Welcome! My name is Professor Swithun, and I am your new professor of Divination here at Hogwarts is Here. Professor Cattercorn formerly led this course; therefore, you will find references to her in Years Two through Five. You may notice some minor edits here and there, but rest assured that you will not be held responsible for any of these small changes on your assignments and exams. I will strive to keep this transition as cohesive as possible. I have exciting plans for Years Six and Seven! I’m working hard to have Year Six prepared and published as soon as possible.
My lovely group of PAs and I are happy to answer any questions or concerns about the course. If you have a question about grading, please send an owl that includes the grade ID for that assignment and why you are appealing. Please be respectful (and remember that we are all volunteers!)
If you have any areas of interest related to Divination that you’d like to learn more about in the upcoming curriculum, now is your chance to voice your ideas! I love to hear from students, and questions, constructive comments, and suggestions are all welcome. My office door is always open to accept owls.
See you in class!
Lesson 8) Spreads
The students arrived at the Divination Tower and were greeted by Professor Cattercorn. The room had a faint, blue glow and an eerie stillness filled the air. As the students filed in, Professor Cattercorn could be seen holding a packaged deck of tarot in one hand and a pile of black silk cloth squares in the other. She greets each student and gives them each a deck of cards and a cloth before directing them to their seats. Once the last of the students were settled, she addressed the class.
Welcome to Lesson Eight! Let us begin as there is so little time, but so much to cover! We will be discussing spreads today. Spreads are a vital part of reading tarot. In our continued analogy of spellcasting, spreads serve as wand movements. While you technically can read the cards without a spread (just like it is possible to perform wandless magic), it is much harder to do so, and for more complex questions or readings, using a spread is really the only way to do it.
A spread is a specific arrangement of the cards with intention behind them. Imagine you’re writing a story. Your words are the cards themselves, whereas the spread is the sentence. The spread is what pieces the cards together to give you a specific answer. Some decks have their own specific spread -- for instance, there is a Black Cats Tarot that includes a unique cat spread. However, most spreads can be used with any deck.
To begin any spread, you will first need to make sure that your deck is well shuffled. Some people like to allow the querent to shuffle the cards. This allows their magical signature and will of mind to be put into the cards. Some people do not like doing this for the same reason, as they see it as a pollution of their own magic within the cards. This choice is up to you. Personally, I prefer to let querent shuffle the cards.
It is important to keep your intention in mind when beginning a spread. Keep in mind who your querent is, the information that they are wanting to learn, and focus your mind on finding the answer. Remember also, if your belief wavers, your will power will also waver, and your reading will not be accurate as your magic was non-existent or ineffective.
A Spread of Spreads
The variety of spreads is truly staggering, but I will not attempt to cover them all today. Instead, we will choose a few common spreads as well as throw in a few of my favorites. The first spread I learned was the Wheel. There are two variations of this spread: continuous and annual. While both spreads cover a year, the continuous spread starts in the month that you are in (the 12 o’clock position), whereas an annual spread starts in January. Your intention behind the reading decides what version of the Wheel you are using.
The Wheel is set out in the pattern of a clock. Make sure that your deck is well shuffled before picturing that clock arrangement and focusing on it. You’ll start by setting a single card in the twelve o’clock position, making sure the cards are face down. You will continue around the clock, setting a card at the one o’clock position, the two o’clock position, etc. You will continue in this pattern until there are three cards in each position, before adding one last card to the middle, otherwise known as the clarifier which is used (as you might have guessed) at the end if the reading is in some way unclear.
At this point, have the person that you are doing the reading for pick three piles out of the twelve around the circumference of the “clock”. Keep in mind that each pile equals a month, though the month will vary depending upon which wheel you are doing. You can do more or fewer months if you wish, but three is the typical number to do. Some people choose to interpret every month, whereas others believe that by letting the querent pick, they will learn the months they most need to see.
Before interpreting the three months that were chosen, get rid of the cards representing the extraneous months. This way there will be no distractions. However, do make sure to leave the clarifier in case of confusion. Then, one month at a time, interpret the reading for each set of three. Start by interpreting each card individually and then put the three readings together to create a cohesive reading for the entire month. This is where the true talent of a tarot reading comes into place. Anyone can read what a card means from a book, but it’s the art of using your magic to combine them together into true divination. As each month is completed, flip the cards back over. This is so that focus remains on the card set that is being discussed at the moment, rather than having the person you’re doing the reading for (or yourself) continue to focus and dwell on the prior month’s reading.
Past, Present, Future Spread
Now, on to our next spread. This is the most common and probably the easiest spread to read, as the three cards do not necessarily have to connect to each other. While an experienced reader can find the connecting fibres, it is not necessary to an accurate reading and therefore requires less concentration.
Be sure to be focusing on your querent’s question. This can consist of a general reading about their life or a specific question or situation. Your querent may also focus on what they want the reading about, but likely they are coming to you because they do not have the sight, are having difficulties with this reading themself, or are a Muggle, in which case, most or all of the burden will be on you. Once you are sufficiently focusing on that question, lay three cards face down, starting to your left and moving right.
Flip them over one by one, explaining what each card can represent to your querent. The left card represents the past, the middle card represents the present, and the right card represents the future. If a specific question or situation is being focused for the reading, these past, present, and future cards will represent the situation itself.
Celtic Cross Spread
The Celtic Cross spread is one of the most commonly known and oldest spreads within the world of tarot. It is a simple, yet very powerful spread. While it may be slightly daunting for a beginner to look at, it is a very good first intermediate step towards more complicated readings. This is a ten card spread and is also the first spread to use a significator. While the spread is quite large, it is not overly complex to read.
The ten cards within the spread are laid out following the diagram on the right. The card numbered “one” is first, and the set-up ends with the card that shows “ten” in this picture.
The first card in this spread is often chosen to be the significator. When done in this manner, this card represents not just the current state, but the current state of the querent, or represents the coming situations or feelings they have. In this situation, most readers will interpret this card as being the part of the querent that is most dominant in the situation and thus must be paid the most attention to. This card is representative of the heart of the situation, the fundamental problem, and what’s going on inside the querent themselves. It is important to relate every card back to this and to the fundamental issue at hand.
The second card is the outside forces moving against the querent. It can be the forces that are further aggravating the situation or an unbalanced force acting in their life. It can also be a rival element in the situation or even be a supporting factor! If your first card is telling of a specific issue in their life, the second card can be things supporting and helping that issue manifest. This is often an overlooked interpretation and it is important to take it into consideration.
The third card in the spread is the underlying cause behind your problem. This is the root of whatever is going on, the source of the strife in your life. This could be anything from a rejected ideal or desire to missing the larger picture. This may be something that you know and are aware of, or this may be something that you are completely blind to, something that has remained completely hidden for you. It is important that if this is something you have not noticed in the past, you take the time now to fully observe it so that you can decide how and why it is impacting your life the way it is.
The fourth card in the spread is tied to the past. This could be a person, an emotion, a memory, an event; the list is endless. Whatever this past thing is, it was something that was extremely important and is tied to why the present situation is what it is. While it may not be the underlying cause, it is a factor. In fact, it is the thing that needs to be let go. The fourth card is understood to be the thing that should be a fleeting concern, something that you let go of in order to leave your present situation behind for something better.
The fifth card in the spread could mean two different, though related, things. In order to decide which meaning to use, it is important that you trust what your intuition is telling you. The first meaning of this position is what your goal is. What do you want to happen in this situation? What do you have your heart dead set on happening? The second meaning for this position is the possible future outcome. It is what you think might happen, or what the most probable (though not guaranteed!) outcome is.
The sixth card is the final card within the cross section of the spread. This card also has two potential meanings behind it, the first being something coming in the future. This can be a feeling, a concern, or a person, as with the third card. It is something that will be an influential factor in the decisions that you will make, however. The alternate meaning for this card indicates something that needs to be embraced. It is something coming into your life that should be paid attention to. This could be a task you still need to complete or someone about to come into your life that you will end up needing.
Now we move onto the staff part of the spread. The seventh card is the bottom of the spread and is indicative of yourself. It is you, as you are now. It is your self image, what you believe about yourself in the given situation. It can be telling of your beliefs, of your fears, of your limits, or of your assumptions about yourself. It can also show the image that you put out for others to see, the public face that you hide behind. It is important to understand who you are currently in the situation and your point of view in it.
The eighth card takes a more outside look at things and begins to discover what others may think of you. This could be simply other people’s opinions of you or the effect that you have on others. It is important to realize in any situation that large amounts of time around other people, and that these people do affect you in your day-to-day life. More, sometimes an outsider’s perspective may provide some clarity.
The ninth card in this spread is your guidance. It is the advice being given to you by your own Inner Eye, or magical divinatory powers. This could be something as simple as a connecting link that will help you put everything together like a puzzle piece, to a missing piece of that puzzle that you will need to discover in order to put the entire situation together. This card will tell you the best way to make a change, the different approach that you could take to get what you want. It is vital to remember, however, that things are not cut and dry and you may not always get a clear, precise answer.
The final card in this spread is where the situation is going to end if nothing changes. If everything continues on the exact path it is now, this card will give you a glimpse into how you feel about where the situation is going to terminate. This warns of things that will come to pass, be they in your favor or not.
As you can see, this spread answers many questions surrounding a situation. This is why it is as popular as it is. It is a very helpful spread and one that I hope you choose to memorize and use in your own personal study.
Three Card Spreads
While we have already gone over one spread dealing with three cards, there are many more of this category. These spreads are good to know because they cover a range of topics and are easy to remember. They do not take long to complete if you only have a small amount of time for a reading and are simple enough that many querents prefer them because there isn’t as much to remember with the spread, making it easier to retain each meaning with its position in the spread.
New Deck Spread
This spread is aimed to be the first spread you use when getting a new tarot deck. It is a good way of connecting to your deck when you’re just starting out, as it is a spread dedicated just between you and your deck, almost like a conversation. The first card answers the question, “What will you teach me?” We all have something to learn from a tarot deck, it is why we turn to them. We seek their counsel and advice. This will give us an idea of what to expect from our deck. The second card answers, “What do you need from me?” There are many reasons people have decks. Some use them just as a guide while some turn to the deck in hard times as a friend and confidant to get advice from. This will describe what you as a person will crave and expect from your deck. The final question is, “What will our relationship be like?” This question is an important one. It is vital that you have a good relationship with your deck and that you are connected to your deck.
This initial spread is quite important in getting to know your deck, as their suitableness and “personality” is not as pronounced as that of a wand. Should the outcome of this spread seem bleak, however, that does not immediately indicate that you must find a new one and try again. Keep in mind that readings are not set in stone. You can always change the outcome of a reading by changing the path that you are on.
Background, Problem, Advice Spread
This spread is commonly used when something is going wrong in your life but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It is a way of trying to identify what is causing strife and finding a way to fix it. The first card will give you background on what could be causing the problem. The second card will describe what the problem is. The third card will give you advice on how to change and improve the problem.
Who Am I? What Do I Need? How Will I Get It?
This spread is a little broader than some of the others we have talked about, but at the same time is more specific by answering actual questions. The question, “Who am I?” can be answered in a number of ways. Who are you right now in this moment, who are you in reference to a job or position, who are you in your relationship? The question, “What do I need?” is the same way. It generally will refer to the same “you” revealed in the first question. The last question, “How will I get it?” is often a card that people do not like. There are different interpretations of every card and if you are reading on yourself, it is very difficult to be impartial and decide what interpretation is the actual suggested solution. This reading is best done by someone else when in reference to yourself.
Before we leave our topic behind for the week, with any spread you perform, please remind your querent that readings are not promises. They are an idea of what might happen in the coming months. The future can always be changed based on the decisions that you make and the external circumstances that change. Nothing is ever set in stone.
As another note, you will notice that the example questions posed in this lesson are open-ended. That is, they ask questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no.” To clarify why this is, often it is very difficult to get a “yes” or “no” answer out of the cards. There are methods to do it, of course, but in most cases, one does not read cards as positive or negative in this way. For this reason, especially when starting out, you will likely want to stick to questions that have many possible answers like “What will my experience be like if I decide to go to the Yule Ball?” rather than “Will I get a date to the Yule Ball?” Often, even if you ask the latter, you will get a much more complicated answer than a simple affirmative or negative.
With that, we close our sampler lesson of the many different tarot spreads as there are many more and it is even possible to create your own (though not something for beginners)! While I won’t be going into this in this lesson, if it’s something you wish to learn more about, feel free to contact me. Thank you for your undivided attention, see you next lesson!
Significator: A significator is a card used to represent a person or situation that the spread is about. Most traditionally, the card represents yourself. This is not always the case, though.