I’ve declared independence from positional layouts in Tarot spreads.
After more than 10 years of experimenting with hundreds of different Tarot spreads, of creating different spreads with different positional meanings, of trying to figure out why the card that represents the client’s past seems to hint towards their future, of trying to understand if the outcome card is really the outcome card, of confusing myself more than anyone, or anything else, could ever do…I’m done.
It feels so good to say those words! It feels so liberating to finally break free from positional layouts.
I’m done because Tarot spreads create unnecessary confusion, and I’m tired of having doubts. I’m done because despite what other people say, despite what you may have read, despite what apparently makes things easier, Tarot spreads simply counteract the effectiveness of a Tarot reading.
Does life really fall into neat sections? Does life really fall into simple categories? Can we really section someone’s life off so completely as to say, “this one card represents the past, and this one represents work, and this one represents relationships”?
Of course not. Life is far more complicated and subtle than any Tarot spread can accommodate.
Yes, we all have a section of our lives that is devoted to work, and another section devoted to relationships – but don’t the two inform each other? Doesn’t the past hint at the future, and the hopes/fears say something of the past? Don’t relationships in the workplace get equal status as the relationships outside of work?
Modern day lifestyles are far too complex to be adequately covered by a simple positional based layout.
Wait! What is a positional layout?
A positional layout is a Tarot spread that allocates “positions” and assigns those positions with a certain meaning. For example, a three card Tarot spread could be turned into a positional layout by allocating meaning to each position of the three cards. For instance, position one could represent the past, position two could represent the present and position three could represent the future.
Let’s create this example Tarot spread:
- Position one (past): Emperor
- Position two (present): 7 of Swords
- Position three (future): Page of Wands
Interpretation: In the past you were bullied at work; in the present people lie, and steal from you; in the future, you receive a letter that promises an opportunity to change your lifestyle (probably career related).
This is a fairly one dimensional Tarot reading. It doesn’t allow for multiple interpretations of the cards, which, as most of you will be aware of, is vital to the success of any Tarot reading.
Okay, let’s try and read these three cards without the use of positions.
Interpretation: A lack of trust has developed within the father/daughter dynamic of this family.
What’s the difference between the two?
One is very fixed in its approach, while the other is much more fluid, adaptable, and responsive.
One of the major problems with just using a Tarot spread that relies on fixed positions, is that the number of cards used is relatively small.
I regularly read Tarot spreads with more than 20-30 cards laid out in a line, none of which have been allocated a “position”. In my experience, the more cards you use, the more accurate the reading. The less cards you use, the more likely you are to doubt yourself, feel unsure of your interpretation, and also, feel compelled to double check your interpretation next to the one in the books.
Essentially, Tarot spreads that use a positional layout are often limited, and limiting, by the small number of Tarot cards they actually use.
I could go much further into explanations, but I think you get the point.
How I ditched Positional layouts
I’ve actually been experimenting with this over the last couple of years, phasing out positions instead of ditching the Tarot spread altogether. But the transition I’ve made is already well in progress, and I’m going to share with you some of the steps I took in phasing out “positional” layouts in Tarot spreads.
Here’s what to do:
- Start by doing nothing: The best way to phase out positions from your Tarot spreads is by doing nothing. If you use the Celtic Cross, keep using the Celtic Cross. If you use the Horseshoe Spread, keep using the Horseshoe Spread. The point is not to make drastic changes over night. By using the Tarot spread that you’re most comfortable with, you will be in a much more comfortable position to ditch the positional layout.
- Read the Tarot spread traditionally: Simply start by reading the Tarot cards as normal; use the positional meanings and make sure that you and the client are connecting and that the reading is going well.
- Get comfortable: As soon as you feel comfortable, as soon as you feel the reading is going well, as soon as you are ready to take a risk, drop the positional layout completely.
At this stage, I want you to imagine there are no positional meanings at all. This means, there is no “past” position, no “future” position, no “outcome” position, no “relationships” position, no um, nothing. Now, allow your mind to scan the cards. What can you see now that there’s no limitation, no imposed structure?
- Look for patterns: Start looking for patterns. How many Trump cards are there? How many court cards are there? How many Pip cards are there? How do they interact without any positions to tell you which part indicates the future, and which part indicates the past?
- Remember, there can be multiple stories being told: Now that we are free from the constraints of a positional layout, we are free to trust our intuition. At this stage, allow your intuition to flow, you may be surprised at the multiple story lines you are able to interpret.
- Fear: If you get worried or nervous that you are losing your connection to the client, simply reapply the positions to your Tarot reading. That way, when things go wrong, you have a back up plan; a way to help you to re-establish a connection with your client.
- Use Elemental Dignities: One of the best techniques that I know of to help you read Tarot cards without having to rely on a positional layout, is Elemental Dignities. This technique works for two reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t depend on positions and secondly, it will teach you how irrelevant the Divinatory Definitions can be.
- Look at the direction the Tarot cards face: Another useful tip is to look at the direction the Tarot cards face. Does one card look like it’s moving towards another? Does a Court card look isolated? Does a card look like it’s trying to keep their eye on another card? Are they successful? How does this alter the dynamics of the Tarot reading?
I think those steps should help you break out of reading the Tarot using a positional based layout. The most important aspect of it is to remain with your favourite Tarot spread, and to switch back and forth between using the positional layout and using nothing but your intuition.
Will it work for everyone? Perhaps not in the short term (although everyone can do it – sometimes we have to take things slowly to allow our confidence to grow). If this sounds like you, don’t worry. Apply the above tips very gradually and don’t rush things. Relax, and enjoy the process and eventually it will all click into place.
How was I able to ditch positions?
I’m always open to experimentation, to try something new, to take a risk, to contradict myself and to allow myself to remain open to “possibilities”. For me, ditching positional layouts is all about realigning how I read Tarot cards to how I see life. I don’t see life as simple, easily compartmentalised, easily categorised, easily sectioned. I see it as something dynamic, flowing, unpredictable – where each element affects the whole. I simply don’t think that positional layouts accomplish this.
Where do we go from here?
Experiment with using positional and non-positional Tarot spreads.
Personally, I find non-positional spreads work the best. I don’t feel so constrained to read in a certain way, nor do I suffer the usual amounts of self-doubt that often accompany a positional based spread.
I suspect that self doubt arises, to a large extent, from the privileging of Divinatory Definitions as the primary method of interpretation. Not only is this simply not true, but it’s also the number one reason people suffer from issues of confidence.
Start by using the Tarot spread that you are most comfortable with. Gently start to interpret the cards without using the associated positions and gradually build things up from there. If, at any point, you need to use the positions, please do so. Part of the transition from positional to non-positional spreads is to remain with the Tarot spread you’re most comfortable with.
I already do this. Whats the next step?
The next step would be to abandon the Tarot spread completely. Instead, deal out the cards in a linear formation. I would recommend gradually increasing the amount of Tarot cards you’re using; aim for around 20/30 cards. By increasing the amount of Tarot cards you use, the more accurate the Tarot reading will become.
Do you agree with what I’ve written? Do you find positional layouts to be confusing? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. I’ll see you in the comments.