What is the best spread?

February 18, 2010

Someone wrote to ask: A friend wants to know who is his worst enemy. What spread should I use?

This is a good question, but it is not an easy one to answer in just a few sentences. Here is a long-ish reply.

If the person has a few people in mind as “enemies”, you could pick a single card for each one. Thus, you might ask: Is Tom my worst enemy? and get the Knight of Cups, reversed. The card is upside down, so the answer is No. Why not? We look at the card and say, perhaps, that he is influenced too much by conditions rather than being the kind of person to force his ideas and opinions on others.

Then you ask: Is Bill my worst enemy? and get The Devil. The card is upright, so the answer is Yes.  Why? Perhaps because he has a cruel and manipulative streak.

An approach like this might answer the question, but it does not seem very helpful to the questioner because he isn’t more knowledgeable about himself, and probably can’t lead a fuller and more creative life thanks to this information. The Tarot, I think, ought to be used to help people improve their lives.  All we may be doing here is re-inforcing the questioner’s prejudices and fears. That’s probably not such a good thing to do.

You might, however, go one step further and choose a second card because: You say Billl has a cruel streak, so what is the best way for me to handle him or his behaviour? An answer to that question could lead somewhere useful.

On the other hand, there is more chance of the questioner getting insight into the self, other people, and relationships, if you choose three or more cards to answer: Is Tom the enemy? These cards can show the past, present and future of the relationship, as well as the questioner’s dealings with Tom. There will be a chance for the questioner to get an idea of what generally makes a good relationship; what he is looking for from others, how they can teach him something about himself; how they can help or hinder him; and so on.

The same three-card layout for past, present and future, can be used if the questioner does not have anyone particular in mind as the worst enemy, but wants to know the type of people who will oppose him, or get in his way, or be his rivals.

Our thoughts and concerns change as we get older. This may be shown by the differences between the cards in the past and the future. Or there may be a common theme in all three cards, indicating a life-long or long-term lesson that the questioner has to – or ought to – learn.

The question was: What spread to use?

The answer may be: What will provide the questioner with the greatest amount of useful information?


How long will this person live? Morality and reading cards.

February 3, 2010

A neighbour wanted to ask a question about his 89-year-old mother who was in hospital and ailing by the minute. The family doubted that she would last another day, and he wanted to know how long she would live.

While we discussed what the question should be, I shuffled the deck. Two cards fell out.When I turned them over, on top was The World, and behind it was the reversed Page of Coins.

They looked like something that was worth discussing.

We might have expected the Death card to fall out, but The World is the last of the major trumps so it can show the end of a whole cycle, before the beginning of a new one. This seems quite appropriate for someone approaching the end of life.

The woman can be getting ready to step through to the other side, but is being held back by the reversed Page of Coins. The World is confident, but the reversed Page isn’t.

It was as if the mother was not sure what to expect for her future. The values she had followed in her daily life were not much use to her now, but she didn’t know (yet) what the new values should be. If you are used to being in the visible world, how do you prepare for the invisible one?

This was a new thought for the neighbour, but it made sense to him. He began to think that he should be re-assuring the mother, being quietly confident on her behalf in the face of the unknown. The thougts and actions of the family and friends – crying, worrying, and being generally miserable and pessimistic – were not helping the mother.

The question asked was: Would the mother be alive a week from now?

The answer was the Knight of Swords, so, Yes.

One week later, she was still going strong.

I’m thinking that the next post should be about the morality of answering this kind of question.