I fell in love with a tarot deck at age 12. I still remember the moment I saw my deck on the shelf at a (now closed) gift shop in Frederick, MD. I can recall the color of the display unit and exactly where it was positioned in the store. I’m not sure how much little witchlets really understand when it comes to that first little tendril of magick taking root. I suspect that all I knew at that moment was that I wanted that deck, and I didn’t really know why.
I no longer remember how I got the money to buy the deck. This was the early 90s, so kids didn’t have their own credit cards. I suspect I saved up my allowance, or used some birthday or Christmas money. My next really clear memory is sitting on the floor of my bedroom and following the directions from the little booklet that came with the deck. It instructed me to meditate on a card, or a few cards, every day until I learned the meanings. So I did. One of the nice things about being an odd child who had some trouble forming friendships was the spare time for such pursuits.
That first deck, The Tarot of the Spirit, served me for 17 years. I still have it wrapped in silk, enjoying a quiet retirement with some other magickal supplies. I use it rarely now. The cards are battered from our adventures. I started doing readings for others as a teenager and effectively got my reader wings while I was in the Marine Corps. Yes, really. One of the funny little things that doesn’t get discussed with civilians much is the scale of superstition, folk magick and luck-work in the military. During tech school, when I got home for the day, there would frequently be a line in the day room at the barracks.
So that deck did some hard time in this country and others. I let her rest now. We learned so much together.
One of the interesting things about doing readings over a long period of time is that you pick up little tricks that help you get better information from a divinatory system. In my own experience, divinatory systems don’t really express a lot of value judgment. Many people get a reading because they’re trying to figure out what they should do about a certain situation. The thing is, who is measuring the ‘should?’ A divinatory tool may not have the same values that a client does – what’s best for someone’s interests, higher self, and the Gods/Powers may not all be the same thing. Just as an example, we can look at a potential job. Maybe it would make more money, which would really help out the client in a practical way. But that same job might mean the client spends less time on their artistic hobbies or spiritual path. Or, that same job might serve a real-world effect that is detrimental to the Gods. If we consider the desires of a client’s ancestors, things can get even more muddied. So, who’s driving the ‘should?’
A useful way out to manage some of these forks in the life-path is to run two readings – I call my own layout The Two Trees, and you’re welcome to use it if it seems helpful to you. In theory, this ought to work with any divination system based on sortilege (Kahina Stone, Rune, Ogham and Oracle Deck folks, feel free to let me know if this works with your system – I’m always curious). Rather than running one reading about what one ‘should’ do, identify two (or more) potential paths forward. Going with the example above, let’s say that one tree is ‘if the client takes the job’ and the other tree is ‘if the client does not take the job.’
To run this layout, have your client concentrate on one path at the time – you grow each tree to completion separately. Their question should be some variation on ‘If I choose this path, what will be the outcome?’ Also, depending on how far out your client wants to look, your trees can be a little shorter. The method I’m demonstrating here includes short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes. If the decision your client is making is fairly minor, short, medium and ultimate outcomes may be all that’s necessary to examine.
Reading the Cards
1: The immediate outcome – results within the next 6 months
2: The immediate challenge – obstacles that appear quickly
3 and 4: The midrange outcomes – where the client will be with the situation in the 3 – 5 year range
5: The midrange challenge – the main obstacle encountered in the medium term
6, 7 and 8: The long range outcomes
9: The main long range obstacle – the area that is regularly a struggle
10: The ultimate outcome
I prefer to have the client concentrate on their first option, Path A, and draw the cards for that tree. Then, I reshuffle the deck and have them concentrate on Path B, the second option, followed by drawing for the second tree. I read the first tree to completion followed by the second. However, as with all things magick, your mileage will vary. Feel free to change this pattern if something else would work more effectively for you.
By comparing the two trees, my client can make an informed decision based on what works best with their own values and needs. And remember, if there’s some confusion in any area of a tree, you can always add some more branches to zoom in on that particular part of the reading.
I hope this layout is helpful to you. I’m here if you have any questions about the mechanics of this spread (or more general divination questions – it’s one of my favorite subjects), send me a message or hit me up in the comments. Also, if you’d like to have this reading done for you, drop me a line. I see clients in person in Western Maryland and take distance clients over the phone, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, or one of the other video chat platforms.
May your readings be blessed with insight!
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