Tarot spreads are created for every purpose and every event one can imagine. But back in the 1960s and 70s this was not the case. If anything, an experienced reader might modify an existing spread to better fit their world view or emphasize things their clients wanted to know. This is what I did, adding, for some clients, a Jungian slant to the Celtic Cross Spread. In the late 1970s, in classes with Angeles Arrien, author of The Tarot Handbook, she created layouts that used a sequence of Tarot Majors as archetypal positions for life or project development spreads. In the early ’80s, Gail Fairfield’s Choice-Centered Tarot introduced the idea of creating unique spreads, on the spot with her clients, that directly addressed aspects of a client’s question or issue. To kickstart the process her book (now in a new edition) offers a long list of possible spread positions that you can mix, match and modify to suit nearly any situation. Since the 1990s, forums and groups on the internet have encouraged the design of thousands of spreads. There are even Spread Decks in which cards have position meanings written on them so the positions can be drawn randomly or carefully selected to create an instant spread.

In my workshop at the Denver TarotCon we will work with a spread designed around the symbolism found in the Rider-Waite-Smith Fool card to elucidate our own soul’s quest. But here I’d like to show you one of my favorite ways to create a personal spread that can be deeply meaningful to you. 

Step 1:

Find a short quote or self-help instruction that inspires and speaks strongly to you. Perhaps something from a spiritual teacher or your favorite book, film or poem. It can even be the steps of a teaching or methodology.

We’ll use this quote from the Dalai Lama as an example: 

 “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways: either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”
Step 2:

Break down the quote into its essential phrases, turning each phrase or element into a statement or question you want to explore. Let’s say you are experiencing difficulties. The positions could be posed as:

  • “What is the real tragedy with which I am currently dealing?” 
  • “Where am I losing hope?”
  • “What self-destructive habits am I falling into?”
  • “What is the challenge in this for me?”
  • “What inner strength can I draw on?”
  • “How am I to use this inner strength?”
  • “Where can I be grateful for help in meeting the challenge?”

Notice the focus is on gratitude for the final position as I was especially struck by the Dalai Lama’s statement of gratitude in his last sentence. I wanted to both honor and explore that. You could phrase your own questions based on this quote differently as personal circumstances might have you reading the same words in a different light.

Step 3:Chariot spread

Draw a layout pattern for your positions that seems to reflect the implied interrelationships, even if it is simply a line. Number these positions so you know in what order to lay and read the cards.

There are seven questions in my example, which makes me think of the Chariot Major Arcana, especially as the Charioteer is meeting challenges and being pulled in two directions. So, I’ve decided to create a pattern based on visual cues in that card that can help me remember the layout and significance of each position.

Step 4:

Shuffle your deck, lay the cards and read them. Express gratitude for what has inspired you to find meaning. 


Mary will be speaking on “The Fool’s Progress” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Photo on 2011-03-04 at 11.22Mary K. Greer is an independent scholar, writer, teacher, and professional tarot consultant. With more than ten books and 47 years experience in Tarot, Mary pioneered many of the reading methods used today, including reading for yourself in Tarot for Your Self and methods that are interactive, transformational and empowering in 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card. More recently she’s been exploring the lives of cartomancers through history and discovering the pleasures of the Lenormand deck. She taught Tarot at a university and college from 1974 to 1989 and has since traveled the world teaching, learning and now reaching out through webinars and on-line classes. Visit her blog at http://marygreer.wordpress.com and courses at http://globalspiritualstudies.com/tarot/mary-k-greer/ .

© 2015 by Mary K. Greer. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 − one =