Saturday, June 30, 2012

General Notes on Spreads

Well, dear readers, we've made it through all 78 cards of your standard Tarot deck! Now that you get a grasp of the cards (I hope!), what do you do with them? More often than not, the answer is divination. I draw something of a difference between divination and fortune telling, and here's why- though the two terms are often used pretty much interchangeably, with a good deal of accuracy, fortune-telling seems to imply a fatalistic outlook, like things are predetermined, and it may be some small comfort to know what comes next down the line, but there's nothing we can do about it. While it is true that some things are pretty much inevitable, we are not passive recipients of the world around us. Remember your high school physics- for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. That includes our own actions, which set in motion chains of events, for better or worse. Divination implies (at least to my own thought) the understanding of things concealed, or not apparent. We can see how the past influences the present, and how our actions in the present are going to affect the future. Otherwise, would it make sense to look at the whole situation? Wouldn't it make more sense to just look towards the future?
So first, what is a spread? Simply put, an arrangement of Tarot cards in such a way that each card has a designated position relative to a time period or area of life, thought, or emotion. These positions are interpreted in terms of a question, and can provide insight to the situation and question being asked. There are quite a few different spreads out there, many with different focuses and designs. Which one is best? That's a tough question, as there is a high degree of subjectivity in both the cards and the spreads. As a for example, when I write the word "airport", what do you think of? If I asked ten different people to do a little word association, I'd get ten different answers. The same thing is true of the Tarot- within some limits, the word covers a lot of associations. It's not, say, a place where you go to get your oil changed, but the term can have emotional as well as memory associations, depending on the person. So everyone will likewise relate to the cards differently.
On the opposite side of this, the cards are meant to reflect the common elements of human experience. Turning a moment to Carl Jung, there are what Jung called 'archetypes'- those things universally recognizable as concepts in human experience. They have names like the Father, the Mother, the Trickster, and so on. These are concepts that we all recognize, though their exact manifestations vary across each individual life. Yet for all our individuality, human lives are in a general sense similar. This is why the Tarot can be understood, and can be applied in terms of its concepts.
The same is true of spreads- we all have a past, we're all (more or less) in the present, and we all move towards the future. There are some most common spreads, and from this, many other spreads have been developed. There's nothing wrong with developing your own spreads, too. Much of finding a spread that works for you, (and there's nothing wrong with modifying existing spreads or using more than one, when you feel comfortable doing that) is trial and error. Find what works best, and find what resonates best with you, and is easiest for you to understand.
To quote from another scientific concept, there's something called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which means that observing a behavior (Heisenberg originally applied this to subatomic particles) can change that behavior. In other words, the electrons and protons could be doing the hokey-pokey while we're not looking, then settle down when we are. And how would we know, unless we observe them? Yet also, we know that the world operates according to principles of cause, effect and influence. So I believe observing things changes not only what is observed, but the observer him-or herself. The observer can't un-observe what has been seen, and this provides insight into the pattern. What I'm getting at here is that observation leads to understanding, and understanding to insight, and ultimately gives us the ability to change the world in the way we desire. So again, a good spread is one that allows you to see what you are looking for. Another analogy- what kind of telescope do you need to see across the ocean, (assuming you're a pirate, or something cool like that) instead of what kind of telescope do you need to see Mars? Both are telescopes, that is, they operate on the same principles and do the same thing, but are somewhat different in their specific applications. So again, find or tailor a spread to what you're looking for. I recommend focusing your efforts to a handful of spreads, however, rather than trying to tackle the ever-growing number of Tarot spreads out there. Many of them will have similarities, and differ only here and there. So that being the case, what specifics do you most relate to? Never discount your own intuition and understanding, as this intuition is the reason we have the Tarot in the first place!

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