Here, I also used the shape of a bow and arrow for inspiration. In this spread, the significator is chosen to represent the goal you have, and is placed right at the tip of the arrow. In the image above, it is represented by the Seven of Wands.

I used the shape of the bow as well as the answers I needed to formulate the rest of my questions. The curve of the bow itself represents resources readily at hand for accomplishing the task. The card directly behind the arrow’s point is the action needed to propel ones self in the right direction, and the three cards to the right represent short-term and long-term outcomes and the way in which the project may be transformed in the process.

Method Three: Start With an Image

The third way that I craft my spreads is to begin with an image as inspiration, much like some of the spreads I’ve crafted in the shapes of the constellations.

Orion Spread with Runes

Here is the Orion the Hunter spread I posted just a few days ago (I used runes because they photographed a little bit better in a confined space). Here I began with the image of one of my favorite constellations. I ordered the cards by the brightness of the stars (found in the index of Sandra Kynes book, Star Magic: The Wisdom of the Constellations for Wiccans and Pagans) and used both my personal associations with the constellation and folklore and mythos surrounding it to create the spread.

For me, Orion has always been a point of strength and familiarity when things get rough (cyclically in my life, usually in the fall and winter when he can be found in the southern skies of my home). I always felt that he was watching over me and lending me his strength (Kynes’ book also mentions the constellation’s associations with storms, rough times, and of course a number of warrior/hunter gods and heroes in myth). For this spread, I asked questions about the nature of my struggle, what things I had at my disposal, how I might shield myself, how to keep my wits about me when times were particularly rough.

The Raven's Prophecy Tarot

And that wraps up my process! The essential this really is breaking a question or a situation down into bite sized pieces of information to glean from it. You can start with a big question, a feeling or a goal you want to achieve, or an image you’re inspired by. The possibilities are limited only to you imagination.

Do you create tarot spreads? What is your process? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Yours beneath the falling rain,
Rachel

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A Journey With the Wheel of the Year

The Wheel from The Wildwood Tarot

The Wheel of the Year is, easily, one of the most unifying things in the neo-pagan community. The seasonal festivals might have slightly different names or customs between practitioners and groups, but most (that I’ve seen) seem to acknowledge in some way, shape, or form, the eight stations of the Wheel of the Year.

In recent years, I’ve seen (and participated in) a number of attempts at re-thinking the Wheel of the Year. After all, the eight sabbats were created based on ancient western European agrarian festivals. While incorporating ancient practices and interpretations brings us closer to our long-lost pagan ancestors and the rhythms of the land and its seasons, it’s a system that doesn’t necessarily fit everyone’s paganism.

Michigan is definitely not in perfect sync with the traditional Wheel of the Year. For example, Imbolc and Ostara, usually regarded as the beginnings of spring are usually cold and icy here- with snow storms likely to continue well into April. Lughnasadh doesn’t quite see the first of our grain (though there is some summer sweet corn), but there are tart blueberries to pick.

Much of the last few years had involved much of coming into my own particular path as a pagan as well as a young adult. I’ve gone over the high days almost each time they come to pass, rethinking traditions, adding new things to my celebrations, letting go of what is of little use to me, etc.

But something happened: I graduated from college, and suddenly all the markers I used to use for stopping to observe my place along the Wheel of the Year were gone. It wasn’t noticeable at first. Beltane just after I’d graduated from college was, after all, still the sweet beginning of summer and freedom from the academic part of the year. Midsummer was my usual return to my spiritual and artistic work… But Lughnasadh was no longer about preparing for the coming school year- in fact, there was very little to really prepare for, because I work in an industry with a busy season between May and October. If anything, it was a breath of release- but I didn’t know what to do with it.

I had spent the last thirteen years or so of my path defining my year by the patterns of that which had defined a great deal of my life: school. My view had been framed around cycles of classes and how my paganism and my artistic interests were able to be enjoyed in relation to those cycles. My rituals for the sabbats centered around preparations for what was to come: being away at school, finals perhaps, a free period in the summer to work on my own projects, etc. I had celebrated the turning Wheel of the Year with the same handful of people- people who have since gone about their separate ways, who are in different parts of the state or country, or vastly different paths in life.

By about Imbolc, I was feeling really very lost and lonely, and really beating myself up for not having “done anything” for most of a year.

A short while after Beltane, when all had come full circle once again, I felt the strength to sort of pick up where I’d been with my OBOD course work and personal study. What I realized was that it was completely OK that I hadn’t performed any rituals or felt connected to the few celebrations I had hosted. After all, a great deal of my previous frame of reference was sort of lost in a pretty sudden way.

What I’d accomplished in not worrying about the rituals or the fact things hadn’t gone exactly the way I’d hoped, was that I was able to observe and learn a new cycle for the year. Now, it’s almost flipped from what it had been: where my period of “rest” and personal work had once been May-September, now it’s more like October-May when work is slower and there’s less yard projects to worry about around the house.

I’ve become more intimately aware of the seasons and patterns of nature as they manifest around my local area. The leaves turn gold in October. Orion is visible over the horizon in late September. Sometimes there’s a random thaw in January. This is where I can see the Moon through my bedroom window in the summer time. The crows return to the yard in late June and stay through most of the fall… These sorts of things are now a part of my view of the wheel, and I’ve begun again the process of reexamining the cycles and seasons of my life and my practice.

What is your relationship with the Wheel of the Year? Have you ever experienced a period of time where it seems almost entirely foreign to you? How did you overcome that? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Yours beneath the maple boughs,

Rachel

Orion the Hunter: A Tarot Spread for Troubled Times

I had gotten the itch to create tarot spreads once again. This time, my inspiration came from the constellation Orion, seen in many cultures as either a hunter or warrior in the heavens.

Orion Tarot Spread

This spread is designed to be used in times that feel like a particular struggle, or fight- those times in life when only embracing our inner warrior will see us through.

1: Betelgeuse- What is your fight? What is the essence of your troubles? What has spurred you to take action?
2: Rigel- What foundation do you stand on? What is your “rock” when things are bad?
3: The Weapon’s Point: your greatest advantage in this fight. How you might strike the greatest blow.
4/5: At the Hunter’s Belt, your resources readily at hand.
6: Bellatrix/ The Warrior’s Heart- What is the nature of your inner flame? What does your inner warrior offer in guidance?
7: A Fallback Plan- What should you do if things turn south? What actions should you consider taking in the event you fail?
8: Keep Your Wits- How do you keep your thoughts level and your eyes on the goal?
9: Keep Up Your Strength- How to look after your physical health and your willpower.
10-12: The Shield- How to keep your guard up and shield yourself from the onslaught of bullshit.
13: Tipping Point- How to turn the tide of this struggle in your favor.
14: Warrior’s Rest- How best to care for yourself when all is said and done.

Happy reading, and blessings of the starry summer nights to you,

Rachel