To Spread or Not to Spread...

Check out Frances' website! 

and sign up for her newsletter!

By Frances

I am home from the Readers Studio and am finally beginning to feel like myself. I love the RS! I love being with my extended family and meeting new people but it drains me. I needed a few nights of going to sleep early with extra attention on grounding to get me back to my usual Sunny self..... Thank goodness the weather has been cooperating. A barefoot walk in the grass is just what the Doctor ordered. 

There was a lot of talk of spreads and the finite meaning of each position within a spread. There was a master class on how to create your own spread and another solely on significators. An amazing evening class, that was taught by a dear friend, had people picking a goal and assigning a specific card to it and then finding the card and reading the cards around it in a "no spread" kind of way. Some people were actually rattled by the arrogance of reading without a set spread. I was bemused and it got me wondering .... to spread or not to spread? 

I am not someone who uses spreads. For the most part I throw cards, dive in and read but I believe in Magick. I believe in the magick within me and in the Universe, as a whole. I believe that if I am open to it and still my mind long enough the right message will come to me. I may arrange the cards in a distinct pattern but it is just for aesthetics, there are no specific positional meanings. 

When I began with tarot, I devoured the LWB (little white book) at once and set about learning to read. My lust to learn was ferocious. I dove into a Celtic Cross (that was the only spread in the LWB and I figured it must be the way to read). What did I know? I read through the positional meanings but, as I incontestably color outside the lines, even early on I disregarded the positional meanings. I would see the picture as a whole, rather than each card and position as a separate entity. The colors on the cards would dance around me and the predominant one would ultimately emerge or I would see patterns the cards made with color, image, numbers and elements. Were there only wands? or Trumps? or Pips and no trumps? Which element was conspicuously missing? Moreover, what did I feel from the reading? All of these things would swirl around me and YES it would be quite confusing at times but I learned very quickly that I had to give into whatever I was receiving and not edit it with logic. The Celtic Cross for me was always just a pattern that I placed the cards in.  

As I progressed as a reader and met other readers, their focus on set spreads had me curious. I have met readers that use spreads with positional meanings with great success. Their readings are spot on and enchanting. I tried different spreads and created others on my own but in the clutch I always reverted to my no spread way of reading. Where they use the spread as their focal point, I prefer to use the colors and images as mine. 

I do feel to each his own but this weekend I saw it in a somewhat different light. I was interested in the classes about creating your own spread and using significators but more from an anthropological standpoint. I am utterly fascinated with how people read. Everyone has their own process and that's what makes it so interesting to me. I get readings where ever and whenever I can, mostly to watch the person read for me. Although when the reading is brilliant it is a stunning experience; I am an eternal optimist and am always looking for those special moments. I want to be a part of the magick and to watch it unfold. I want to be witched. Ultimately, I am looking for that alchemical process when the reading transcends ink, paper, flesh and blood. 

People ascribe so much import to procedure, spreads and meanings that sometimes they miss forest for the trees. I often have people come to me for a reading and when I tell them what I see they ask me which card told me that, I usually say, None of them and ALL of them! I tell them it's not about the cards it is about the message. The cards don't speak. They are merely a focal point for the reader to still their mind and open it so that the message can come through. It also isn't about the spread. If you are using that as a focal point then great but I have seen so many people use it as a crutch. Reading is way more than a spread, it is about something higher and deeper. But I believe in Magick and I look for it in everything. 

To me a spread can and should be merely a starting point, a base. You might see it as a diving board but ultimately you have to bounce off of it and fly into the air and down into the the watery depths of your subconscious. The sin of it is that most times people stay on the diving board and never jump in.

All submissions remain the property of their respective authors. 

Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - © 2011

Questions? Comments? Contact us at