There are already some excellent writeups on the tarot1,2, so I won't even try here to rehash much of the history or theory.  My goal is to provide a step by step cookbook for throwing a tarot spread that, I believe, should produce pretty good results, even for a beginner.


What you get out of this is exactly proportionate to what you have put in.  Throwing the tarot isn't something that the Reader "does" for the Seeker, it's something they do together. The Reader's part is as an interpreter into the meaning of the cards, and the positions into which they have fallen.  It's up to the Seeker to pick their cards, and then see what resonates and illuminates. For most people, the deep symbology of the Tarot card images and stories resonate with their life experience & sort of add up to a story somehow. Like an alternative explanation.

Tarot is best done privately and interactively. It's probably possible to use email if you are both pretty fast typists. but it's way better if you can sit around a kitschy little table knees to knees.

I use a tarot deck called the Rider-Waite deck3.  It's one of the most popular and it works for me, an old white guy. Depending on your ethnicity or other factors, you may want to explore a different deck. My bruja friend, Terraza, uses a Medicine Woman deck that has a slightly different symbology. Cory the Celt, uses some crazy Aquarian deck that only she can fathom.  In the E2 vernacular, Cleto-El-Feato has a gnarly thing called the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck, but it's filled with all this  really scary Egyptian shit, totally buggin.  I don't think Cletus knows how to use it yet tho, so you can still sleep at night.

Step One, The Question

Ask the Seeker to formulate their question.  This is a moment for calm concentration and trust.  If the seeker doesn't focus and begin the process of opening themselves up to the process you won't get a good reading.  I always request that The Question be spoken aloud.  This is both because it deepens the commitment of the seeker to the reading, and because it helps me see the story unfold.  

Step Two, handling the cards.

Extract the Major Arcana from the deck.  These are cards 0 - 21, The Fool to The World.  Lay them out in a line in front of you, face up, in order.  Rebuild the deck in your hand, taking a moment to look at the imagery on each card as you pick it up.  Once you have them all together again, turn them face down and deal all of them into four stacks.  Pick the stacks randomly and fast, like some crazy poker game.  Now take one of the stacks and rotate it so that the cards are head for toes, upside down.  Smooch them all together and do the same thing again.  Now turn the deck face up and deal them into piles, you choose how many, but toss cards that seem to "go together," into the same pile.  Don't reorient them to be heads up, and don't agonize about it, just "throw them where they seem to belong."

Redo as many of those steps as you want, for as long as you need to.  There's no single "right" way to handle the cards, and I'm only being explicit because hey, this is a "cookbook" right?  You'll just kind of know when you're done.  

Step Three, The Celtic Cross

There are a bunch of different patterns that Readers use, to get the cards on the table, so to speak.  Old gypsy ladies sometimes just lay them out one by one, in a row, reciting the reading as they go.  There's also a Yin & Yang spread and a Medicine Woman Circle that la bruja  prefers.  I feel most comfortable with the Celtic Cross so that's what we'll use here.

Turn over the first card and lay it on the table without changing it's orientation.  All cards are "face up," if they appear that way to the Seeker.

Turn over the second card and place it over the first card horizontally, creating the "inner cross.

Starting at the bottom of the cross, closest to the Seeker, deal cards the next four cards as follows to form the "outer cross," 3 - bottom, 4 - top, 5 - left, 6 - right.

To the right of the two crosses, in a vertical line starting at the bottom, deal the last four cards, 7,8,9,10. This is the "staff."

If you did it right you should have something like this:



Step Four, the interpretation.

This is where the rubber meets the road, and it calls for careful words and careful listening.  We'll address each of the cards on the table in order by reiterating what it's position in the spread means, then examining what the symbology of the specific card suggests.  This is the time for the Reader to allow the Seeker enough room to think and respond to the unfolding interpretation.  It's their story to tell, you are only here to help them tell it.

Card One, the heart of the matter. This card represents the fundamental issue you are addressing.  If it's upside down, perhaps the issue is only just beginning, or just wrapping up.

Card Two, the opposing factor.  This is what's getting in the way at the moment.  It might also be thought of as the factor for change, or unbalancing force that is surprising you.

Card Three, that which is beneath you. Your gut instinct about all the issue.

Card Four, the conscious influence.  What your head is telling you about it.

Card Five, the past.  A receding behavior or influence.

Card Six, the future.  The emerging influence, behavior or factor.

Card Seven, you, as you see yourself.  Your overall perspective on yourself and the issue at hand.

Card Eight, you, as others see you.  Your current environment, or the context in which you must operate.  

Card Nine, your guidance card.  Your clue to how best to proceed, or what you might do.

Card Ten, the outcome. The most likely result or outcome.  If it's upside down it's what may occur rather than what will.

The interpretation combines the position of each card with the symbology that the card you placed there to weave a story.  The searcher must help you provide the context for the reading.  The symbology for each of the Major Arcana cards is pretty well described in the E2 Tarot nodes, so I won't attempt to do reprise it here1.

Step Five, transcribing the reading

Sometimes the results of a Tarot reading can be extremely intimate and emotional.  I've seen people tremble and cry, I've seen them laugh with relief until they were sore.  Those are good readings.  The way you can tell, is if the Seeker feels the archetypes in the Tarot images resonate with their life.  Bad readings are usually the result of the Seeker not wanting or being able to calm down enough to really see and feel what is, literally,  in front of their eyes.

Especially, in the case of a "good" reading, the nicest thing you can do is to quickly create a short transcript of the spread and it's interpretation for the Searcher to take home with them.  It can be a lot to remember all at once, and the next morning, they may want to review it bit by bit.

Anyway, the transcription methodology below is my own, and it gets the job done with a minimum of fuss.  The sequential numbers represent the order of the card in the spread.  Next comes the card name and number. Negative numbers mean the card was upside down.  The meaning of each cards position meaning is stated, followed by the narrative based on the card itself.

An Example Reading

Here's a sample reading that I did for myself this morning.  

The Question was, What to Do about E2?

Card 1. Death 13 - The heart of the matter.  Becoming an E2 noder is the core issue here.  It's exciting, and frustrating, and time consuming and it's dominating my thoughts at the moment.  Death probably doesn't mean what you think it means. In the Tarot, Death is representative of one door closing behind you and another one opening in front.  For better or worse, my pre-E2 days are gone for good. 

Card 2. The Tower 16 - The opposing factor.  The Tower is the chaos card, and that's a reasonable representation of the mixture of feelings assaulting a newbie in the target-rich E2 environment.  The Tower is being hit by lightning and people are jumping out of the flaming windows to their likely demise.  Precisely.

Card 3. Temperance 14 - Your gut instinct. Temperance indicates a moderation in all things.  Going slowly is what my gut instinct is yelling at me right now.  Take this easy, keep a perspective. Flow don't flail.

Card 4.  The Sun 19 - What's in your head.  The Sun indicates emergence from the shadows of the moon and stars into the bright, clear daylight.  It is literally enlightenment, which is as close as I could come to stating my conscious goals at E2.

Card 5.  The Fool 0 - The past, what you are leaving behind. The Fool is the ultimate newborn soul.  He's full of wonder at everything around him and blissful, as he steps off a cliff.  Foolish behavior is a pretty good capsule summary of my history at E2 to date.  Most of what goes on at E2 is too subtle for me to interpret yet.  But I really am leaving that happy ignorance behind me.

Card 6. The Hierophant 5 - The (immediate) future, what you are moving towards.  The hierophant represents getting a clue.  Pursuing knowledge, seeking deeper meaning, learning a cultural heritage.  Surely this is what I hope my E2 future contains.

Card 7.  Judgment 20 - You as you see yourself.  Judgment, is pretty self explanatory.  Making an honest appraisal and acting on it is pretty much my modus operandi.  All day, every day.

Card 8.  Strength 8 - You as other's see you.  In this context, Strength probably relates more to what I do in my real life.  Like most everyone, I have a lot of people who rely on me, and I try not to let them down.  The card is upside down, so it could also represent how I will come to be perceived at E2.  That would be nice.

Card 9.  The World 21 - Your guide card.  This card invariably pops up in my readings and it is appropriate here as a reminder of who I really am overall and outside of the E2 context.  The World is a very positive card representing a successful journey through many of life's phases and adventures.  Hey, I'm an old guy, perhaps an old soul as well.

Card 10.  The Empress 3 - The future.  The Empress represents the mothering female principle, and usually involves someone who is dedicated to nurturing and caring for others, and, perhaps, working with children, or newbies.  The Empress has a special meaning for me that I choose not to share here.  Suffice it to say that she's upside down here, so we're still on the fence on this one.

Happy Seeking!

1 On E2, see the excellent Tarot Metanode by kanon42also How to read tarot cards
2 Many thanks to Joan Bunning, who got me started:
3 Publishers of the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck:

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.