This week’s spread is definitely not for beginners. It is nothing less than a survey of our entire lives from beginning to end, and as such, it requires a great deal of time for proper analysis. Set aside at least an hour, and preferably two, if you’re a more advanced reader who wants to try tackling this one.
The number of cards in this spread, which uses 21 dealt cards plus a Significator card, corresponds to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, as well as to the 22 paths that connect the ten Sephiroth on the kabbalistic Tree, and because of this, many readers use only the 22 cards of the Major Arcana for this layout. Feel free to do the same if you wish, but I prefer to use the entire deck. In any event, the spread is laid out pyramid-style, with the Significator (S) at the peak. Then the 21 cards are laid out to form seven smaller pyramids, in the following order:
1 4 7 10 13 16 19
2 3 5 6 8 9 11 12 14 15 17 18 20 21
The conventional meanings of the cards are as follows:
1, 2 and 3. Origins and upbringing: Respectively, the querent’s father, mother, and herself; the querent’s youth and adolescence.
4, 5 and 6. Ethics and aesthetics: The querent’s beliefs or outlook on life; her thoughts about power and control; and her taste in the sensual or visual arts. Also, the querent in her 20s.
7, 8 and 9. The physical world: How the querent perceives her life; her family and domestic life; and how she protects herself and her loved ones from harm. Also, the querent in her 30s.
10, 11 and 12. Aspirations and hopes: The querent’s state of contentment; her state of discontentment; and her dreams and wishes for the future. Card #10 modifies the meanings of so-called “bad” cards, and card #12—essentially, a “good luck” card—negates their destructive power altogether; should a reversed card appear here, turn it right-side up. Also, the querent at mid-life.
13, 14 and 15. Challenges and difficulties: The querent’s willingness to endure hardships; her ability to cope with disaster; and her ability to cope with frustration. Card #14—in essence, a “bad luck” card—contains purely negative meanings that can only be softened if Temperance or The World appear in this place. Also, the querent in her 40s.
16, 18 and 18. Changes to come: The querent’s receptivity to change; her ability to adapt to change; and her greatest fears of change. Also, the querent in her 50s.
19, 20 and 21. The final destination: People or powers that may help the querent; the role of fate or chance in the querent’s life; and the final judgment. Also, the querent in her 60s and beyond. Because of the “age ranges” of the “pyramids”, for younger readers, every card beyond card #7 refers to future events; for older readers, only the last three cards do.
For the sake of exercise, I laid down a spread earlier in the day with nothing in particular on my mind besides a curiosity to see what would turn up. It may be a bit difficult to make out all the cards here (given the available field size on this blog), but here are the cards that decided to make an appearance today.
Without getting too deeply into the interpretive weeds—which would likely require thousands of words—we see a few things that can guide our analysis. First, we have 11 cards upright and 11 cards reversed, indicating a balance of spiritual forces around us today. In addition, we count seven cards from the Major Arcana, with the bulk of them appearing in the “second half” of the querent’s life. Of the suited cards, there are five Swords (signifying the influence of ego/will), four Wands (intellect/thinking) and four Pentacles (corpus/world)—but only one Cup (emotion/feeling), which appears rather “late” in the timeline. This would suggest that the querent’s emotional life has been unfulfilling up to now, and that much of his spiritual path-work is aimed at achieving a deeper sense of connection to the world and to others.
Other clues: If we examine the cards’ color sequence from left to right, we can see that the “first half” of the querent’s life is dominated by grays (ego) and blues (feeling) while the “second half appears to be governed by yellows (intellect) as well as blues, suggesting a more balanced, less ego-driven, inner life for the querent as he grows older. Lastly, the final “pyramid” consists of three cards from the Major Arcana, suggesting that the querent is likely to be influenced by a number of archetypal energy-forces in his old age.
Here’s a “condensed version” reading. See if you recognize the following descriptions in the cards:
Cards 1, 2 and 3: A self-righteous father, a mother with a “martyr complex”, and a passive-aggressive son who adopts his parent’s worst traits. These marked the querent’s youth and adolescence.
Card 4, 5 and 6. An over-reliance on intellect, an aversion to conflict, and an attraction to the eclectic and unorthodox in the arts marked the querent in his 20s.
Cards 7, 8 and 9. Living beyond his means, and a general carelessness with finances overall, marked the querent in his 30s.
Cards 10, 11 and 12. A “dark night of the soul,” a spiritual “homecoming,” and a reckoning with ego’s destructive side marked the querent at midlife.
Cards 13, 14 and 15: A series of poor judgments, an unhealthy lifestyle, and the resurgence of ego marked the querent in his 40s.
Cards 16, 17 and 18: Creative pursuits brought to fruition, looking inward to find the meaning of love, and learning to forgive have marked the querent in his 50s (which, he confesses, are nearly over). The preceding narrative has been a more-or-less accurate reflection of the querent’s life up to now..
Cards 19, 20 and 21: Looking forward, the virtue of self-restraint, the power of faith, and the acceptance of the inevitability of change—of the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth that defines all stages of consciousness outside of the boundaries of space and time—will guide the querent into his old age and beyond.