I have long held onto the notion that Tarot cards are neither “positive” or “negative,” and that every card has aspects of both. Many disagree, however, and when reading about other peoples’ interpretations of the cards, I see a lot of talk about positive and negative cards, and I’ve seen spreads whose interpretation is based on whether a card in a certain spot is “positive” or “negative” (most obviously in the “Yes/No” spread, where a positive card indicates a Yes and a negative card a No; I really dislike this spread, if it can even be called that, for several reasons I won’t go into here). Naturally, this way of thinking is antithetical to my own conception of the Tarot and of life; there is good and bad, Yin and Yang, and positive and negative in everything. I can, however, understand the appeal and utility of thinking of cards as positive or negative. Naturally, there is no codebook or set of formalized guidelines for what makes a card “positive” or “negative,” and it all comes down to an individual’s reactions to a card. In fact, I would argue, whether or not a card is positive or negative can change depending on the situation. That, I think, is the beauty of the Tarot.
However, a discussion with a friend entering the world of Tarot got me thinking about positive and negative cards. While I don’t ascribe to the belief that certain cards have inherently positive or negative energies, I do think that I tend to view some cards as negative more often than others, and some cards definitely strike fear into my heart when I see them pop up in a spread. As such, I do think there is something to this notion of positive vs. negative cards, even if it’s not particularly clear-cut.
In many esoteric situations in which symbols are put into one of two opposite categories, I would call this “polarity” (such as in Geomancy). In this case, I don’t think this term is appropriate, though, because polarity implies two complete opposites with no middle ground. If a card was either entirely positive or entirely negative, then perhaps the term “polarity” would work, but in this case I think the less-loaded term “charge” can better describe how I view the cards. Cards have a tendency to be positive or negative, but mix both charges, so they are negative or positive to different degrees.
As I said before, this is all just my own opinion, and what follows are my own personal thoughts on the charges of the Tarot cards, based on the Thoth deck. I have grouped them into strong negative, negative, neutral, positive, and strong positive. However, even the strong negative cards have positive in them, and vice versa. The strong positive and negative cards are cards that instantly give me a negative feeling, just on sight, and usually color my reading of other cards in the spread. The negative and positive cards usually give me a negative vibe, but are more likely to be influenced by context than the strong negative and positive cards. The neutral cards are entirely context-dependent, and I either attach no charge to them on sight or else there are equal amounts of positive and negative charges that war in my mind when I see them. The cards are ordered according to their number.
Three of Swords (Sorrow)
Five of Wands (Strife)
Five of Cups (Disappointment)
Five of Swords (Defeat)
Five of Disks (Worry)
Seven of Swords (Futility)
Seven of Disks (Failure)
Nine of Swords (Cruelty)
Ten of Swords (Ruin)
Ten of Wands (Oppression)
The Tower (XVI)
The Moon (XVIII)
Seven of Wands (Valor)
Seven of Cups (Debauch)
Eight of Cups (Indolence)
Eight of Swords (Interference)
Ten of Cups (Satiety)
The Devil (XV)
All Court Cards
Eight of Wands (Swiftness)
Four of Cups (Luxury)
Four of Swords (Truce)
The Priestess (II)
The Emperor (IV)
The Hierophant (V)
The Chariot (VII)
The Hermit (IX)
The Aeon (XX)
Ace of Disks
Two of Wands (Dominion)
Two of Disks (Change)
Three of Cups (Abundance)
Four of Disks (Power)
Six of Cups (Pleasure)
Six of Disks (Success)
Eight of Disks (Prudence)
Nine of Disks (Gain)
Ten of Disks (Wealth)
The Fool (O)
The Magus (I)
The Empress (III)
The Lovers (VI)
The Hanged Man (XII)
The Star (XVII)
The Sun (XIX)
Ace of Wands
Ace of Cups
Ace of Swords
Two of Swords (Peace)
Two of Cups (Love)
Three of Wands (Virtue)
Three of Disks (Works)
Four of Wands (Completion)
Six of Wands (Victory)
Six of Swords (Science)
Nine of Wands (Strength)
Nine of Cups (Happiness)
The Universe (XXI)
A few interesting patterns emerged when I sorted the cards this way. Most obviously, I truly believe all of the court cards are neutral and don’t lean in any direction; they all have about equal amounts of negative and positive. Furthermore, I have about the same number of very negative as very positive. However, I tend to view most of the cards in the deck as positive, as there are many more “positive” cards than “negative” cards. Also, most of the numbered cards I do consider either mostly positive or mostly negative, while a good chunk of the Major Arcana (especially near the beginning) I consider neutral and dependent entirely on context. Most of the Majors, however, I consider positive, save for most of those relating to larger forces outside of an individual’s control (hence why Fortune is a negative for me, instead of a neutral).
The Devil is also a strange outlier; most interpret his presence as negative, but I usually tend to view it as a card urging you to reinterpret the situation, and flip around the good guys and the bad guys. The Devil, for me, is usually a card of moral relativism, and can represent either ignorance and blindness or else a need to shift one’s perspective, and realize that the villain is the hero. As such, my interpretation of the Devil tends to be torn between two poles, and hence its placement in the Neutral category.
Another card in which people might disagree with my placement is the Seven of Wands. The name Valor usually evokes positive feelings, but for me, that interpretation is colored by my view of the Seven of Wands as a card representing breaking off from one’s friends and foolishly galloping off into danger alone. It is individual courage, which is less powerful than the Victory that comes from the Six of Wands before it (which I inevitably compare the Seven to), and more divisive and foolish. So, to me, the Seven of Wands is a negative card.
The distribution of suits is also interesting. The Cups cards are fairly evenly distributed, with a slight preference for the positive. The Wands and Disks have a strong preference for the positive. On the other hand, half – five cards out of ten – of the Suit of Swords I consider strongly negative. Three more of them are negative, and only two are (strongly) positive. My pessimism really shows here, as the Swords are the suit I identify the most with and are also by far the most negative. So, I consider Cups neutral, Wands and Disks positive, and Swords negative. This is also interesting because I dislike the materialism of the Suit of Disks as a whole (hence why the Ace of Disks is the only Ace not strongly positive), and yet think positively of the individual cards of that suit. Similarly, the abstractness of Swords appeals to me, yet I don’t think positively of most of the individual cards.
Even more telling is the distribution of numbers, but this is not surprising given the design of the Thoth deck. Each number corresponds to a Sefirot on the Tree of Life, and these have positive and negative connotations that influence the card’s meaning. This is why all of the Aces are some form of positive , as well as the Twos and the Sixes. Three of the Threes and Nines (Swords being the exception to the rule) are also some form of positive. Half of the fours are neutral, and the other two are some form of positive. All of the fives are strongly negative (seeing as they are associated with the Sefirot Geburah, which I associate with instability), and all of the Sevens are negative to some degree as well. The Eights are more evenly distributed, similar to the Fours, with two negative, one neutral, and one positive. Three of the tens are some form of negative, and only one is negative.
What does this mean, overall, for my interpretation of the Tarot? Namely, that I view the deck as largely positive, and that the good in the cards comes out before the bad does. Usually, in life, I see the bad before the good, however. Furthermore, the Suit I dislike the most I view the most positively, and vice-versa. The Tarot seem to reflect my life as in a mirror, with everything reversed. Perhaps that is why I find the Tarot so calming.
After watching all of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I managed to get the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins stuck in my head, bouncing around aimlessly. Eventually, as everything does, that turned into me thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins as represented in the Tarot! I did some internet research and first found a detailed and very useful spread about the role of the Seven Deadly Sins in your life here.
However, many of us don’t have the time or the emotional strength of will to go through such a detailed analysis of our own flaws. As such, I spent a bit of time thinking about a much simpler spread involving the Seven Deadly Sins. In fact, it hardly gets any simpler than what I’ve come up with!
The spread detailed below – which I have titled “The Simple Deadly Sins Spread,” is a seven-card one: one for each deadly sin. Each position in the spread represents the influence of its associated sin over any given situation, person, or life. Taken together, this spread gives a picture of the interplay of the Seven Deadly Sins in a situation specified by the question you ask.
Because this spread is so simple – consisting of only seven cards – and covers a very broad topic, a very in-depth analysis of each card is necessary, and a very well-phrased and specific question is as well. When considering this spread, you must spend a lot of time on each card, trying to apply it in every way possible to the situation. Let your mind guide you, as always.
When considering each position, there are three factors coming together to think about: the meaning of the card itself, the possible ways it relates to the Deadly Sin in question, and how both of those apply to the specific situation addressed in the question.
The question for this type of spread should generally follow a formula similar to: “How do the Seven Deadly Sins influence ______?” The “______” is the hardest and most important part of this question, as it defines the third factor listed above. In that spot, insert a situation, person, object, event, or anything that you would like to break down and analyze in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins, such as “my life,” “my love life with ____,” “my education,” “my personality,” “how other people see me,” and other things. The question in this spread is more important than in many other spreads.
In addition to the three factors listed above, when considering the meaning of each card, keep in mind the following questions:
–Where: What sphere of life – “House” in many esoteric arts – does the Sin express itself in? The home? Friends? Family? The workplace? The card itself might hold the answer to this question – for example, the Empress could hint that this Sin expresses itself when you are near nature – or the question might if you are focusing intentionally on a particular area of your life.
–When: Under what circumstances does that Sin display itself most prominently? When do you most often fall under its influence?
–How: How the Sin expresses itself in your life. For example, Greed may be expressed in a person by theft, by ruthless business actions, or simply be desire for something you do not need. Gluttony can express itself through a literal over-fondness of food, or through shopping binges. Is the Sin overtly or covertly displayed? Is it something you keep under control or not? Additionally, each card can, depending on the question, sometimes give you hints as to how to deal with the Sin and get it under control.
–Why: Why does the Sin manifest itself as it does? Why does it appear where and when it does? What past factors of your life has contributed to the Sin’s appearance? Are any other particular people involved in the expression of this Sin?
It may sound simple, but reading such detailed nuances into one individual card is difficult. This spread is not detailed and focused on interpreting the delicate interplays between multiple cards, but its simplicity forces the reader to examine the full message of each individual card on its own merit. However, some interplay between the positions is possible, particularly if several positions are held by cards linked by number, element, or theme.
In the spread chart below, all I’ve given are the positions of each Sin as they, in my own perception of them, relate to the body – Pride is the head, Envy the heart, Greed one hand and Wrath the other, Gluttony the stomach, Lust the genitals, and Sloth the legs (the spread also forms the shape of a cross) – as well as some (but by no means even close to all) Major Arcana cards that generally indicate that the Sin plays a large role in your life (Strengthens) and cards that generally indicate that the Sin is mostly under control in your life (Weakens). More cards that strengthen or weaken the severity of a Sin’s impact on your life will come up as they appear in spreads, without a doubt, and the connections will sometimes be very obvious. Reversed cards in this spread often mean that the Sins influence is very subtle and hard to feel or see, may be disguised as a virtue, or its influence might be weaker than the card would normally suggest.
Lastly, some numbers of Minor Arcana can play a specific role in the spread, as well. Aces mean the Sin is newly manifested and powerful, while Twos often indicate that the Sin is even more powerful. Threes can indicate that this particular Sin acts as a “gateway” to other Sins, while Fours often represent a temporary shelter from their influence, a strong defense against them, or else some sort of understanding with that Sin or moderation. Fives represent the circumstances around you causing you to Sin. Sixes and to a greater extent Nines, for example, often represent a near-total conquest of the influences of that Sin in a given situation, sometimes indicating that it does not play a major role. Sevens represent an excessive amount of that Sin, or a particular weakness to or proclivity towards that Sin. Eights sometimes represent trying to overcome the Sin, but failing to through overcompensation. Of course, in each of these cases, the numbers only might imply the above; sometimes the animus mundi and your subconscious are using that card to tell you something completely different. Just keep the above in mind!
For those unfamiliar with what each Deadly Sin is (colored by my own interpretations; feel free to use your own understanding of the Sins for your own readings, or use a more in-depth online resource such as this):
Pride: Arrogance, particularly excessive self-confidence that undermines one’s ability to see clearly. The belief that you are better than others. The root of all other sins. The card in this position can also be used as a “summation” of all of the other cards.
Envy: Coveting, or wanting, what is not yours. Jealousy. Being unhappy with what you have because you believe that was those around you have is better; never being content with what you have because everyone else has something better.
Greed: Desiring large amounts of material possessions.
Wrath: Uncontrollable rage, fury, or hatred. Causing violence or harming oneself.
Gluttony: Overconsumption of anything – from food to resources – to the point of impoverishing others while wasting it on yourself.
Lust: Intense desire for anything, particularly sex or any sort of pleasure of the flesh. Wanton hedonism, desire for pleasure in general.
Sloth: Laziness, indolence, apathy, a wasting of potential due to an unwillingness to apply oneself.
Keep in mind that many of the Tarot cards are associated in one way or another with a Deadly Sin (most obviously Lust (XI) and the Seven of Cups (Debauch) with Lust and the Eight of Cups (Indolence) with Sloth), beyond what is listed below. When a card representing a Sin shows up in that Sin’s slot, pay attention to it! Also remember that in moderation, the Seven Deadly Sins can be a good thing, and help to define everyone’s personality.
I realize that the above has all been very general and not specific, but this spread is meant to be very broad. To help give people an idea of how to use this spread, here are two sample spreads, one very general and one a little bit more specific(though both spreads have abbreviated interpretations, for time’s sake and privacy’s sake):
Question: What role do the Seven Deadly Sins play in my life?
The spread (notice that Greed and Wrath both point inwards when not reversed; they point outwards when they are):
Pride: Death (XIII)
So, my Pride expresses itself as Death. In my own life, I see this as coming out in my youthful belief that I can supersede the inexorable laws of the universe, change and the cycles of time; in other words, the youthful belief in invincibility. My pride is my irrational belief that I can somehow make things not change and remain as they are. I am very opposed to drastic change, whether it occurs quickly or slowly, even though it is inevitable. I am currently going through a transitional phase in my life – undergraduate studies as a university – and despite my wishes, my life is changing rapidly as old friends are lost and new ones gained. I find it difficult to let go of the past and embrace the cycles of loss and gain that Death represents, and I try very hard to prevent it from happening in the belief that I can conquer change.
Envy: Prince of Swords
The Prince of Swords is the distant intellectual. In my mind’s eye, this is who I want to be; in many ways, the goal I strive for. Deep down, I’ve always longed to be mysterious and hard to understand (sounds silly, I know), as well as a paragon of intellect. Because I want to be the distant intellectual, I also do envy those who are distant intellectuals themselves; famous scholars and academics who have changed their fields of study. That is who I want to be, and at times I am, despite my efforts, jealous of those who are successfully on their way towards doing this. This has at times become apparent at awards ceremonies at university; no matter how hard I try, someone always does better, and I am not happy for them; I am envious of their success.
Greed: Sorrow (Three of Swords)
This is an interesting card to have in the Greed position. I certainly don’t desire things that make me sad. However, I am fully aware of my social class standing; I am from a rather wealthy family (though we would never admit it). I have a lot of material things already, and as such, whenever Greed does set upon me in any desire for a physical thin (such as, say, a new deck of Tarot cards), I feel intensely guilty for wanting that thing because I already have so much. I can get rather upset over this; perhaps more so over this than my giving in to any other sin. I want to be able to want things without feeling terrible about it; the world does not live up to my expectations (a Three of Swords idea), and so I feel terrible about my own position as a member of a class who has things other’s don’t, and I feel angry and depressed about any feelings of desire for material possessions I might have.
Wrath: Peace (Two of Swords)
Even though this card is a 2, which normally might indicate that this Sin is powerful within me, the card itself has the opposite meaning. Peace represents control of emotions, putting aside differences, and striving to improve the world around us; quite different from Wrath. In this case, this card indicates that I don’t express my rage outwardly; I get angry a lot, but no one can ever tell, and my anger is primarily directed towards the world as a whole, not any given individual. I successfully block my anger and Wrath in the hopes of making myself and everyone else happier, and so this Sin, while it exists within me, is mostly under control.
Gluttony: Queen of Cups
These two cards go together reasonably well. I consume dreams, fantasies, and imagination; realms of the Queen of Cups. Not of other people, of course, but of myself; in my attempts to distance myself from what I view in many ways as a corrupted, spoiled world, I spend a lot of my time in the realm of my mind, writing and creating things so that I don’t have to think about it. This has the effect of me consuming my time and depriving others of it; I have friends who sometimes complain that I am not social enough and I lock myself in my room too much and don’t go out and do fun stuff (though I don’t think most of the aforementioned stuff is fun). I consume my own time and keep it to myself, not letting others spend it with me, sometimes. I consume myself by locking myself in my mind.
Lust: Debauch (Seven of Cups)
Well, this is awkward. Enough said. Moving on…
Sloth: Swiftness Reversed (Eight of Wands Reversed)
The Eight of Wands is a card that has a meaning that is the opposite of Sloth; energy and speed. However, it is reversed, so its meaning is not on the surface. I am very, very efficient when I want to be; I can pull out ten page papers in a few hours if I have my mind set to it. I can write 10,000 words in a novel in four hours. I can write entire children’s books, complete with full-color illustrations, in about ten hours total. I can run very quickly, and I can do a lot in one day if I set my mind to it. That seems to the be opposite of Sloth. However, it is also very difficult for me to get myself to be productive (take writing this post, for instance; a couple hours of work, but about a week of procrastination), which is where the reversed comes in. I am usually good about getting things done well ahead of time, but it still takes me a lot of will to overcome my urge to not get that stuff done. I can and will overcome my Sloth, but not after a lot of laziness first.
Very general readings like the above are very difficult, and I have only included the most important of my interpretations above. It is also not always easy drawing links between the cards and the Sins; it can seem downright impossible at times. However, if you think hard enough about it, eventually it will come to you.
Question: What role do the Seven Deadly Sins play in my current formal educational experience?
Pride: Queen of Swords
The Queen of Swords is, in some ways, herself prideful. She is an individualist who does not like to rely on others, but who also sees herself as able to negotiate with others and help them. This is an apt description of my approach to academics; I almost never accept help from others (the sole exception being my thesis advisors, really), and prefer to do things on my own; not because it will be good for my mind, but because I believe that I don’t need help. I don’t like to admit that I need help, and I firmly believe that I am always good enough to do anything put before me; even when I can’t. At the same time, this pride I take in my academic abilities can sometimes cause me to sound condescending, especially because I like to help people in their own struggles with schoolwork; I like to give, but not receive, help. My Pride makes it this way.
Envy: The Emperor (IV)
The Emperor is a symbol of order and justice. I am, despite first appearance, an organized individual. However, the Emperor is also a symbol of power and authority, and it is of that I am envious. In my studies, I am jealous of those who are closer to the power and authority of the university academic (not overall social) system: professors. I am envious at times of graduate students who hold closer relationships with those professors I hold a working relationship with, and I want to have that sort of relationship with those academics responsible for establishing authority and order among both academia and the student body in the classrooms. I am envious of TA’s who get to establish order in the classroom, and I want to be able to do the same myself.
Greed: Victory (Six of Wands)
Sixes generally indicate conquering, in some way, your Sin, or at least finding a way to balance it out. In this case, Victory is an even stronger indicator that, in the academic world, I have achieved Victory over this Sin, and have mastered it. I do not believe this is necessarily the case; I certainly do have Greed in my studies, at least in that I always want to know more. I’m that student who reads the extra articles (but doesn’t do the extra work!) just to find out what they say. Other than that, though, my Greed does not play a major role in my academic environment; it is for the most part under control. I don’t even pursue academics like I do in the hope of material gain! Greed is not a problem for me academically.
Wrath: Science (Six of Swords)
Another Six, and in my other arm! This seems to indicate that my Wrath is under control, and is represented by Science. This is a very good indication of the state of my wrath, I think; my studies in sociology certainly make me angry at the world quite a lot, but I have successfully directed that Wrath towards the pursuit of a better world, devoting it towards developing a better understanding of social Science to eventually help make the world a better place and lessen my Wrath.
Gluttony: Truce (Four of Swords)
Truce is a Four, which is associated with some sort of understanding with the Sin, or temporary shelter. Reinforcing this meaning is Truce’s own association with a temporary solution to a problem. This would indicate that for now, my desire to consume to my own detriment is temporarily at bay, but might return. I actually see this as a very temporally-influenced card; I think it’s telling me that my thirst for knowledge has been temporarily removed by winter vacation, during which I am spending little time on my studies. But how, you may ask, does this hunger for knowledge work to my detriment? I overwork myself. I am working on my undergraduate thesis at the moment, and I read way too many sources and am trying to include far too much in it. My desire to learn everything possible about the topic often leaves me stressed and depressed when I can’t do it all. For now, though, this Gluttony is not a problem. Check in again in January.
Lust: The Hermit (IX)
Lust is the desire of pleasurable things. In this case, because its most obvious association, sex, is not relevant at all to the question, this will have to represent how my academics relate to me doing “fun” things, such as spending time with friends, writing, relaxing, and the like. The answer? I don’t spend much time doing that! Why? Because of my overworking myself with my thesis and classes at university, I lock myself in my room and don’t let myself do these things a lot of the time. I isolate myself from doing things for enjoyment, cloistering myself with my work and not allowing myself to relax. In this case, the card indicates that I am not giving into my Lust at all, which, in the end, is actually hurting me.
Sloth: The Priestess (II)
The Priestess is a figure of passivity, being the ultimate symbol of esoteric femininity. This indicates that I am, to some extent, passive in my studies. The Priestess is also a card of mysteries and hidden meanings. My thesis is a historical one, and so I am using primary sources from centuries ago, whose meanings and true messages are often obscured. In this case, my Sloth could very well be my reading some sources only for the surface meanings (due to me overworking myself; see above) and not bothering to dive into the deeper meanings of the authors’ words. I could, if I had the energy and will to, but I choose not to.
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.
At the request of a good friend of mine, I did another reading looking at the world. This time, I am using one of my own recently-created spreads – my Conquering Fear spread – to examine what the world might be afraid of. The question I asked was “What factors should I look at if I seek to understand what the social, environmental, physical, and metaphysical world fears and what it might hope can be done to assuage those fears?” I used the Necronomicon Deck.
Position 1: The Underlying Cause of the Fear/Root of the Fear – Six of Cups
The underlying cause of the world’s fear is the Six of Cups, or the Satisfaction of Water. This indicates that the deepest root of the world’s fear is of increase, gain, happy expectation, and hope. This very interesting, as it seems to indicate that the cause of the world’s fear is optimism itself; it is afraid on its deepest level of hoping for the best. Why is this? It could possibly be because the world is afraid of hoping for better things, because it believes that its hopes and dreams will always be unrealized. I can understand this attitude; I feel this way quite a lot, and with the current situation of the world, these feelings are understandable; just look at how we’re handling climate change and all of our social issues. Despair and surrender are the cause of the world’s fear.
Position 2: The Form the Fear Takes – The Star
Again very interesting; the form that the world’s fear takes is Ishtar, the Star. They key thing here, I think, is that the form the fear takes is that of a guiding light; the Earth feels as if it is being misguided by its caretakers: the human race. We have caused many of the problems that the world is facing, and we are either doing little to fix things or exacerbating the problems. Our failure to effectively regulate environmental pollution is one example of this. Society also might feel that it is being misguided by its rulers, and is actually afraid of its guiding lights. The Star is also associated with a renewal of energy, and perhaps, again, the Earth is afraid of the form that this renewal of energy will take. Humans are sapping the Earth of its energy, and maybe it fears that we will be unable to find a renewable source of energy (literally and figuratively) before it dies. This explanation would make more sense if the card was reversed, but holds this way, too.
Position 3: The Effect the Fear Has on You – The Lovers
The Deep One and Bride represent the effects that the fear has on the Earth. In this case, I think it is safe to interpret the two Lovers as the Earth and the human race. The Fear, then, is directly affecting the loving and caring relationship we have with the world: natural disasters are striking more often, social unrest is occurring everywhere, and everyone is doubtful about the future. Looking at the situation from an outsider’s angle, the current world situation could be seen as a spat between two lovers, with the two needing to understand each other once again. Of course, the blame is not equally distributed, and humanity is more at fault here. The Fear, then, is creating a disconnect between the Earth/world and humanity, which just makes everything worse.
Position 4: The Reaction That May Benefit You – Judgment
The Guardian of Eden. Interesting; a reaction to the fear of hoping for too much is to bring about a final judgment and just end it all, righting all wrongs in one blow. Perhaps a good reaction of the world – materially and in the social sense – would be to punish those responsible for misguiding the human race (see Position 2), or just punish the entire human race. In the end, that is what will end up happening if we can’t stop our levels of pollution; climate change will punish us all, and the Earth will take this road to deliver herself from its fear, and wait for a new guiding light.
Position 5: The Reaction That May Harm You – Hireophant
Dagon. A harmful reaction to the fear of the guiding light is to stick with tradition. This, to me, seems like a blatant jab at conservatives; it will be harmful to do things just as we have always done, or to rely on the current authority (the current guiding lights) or religion to save us. To look at the past and make our responses based upon it will not help us in our moment of crisis, as we have never seen anything like this before. Tradition is not the answer; innovation is.
Position 6: The Source of Your Courage – Ace of Wands [Reversed]
Purpose. Motivation. Energy. The Matrix of Fire – reversed. The source of the Earth’s courage to do what must be done will come from hidden (hence the reverse) reserves of Fire and drive we never knew it possessed (if it’s going to bring the day of judgment to us all, then Fire will be necessary). The Fire it will draw its courage from is not a blazing bonfire, but rather a more subdued, steady flame; perhaps a reflection of the long path it will take, and its boundless reserves of inner Fire and spirit. The Earth thinks on a different timescale that people do, and so do society. The Fire that will give the collective consciousness and the physical Earth courage burns slowly but steadily and strongly, allowing for a stable source of courage.
Position 7: The Form Your Courage Takes – Three of Wands
The Establishment of Fire. The form the world’s courage will take will, paradoxically, be optimism. The underlying root of the fear of the world is hope itself, and in order to conquer the despair of having given up, the world will need to learn how to take control of its optimism. It will face its fear head-on and meet it, and absorb and transform the optimism. Optimism can provide the fuel for the drive for change, and the world will learn to harness its optimism despite its strong misgivings, perhaps using this optimism and slowly-building fire to bring about the Judgment that may come to pass, cleansing the world of those who defile it. This card is also associated with discovery, which again hints that the to create change courage will come (as it tends to do with social change) from progressives, who innovate and expand upon the old, not content just to accept things as they were or return to the past. A new order will be established, one that restores the balance of the Loving relationship between humanity and the world.
Position 8: The End Result of Conquering Your Fear – Three of Swords
Not a positive ending note; the Regret of Air. After conquering the fear through the energies of Fire, the world will experience regret. This indicates that there will be much loss before the world’s fear can be overcome, and its guiding lights are once again people it can trust and people it can believe in. This card can represent kept promises, as well, and perhaps could indicate that people will realize that they have a promise they must keep with the Earth, and will respect that covenant once more and care for it. Sorrow and grief will accompany the loss of fear and the gaining of optimism, which will be caused by this to transform into realism, and hopefully the world will be a better place for it.
Overall, a very unique reading. The world is afraid of its caretakers, and those in power – such as corrupt governments and humanity itself – because it is afraid of putting too much hope of trust in them. This has affected the relationship between humanity and the larger world, leading to a disconnect between the two that will end in a purging of fire fueled by the slow buildup of energy and willpower. Let’s see how this unfolds…
This spread is not particularly useful for these abstract questions, I think, and is really meant to be more for practical readings. Still, it was a very interesting exercise!
I read a very scary book yesterday: Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. As I explained in the first linked post, I was extremely affected by this book, on a level that no other book has ever affected me. Needless to say, it also terrified the living daylights out of me. As I was up at obscenely late (or early, depending on your point of view) hours, not able to sleep, I started contemplating ways to help me deal with my fear. As is common with me, I turned to the tarot, which I find usually calms me down when I am stressed about something.
And so I decided, last night, to design a spread to help me face my fears by contemplating them and moving past them. Fear is a psychosomatic phenomenon; fear is not a mandatory part of being alive. Fear only exists so long as you let it exist, as best explained in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune in the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”
What makes fear so scary is, in part our inability to effectively deal with the unknown. By making our fear known, it helps to lessen it. We cannot deal with that which we do not know. Once we know it, it can be treated and dealt with. As such, this spread is designed to help you think about your fear, and hopefully try to move past it.
The spread below has a unique shape, which those of you familiar with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos might recognize. It is the shape of the original Lovecraft Elder Sign (not August Derleth’s rehashed Elder Sign). The Elder Sign was designed by Lovecraft in his short story/novelette “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” to protect its bearers from the Deep Ones. Lovecraft also used it in another instances – such as in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” – as a means to ward off any form of unnatural being. It has since come to be used as a ward or protective force to be employed against any manner of unnatural or eldritch beings.
Since H. P. Lovecraft’s horror is known for portraying the horror of cosmicism – the utter meaninglessness of life in an uncaring, monstrous universe and the vast, unknowable depths of human consciousness and experience from which the eldritch and alien emerge – I felt that it was appropriate that the spread should take the form of his Elder Sign, to ward off the terrible unknown that forms the basis of most fear.
Without further ado, the spread is here:
The spread is divided into three parts: Positions 1, 2, and 3 (the stem) represent the nature of the Fear you are facing, and help to mitigate its impact by understanding what it is. Positions 4 and 5 represent the nature of your possible reactions to the fear, helping get you in the proper mindset to rationalize the Fear and your ultimate course of action with regards to it. Positions 6, 7, and 8 represent the nature of the Courage you need to summon up in order to face your Fear, and as such lie above the Fear and represent what you should ultimately do to allow the Fear to move past you.
When using this spread, as always, deck choice can be key. Colorful, cheerful decks (like the Gummy Bear Tarot, Angel Tarot, Wildwood Tarot) can help bring peace of mind to you if overcoming your fear through action is what you desire. Darker decks (like the Necronomicon and Dark Grimoire decks) can often help overcome your fear through a cathartic-release effect, and might also help you more deeply consider the Fear by giving it more weight. I personally find the latter approach more beneficial, but it’s entirely up to you as the reader (or the querent as the querent).
The Nature of the Fear
Position 1: The Underlying Cause of the Fear/Root of the Fear
As I argued above, the true underlying cause of almost all Fear is the unknown, particularly the intrusion of the unknown or alien into one own’s familiar life. However, it would be, for contemplative purposes, not very useful to assign a place in the spread for this already-defined idea. Instead, the “root” position of this spread represents what, on a deep level, is causing this Fear of the unknown to creep into your life. What insecurity, emotion, though, or feeling is causing this Fear? How did the unknown creep into your life? What aspect of the unknown is it that is scaring you? On the most fundamental level (without just saying “the unknown”), what is it about your current situation that really unnerves you? This position, though a “root” position, is meant to be a very, very abstract concept; Fear is ultimately rooted in the mind. It asks you the question “What am I really afraid of in this situation?”
If this position is inhabited by a Sword, a Prince, or an Ace, then your fear may be buried deeply in your mind, and is a very abstract Fear, as cards with these qualities reinforce this position’s meaning and ask you to focus your attention and thoughts here.
Position 2: The Form the Fear Takes
This position is meant to illustrate the way in which the above underlying cause of Fear appears to you. If your fear is, say, that you will die alone and unloved (the first position), then this position might tell you that this fear makes itself known to you through your recent string of romantic rejections. Another way to view this position is as asking the question “What prompted this Fear to awaken inside you?” This position will hopefully help explain to you how the Fear makes itself known in your life, how it shapes itself, and how it manifests in such a way as to affect you. This position represents the avatar of your Fear, its earthly representative as it descends from the realm of the abstract.
If a Disk, Ten, or Princess appears in this position, your Fear may be grounded inherently in the practical; cards with these qualities reinforce the card in this position, and tell you to focus your attention here. Additionally, if this card is a two or a three, pay special attention here, as this card can represent the potential for the Fear to grow (related to the “Three” position), and also as the first “harmony” of the Fear (the “Two”). Also pay attention to Fours here, as this position also represents the manifestation of Fear.
Position 3: The Effect the Fear Has on You
This is a relatively simple position; it directly helps you understand how the Fear has impacted your life, and what effects it is having on you. Carrying on with our example from above, if the way that the Fear of dying alone and unloved is manifesting itself in your life is that you have been rejected many times recently, the effect that this fear is having on you could be withdrawal and contemplation of your dismal prospects, perhaps thus producing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps the effect that the fear has had on you is that you are becoming more and more desperate to find someone who won’t reject you. Perhaps you are losing sleep over, or feel that your life is out of balance. Think deeply about the card in this position, as it is a reflection of your mental state as you instinctively try and cope with the Fear that you face. This position’s meaning is very broad, and can be interpreted in many ways, depending on the situation.
If this card is a Cup, Queen, or Three, pay extra special attention to the card in this position, as cards with these qualities reinforce this positions meaning in terms of how the Fear is affecting you and your healthy inner life.
The Nature of Your Possible Reactions to the Fear
Position 4: The Reaction That May Benefit You
No card in any spread is guaranteed to fit perfectly, or even well, and so the card in this position represents not “the reaction/mechanism of coping with the Fear that will help you” or “the positive way to react to the Fear,” but rather offers a (usually short-term, but also possibly long-term) course of action that might possibly help you cope with the Fear. This card also serves as a sort of “sum” of the meanings of Cards 6, 7, and 8, representing them in their totality. This position asks you to think about a particular course of action and what benefits it might bring you; it is advice, nothing more, and represents one possibly way to react to your fear. Of course, thinking about the negatives of this reaction is always a positive too, and should definitely be done, though this card’s emphasis is on how to react positively to the Fear, and gives guidance primarily in that regard. Essentially, this position asks you to think how the meanings of its occupying card might help you deal with the fear well. Going along with our example, perhaps this card advises you to take a step back and take some time to contemplate your actions as seen in Position 3; maybe there is something you are doing that you can change so that you won’t be rejected. Maybe it advises you not to worry because there is someone for everyone, and with patience they will come.
If a Four is occupying this position, then pay extra attention to this position, as Fours (representing Chesed and Stability) reinforce this position’s inherent desire to stabilize you among your fear.
Position 5: The Reaction That May Harm You
Like the above, this card has a disclaimer attached to it. The same one as the card above, in fact. Additionally, like the above position, this position is associated with Position 3 in the spread. The difference between Position 3 and Positions 4 and 5 is that Position 3 is meant to get you to think about how the fear has affected your life directly, while Positions 4 and 5 ask you to think about possible courses of actions to more effectively deal with this fear (if you didn’t want/need advice on how to help you overcome your Fear, then you shouldn’t have been doing this spread in the first place). Position 3 is a more immediate reaction, whereas 4 and 5 are more thought-out and considered reactions.
That being said, Position 5 is the opposite of Position 4. Where Position 4 asks you to examine a reaction to your fear that might help you, this position asks you to examine a reaction that you should avoid, as it may harm you or even increase the power that the Fear you are experiencing holds over you. Keeping with our example, this position might tell the querent that their Fear will only be made worse if he continues going out to singles bars, or perhaps that solitude isn’t the answer for now. This position asks you to consider a possible course of action and the negative outcomes it might bring (though, again, always think about the positives too!).
If a Five is present in this position, ponder it carefully, as Fives (Geburah and Destabilizing Motion) represent the energies present in this position.
The Nature of the Courage You Need to Face Your Fear
Position 6: The Source of Your Courage
The three cards making up the final part of the Elder Sign mirror the three cards making up the stem. Position 6 asks you to examine the source of your Courage; where will you or should you draw the energy from to face your Fear? Will it be drawn from within you, or from without? Will it come from friends? A significant other? Family? The community? Your pets? Going back to our ubiquitous example, perhaps our querent will draw the courage needed to face his problem from his dog, whom he realizes loves him unconditionally. Perhaps we will realize that he will always have his family. Perhaps he will realize that there is more to life than love, and will do what he can without it. If the source of your Courage is abstract, then likely a Sword or Wand will appear here. If the source is more grounded, a Cup or Disk will likely appear here. If the source is grounded, then this position also will help you determine from what physical objects your Courage will come from.
If Wands/Fire is present in this position, then your Courage in part comes from your indomitable will. If Cups/Water is, you draw it from your inner strength. If Swords/Air is, then it will come from your mindset, your rationale, and your principles of truth and reason. If Disks/Earth is, then it will come from those around you and your environment. Additionally, if a Six, Nine, Ten, or Ace is present in this position, then the source of Courage is especially strong and likely will not let you down. A Six indicates that your source is well-balanced and centered, a Nine that your Source is complete and full, a Ten that your Source is rooted firmly in the ground, and an Ace that your source is bottomless and overflows with energy.
Position 7: The Form Your Courage Takes
This position mirrors Position 2, but applies to Courage rather than Fear. If Position 6 explains where your courage is drawn from, this Position represents how it will manifest itself in terms of your ultimate reaction to the Fear. This card is linked closely to Position 4, as it helps you understand the best course of outcome for dealing with your fear. Position 4 gets you on the right track and offers one possible reaction, usually short-term, but Position 7 represents the longer-term process that will help you permanently deal with your Fear. If Positions 4 and 7 reinforce each other, than the Fear will be relatively simple to conquer; if they negate each other, then your Fear may be more difficult to conquer. Remember, however, that fear is always conquerable. It’s in your head. Sure, if an object is the source of the Fear, it can still harm you, but once you soar above bodily and hormonal reactions to it, the choice to Fear becomes yours alone.
This card represents how the Courage will imbue you and allow you to face your Fear. If we return to our example for the penultimate time, our brave querent perhaps decides that no matter what happens, he will always have his dog to return to, and so is emboldened by this to let slide rejections; he knows that he matters to someone, and so if someone rejects him, he thinks that it’s ultimately their loss, not his. In this case, the Form Courage takes for him is self-esteem.
If a Seven is in this position, be wary! Sevens in this position indicate a possible false sense of Courage, not truly drawn from your source, and might fail you in the end. This is not necessarily the case, but it is a distinct possibility, so be warned! Reversed cards in this position also mean that there might be a hurdle or blockage at first making it difficult for the Courage to manifest itself in your life.
Position 8: The End Result of Conquering Your Fear
The is the summation card, and represents the changes that you will see in your life once the Fear has been conquered by your Courage. This is a broad card, and can mean anything, but it is essentially a summation of the previous seven cards and the lasting effect that they will have on you. Returning to our example for the last time, perhaps this card tells our querent that by overcoming his Fear using the Courage of his Self-Esteem, he will become a more confident person who will succeed in the world, and as a result of this grow to be loved by more and more people, until he dies as a beloved member of the community.
If this card is a Nine or a Ten, pay special attention to it, as this process will make you stronger in the end. If this card is a Seven, the process may actually weaken you (what doesn’t kill you does sometimes make you weaker). If an Eight is occupying this position, it cautions you not to over-react to the conquest of your fear, and reminds you to remain balanced afterward.
In order to design this spread, I came up first with the idea, then the symbol I wanted to use, then the layout, and then attached cursory meanings to the cards. I then laid out a spread, and adjusted the meanings slightly to better suit the energies as they were displayed before me (I switched positions 4 and 5 from the initial reading). In the end, the result of my initial spread – my Fear about House of Leaves – was as follows, using the Dark Grimoire Tarot:
Position 1 – Four of Wands [Reversed]: The root cause of my Fear is an inability to be complete; the House of Leaves reminded me of the essential state of loneliness that we all experience in the world, that we can never escape from; it is impossible to completely “know” somebody. Everybody is, in the end, the unknown.
Position 2 – Four of Swords [Reversed]: The form my Fear took was that of an inability to obtain restful sleep, or any kind of truce or break. Quite literally, the book made it impossible for me to sleep, and as its messages ring constantly in my mind, the Fear gnaws at my mind. I am surrounded by people, and their unknowable nature constantly reminds me of how alone I am and how alien the world is. I have no respite from these thoughts, and thus the Fear is with me always, and the Fear manifests itself as a constant presence and sense of restlessness and unease with everything.
Position 3 – Ten of Pentacles: The effect that the Fear had on me was to render my material Wealth (from my family) meaningless, and illustrate how life means nothing without deep connections to others, no matter what you own. However, complete connections with others are impossible, and so the contradiction of the Tens emerge: I want that which I cannot have, and so am unsatisfied, and am affected by my fear by becoming unhappy, wanting more, and realizing that having everything is both futile and impossible.
Position 4 – The Hermit: This Hermit advises me not to seek a period of withdrawal and contemplation in order to rationally sort out my fears and discover who I really am. While this could help – as we are all, ultimately, inherently alone – it would also hurt me by depriving me of the support of others. As this fear is about a lack of connection to others, cutting myself off from them could be disastrous, even though I know my bonds to others will never be pure and complete.
Position 5 – Two of Vessels: This card advises me to seek out a companion to confide in and share my Fear with, thereby lessening the burden and reminding me that while on the ultimate level we are all inherently alone, on more superficial (in the literal, not connotative, sense of the word) levels, there are always others to support us. This is the course of action I ended up taking, and it worked.
Position 6 – Six of Swords [Reversed]: My Courage will come from logic and reason. In the end, my confidante calmed me with exactly this; she sat me down and logically explained why I shouldn’t be afraid. Usually this doesn’t work with me, but combined with the calming effect of my confidante (and her humour), this did wonders. The card is reversed because the logic and rationale of Science was not enough on its own to banish the fears; the influence of the Two of Vessels was also needed.
Position 7 – Nine of Cups: The Courage took the form of Happiness, as I realized that I would be okay even if I was on a fundamental level alone, because I would always have people who loved me, and that that was the best anyone could do. Therefore, I could unblock Completion (the Four of Wands) and be happy and content.
Position 8 – The Fool: As a result of confronting and defeating my Fears, I will be ready to move on with my life, no longer worrying too much about being alone and alien to others. However, this card also reminds me of the cyclical nature of everything, and how another Fear will eventually take the place of the old one – but hopefully I will be ready and brave enough to face it.
Hopefully this spread is helpful!
Those of you who have been following this blog know that my mind has been, in almost all of the previous readings I have posted here, been preoccupied with the Occupy Movement across the globe, and reading its widespread effects in the spreads. I was reflecting on the current state of the Movement – it seems to have lost a lot of momentum and has certainly dropped from the media radar and much public knowledge – and contrasting that with what I had predicted. I seem to have been rather off-kilter in my predictions (though I did think that it was maybe possible for the Movement to go into a “dormant” phase; this could very well be it), only to re-emerge more brightly in the future. However, I am anything but infallible, and may very well have misread the cards based on my situation in a place where I could not see the full picture.
If we look at Marx’s theories of Revolution, the Revolution to overthrow the governing classes must be composed of the workers united in one consciousness. As a Teaching Assistant in my Social Theories class insightfully pointed out, the Occupy Movement was made up of middle-class college students primarily, and when the working class did get involved, segregation in the Occupy camp occurred. Nothing was really solved, and the working class was still excluded and left out. This might account for why it has appeared to flop so badly.
Or perhaps there is another explanation; Marx was far from infallible. If he had been completely correct, the Great Depression would have resulted probably in a Communist Revolution in the United States. As far as we know, that did not happen. So, I decided to ask the cards for clarification, and went with a deck I use very little: The Dark Grimoire Deck.
I used the standard Celtic Cross Spread, and got this:
Card 1 – Central Factor: Ace of Wands
The Ace of Wands is a fiery card, filled with the pure spirit and will of Fire. In the Dark Grimoire Deck, the Ace of Wands is the cover of the Book of Light, representing creativity and sexuality. The central factor in determining the current state of the occupy Movement appears to be the pure sexual/fiery energy of creativity. But on whose part – the Occupiers or the Occupied? Is the current state of the Occupy Movement a result of the fiery ideological counterattack by the media and the right? Or is it perhaps a result of the fire of the movement starting strong and burning with a passion and then burning out? Or, perhaps it is a combination of the two; as rhetoric against the Occupy Movement grew (both sides began to criticize it, though for different reasons), the Movement itself began to splinter under pressure, and as the media shifted its attention away from it, like a fire the Occupy Movement began to gutter out, until like a flame its strength and power had ebbed away.
This card also represents the cover of a book. It tells us that the Occupy Movement has this fiery energy and creativity, but also that the book hasn’t completely opened yet. This seems to support my earlier conclusions about the Movement entering a “dormant” phase; the real story has not even begun yet.
Card 2 – Supporting Factor: The Lovers
This card indicates two personalities coming together and bonding, in some form or another. In this case, this bond, I think could be between two distinct personalities of the Occupy Movement: its middle-class personality and its revolutionary personality, coming together to create a revolution of the middle class. This revolution would look very different from a working class revolution, and would not have the same intensity as a working class revolution would. Perhaps this mismatched relationship is part of the cause for the movement’s recent downturn. Another interesting aspect of this card in the Dark Grimoire deck is that a third figure appears on the art, looking on the two lovers, creating a sense of impending doom. Who is this third figure? In this case, it could very well be the working class, which has been excluded from this revolutionary relationship through segregation in the camps and middle-class dominance of the Movement. In this situation, this card seems to have a more ominous and less positive connotation, and becomes a card of exclusion rather than bonding.
There are other relationships that this card could indicate. The Occupy Movement’s bond with the left and its strong association with it in a country with conservative leanings could also account for their current situation. The third figure in this case would be the right-wing in the United States, who have been left out of the Occupy Movement even though many conservatives would benefit from its success. This exclusion allows the media to delegitimize the Movement by associating it with politics rather than economic justice. It could also indicate the alliance of conservatives and liberals in striking down the Movement, making the third figure the Movement itself.
Card 3 – Past Influence: Two of Wands [Reversed]
So what laid in the Occupy Movement’s past? The Two of Wands – reversed. The Two of Wands is associated with domination and power, and this card in this position could indicate that the Movement in the past had power and the potential to change things, but perhaps no longer; this power is receding, either permanently or temporarily. Interestingly, both the Ace and Deuce of Wands appear in this spread; the Ace is in the present, and the Deuce in the past. This indicates a retrograde storyline; the book was opened and the story was read (the Two), but then the reader (in this case, social consciousness) rejected the storyline and shut the book, bringing it back to its cover.
This raises the question: why was the storyline rejected? Maybe, as Marx would likely theorize, the conditions weren’t right yet. Perhaps Marx is completely wrong, and the Occupy Movement’s aims will never be accomplished. Maybe the story will open again, and maybe not.
The Two of Wands is in this case Reversed, which is important to keep in mind. Perhaps that is why the storyline was rejected; perhaps the power that the Occupy Movement displayed earlier was false, and it appeared to be larger than it actually was (I believe I myself fell into this trap). This would account, I believe, for why the book closed; the Movement did not have the power it claimed as a result of leaving out important factors (as indicated by the Lovers), and so was destined to fail – for the moment. The book still exists, as indicated by the presence of the Ace of Wands. The art of the Two of Wands in this deck shows two men plotting something around a table, which hints that perhaps the movement was less spontaneous than it has been presented as – and perhaps reinforcing that the lack of inclusion of working-class individuals hurt the Movement (the figures in the image are distinctly scholarly).
Card 4 – Future Influence: The Magician
In the future we have the card that serves as the cover image of this deck: the Magician. The Magician is a card of manipulation, a master of esoteric secrets, and a channel of the divine or supernatural. He serves as a bridge between the realms of illusory reality and true reality. In the Dark Grimoire Deck, he is portrayed as writing a book. The Magician is, therefore, the person writing the story.
But what story, do you ask? He is writing the story that we all read and experience. Everyone has their own magician, writing their life story, but in this case, the energy of the Magician is powerful enough to manifest itself in a spread, in the position of the Future. The influence of the Magician is rising, and will eventually become a dominant force in the occupy Movement. We can hope. This, to me, indicates that in the future the Occupy Movement will resurge and will begin to write the story of the world, indicating its success.
However, I am biased. I want the Occupy Movement to succeed. What if, instead, the Magician is indicating that the opponents of the Movement will be writing the story? Nothing is specified. In the present moment, the opponents of the Movement are writing the story; politicians, the media, and conservatives dominate the discussion, and even liberals discredit the movement, writing the Movement’s history for it. Perhaps the Magician indicates that this trend will continue into the future.
So, then, who in this situation is the Magician?
Turning to the cards themselves, I noticed that the Major Arcana from I to IV are all present, and in very close proximity to each other. This, to me, seems to indicate that the prevailing story of the Occupy Movement is that of the Major Arcana, and is a coming of age story for the Movement. The Magician serves as a teacher for the Movement, which to me indicates that the Magician refers to those others writing the history’s Movement: the media and politicians. The Movement will hopefully learn from this experience, and move onward and forward, for the Magician is a teacher. Adversity and the active manipulation of your Movement by others can serve as a fine teacher.
Card 5 – Unconscious Influence: The Hanged Man
This card has darker connotations than normal in the Dark Grimoire Deck. It actually depicts a Hanged Man. This, to me, says that the hidden, underlying causes of the Movement’s current state is despair of some kind; the artwork on the card evokes ideas of suicide (quite obviously, really) and depression. Perhaps the Movement has ceased in most of its efforts because it could see how badly the odds were stacked against them, and support began to ebb as it became clear that nothing would change as a result of their actions. This supports my early theory of classifying the Movement as a flame: burning hot and bright, then simmering down quickly and burning out.
This card could also indicate that the Movement is merely biding its time and waiting; after all, the Hanged Man is card of going with the flow. Perhaps the Movement is waiting to gain more legitimacy, waiting to see what happens, and then resurge again when the time is right. This card seems to indicate that the current state of affairs is temporary, and that beneath the surface, the spirit of the Movement remains alive, but in an unrecognizable state. The time was not right for the Movement (again reinforcing what has already been said), and so the Hanged man came to have unconscious influence.
Card 6 – Conscious Influence: The High Priestess
The High Priestess, in the Dark Grimoire Deck, stands with the book the Magician wrote in her hand, reading it first and holding its secrets in her heart and mind. The High Priestess here is the first to interpret and fully comprehend the Magician’s words – perhaps even better than the Magician himself. She is an initiator of mysteries, and another channel of the divine. As a conscious influence, this card to me seems to indicate that the Occupy Movement is inspired by higher morals and ideals from a higher plane (economic justice), and that its current state relates to these ideals. Perhaps the segregation of the Movement between middle and working class Americans violated this ideals, and in order to maintain its legitimacy, the Movement had to lie low until it once again came in tune with this divine inspiration.
Perhaps this card could also indicate that the Movement is acting as a reader of the world, and is carefully watching everything said about it, and has realized that perhaps a better time for the Movement will come later. Perhaps they have subdued themselves because of signs they have seen; violent crackdowns, negative media coverage, and abundant criticisms of the Movement. They are taking a more passive stance, and reading the world again to determine when the time will again be right. This reinforces the themes of waiting and passivity found in the Hanged Man.
Card 7 – The Movement’s Own Perspective: Ace of Swords
Another Ace makes itself known, indicating that perhaps the Movement has a lot of unrealized potential; the Movement’s story has not yet even really begun. The Ace of Swords is the Ace of Demons, corresponding to the realms of thought and control. The Movement perhaps believes that it is in control of its own fate, and believes that it will fail or succeed based purely upon its own merits, actions, and mental attitudes. The reason for the present situation of the Movement is not because its opponents are doing better, but rather it is because the members of the Movement itself are failing in some way. As this card represents how the Movement itself feels about the situation, I find the above unlikely. Rather, I think that this card indicates that the Movement is aware of the control that the media, corporations, and the privatized political systems have in this country, and so are choosing to wait until they are weaker before rising up to strike again. Or, at the very least, the Movement believes this to be true. This card I am unable to shed much light on, as I am not an Occupier myself.
Card 8 – Society’s Perspective: Two of Swords [Reversed]
Interesting that the Two of Swords immediately follows the Ace. Perhaps the book of Swords – the Book of Control – has been opened by someone other than the Occupy Movement. Perhaps Society has opened the book and is reading and interpreting it in its own way, and thereby seizing control of the Movement’s future. The artwork shows Erich Zann (from H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann”) playing his violin while blindfolded, indicating a blind devotion and a search for inner tranquility that may be shattered at any moment by the Demons standing below him. Peace is fragile, this card reminds us, and society is getting this message as well. This card, to me, indicates that society realizes that there is a serious problem, and that the Occupy Movement has helped to raise awareness of this problem, even if it did not accomplish what it set out to do. This card is also reversed, indicating that perhaps the influence of the Occupy Movement on society’s perspective is hidden and not obvious, manifesting itself in a greater awareness of social issues in the country.
Interestingly, both Twos that appear in this spread are reversed. This seems to indicate that the story of the Movement has begun, at least in part, but that we are having trouble progressing past the beginning – perhaps due to flaws within the Movement itself, or because it has such powerful opponents. The fact that Erich Zann is blindfolded also has significance. The card is reversed, which could indicate that the blindfold will soon be coming off, and that society perceives the Occupy Movement as inherently flawed and silly, but at the same time as bringing something in dire need of attention to light: social inequalities in the United States and the world. Now that the Occupy Movement has done that, it is receding, as that goal has been accomplished, which might explain the Movement’s current state.
Card 9 – Advice/Hopes/Fears: The Emperor
The Emperor is a bringer of justice and order, as well as a symbol of power and authority. It reinforces the theme of fire we have seen throughout the spread as well. In this case, the Occupy Movement probably fears the order imposed upon them by the police, politicians, and the media, and the laws of society as a whole. What it hopes for is the justice that the Emperor brings to everyone. What it could do better is bring this justice to their own movement, end segregation within its camps, and come up with more ideas than just throwing out a lot of the old system. Perhaps if smaller concrete goals could be imagined (as difficult as this would be, given the broad goals of the Movement now), more might be accomplished, changing the order and sense of justice incrementally.
Card 10 – Summation: The Empress
The Empress is companion to the Emperor. She welcomes the Emperor’s subjects and nurtures them, preparing them for the indoctrination of the Hierophant and for her husband’s acceptance. This card in this position tells us that if things continue as they are, the Empress is the result. This seems at odds with the rest of the reading; the nurturing mother figure of the Empress?
Keep in mind that this reading is not examining the trajectory of the Movement as its primary focus. Rather, I am examining the factors behind its current situation. In this case, this summary card to me indicates that the Occupy Movement is in its current state in order to better care for its members and society as a whole. Its tactics have proved largely ineffective, and its members are fleeing the Movement. Many members of the Movement need to obtain jobs and money, and so leave the Movement, weakening it in order to nurture themselves – maybe so that later they can give back to the Movement. The Movement is also drawing a lot of fire, and a lot of arrests have been made, so perhaps the Movement is lying low to give its members time to recover and nurse themselves back to health, so that the movement can continue fighting.
Three things drew my attention immediately about this spread. The first was the presence of a large number of Major Arcana, indicating that large forces are behind the Movement’s current situation, perhaps many beyond its control. The second was that there were no Court Cards, indicating that strong personalities or individuals were not involved; this is a reminder that the Movement has no real “leader.” The third thing I noticed was that there were no Minor Arcana cards above the Two, which seems to suggest that the Occupy Movement is only the first stage in a much longer process, as its story has only just been opened.
So, in summary, the Occupy Movement is in its current state because it has burned itself out and faces poor publicity as a result of others writing its story, and is now sitting back and biding its time, waiting for the proper moment to rise again and allowing itself to lick its wounds and heal from the assaults on it. In the end, the Occupy Movement is only the first chaper – the opening lines and cover – of the book telling the history of the world, one forged in Fire and Air, the only two appearing elements in the spread. Emotions and Practicality are not the true essence of the Movement, but rather fiery willpower combined with lofty ideals. These things are necessary before the full revolution will occur, but we have a long way to go before we reach our final destination…
I have already discussed the process behind throwing the spread, and now it is time to discuss another important aspect of reading the tarot – perhaps the most important aspect, in fact: interpreting the cards themselves.
Assuming that you have already laid out the cards, having gone through the process of formulating your topic, asking a question, choosing your spread and deck, invoking your guide, and then finally placing the cards down,it is time to start interpreting them.
The most important thing to keep in mind when reading the cards is the question that you asked. Your inner guide, your subconscious mind, is trying to help you answer your question through the medium of the cards. You need to interpret the cards with the intention of answering the question you spent so much time formulating. For example, if you asked “What factors should I consider when trying to understand and handle Larry’s frequent thefts?” (sound familiar?) it wouldn’t do you any good to interpret the spread as advising you to invest in fish. Certainly, you can find a way to interpret the spread as almost anything you want. That is the beauty of the tarot: it is vague, simple, and meaningful enough that each card be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, leading to countless avenues of mental exploration. However, the cards will only help you if you interpret them in a fashion that directly answers your question.
A second critically important aspect of reading the cards is to interpret the card and its position, or else the spread itself is meaningless (more on this later).
Like with laying out the spread, there is no single way to do interpret the cards, and every reader will give you a different answer if you ask them about it. So, instead of laying out meaningless “rules,” I will merely give my own take on the process.
I tend to interpret the cards individually first, and then use these interpretations to color wider relationships and patterns between and among the cards. It is perfectly valid, however to do the opposite, and use broader patterns in the spread to inform your interpretation of individual cards. I have been known to do both. Generally, it is easier to focus on interpreting individual cards, and when just starting out, often it helps to just focus on this and ignore larger patterns at first.
The first thing I do, after laying out all the cards and carefully placing the remainder of the deck to the side, out of the way, is methodically go through each card in each position and meditate on its meanings. When I say “meditate,” here, I mean think very hard about it, while simultaneously attempting to shut out all distractions. This can be very difficult to do, as the world has a great many distractions. If you can, you should perform a reading when you will not be disturbed by those not involved, and with no easy access to the internet (unless you are still learning a deck, when having websites open might aid you). If you are reading for someone else, in person, this might be harder, but it is still important to concentrate greatly on each card.
For each spread, I go through the cards in the same order; ritual, I find, helps focus the mind and make the cards easier to interpret. For example, in the Celtic Cross spread, I always start with the central factor, then supporting factor, then influence of the past, then the future, then the unconscious influences, then the conscious ones, and then I work my way up the staff from bottom to top.
For each card, I go through the following steps:
1). Remind myself of the meaning of the card’s position. (It’s later). It is easy to sometimes get so wrapped up in interpreting the meaning of a particular card as it applies to your question that you forget to also take into account the meaning of the card’s position. Each position in a spread has its own meaning, like that of the card, and functions like astrological houses. The question serves to focus your thoughts (and serve a function similar to the date and time in astrology), the cards give you language to speak in (like Sun Signs, Planets, Asteroids, and Nodes in astrology), and the positions in the spread show you where the actions represented by the cards take place (like Houses in astrology, and in Geomancy, for that matter).
By reminding myself of what the card’s position means first, I ensure that I am thinking about that when thinking about the card. For example, when reading the first position of the Celtic Cross, I will remind myself that this is the central factor that will help me answer my question, or when reading the ninth card will remind myself that this card is what will offer me advice or illuminate my hopes and/or fears (it’s always interesting when a single card can do both of these). I will then apply the card’s position to my interpretation of the card itself.
2. Interpret the Image on the Card. This step is relatively simple; answer the question “What do I see on the card, and how does this apply to my question when relating it back to its position?” This often does not take all too much time, as eventually the picture’s image will help define what it means to you. If you are using this deck for the first time, spend a long time noticing every aspect of the image, and how it reinforces its meaning. If you have used it before, it is often helpful to spend a long time looking at it, but not always necessary. Instead, look at the image for any parts of it that might directly apply to or shed insights on the question.
3. Interpret the Card’s Meaning as Seen by You. This is closely related to the previous step, but slightly different. Each card, over time, will come to have a specific meaning for you, and you will develop different relationships with the cards. For example, the Devil and I have a very special relationship, and I can generally almost instantly divine an interpretation for it (even though one might be able to do this, however, it is always good to not rely on an instant reaction, and think instead about that reaction for a while before moving on to the next card). This meaning is not the meaning espoused by others; always at first interpret the card on your own, using your own understanding of it. This makes your reading unique, helps develop your mind, helps you learn the cards, and is a more direct conduit to your inner mind. Let the card speak to you before you turn to others’ thoughts. This is most easily done by looking at the image on the card, as explained above.
4. Interpret the Card’s Universal Meaning. This step is not as important as the previous two, but helps provide some cohesion and legitimacy to the cards. For example, it is generally not considered appropriate to interpret Death (XIII) as meaning that your life will remain the same forever (though if the card is reversed, some might argue it can be interpreted that way). There are certain “universal” interpretations and meanings associated with cards, which come from generations of scholarship and personal interpretations; in the end, the universal meaning of a card is merely the result of countless generations of personal interpretations. For most decks, the universal meaning of a card is the result of occult and esoteric theories, particularly those from Qabalah and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Many of the cards also have equivalent symbols in other esoteric arts, such as Geomancy, Astrology, and Alchemy.
However, one should always interpret a card on their own and understand it on a personal level before ever consulting an outside source on the card’s meaning. The instant one does that, they will never interpret the card the same way they would otherwise. It is best, I have found, to first learn the card’s meaning according to your own system, and then research it and take in what parts of it you agree with, and leave out others. Sometimes you might reject everything the universal meaning says (which is perfectly fine!), and sometimes you might reject everything you thought about it (also perfectly fine!). The outside research won’t change because of you, but you will change because of the outside research. Remember that.
So, once you have interpreted the card’s meaning according to image, personal interpretation, and universal meaning, I would recommend next looking at the card’s suit.
5. Interpret the Card’s Suit. This becomes more important when looking for wider patterns, but even when looking at it initially, interpreting the suit can be helpful. In this step, simply look at the card’s suit and apply that meaning to its position. Wands/Fire are associated with the willpower and activity, Cups/Water are associated with emotions and passivity, Swords/Air are associated with logic and the abstract, Disks/Earth are associated with the material and practicality, and the Major Arcana are associated with the spirit and life’s journey.
6. Interpret the Card’s Number. This is often more helpful when reading an individual card than interpreting the suit is. After determining the effect of the suit on the reading, I look at the card’s number (or, in the case of court cards, its rank). Each number generally has a specific meaning across the suits, though this meaning varies from deck to deck. Most commonly, the numbers represent the different Sefirot of the Tree of Life. This is where the interpretation of the suit can become useful, as it is the card’s number and its suit that determine its universal, original meaning. Aces, for example, represent the beginning of the suit and stand for everything it represents, completely purely. Tens represent the logical conclusion of the suit, with it being applied to earthly, material life. One should adopt a system of interpreting the number and stick to it. Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth is helpful in this regard if you wish to examine Qabalistic interpretations. Numbered cards (1-10 in the four suits) generally represent aspects of the energies of a particular suit as they apply to events relating to the question.
In the cases of the Court Cards, instead of looking at the numbers, look at the position. The names of these positions vary wildly, from King, Queen, Knight, and Page to Knight, Queen, Prince, and Princess, to King, Queek, Knight, and Knave. No two decks have exactly the same court card setup, and Court Cards are often the hardest cards to master. Court cards generally represent strong personalities in the situation you are examining in your reading, and might represent actual people or forces of nature and society.
Major Arcana cards do have numbers, but not in the same way as the numbered cards do. The numbers of the Major Arcana reflect the card’s position on the journey of life, and Major Arcana cards appearing in the spread represent powerful forces in a reading. They generally are given more weight when interpreted, and represent aspects of life’s journey as manifested in a particular situation.
7. Is the Card Reversed? Reversed cards are a matter of much debate in the tarot world, and nobody interprets them the same way. When a card appears upside down, some people choose to interpret it differently. Some people don’t at all, and just flip the card over. Whatever you wish to do about reversed cards is perfectly fine.
Many people interpret a reversed card as meaning the opposite of its normal meaning; for example, Death (XIII) reversed would be that one’s life will lack any major changes, and that no major forces would interfere with his life. This interpretation works fine, but I find it personally lacking.
Personally, I interpret reversed cards as meaning that the energy of that card is still present, but blocked by something. Going through the rest of the spread, or if that fails, drawing a clarifying card, can help you figure out what exactly is blocking the energy. When the energy is blocked, the card’s effects can be reduced, hidden, or expressed in an unusual way.
But, the meaning (and existence) or reversed cards is up to you. If you are just starting, it might be best not to interpret reversed cards differently at first.
8. Relate the Meaning of the Card Back to Its Position. Remember how I said to keep the card’s position in mind? Did you, when reading all of the above? Chances are, you didn’t. I didn’t. It can be hard, like I said. So, after interpreting all of the above aspects of the card, before you move on to the next one, take a minute or two to remind yourself of the card’s position, and relate the card’s meaning back its position. This also serves to help you formalize what the card means in this particular situation in your own mind.
So, after going through that for each card in the spread, its time to look for patterns! There is, again, no set way to do this. Generally, the first thing I look for is patterns of suits. Are there a lot of Wands in the spread? Perhaps, then, the situation calls for courage and forging onwards without looking back. Lots of Disks? Perhaps you should be cautious and think things through carefully before moving forward. Are there a lot of Major Arcana? This might be a major turning point in your life. The tone of the spread overall can be drastically affected by the various amounts of each suit represented. Make note also of absent suits.
After this, I look for patterns of numbers. Are there a lot of Aces? Perhaps a new beginning is coming your way. A lot of tens? Perhaps an ending. Lots of sixes? Your life may be well-balanced at the moment. If there are a lot of a particular rank of Court Card, perhaps this personality has come to dominate your life and the choices you make. Additionally, if you have all four of the Court Cards of one suit in a spread (or even, to a lesser extent, just all four Court Cards), make a note of that, as it indicates that all aspects of that suit are represented somewhere in the spread.
Some decks have other classifications of cards specific to them. For example, the Wildwood Tarot was designed with the Wheel of the Year in mind. When using the Wildwood deck, after interpreting the spread initially, I often rearrange the cards to that each card is in its position relative to the Wheel of the Year, to better understand the spread’s composition. Doing similar other things can be helpful in determining other patterns, too. Just remember to make sure that you are done interpreting the cards’ positions before rearranging them!
Once you have looked at broad patterns, you can focus. Many cards have associated opposites or complements; Learning the Tarot here has a page on some of these, and there are many others. For example the Magus and the Priestess are opposites, as well as the Emperor and the Empress. The Seven of Disks and the Six of Disks are often opposites. Opposites are often easier to see than complementary cards, such as the Seven of Cups and then Ten of Cups. Also, remember that the numbered cards form a progression, from one to ten. If you can see this progression in the spread, it can also be interpreted in its own special way. For example, if in the past you see the Two of Swords and in the future you see the Three of Swords, you might want to consider how the path of Swords influences your life, as you might be going down it. It might be worth it to ponder how the rest of the suit might manifest in your life.
The meaning of these linked cards can be reinforced if they are also in linked positions. The positions in each spread, as I have said many times, have specific meanings, and some positions are linked to others through these meanings. For example, the past and present positions in the Celtic Cross are opposites, the central and supporting factors can be either opposing or complementary positions, the Conscious Influences, Future, and Advice/Hopes/Fears positions in the Celtic Cross are complemantary, the bottom two positions on the Celtic Cross staff are linked, the Past and Subconscious Influence positions are linked, and the entire Yin-Yang spread is composed of opposites. Learning the Tarot has a page on linked Celtic Cross positions here.
If you see opposing or complementary cards in these linked positions, it can either strengthen a certain message or weaken it. Watch these positions carefully!
If reading the patterns in a spread isn’t enough, and you really want the meaning of a particular card to become clear, you can draw another card from the unused deck and place it next to the card in question. This card will clarify the meaning of the card you drew it to help you understand. It can clarify the card in a number of different ways; either by showing how the card’s energies will be expressed, where they will be, how strong they will be, or can add a second factor to the card, sometimes showing the situation to be even more complex than before. Try not to try a second clarifying card if you can; always try to use the cards before you already before drawing more.
Most spreads have a single card that “sums up” the rest of the spread. This card is good to end a reading on. Of course, interpret it individually along with the rest of the cards, but at the end, after you have taken everything else into account, return again to this card and look at it in a new light, and determine why it is that this card applies to the entire spread, and how the rest of the spread represents various aspects of this single card.
Once you are done interpreting the cards, it is time to put them away. There are countless ways to do this, as with every other step, but my own personal method is to thank my inner guide, move the cards together into a big pile, shuffle them among themselves, and then shuffle them back into the deck, before putting them away and moving on.
It’s very difficult to be specific with posts of this nature, but hopefully this was interesting and at least mildly helpful!