Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Tower Spread

I just read a blog post on uncluttering, which talked about it being a choice to decide to simplify your life.  That's not a choice I feel able to make at the moment on most levels, though it is one I aspire to one day.

In the meantime, at the weekend I was at the TABI Conference in Birmingham.  One of the speakers, Barbara Moore, ran a great workshop on Spread Design.  It's something I've been doing for a while, but I loved some of her suggestions on seeing how using different shapes affects how we feel about the cards, and some of her very cool "spread buffet" tips.  I also loved the opportunity to spend some time on this (time being another of those things I'd like to have one day).

One of Barbara's suggestions was to use a tarot card from a particular deck as an inspiration for a spread.  Although not a new idea, it is often great to revisit such things.  I decided to draw a card at random from the deck I had chosen to work with during the Conference, the new Sun and Moon Tarot by Vanessa Decort, from U.S. Games.  It's a beautiful deck, based on Thoth symbolism, but with fully illustrated pips.

Anyhow, I decided to draw a card at random on which to design a spread.  As luck would have it, the card I drew was the Tower.  So, a spread on issues and how to clear them out of our lives!

1. Lightning - The initial cause of this issue.
2. Fire - What's keeping it alive.
3. Tower - What needs to be destroyed.
4. Ground - What will remain.
5. Smoke - What clouds the issue.
6. Eye - What will help bring clarity.

Another of Barbara's suggestions was to test run a new spread.  I decided to try it out with a question that has been occupying me for the last few months.  I am training to be a psychotherapist, and one of the course requirements is to work with clients in a supervised capacity.  For this, we need to get a placement, generally either with a charity or within the NHS.  I have applied and been accepted, but the process of actually getting started is very slow, and I feel a little ambivalent about it.  What, then, do I need to know about this issue?

1. XX - Aeon/Judgment
2. 2 of Swords
3. 9 of Swords
4. 7 of Pentacles
5. 10 of Cups
6. Ace of Swords

The first thing that jumps out at me is the preponderance of Swords cards.  So, perhaps a bit too much thinking and worrying going on - no surprise for anyone who knows me :-)

The spark of this issue is the card XX - Judgment.  I see this being about the fact that I find it pretty daunting to be making this big move forward, even though it is one I have sought out.  Having read tarot cards professionally in person, by phone and email, I thought sitting with a "real" person (rather than the practice sessions within our training course) wouldn't feel that different, but somehow it does.

For one thing, I won't have the familiar feel of my cards in my hands to help ground me.  Also, it seems somehow more serious.  I think this is because querents approach a tarot reading with a deep desire to understand their life better, yet also with a kind of "get-out clause" that, after all, it's "only" a tarot reading.  This has some great advantages - people may be far more willing to discuss issues without feeling judged or overwhelmed.  However, it does mean that I also fear if someone has got to the stage where they feel they need a psychotherapist, it will be more serious.  I don't think that's necessarily true, but it's feelings I'm talking about here, and rationality does not rule.

What has kept this issue burning: the Two of Swords.  I see this as the time it's taking to actually get started.  As many people have commented, stage fright lasts only until you are actually on the stage.  However, because the placement is through a charity, normal notions of time keeping and information sharing are out the window.  Stuck in this imposed inactivity, I worry more and feel torn between wanting to start and anxiety around doing so.

What needs to be destroyed?  The Nine of Swords is often seen as a card of over-worrying and insomnia.  Many times when this has appeared in a reading for someone else I have asked them to think about what they can do to reduce these things - meditation, relaxation, hot milk before bed, writing down all the thoughts swirling around in their head.  So, I shall try some of that for myself, to stop the cascading worries of why haven't they contacted me? when will I start? who will be my first client? will I get on with my supervisor? will I say something disastrous? am I up to the job?

What will remain is the Seven of Pentacles.  I find this rather reassuring.  Although in this deck the card is subtitled "failure", what I see is someone drawing circles in the sand.  Some of the lines overlap, yet no two circles are the same.  I think, also, of more Rider-Waite-Smith-based imagery, where the Seven of Pentacles shows someone who has put in effort but must now wait for the fruit of their labours.  For me, then, this card speaks of practice, repetition, and accepting the time things take.

In the position of what clouds the issue I dealt the Ten of Cups.  A full moon shines in the sky above a couple pouring water into cups that rest in the sea.  I often see this card as being about idealised feelings about how things should be.  My feelings, in this case, of how quickly things should happen, of the level of confidence I should feel, of what it would feel like to be a "proper" or "real" psychotherapist.  As well as having my mind too full, my emotions are also extreme and unrealistic.  If I expect myself to be perfect straight away, I'm doomed to failure, or at least disappointment.

Finally, what clarifies the issue is the Ace of Swords.  A single sword with a snake wrapped around the hilt, and the tip of the blade crowned in gold and silver glory.  This card speaks to me of a new beginning in an area to do with communication and ideas.  It suggests this can be transformative and has potential for great personal growth, combining both masculine and feminine aspects, thoughts and emotions.  Perhaps reminding me, also, that this is but the first step in a long process.  The Ace of Swords is full of possibility, but speaks, too, of staying focused and keeping things simple.  There is a long path still to be trod, but every journey must begin somewhere.  And if I am already thinking about the route further along or the problems I may encounter on the way, it prevents me from being where I am, here at the outset of something fascinating.  And so I return to where I began, this time to a mental uncluttering.  I have the tools...

If anyone else is willing to give this spread a try, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Or how about some alternative interpretations of the cards dealt in this spread?  Do you like the look of the deck, think it'd be easy to work with?  And what are your thoughts on spread design - a no-no, part of every reading, or something in between?

P.S. Did you notice that the spread as designed and the reading look different?  I think this highlights some of what Barbara Moore was discussing.  The design looks more balanced, and emphasises more the last card: what brings clarity to the situation.


  1. This is a great spread - having tried it out myself I think it's a winner. Also encouraging to see constructive inspiration from a card which is often seen as negative.

  2. Thanks, Anonymous, that's great to hear! And yes, I try to find the positive in every card - I actually like the 3 of Swords ;)

  3. Thanks, Barbara! As you can perhaps tell, I found your workshop very inspiring - another spread blog will follow shortly :-)