Break Free ~ A New Divination Spread

I feel a little bit like I’m spinning my wheels right now. I work hard, but it often seems like any headway I make is short-lived, or simply reveals yet another task lurking beneath the stack I clear. I wrestle with the needs that are expressed to me and whether or not I can meet them. Every client I refer elsewhere because I do not have time or energy for them feels like a failure – a hand reaching out in the darkness that I could not reach.  And, lurking under, around, and through all of these thoughts is the awareness of just how dire our cultural and global situation is.  At the time of this writing, in many parts of the United States (where I live), I do not have the body sovereignty rights we grant to corpses. A massive heatwave is impacting large parts of the globe, leaving death and suffering in its wake. An enormous fire is devouring acre after acre around Yosemite National Park.  The gerrymandering and outright lying on the part of the Republican party in the U.S. is eroding the potential of free and fair elections to only the faintest sliver of possibility.  Policies that further endanger my queer friends and family are being tabled across the country – legislation that targets a group already prone to violence and discrimination. Hate groups are on the rise and cops are still gunning down Black people like they’re playing Duck Hunt with human lives. Christian Imperialism is here, and it’s burning up our social and political world as surely as the fires out west.  It’s a shitshow, friends. The world screams for aid, and I am…just one witch. And I am tired.

I find myself wondering: how much of what I’m feeling is actually me? How much of it is this morass of terror I’m submerged in? How much am I getting in my own way?

When I don’t have good answers, I turn to the cards. Divination has many different uses, but by far my favorite use of Tarot is as a tool of self-understanding. I sometimes joke that being a reader means being called out on a weekly basis by a little stack of cardstock. The truth of the matter, though, is that I need to be called out regularly. I get stuck inside my head and a more objective view helps shatter the shackles I’ve grown around my own ankles.

To address the complex mess going on inside my head, I decided to tap my Shadow deck as well as my regular deck. A Shadow deck is attuned to and primarily used for looking into our shadows:

“…the repressed, hidden or destructive parts of our psychology and the influence those impulses have on our lives. Our Shadow behaviors are frequently obstacles to our goals.  If you find that you are repeating the same circumstance or behavior over and over and over again, or that you are forever at the edge of being successful and then something happens to screw that up, or that for some reason you just can’t manifest the change you’ve been trying for, it’s time to look at your Shadow.”

If Shadow decks and their uses are a new concept for you, read more about them here.

I already know that the guilt I feel about not being able to be everything to everyone, to solve all the world’s problems by myself, sits squarely in my shadow (hellooooo superhero syndrome!). Since that chunk of shadow is definitely present, I wanted to see what other bits were floating around as well.

The Break Free Spread

This reading is designed for a sortilege based system. Runes, Tarot, Oracle Cards, Kahina Stones, and Ogham could all work well here.  If you try it, please let me know how it works for you. If you have a Shadow set of your system, use that for the Shadow positions. If not, lay out and record the surface results first, then reshuffle, connect to your shadow, and layout the Shadow positions.

The Crux: 1 & 2: What is getting in my way right now? 1 is the surface issue, 2 is the shadow.

The Ram: 3 & 4, 5 & 6: What are some steps I can take to break through the impasse?  What shadows do I need to work on to get out of my own way? 3 & 4 are surface, 5 & 6 are shadow.

The Release: 7, 8, and 9 and 10 & 11: What is the outcome if I use the Ram? 7 – 9 are surface, 10 and 11 are shadow.


I will use my own results (and hooooo boy did I get called out) to demonstrate how this reading works. For this reading, I used my Legacy of the Divine deck by Ciro Marchetti (my go-to deck) for the surface positions and my TrueBlack deck by Arthur Wang for the shadow positions.

The Crux:

1: The Knight of Coins. There’s just a giant pile of work, unfortunately. I’m working at my best level, methodically, logically, but there’s just…a lot. It’s good to know I’m not imagining that, at least.

2: Shadow: Justice. The rage and despair that occur when my sense of fairness is compromised are at full play here. On a deep level, I truly believe in justice, which means that the state of the world at the moment is completely at odds with that core belief.  Hence the shadow’s strength right now. (Fun fact: the name Irene is that of the Greek goddess of peace, but that goddess functions with two other deities: Dike – justice and Eunomia – good order.  The peace I am connected to does not occur without justice. My parents named me well. Or perhaps I grew into the name well.)

The Ram:

Steps I can take to break free:

3: The Hermit. It is time to take a giant step back and do some soul searching. Trying to do All The Things is not helping me get any clearer about the correct path forward.

4: Page of Coins: Focus on the practical, tangible, and monetary aspects of work as opposed to the more global/nebulous ones. Stay grounded in the material and keep hacking away at it.

Shadows to resolve or integrate in order to get out of my own way:

5: 9 of Coins: My desire for luxury, ease, fun, and comfort. This isn’t a bad thing (we should desire pleasure), but the part of my shadow that would rather immerse itself in physical pleasure than sit down and, say, file my estimated taxes, is flaring up right now. Better integration of that impulse would help me here.

6: 10 of Wands: Ah, superhero syndrome. There you are. I take on too much responsibility, carry too much weight, struggle with delegation, and have terrible Helium Hand when it comes to new projects or needs. The part of me that believes I am supposed to save the world has, once again, grabbed the steering wheel. Time for another round with this one. (Shadow is cyclical! Every time we shave more of the edges off, but some shadows take many repetitions before the knife becomes a pebble.)

The Release (if I use the Ram):

7: 8 of Cups: I will release some baggage, close the chapter on a couple areas of focus, and move forward with more clarity and direction.

8: 2 of Cups: My most intimate connections will benefit, and our unified front will be stronger.

9: 4 of Coins: I will have a more cautious and conservative relationship with money. This is a good thing, and will make future Irene very grateful.

10: Shadow: The Devil: I will continue to struggle with my impulses, but that struggle will be on a more even footing than it is right now.

11: Shadow: Knight of Swords: my drive and clarity of thought will improve. I’ll have a better understanding of what I can feasibly do, and the willpower to manifest that work will be easier to tap into.


Yeah. Called out by a stack of cardstock. Again.


But, I have some good information going forward. I know what to focus on, and why even though I’m being productive it just doesn’t feel like enough.

So, if you’re having a bumpy Chariot ride as well, give this spread a try. Let me know what you think!  And, if you’d like to have the reading done for you, feel free to drop me a line or book a reading through my website. I’m curious to see if it’s as accurate for others as it was for me.









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