Some tarot readers prefer to use spreads with defined positional meanings. Others prefer to pull a few cards and read them without benefit of positions. Those who use this method often have a predetermined number of cards they pull and a standard way to lay them out. Some lay them in a circle or a line or a pyramid.
All these methods are perfectly acceptable and appropriate. Much about tarot is “dealer’s choice.” On a more spiritual level we can say that each reader needs to find the way that feels right.
Sometimes spreads with predetermined positional meanings can be very helpful. The card that comes up as a “Crossing Card,” for instance, can be very helpful when you look at the card and say “OK, this describes your biggest problem.”
On the other hand, sometimes the cards themselves make more sense in general than they do in the positions. For me three things are true when reading spreads.
First, as with any tarot reading, each card can mean more than one thing at the same time and can be interpreted in more than one way in the same reading.
Second, it is important to try to find an interpretation within each position that works, but if that’s not possible in the time you have simply interpret the card in the context of the reading. Remember that not every card is equally weighty. If the interpretation doesn’t come to you don’t worry about it. Just move on.
Third, once you have interpreted the spread you can add more to the reading by simply looking at the cards without thinking about the positions. Look for card similarities and dissimilarities. Look for the ways the cards work together and the trends in distribution. Pull as much meaning from the cards as you can without worrying about the positions.
The bottom line is this. The card positions can give helpful information but the reading doesn’t stop there. Look beyond the positions to get more of the story.
Pulling random cards can be very helpful, especially in a dialogue with the cards to answer specific questions. Allowing ourselves to pull as many cards as seems right is a way of opening our intuition to the wisdom of the Universe, which is what tarot reading is all about.
In a professional reading I tend to use both methods at once. I start with a specific spread which I interpret in as many ways as I can. While interpreting that spread I find areas where we need more information and need to go deeper. For me, the opening spread generates the questions of the reading.
Once that process is complete I pick up the cards and shuffle them and begin the dialogue process. I ask the specific questions and pull random numbers of cards to find the answers.
This is a technique that developed over time for me. In a reading I like to use a lot of cards. I like to pay attention to trends, and to pay attention when a specific card comes up more than once. Some readers prefer to use a more limited number of cards and dig deep into the possibilities each card presents.
It is important for good readers to understand the many techniques that are at our disposal. Our intuition will guide us to the techniques that will be most helpful in specific situations. Sometimes it makes sense to design a custom spread. Sometimes it makes sense to use more than one deck in a reading. Sometimes a spread with positional meanings is what’s right. Sometimes a non-positional spread is better. Sometimes a dialogue does the trick.
Take the time to learn all the possibilities and then allow the Universe to guide you to use the ones that feel right for you.