. . . create complex and challenging tarot spreads, that is. In general, when reading the cards I prefer five-to-ten-card arrays that have explicit milestones or “signposts” for interpretation (aka step-wise position meanings), and an orderly, sensible progression between them (my “tweaked” version of the Celtic Cross is the best example of this: https://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/parsifals-wheel-a-celtic-cross-variation/ ). But I also craft many spreads that are topic-specific (e.g. problem-solving; decision-making; relationships; health and happiness; etc.), and these may be even more intricate due to their multiple decision pathways or numerous affected parties, necessitating parallel or branching card “chains.” These are “meat-and-potatoes” opportunities for me, since I bring three things to the table that predispose me in that direction: I’m a one-time graphic artist who thrives on the visual interplay of the cards on the table; I’m a retired technical and legal specialist who thinks more in analytical than mystical terms (although as a story-teller I can still free-associate like mad); and I’m a “lapsed Mensan” (sort of a “lapsed Catholic” of the intelligentsia; I lost the faith a long time ago). I love to poke around in the minutiae of a situation to see what fugitive insights I might “flush out of the woodpile.”
Above all, I won’t tolerate sloppy weak links or loose ends in my self-created layouts, and permit absolutely no unresolved dead ends. There must be a lively, logical flow that dances from card to card, going somewhere other than in circles or down one-way blind alleys, and arrives at the outcome with alacrity and finesse. This requires careful scrutiny of what I’m really after in any reading that uses a formal spread; it’s all too tempting to sift the individual elements of the sought-after answer to the point that we wind up with a feeble narrative “mush,” diluting our rhetoric with inconsequential trivia instead of delivering the brisk, captivating oratory we intended. Beyond typically having a coherent beginning, middle and end, a spread has to exhibit conceptual integrity in that each position must add something meaningful and engaging to the tale and not just amount to repetitive “fluff” or “padding.” So often in online spreads I encounter a single “chord” of inquiry that is then fragmented into too many discordant individual “notes” (the various card positions), redundant in theme if not in words, that all seek pretty much the same thing; in the end a three-card pull would have served just as well. I file these spreads in the “Why bother?” circular file (an old office euphemism for “trash can”).
On the other hand, I sometimes favor position meanings that are more impressionistic than literal, thus allowing space for the sitter to chime in on the interpretation. Although the modern preference for online reading militates against it, my firm belief is that tarot readings are best performed face-to-face (during non-Covid times, of course) since divining for others should be an interactive rather than a solitary art. Written screeds sent by email do allow plenty of time to get really detailed, but I would argue that some of the “juicy” (and inspired) give-and-take of a live session dries up in the process of wringing out every last scrap of information. Plus, where’s the fun in sitting at a computer and cranking out reams of text (if I wanted to do that I’d be an astrologer . . . oh wait, I am), or wrangling a Zoom or Skype virtual connection? I’m not sufficiently enamored of the social-media age to be comfortable with this kind of impersonal substitute for human interaction. I think I actually prefer people glaring at me across the table and growling “No, that doesn’t make sense at all. Keep looking.” This is where adequately robust spreads (and a solid grasp of fundamental card meanings) help immensely.