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The Llewellyn Journal
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The Art of Creating and Using Tarot Spreads

This article was written by James Ricklef
posted under Tarot

I can still remember doing my first Tarot reading. I had just bought a Tarot deck, and after carefully studying the little white book that came with it, I figured I was ready to do a reading for myself. But although the question I had in mind was a simple one, that reading took hours to do. You see, the only spread I knew was the Celtic Cross, which was briefly described in that little book, and I was overwhelmed by it. The ten-card Celtic Cross is an excellent spread, but itís complex and itís not always the best one for a reading, as I soon found out.

Fortunately, I quickly discovered that there were books filled with other Tarot spreads; ones specifically tailored for a variety of uses. But as I tried my hand at some of those spreads, I hit a wall of frustration. Those books presented a great many spreads, but typically they offered very little explanation of themógenerally just a simple diagram and a short phrase for each card position.

But then I was struck with a bold idea: maybe I could create my own spreads! I donít know which muse whispered that bit of inspiration in my ear, but it was quite a blessing. First I revised the spreads I had read about, adjusting and redefining them to suit my needs, and then I began to create my own spreads from scratch. As I did so, I discovered that I had a much better understanding of these spreads, and my readings improved as a result.

Years later when I started teaching Tarot classes, I found that although I had created my own spreads with gleeful abandon, many of my students were reluctant to do so. Some didnít know how, others lacked confidence, and quite a few had the mistaken impression that Tarot spreads spring fully formed from some arcane or mystical source, like Athena from Zeusís brow. But the truth is that most spreads have evolved within the Tarot community, changing and developing through the years as they circulate by word-of-mouth. Of course, a new spread can also blossom from within the heart and soul of an individual Tarot reader, and such a spread usually proves quite valuable to the person who created it.

So this was the path that inspired me to write a book about Tarot spreads that would address two separate, but complementary concerns: to show how to create spreads and to present a thorough explanation of a variety of other valuable spreads. The result is my book, Tarot: Get the Whole Story. It discusses numerous ways to create Tarot spreads that suit your specific needs and fit your unique style of reading, and I think you will find them quite easy-to-use. In addition, this book is a guide to many useful Tarot spreads (which I have described in much greater detail than is typical in books about Tarot spreads) and my intention was to make these explanations entertaining as well as instructive.

Like my previous book, Tarot Tells the Tale, this new one demonstrates the use of each spread through sample readings for well-known fictional characters and historical figures, which makes it easy to understand the context for each of them. In addition, it discusses the process by which each spread was created (which will further clarify how to design your own spreads), and introduces other spreads that are variations of the ones for which a sample reading is provided.

My sincere hope is that you will find Tarot: Get the Whole Story to be an enjoyable experience, as well as an informative one.


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