This Tarot spread, of uncertain provenance but quite old, is typically used to answer a specific question—be it about work, money, romance, or whatever else—but it can also be viewed, more generally, as a “report card” on one’s life, showing us how far we have progressed along the arc of our journey of self-discovery, and how far we may still have to go.
For this spread, The Fool—that spirit-energy of pure potential—is used as a Significator to represent the querent. The deck is typically shuffled three times, then cut three times before being reassembled as a full deck. (You are free to shuffle and cut to your heart’s content.) The top 12 cards are removed from the deck and set aside, face down; then the rest of the deck is turned up and sifted through until The Fool is found. The Fool is then inserted face-down into the 12 reserved cards, and this 13-card deck is shuffled and cut as before. The cards are then dealt, right to left, in a horseshoe pattern (they can also be dealt in a straight line if you prefer), with the 13th card placed at the center of the horseshoe or at the end of the line; the “lucky 13th” card represents the final outcome. (If you don’t find The Fool in the remaining deck, it means he is among the 12 reserved cards, in which case proceed with only a 12-card spread; the “meaning” of the reading will not be changed.)
If The Fool appears among the first cards in the spread, it suggests that the querent is either (a) asking the wrong question, or (b) that she has a long way to go before her question can be satisfactorily resolved. If The Fool appears nearer the end of a spread, it tends to indicate that (a) the querent is on the right path, and/or (b) that most of the hard work needed to satisfy her concerns are behind her. This spread can also provide the querent with further clarification along the lines of “If this, then that,” or “not only this, but also that,” depending on the sequence of cards and The Fool’s position within the spread.
I laid out a sample spread for myself this morning; my question revolved around money and work (both of which have been rather scarce lately), and wondering whether I am going about my desired career change in the right way. Here are the cards that turned up:
Three things call our attention immediately: First, of the 12 cards in the horseshoe, six are upright and six are reversed, suggesting a balance of spirit-polarities for the querent today. This is made even more explicit by the Two of Pentacles—the “Lord of Harmonious Balance”—appearing in his “proper” place (that is, the second card in the spread). In addition, we see that all of the Wands are reversed, and all of the Pentacles are right-side up. At first glance, the upright Pentacles would seem to assuage the querent’s material concerns. But the querent has spent his entire career in the creative arts, and since Wands represent mental activity and intellect, the reversals in this suit would seem to signal an incompatibility with the material gains the Pentacles imply. What gives?
Let’s look closely, though: the reversed Wands at the beginning of the spread—the Nine and Ten—are the two cards in the suit that speak most unambiguously of oppression and defensiveness; reversed here, and in the vicinity of The Star, The Hanged Man and Strength reversed, we can just as easily conclude that the cards are suggesting that a change in thinking has been in order: That the querent has learned (or is still learning) to surrender (Hanged Man) his unproductive—and even self-destructive—ways of viewing the world, to loosen up on his tendency to be controlling of others (Strength reversed), and to trust his own inner vision (Star—which, as the first card in the spread, signifies the heart of the matter for which the querent is seeking guidance).
At the apex of the spread, the Wands of the reversed Eight, which signifies motion or progress, are pointed in the direction of The Fool, not away from him; in this regard these Wands could represent an intellectual “tailwind” that is assisting the querent in his work, and making it more rewarding for him; this is suggested by the Eight of Pentacles, which signifies joy in labor, directly beneath him, and by the adjacent Knight, an airy personage who blows good fortune when well aspected, and ill will when not; the last two cards in the horseshoe—to which the Knight has turned his back—suggest how the latter outcome can be avoided.
At the end of the day—or in this case, the end of this spread—given the querent’s priorities at present, he is not likely to be happy in a career position of great power and prestige (the Chariot reversed) nor one that would put him in a hyper-competitive work environment (Five of Swords reversed). Rather, he is most likely to find his ultimate joy in an enterprise where material concerns are minimal, if not in fact nonexistent (The Devil reversed). We all have to pay our bills, of course, but the querent already knows first-hand the spiritual emptiness that is eventually made manifest when we simply take a job for the sake of a paycheck. If it is not quite “selling your soul to the devil,” is is something perilously close.
In any event, this reading would tend to indicate that the querent has “turned a corner” in life and is headed, generally, in the right direction, provided he stay true to himself and not to the pressures of the world. This only pertains, however, to the question posed; had the querent opened another subject of inquiry, the interpretation of this spread could be vastly different.