The heart and soul of Geomancy lies in the interpretation of the chart cast. The Shield Chart is the most common Geomantic Chart, and provides the basis for other charts generated, which are generated by rearranging the Figures in the Shield Chart. Interpreting the Shield Chart, then, is one of the most important skills to master in the art of Geomancy. When I read Shield Charts, I do so in a very specific order and a very specific way.
The Judge and Witnesses
I always start my interpretation of the Shield Chart by reading the Judge, the Figure that sums up the rest of the Chart, being as it is derived from every single Figure present. The Judge is the Figure that best sums up the answer to the question that you asked, and represents the present situation, the relationship between past and future, and the relationship between the person asking the question and the question itself (or what or who the question is about). This is the most important Figure in any Geomantic Shield Chart, and so it deserves special attention. When interpreting the Judge, make sure to not only interpret the meaning of the Figure, but also its role in relation to the next two positions, the two Witnesses.
After an initial examination of the Judge, I examine the two Witnesses, Right first and then Left. The Right Witness represents the past and the one asking the question. The Left Witness represents the future and the question’s influence. After examining how the Figure present fits into its position, and doing that for both Witnesses, one should go back and re-examine the Judge in terms of it serving as a link between the two Witnesses, paying any special attention to any similarities between these Figures.
The Way of the Points
Following a close examination of the Judge and Witnesses, I then check to see if there is a Way of the Points. Often, the questions one seeks answers to are complex, and often the true answers lie hidden beneath several layers. The Way of the Points serves to help your inner guide find the true source of a problem if it is hidden. Divining the Way of the Points involves looking at the Fire, or Head, lines of the Figures.
Start with the Judge’s Fire line, and note whether it has one or two points. Then, look at the two Witnesses. If neither of them have the same Fire line, then there is no Way of the Points, and the influences on the situation are in plain sight. If one, or both, of the Witnesses has the same Fire line, however, then the Way of the Points exists. Transfer your attention to the Figure(s) with the same Fire line, and then examine the two Nieces making up the Witness(es) on the Way of the Points. If any of them have the same Fire line, then they form part of the way, too. Repeat this process down to the Mothers. Wherever the Way of the Points ends – the last Figure to have the same Fire Line as the preceding Figure on the way – you can find the Figure that represents a hidden, underlying influence on the whole situation. Sometimes the Way of the Points ends with multiple Figures, and in this case all of these Figures contribute to the hidden influences.
Once the Way of the Points has been formed (if it can be), and the Figure(s) making up its end located, one can interpret the Figure(s) just like it is a Figure in a position representing unconscious, hidden, underlying influences.
The Four Triplicities
Once you have examined the underlying causes of a situation, I recommend examining the four Triplicities, each made up of one Niece and its two associated Mothers or Daughters. Each Triplicity is interpreted in the same way as the Judge and Witnesses, with the Right Mother or Daughter representing the past and the one asking the question, the Left Mother or Daughter representing the future and the question itself, and the Niece representing the present, the relationship between the past, future, questioner, and question, as well as the sum of the Triplicity.
Each Triplicity also has its own meaning, and this is where their interpretations differ from that of the Judge and Witnesses. While the Judge and the Witnesses represent the situation as a whole, each Triplicity represents a specific aspect of the situation, and so when reading the Figures, one must keep in mind the aspect they are pondering.
The First Triplicity represents the questioner, or querent, and their larger role in the situation. The Second Triplicity represents the role that large events and powerful forces shape the situation. The Third Triplicity represents the role that the querent’s home environment and family affect the situation, and the Fourth Triplicity represents the larger influence of society on the situation.
Once each Triplicity has been interpreted on its own, I myself look at my own two sub-Triplicities. The first sub-Triplicity, made of the Right Witness and its associated Nieces, represents a more in-depth look at the Querent’s role in the situation, with a focus on how the Querent perceives the situation, and how that affects the answer to the question (Witnesses are never completely objective, after all). The second sub-Triplicity, made of the Left Witness and its associated Nieces, represents the larger role of the Question itself in the situation, as well as how others perceive the question and the situation.
Rearranging the Chart
Once you have gone through the entire Shield Chart (adding your own personal interpretations, if you wish) as above, you may very well have a satisfactory answer. If you do not, then you may wish to rearrange the Figures into a different chart – such as the House Chart. Usually this is not necessary unless you are unsure of your answer or want a very in-depth analysis of the situation. Most of the time, the Shield Chart is more than enough!
The Shield Chart is the basis of most methods of Geomantic Interpretation, and generating it is a very simple process that can be done quickly and efficiently. To start, one must prepare properly (a process I describe here), and then begin the process of generating random numbers.
One can use anything that can generate one of two possible results, with an equal chance of generating each one. There are many possibilities for Geomantic tools:
-Dice (Odds are One Result, Evens Another)
-Tapping a Stick/Pencil a Random Number of Times and Then Counting the Number of Marks (Odds are One Result, Evens Another)
-Random Number Generators
-Drawing Random Numbers of Pebbles From a Bag (Odds are One Result, Evens Another)
-Throwing Flat Sticks With One Dot on One Side and Two on the Other into the Air
-Anything else that can generate either a 1 or a 2! I personally use a set of four colored dice (representing the four elements) with either one dot or two on them. Rolling them all at once yields an entire figure.
Each possibility represents either one dot (traditionally represented as a 1 in the binary system) or two dots (traditionally represented as a 0 in the binary system).
The generation process begins by generating four Figures, known in the shield chart as the Four Mothers. When generating Geomantic Figures, one does not randomize between one and sixteen and select the proper Figure based upon its traditional order. Instead, one generates each of its four rows of dots separately. In order to generate one Figure, one merely has to randomly select one dot or two (using the way chosen above) four times, and in order they will yield the Fire, Air, Water, and Earth lines of the Figure. Do this whole process four times (yielding sixteen randomizations), and you will have the four Mothers. Place them in the appropriate places on the chart, writing them in right to left.
Once one has generated the Mothers, one generates the Daughters – who are called as such because they are derived from the Mothers. This is a simple process; the First Daughter is made from the Fire lines of all four mothers (in order from first to fourth, right to left), with the Fire of the First Mother being the Fire of the First Daughter, the Fire of the Second Mother being the Air of the First Daughter, the Fire of the Third Mother being the Water of the First Daughter, and the Fire of the Fourth Mother being the Earth of the First Daughter. The Second Daughter is composed in the same way from the Air lines of the four Mothers, the Third is made from the Water lines, and the Fourth is made from the Earth lines. Write these Daughters in their proper places next to the Mothers, from right to left.
At this point, the entire first row of the Shield Chart has been generated. The second row, that of the Nieces, is done differently. Each Niece is associated with either two Mothers or two Daughters, and each group of three positions makes up a Triplicity. The fact that the two Daughters or Mothers generate the Niece is why the Niece in a Triplicity represents the relationship between the two, as it is made from a combination of parts.
In order to generate a Niece from its associated Mothers or Daughters, one has to compare the two Figures. Start at the Fire line of each of the two Figures being compared. If they are the same (i.e., both one dot or both two dots), then the Niece gets two dots in its Fire line. If they are different (i.e., one is one dot and the other is two dots), then the Niece gets one dot in its Fire line. The rest of the Niece is generated by doing the same thing for the Air, Water, and Earth lines.
Once one has generated all of the Nieces, one repeats the process, using the two Nieces associated with the Left and Right Witness to generate the Left and Right Witness. The last step in generating the Shield Chart is repeating the process one more time, combining the Right and Left Witnesses into the Judge, which is made from the entire chart.
Because of this process of adding Figures together to generate higher levels of the chart, certain patterns always emerge when certain Figures are grouped together. For example, if you combine Cauda and Caput Draconis together (in the manner used to generate Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge), then you will always get Carcer, indicating the isolation of being trapped in a loop of beginnings and endings. Because of this, specific patterns will begin to have specific meanings as one reads a chart, and these patterns can become key to interpreting the chart.
The most commonly used Geomantic chart, the Shield Chart (conveniently labeled in that link), is divided into five distinct sections, each section with the same general structure. Looking at the Geomantic Shield Chart, these sections are visible as groupings of three boxes: the first and second Mothers and the first Niece, the third and fourth Mothers and the Second Niece, the first and second Daughters and the Third Niece, the third and fourth Daughters and the Fourth Niece, and the Left and Right Witnesses and Judge. Each of these sections, the first four of which are called “Triplicities” and the latter of which is merely known as “The Judge and Witnesses.” Each area of the Chart helps to shed insight on a particular aspect of the question asked.
As stated above, each of the Triplicities has a distinct structure. Looking at the chart from the bottom down (in the same way that you read the chart), it becomes apparent that two elements from the first row combine to form a larger element in the second row; i.e., two Mothers or Daughters form a niece. When the Shield Chart is generated, the same two first-row Figures are the ones who generate their associated Niece, and so each Triplicity is linked from the very moment of generation.
In terms of reading a Triplicity to try and understand its meaning, each one is treated in the exact same way. The Nieces in each Triplicity represent the relationship between the two Mothers or Daughters below it, as well as influences on the present and as a summary of the Triplicity as a whole. The right Daughter or Mother represents the influence of the past and of the person asking the question, while the left Daughter or Mother represents the effects of the subject of the question, as well as a likely course for the future.
The Judge and Witnesses: The Sum
The Judge and Witness are not technically a Triplicity, but they have the exact same structure (with the Judge acting as a Niece and the Right and Left Witnesses like Mothers or Daughters). The Judge and Witnesses taken together represent the sum of the question being asked; the Right Witness represents the overall influence of the past and of the one asking the question, while the Left Witness represents the possible future and the effects of the subject of the question on the chart as a whole. The Judge serves to represent a summary of the present, and of the relationship between the two Witnesses. The Judge also serves as a summary of the chart as a whole, and can be used to quickly sum up a reading. As a group of three Figures, the Judge and Witnesses represent the question as a whole, and as a summary of the four Triplicities.
First Triplicity: The Querent
The First Triplicity, made of the first and second Mothers and the first Niece, as a whole represent the querent, or the person asking the question the chart is attempting to answer. It represents everything that the querent brings to the table: backstory, attitudes, status, perspective, belongings, energies, and anything else. The first Niece serves as a brief summary of this influence, and also represents the relationship between the Mothers and the present situation. The first Mother represents the querent’s past, and the second Mother represents the querent’s future and the influence of the subject of the question on the querent.
Second Triplicity: Events
The Second Triplicity, made of the third and fourth Mothers and the second Niece, as a whole represent the events that have a bearing on the reading. The Niece serves to summarize these events in the present, and sheds insight on how the events of past and future (third and fourth Mothers respectively) are related. The third Mother can also represent events directly involving the querent, and the fourth Mother can also represent events directly relating to the subject of the question (sometimes called the quesited).
Third Triplicity: The Home
The Third Triplicity, made of the first and second Daughters and the third Niece, as a whole represent the home. It represents the influences that the querent’s home and work environment’s might have on the querent and the question. Environments, family, and very close friends influence this Triplicity, which is summed up by the Niece, who also represents the relationship between the first and second Daughters. The first Daughter often represents, as usual, the past influence of the home, but also can represent the influences of one’s environment. The second Daughter represents the future, as well as the influences of the people close to the querent.
Fourth Triplicity: Society
The Fourth Triplicity, made of the third and fourth Daughters and the fourth Niece, as a whole represent society. It represents the influence of your larger culture, your acquaintances, your friends who are not very close, and figures of power. The Niece, as always, sums up this influence and helps describe how the third and fourth Daughters relate to each other. The third Daughter represents not only the past, but also the influence of society on a micro level; your friend’s social circle, for instance. The fourth Daughter represents the future as well as the influence of larger cultural trends that have an impact on your life.
While the above Triplicities are the only “accepted” Triplicities of the Shield Chart, I personally also make us of two “Sub-Triplicities.” The first of these Sub-Triplicities is made up of the first and second Nieces and the Right Witness. The second of these Sub-Triplicities is the third and fourth Nieces and the Left Witness. Like the other Triplicities, the two Nieces derive the Witness. I read both Sub-Triplicities like I would read any other Triplicity, with the Witnesses serving as a summary, the present, and the relationship between the two Nieces. The Sub-Triplicity of the Right (Witness) represents the Querent, and the first Niece represents the querent and his past, while the second Niece represents the events that might affect the querent and the querent’s future. The Sub-Triplicity of the Left (Witness) represents the Subject of the Question, with the third Niece representing the past and one’s home, and the fourth Niece representing one’s culture and future. Essentially, I read each position in the same way as above, but in a different combination, to help shed light on the rest of the spread.
An easy and useful way to look at the Shield Chart is as a constant division; the Judge becomes the Witnesses, the Witnesses become the Nieces, and the Nieces become the Mothers and Daughters. By looking at the two “lesser” positions that make up the larger one, in all cases yields a better understanding of the larger one.
The heart and soul of Geomancy is the casting and reading of Geomantic Charts. Geomantic Charts have the same function as Charts in Astrology and Spreads in Tarot. They are the medium through which the reader interprets the messages of the animus mundi, or consciousness of the world.
Like with Tarot and Astrology, Geomancy relies upon the interpretation of symbols laid out in certain patterns before the reader. The interpretations of the symbols – in the case of Geomancy, the sixteen Geomantic Figures – is done through conscious thought processes while in a state of open-mindedness, allowing you to receive influences from your subconscious, bringing them to your consciousness’ attention. Your subconscious, in turn, is influenced by the animus mundi, which can help guide you in your interpretations if your mind and soul are willing to listen.
Geomancy is much simpler than most systems of esoteric “divination,” and requires almost no materials. All that you need is a way to generate a random number from one to two. You can do this by tapping on the ground and counting odd or even, by drawing cards from a deck, by rolling dice, by flipping coins, or by any other completely unbiased process. Personally, I use special Geomantic dice I made: four dice in the colors Red (Fire), Yellow (Air), White (Water, should be blue but I couldn’t find a blue die of the same style), and Green (Earth). On each die I drew either one dot or two dots, so that there were three of each. In order to generate one Geomantic Figure, I roll all four dice and arrange them in order to generate a Figure. For example, if I roll a 2 on the Red, a 2 on the Yellow, a 1 on the White, and a 2 on the Green, I have generated the figure Albus.
Like with Tarot spreads, there are multiple Geomantic charts that one can use depending on the question asked. Depending on the chart, methods of generation are different, but most charts are based off of the Shield Chart.
To generate the shield chart, the very first thing you must do is formulate the question you wish to ask, just like in a Tarot reading. The process can be found in this post. Clear your mind and prepare yourself for the task at hand in whatever way you wish. I personally focus on my inner self and my connection to the animus mundi, and call upon both of them for guidance. I think of the question I seek an answer to and keep it in my head. Once I am ready and I am sure that my mind is receptive to any answer and will not lean towards a biased interpretation, I draw the chart itself, as seen here. I then generate the first figure and write it in the upper right-hand slot. Then I generate the second, third, and fourth Figures – the Mothers – and place them in their proper places, before then using those symbols to derive the remainder of the chart (a process which will be discussed in a later post).
Once that is done, you have the basis for a Geomantic reading. There are ways to interpret the Shield Chart directly (a process discussed here), and once the Shield Chart has been interpreted, other charts (such as the House Chart) can be generated from it, to further shed light on the situation. Like with any other esoteric reading, when interpreting the chart, it is important to evaluate both the meaning of the Figure and its specific Position in the Chart. The two of those combined together. The Figure represents the energy, and the Position represents how it manifests. The House Chart can also help you explain where the energy manifests in your life.
Unlike with Tarot, a Geomantic chart is easy to finish. Generally, thanking the animus mundi and your inner guide for their guidance is a good plan, and generally after that all one needs to do is put away he materials and move on.
As a word of caution, the weather around you and the world’s environmental state can sometimes affect the results of a Geomantic reading. The purest results are achieved in a place far from the clutter of human civilizations, during a clear and sunny day. Troubled weather indicates that the animus mundi is troubled, and pollution in the body of the world – or corpus mundi – can also influence the interpretation of a reading negatively.
In the art of astrology, the sky is viewed as a giant sphere, which on paper translates into a circle. Astrological charts reflect this view, and are circular in shape, and operate on the ideas of cycles and turning. Because the chart is circular and involves ideas of movement, there are certain points on the circle, as seen on any chart, that have special significance. These points are evenly spaced around the chart, and are four in number, based around the intersection of the veritcal and horizontal axes of the sky. Each one of these points, called “Angles,” has a spcial significance. There are two Polarities of Angles. The first of these Polarities is the Polarity of Interaction (Self vs. Other), made up by the Ascendant and Descendant, which describe how you express yourself to others and how others express themselves to you.
The first Angle is the Ascendant, and the Sign that lies on this Angle is rising over the eastern horizon (the left of the chart). This is also called the Rising Sign, and is one of the three aspects of an astrological personality. It represents how your Sun Sign expresses itself to the rest of the world, and the mask that you wear when out in public; it is how you appear to others, and how your energy manifests.
The second Angle is the Descendant, and it lies opposite the Ascendant, setting over the western horizon (the right of the chart). The Sign here shows what it is that you seek when interacting with others; what you look for in your relationships, what qualities you seek in companions, and what energies manifest themselves in your relations with others.
The second Polarity of Angles is the Polarity of Function (Role vs. Actor). This polarity deals with how you as an individual interact with the larger world around you, and is made of the Medium Coeli (Midheaven) and the Imum Coeli (Undersky), which describe how you fit into larger society and how you as an individual fit into your own life.
The Medium Coeli is the Angle highest in the sky at the time of the chart, and so is also called Midheaven. This Angle represents your role in the world at large, and your utmost public face (not the Ascendant mask you wear, which appears even to close friends; this is the public self that even strangers can know, such as your internet profiles). It also represents how you fit into society as a whole, including your job, social circles, social class, race, gender, among other things.
The Imum Coeli is the Angle lowest in the sky at the time of the chart, and is also called the Undersky, as it was not visible during the time of the chart. It lies directly opposite the Medium Coeli, and represents your “backstage” and role, and corresponds to your private self, and how you express yourself outside of the public eye. It represents the emotions, feelings, and thoughts of you as an actor in the great social game, playing the role of the Medium Coeli.
The purpose of the art of astrology is to better understand oneself and the world around you. In fact, that is the purpose of every esoteric art; to attain a new understanding of the life that you live and what makes it – and you, as an integral part of your life – work they way it does. Astrology explores this understanding through the use of astrological charts: explaining and understanding different parts of yourself, an event, or another object based upon the position of planets and zodiacal signs at certain times. In this way, astrology is unique among esoteric arts, because it not only deals with static interpretation, but also of changing interpretation, by adding a concrete element of time into the mix.
Most commonly, astrology is used in the context of natal, or birth, charts, in order to help discover what astrological forces acted upon someone at the moment of their birth. These forces do not wholly or completely define who you are, and the position of the astrological planets, and even the very evolution of the art of astrology, are merely manifestations of the universe’s consciousness, or animus mundi, in the corpus mundi. The state of the universe at the time of birth affects the shape of that child’s life, expressing itself through biological and social factors, as well as bringing its own addition to the soul into the mix. These factors coming together, as expressed in a natal birth chart, represent the shape of one’s life. A more fundamental aspect of this shape is one’s personality, the baseline of which is laid down by three astrological Signs, and is then modified over the life course. These three Signs are the Sun Sign, the Moon Sign, and the Rising Sign (or Ascendant).
The Sun Sign – the Sign that the Sun was passing through at the time – is the most well-known of the three Signs, and is often used as the primary, defining factor of one’s personality. The Sun Sign defines one’s conscious perception of oneself, one’s purpose, and one’s sense of their own identity. It represents the present, and the progression of the years. It is the realm of the mind. It represents how you manifest to yourself.
The Moon Sign – that which the Moon was in at the time – represents one’s inner self and the subconscious; those parts of ourselves that we are not aware of, and those most private feelings that no one else is aware of. It also represents the past, and the passage of months. It is the part of one’s personality most in tune with intuition and emotions, and is the realm of instinct. It represents how your subconscious manifests itself to you.
The Rising Sign – the Sign that was emerging on the eastern horizon at the time – is also known as the Ascendant, and represents one’s outer personality and appearance; the mask that everyone has and presents to the world. It also represents the future and the passage of days, and represents how you attempt to achieve your purpose. It is the realm of perception. It represents how you manifest yourself to the rest of the world.
In order to truly understand someone’s astrological personality, they must understand these three Signs and how they interact. Common characteristics in any of these Signs indicate that that trait is particularly strong in someone’s personality. In interpreting the three Signs, one looks at the Sign’s meaning, and then at the position it occupies; for example, a Leo as a Moon Sign indicates that one is naturally creative and that they have a sense of pride deep inside of them that they may not be aware of, and are emotionally secure and assured. Leo as a Sun Sign indicates that your drive is to be creative, and your purpose is to display your abilities to the world. Leo as a Rising Sign indicates that outwardly you focus on elevating yourself in the eyes of others, and appear prideful or even arrogant, and are confident and self-assured, and in pursuing your Sun Sign’s purpose you are creative and confident.
The Celtic Cross Spread is perhaps the single most commonly used Tarot spread in the Western world, or perhaps the entire world. It is generally the first spread – other than the simple three-card Past, Present, Future spread – that most Tarot books teach. The spread itself has been used so often that it has built up a lot of energy and interpretations as to its meaning.
The Spread itself is composed of two parts: the Cross and the Staff. The two parts of the Celtic Cross represent the two basic polarities that inhabit everyone’s life: Yin and Yang. Yin, the masculine, is represented by the four upright cards of the staff, and reminds us that everything progresses towards a goal (the top card of the staff represents the ultimate outcome). Yang, the feminine, is represented by the four cards surrounding the central two in a circle, and reminds us that everything also has a cyclical nature. The two cards in the center of the Cross – the central and supporting factors – represent the resolution of the duality of the Staff and Cross. In Druidic thought, dualistic thinking is resolved through the creation of a third choice, to avoid living in a world dominated by either ors. The two central cards connect the Cross and the Staff, and represent the third choice; the two dots in the Yin Yang symbol colored differently than their surroundings.
A rough image of the shape is the spread is below:
The Cross is on the left, and the staff is on the right. Those of you familiar with the Spread may immediately notice that I have numbered the positions differently than is standard. This is because, to me, the “standard” Celtic Cross numbering has never seemed to ring true, and the way above has always seemed much more natural to me; it was the way the cards naturally dealt themselves, rising from the influence of the unconscious to the influence of time, to the influence of the subconscious, focusing on rising through the levels of consciousness. Who am I to argue with the animus mundi?
When I throw the spread, I lay out the cards in the above order. The card in the first position represents the central factor of whatever question you have asked, and tells you what the most powerful energy in any given situation is. The second card is the secondary factor, and it can be either supporting, neutral, or contradicting. If it is a supporting factor, its energy will be similar to that of the central factor, and will work in harmony with it (such as The Lovers and Love). If it is neutral, the energies will have no interplaying effects on each other. If it is a contradicting factor, the energies will oppose each other in some way. In all cases, the energy of the central factor takes priority and has the most strength, but its energy is modified by the energies of the secondary factor, changing it, strengthening it, weakening it, or sometimes, as in the case of a neutral factor, merely adding another layer of complexity and another central factor to the situation.
After dealing those two, I deal the rest of the cross in a zig-zag motion, starting at the bottom, going up to the left, then the right, then up. As I said before, this just feels natural to me. The four cards of the wheel are the influences on the situation, and represent how the querent’s own mind and the passage of time affect the situation. The third position represents unconscious influences on the situation, such as what might be going through the mind of the querent (most commonly) or those closely involved with him that they are not aware of that shape the querent’s perception of the situation. If this influence is a card associated with deception, the querent may not be being honest with himself.
The fourth position represents past influences; the weight of history and their past experiences, and how those things have shaped their worldview and approach to the situation. It can represent receding influences as well, and influences whose hold over the querent are weakening. The fifth position represents future influences or goals, and represents what the querent or others strive to achieve, and what might (remember that the cards do not tell the future) lie in store there. The sixth position represents conscious influences: those things that are at the forefront of the querent’s mind that they are very much aware of, affecting their actions with regards to the situation. If this card is associated with deception, then the querent (if it is not yourself) might not be being honest with you! It could also mean that they are possibly a dishonest party in the situation.
The Cross is made of two axes: a vertical one and a horizontal one. The horizontal axis deals with the passage of time; on the left is the past and on the right is the future. The secondary factor (the second card placed) is also associated with this axis, as it lies horizontally. It represents the present situation as well as what I listed above, and the transition between past and future. I should note here than many practitioners of the Celtic Cross spread lay out the cards so that the past is on the right and the future on the left. This interpretation is seen in Geomancy as well. This is a perfectly valid viewpoint, and I believe it arises out of the common trend of many languages (particularly Semitic languages like Hebrew, from which the Tarot derives some of its symbolism) to read from right to left. As I am a native English speaker, I read left to right, and so also read the passage of time in that manner. The difference is as simple as that.
The vertical axis of the Celtic Cross deals with levels of the mind, and how the querent acts upon and perceives the situation. At the top is the conscious mind, and at the bottom is the subconscious mind. As the central factor is vertical, it is also associated with this axis, and represents the ultimate reason for the querent’s interest in the situation, and the sum of their conscious and unconscious drives, as well as everything else discussed above. The three cards on this axis are reflected in Sigmund Freud’s conception of the mind: the conscious influences are the Superego, the police for of the mind that makes judgments and imposes values on the individual’s actions; the central factor is the Ego, which does its best to provide a realistic view of any situation; and the unconscious influences are the Id, the primal drives and unconscious desires that ultimately drive us all, and are repressed by the Ego and SuperEgo.
The Staff consists of four cards aligned vertically. The seventh position represents the querent’s position, and in some ways serves to sum up the Cross. It represents the biases and prejudices the querent might have, as well as how they have been approaching the situation up to this point, how they are dealing with it, and their role in the situation and how they effect their surroundings. The eighth position represents environmental factors, and the querent’s relationship to everything that surrounds him or her. This can be the people surrounding him, the physical environment she lives in, or anything else. Most commonly, it represents the influences that the environment have upon the situation and the querent, but can also sometimes represent the influences that the querent as upon the environment (a role shared with the previous position). These two positions are also associated with the horizontal axis of the Cross.
The ninth position represents the querent’s hopes and fears, as well as advice. it is strongly associated with the future influences position, as well as the secondary factors position. It is also a summation of the vertical axis of the Cross, and represents what the querent hopes to get out of the situation, or what they fear to lose from it. It can also give the querent something to think about, or a piece of advice that might help them deal with whatever is going on.
The tenth and final position of the Celtic Cross is the summation of the rest of the spread. It represents the probable outcome of the situation. Depending on the way that the energies of the spread work out, this can either represent the result of things don’t change, or the result if the spread’s advice is followed (the latter is more common). It tells you how the querent, the environment, and everyone else involved will be affected by and changed by the situation when it is resolved. It is strongly associated with the central factor as well as the conscious influences positions, as it represents the central factor of what is most likely to happen given everything else, and serves as a sort of second central factor card for the spread.
When I read any spread, unlike many people, I lay out the entire spread first before looking at the cards, rather than interpreting each card on their own before looking at their relationships to each other. This is a personal thing, and I feel like I can better understand the cards if I do it this way. Additionally, I do not read the Celtic Cross in the same order I lay it out. Generally, I begin with examining the first two positions, then move on to the horizontal axis of the cross (past to future), then the vertical access (unconscious to conscious), and then go onto the Staff. If I need clarification on anything, I generally look first to the cards linked with the confusing card’s position, then at the cards surrounding it and the general energies of the spread, and if that fails me, I draw another card.