This is my personal daily “go-to” Tarot spread because of the many ways it can be interpreted—spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, or, as a rule, a combination of these. It’s also a spread that can be read from the top down, from the bottom up, and even diagonally. I’ve mentioned laying down this spread in a number of previous posts, but we haven’t actually gotten down to the actual nitty-gritty of this layout, or of the significance of the cards and columns. So today, we’ll explore the spread in greater detail.
First, following the kabbalistic “lightning bolt” pattern of Creation, the cards are dealt face-up in the following sequence:
The respective meanings of the cards are generally considered to be:
1. The spiritual world: The querent’s highest spiritual aspirations. Also, the “key” or “crowning” spiritual influence in the querent’s life: for lack of a better term, the “God card.”
2.Wisdom: Spiritual potential realized through personal initiative. The card of anointing and of the Sonship. Also, a long-term outcome, most likely not yet foreseeable.
3. Understanding: Spiritual limitations and restrictions upon the querent. The card of the Shekinah, the sprit made manifest in man. Also, a shorter-term outcome, possibly foreseeable.
4. Mercy: Generosity, prosperity, constructive influences in general. Also, financial success.
5. Severity: Harshness, anger, destructive influences generally. Also, use and misuse of power.
6.Beauty: The true “Self,” the heart of the matter, the intersection of Divine will and human aspiration. Also, achievements of the present day.
7. Victory: Love, passion and enthusiasm, the querent’s emotional state. Also, romance and relationships.
8. Splendor: Communication, creativity and intelligence, the querent’s intellectual state. Also, work and career.
9. Foundation: Intuition, psychic receptivity, the querent’s unconscious state. Also, dreams and visions.
10. The material world in all its manifestations: The querent’s physical state, and the world he inhabits. Also, family matters.
Besides being read in numerical sequence, in either direction, the cards can also be interpreted by grouping, with the top three cards representing spirit, the next three representing emotions, the following three representing intellect, and the last card representing materiality. Also, as with the Tree of Life itself, the three pillars (of Mercy, Mildness and Severity) lend other ancillary meanings to the cards that can be complimentary or contradictory.
For the sake of exercise, we’ll lay down a sample spread to see if we can’t divine an overarching narrative using the suggested interpretations here. As we’ve seen previously, the more frequently and devotedly we “work” with the cards, the more clearly and articulately they will come to “speak” to us after their own fashion. Here are the cards that decided to make an appearance today:
First, we notice that there is no preponderance of cards of any one suit here, though three Cups and four Trumps—as opposed to only one each of Pentacles, Swords and Wands—suggests an element of Divine guidance at work here (the Major Arcana), and that our success in the matter at hand may depend upon our receptivity (Cups) to said guidance. In addition, we count six cards upright versus four reversed, which suggests that the spiritual currents are generally flowing in our favor today, though perhaps not overwhelmingly.
We’ll start by examining the cards individually, looking for additional associations and attributes along the way:
1. Four of Cups reversed. In a spread, the sight of upside-down cups typically speaks to matters of unrequited love, unbalanced emotions, self-pity and remorse, and literally, “crying over spilt milk” (see the card that follows the Four in the suit of Cups for the archetypal representation of this). The Four, when reversed, however, can carry some positive significance. Upright, the card conveys a sense of boredom, of world-weariness, or perhaps a refusal to “get off our butts” and “drink in” all that the world has to offer us. In the “God card” position—the position that represents our .highest spiritual aspirations—it suggests a deep-seated desire to get out of our rut, to break free from the daily routines that no longer satisfy us, to apprehend anew the blessings that have been given us, and to embark upon new ventures and to discover new vistas. The querent admits that this has been decidedly true for him—it’s a big reason why he started this blog!
2. King of Cups opposite 3. The Lovers. As the one court card that literally “walks on water,:” the King signifies works made manifest through the power of faith. Being of the suit of Cups, he prefers a receptive environment that allows him to “go with the flow” instead of “swimming against the tide.” Out of his element, however, he can be as a “fish out of water” as signified by the medallion he wears around his neck, and ill aspected, he can represent the psyche torn from its moorings. Paired opposite The Lovers (which is governed by Gemini, the Twins), it suggests that a choice is confronting the querent—a fork in the river, as it were—and that a decision must be made before the matter at hand can be resolved. Just as Eve in the Garden was given a choice between abiding the serpent’s charms or the Lord’s commandments—and chose unwisely—so too the querent is faced with a choice, the implication being that he should listen to the Divine voice inside his psyche and turn away from the short-term temptations of the material world: Alms before apples, in other words. In practical application, it could mean that the querent should consider exerting a bit more self-discipline in his life, and be cautious of indulging himself in things that may distract him from the objectives he wishes to achieve. Our querent freely admits to having a vain and narcissistic side of his personality that doesn’t always want to face up to the limitations and responsibilities of adulthood, so, point taken.
4. Eight of Cups opposite 5. The Emperor. As the plan of action that The Lovers “suggests” to the King of Cups, the Eight makes manifest a withdrawal from the serpent’s entreaties and the comforts of the material world—to “be alone with one’s thoughts” and to seek “higher ground” in the wilderness of the soul. Appearing in a position signifying mercy and beneficence, the Eight suggests that the time for introspection is ripe, and that spending some time in solitary reflection will reap a good fortune for the querent, though the “fortune” in question may be increased self-awareness rather than any material gain. The Emperor, seated across from the Eight and directly beneath The Lovers, reaffirms the necessity for rigorous self-discipline in the querent’s daily walk, with all the negative energies implied—anger, cruelty and shame—should he squander his newly minted fortune on trivial concerns. Our querent has spent the better part of the last year in such a state of solitude, and he wonders if the time has come for him to return from the wilderness or if he needs more time to reflect on his life.
6. The Hierophant. This is the central card to the reading—not only for its position in the spread, which represents the querent’s truest Self, but for the actual card as well. This position on the Tree of Life represents the wedding of God and man on the Tree of Life, and such a wedding has no better officiator than God’s anointed messenger on earth. Seated directly below the reversed Four of Cups, which pours its living waters of revelation upon him, The Hierophant tells the querent that all of the power he needs to achieve his objectives has already been given him—he simply needs to claim it in the name of the Creator and to proceed in a spirit of humility (the Eight of Cups to his left) and fairness to all (the Emperor to his right). Our querent, who has spent most of his working life in a career that encourages skepticism, has resolved to work more diligently on his spiritual side while frankly admitting that he is still a “work in progress” in this regard
7. The Fool reversed opposite 8. Six of Pentacles reversed. As spirit-energy descends the Tree from the archetypal to the physical realm, its current becomes increasingly diffuse and distorted, and when this happens, complications in perception can arise. While we desire to treat others with a spirit of humility and meekness, we do not want to conflate those characteristics with introversion or withdrawal from life. Likewise we do not want to emotionally overreact by lapsing into self-pity if others do not reciprocate our kindnesses. The Fool is a risk-taker by nature, and if we are ever to know true love between ourselves and our fellow voyagers, we need to be willing to wear our hearts on our sleeve, as The Fool does, and be willing to “take the plunge” in love. Here, the reversed Fool, directly beneath the Eight of Cups, has lost his way and is headed for a fall. This reminds us that while solitude and introspection are healthy for us, they can be taken too far and cause us to lose our ability to feel empathy for others. The reversed Six of Pentacles opposite The Fool, and beneath The Emperor, carries a similar message, only this time applied to our intellectual lives. Self-imposed vows of silence are suitable disciplines for the monastery, but less so for the public sphere. We must always be willing to share with others—our thoughts, feelings and fortunes alike—and when we fail to do so, we erect walls of separation between ourselves and others, which walls us off from the Creator who would reunite us. The querent admits he tends to be an introvert by nature—he’s a writer, after all!—and that he refrains at times from expressing his opinion for fear of inviting reproach; yet he understands that practically all of his successes in life have come as a result of reaching out to others, even at the risk of exposing his vulnerabilities.
9. King of Swords. Regular visitors to this site.will recognize this card as the Significator of your humble blogger, and its appearance in the position governing psychic abilities and the unconscious mind—and directly beneath The Hierophant—strongly suggests that the querent should consider following his intuition more frequently, and refrain from second-guessing himself as he often does. (He’s a Gemini, it’s his nature.) The alternatives are seen on either side of him—indecision and panic as personified by the reversed Fool, or a lack of empathy for his fellow man as signified by the reversed Six of Pentacles. Our querent admits he has been guilty of both—most recently, of the fears of the Fool in free fall.
10. Two of Wands reversed. This is a most appropriate card to complete the spread since it mirrors, to a degree, the very first card in the spread, the Four of Cups. Each of these cards, in its own way, signifies a state of dissatisfaction and restlessness in life, though the Four speaks more to our emotional state while the Two speaks more to our creativity. Reversed in this instance, the Two suggests that whatever emptiness and unease the querent may be feeling is transient, that new opportunities may soon beckon him. But he will need to (literally) descend from his “ivory tower” and walk with confidence in the world before this can happen. His faith (The Hierophant) and his intuition (King of Swords) are both in harmonious accord right now; he simply needs to keep to the “straight and narrow”—literally, the path of the central pillar—and eventually, he will fulfill his goals, though there may be a few bumps along the way.