A good tarot reading is often like a story, reconstructing, constructing, and forecasting relevant pieces of a person's life to bring understanding about a particular topic. While our tarot cards reveal the details of the story, it's the spread that provides the outline and asks all the right questions. You can find spreads in books or online, but the best way to make sure you get one to fully address your specific question is to create it yourself.
The spread is the structure or the layout of a tarot reading. Each position in the spread gives you a context for how to read the tarot card that lands in that position. So, say you get the Three of Swords, the traditional card for indicating heartbreak. If it lands in the Past position of the spread, it might indicate that a past heartbreak is influencing the current situation. Get the same card in the Hopes and Fears position and it could suggest that you not only have a fear of heartbreak, but that you might actually have a desire for your current relationship to end, whether consciously or subconsciously.
What really goes into crafting a spread? Beyond providing the context in which your tarot cards are read, spreads are complex animals. Each position is threaded together to form a snapshot of the querent's situation—so when you create your own spreads, you'll want to choose positions that tell the story you want to hear about. Then you want to put them in an order that reveals the story in a logical manner. Additionally, you may want to add shape to a spread to focus its energy, like fashioning a love reading in the shape of a heart or a Cupid's arrow.
If you really want to get nerdy about crafting your own spreads, you may also want to consider the interplay between positions—how certain spread positions work together to reveal a third position—and group spread positions together accordingly in the spread's design. We see this type of arrangement in a Celtic Cross, where the left side of the spread gives a concise snapshot of the situation and the right side of the spread shows how the attitudes of yourself and others impact that snapshot to cause the outcome. It's also seen in the way all the cards on the left of the Celtic Cross encircle the Situation and Crossing positions, each exerting equal and direct impact on the pair of cards in the center.
So, spreadcrafting can run the spectrum from a simple one-card spread to more complex ones, depending on how deep you want to get into the art and theory of the craft. As I started diving down into its complexities, I realized that trying to craft a spread with pen and paper just wasn't cutting it for me; if I wanted to move the cards around or rename them, I had to scratch things out and it became all too messy and frustrating. Then I lit on a better way—The Deck of 1000 Spreads.
How Can the Task of Spreadcrafting Be Simplified? The Deck of 1000 Spreads is a deck of oversized cards with spread position names on each card. While you're crafting your spreads, simply sift through the cards and pick out the positions you want in your spread. Once you have your card positions chosen, you can move the cards around into different orders, switch positions out with new ones, and move the cards into different spread shapes—without ever putting pen to paper. It's a three-dimensional, visual system of creating spreads faster, more easily, and more enjoyably than ever before.
When you have your spread all laid out, choose tarot cards as you usually do and place them on top of the spread cards. Because the spread cards are taller than most tarot cards, the spread position name peeks out above the top of the tarot card, creating a labeled spread. It's an innovation that makes spreadcrafting easier and more accessible to both beginners and experts alike. The cards are color coded to help you shape the "story" of the spread.
How Can I Start Crafting My Own Spreads Today? Whether or not you use The Deck of 1000 Spreads to craft your spreads, most good spreads will have a beginning, a middle, and an end, just as a novel would. In tarot terms, that can translate to a topic or situation, some event that impacts the situation or question, and an outcome or answer. Now, not all spreads will have this. Certainly there are many one-, two-, and even three-card spreads that don't follow that pattern. But the more in-depth you get in your spreads, the more they'll reveal information like any good story would.
So, what does that look like? Stories usually contain the following five elements. In The Deck of 1000 Spreads, each element is represented by a different color to help simplify the spreadcrafting process and also to help you execute some of the spreadcrafting tricks described in the accompanying book. The five elements are:
Topic, Theme, or Plot: Every book has one, and so does every reading. In a one-card draw, the one card is the theme of the reading. In a larger spread, it may be a specific topic, like Romance. Or it may be more generic, like Situation.
Influences, Story Elements, or Plot Twists: In a book, these are the elements that keep the story going. In a spread, these are the cards that influence the reading's topic in a positive or adverse way and give you information on what to look out for, what to do, and how the story will unfold. Positions in this category might include Underlying Influences, the Crossing card, and Conscious Desires.
Characters or People: Whether it's the hero (querent) or others, every story has characters. In a spread, they're the people and relationships that have an influence on the reading's topic or play a major role in the story of the reading.
Timing: Books tell a story over time, and so do tarot readings. Outside of the reading's topic, timing cards are the most common in a spread. Everyone wants to know where things are now and how they'll progress in the future.
Outcomes or Endings: As in books, these cards are how the story of the reading ends. The most common way to tie up a reading is with an Outcome card.
These are basic elements that your spread could include; you can choose spread positions and arrange them in a logical storytelling structure and maybe even put them in a shape. All of that is made easier by The Deck of 1000 Spreads, but you can do it all on paper like I used to, too.
How Does The Deck of 1000 Spreads Make This Easier? Creating your own spreads is a great way to get exactly what you want out of a reading; The Deck of 1000 Spreads can help make that process easier with its sixty-five color-coded cards, complete with blanks for you to create your own signature spread positions. Each card has a spread position name on it, so you can just sift through the cards to find the positions you want in your spread. Plus, having this capability in card format enables you to do things you can't really do with pen and paper, like turning all the cards face-down and divining a spread in the same way you do with tarot cards.
Another aspect of The Deck of 1000 Spreads is that, in addition to a spread position name, each card also has a description of that position. So once you have your spread all laid out, you'll have all the information you need in front of you—no more flipping through books or consulting printouts in the midst of a reading. Each card is also color coded to align with the five story elements described above. This not only simplifies the creation of a spread with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it also speeds the spreadcrafting process because you know exactly what color to look for when searching your cards for timing elements, for example.
As you move forward with your spreadcrafting, consider the tips offered up here. The companion book that comes with The Deck of 1000 Spreads has a lot more information on spreadcrafting when you're ready to take spreadcrafting even farther. In fact, just playing with the cards can really help you get the feel for how spreads come together. Sure, spreadcrafting is serious business when it comes to really unearthing the information your querent wants, but with The Deck of 1000 Spreads it goes beyond the studious task of putting pen to paper and becomes just plain fun.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tierney Sadler (Washington, DC) has been practicing tarot for 25 years. She's a professional tarot reader and a member of the Washington DC Tarot Society. Visit her blog at TheDailyTarotDraw.blogspot.com.