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.
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:
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?”
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.
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.
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,