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Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads [Paperback]

Teresa Michelsen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 8 2003 Special Topics in Tarot Series (Book 3)
After learning a few basic card spreads and becoming familiar with individual card meanings, one of the first things tarot readers discover is the critical importance of asking the right question. But without using the right spread, you might not be getting the most out of your tarot readings. This groundbreaking book is a part of Llewellyn's Special Topics in Tarot series. This series was created in response to an increasing demand for more tarot books on advanced and specialized topics. Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads is an invaluable resource for tarot readers of all levels of expertise. Learn how to:

Pose the perfect question Decide how many cards to use Clarify the meaning of each card position Work with reversals and dignities Use special cards such as significators, karmic lesson cards, and clarification cards Modify existing spreads to reflect your own reading styleInspirations for spreads covering a diverse variety of topics including relationships, financial and career development, predictive readings, personal development, and special occasions. Whether you're a professional tarot reader looking for ways to better serve your clientele or a beginner looking for a way to make your readings more accurate, this book will add new dimensions to your tarot practice.


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About the Author

Teresa Michelsen is a tarot reader and instructor with more than 25 years of experience reading tarot. She is well-known on the tarot e-mail lists under her reading name of Thrysse, and has published many articles on tarot on the worldwide web and in ATA publications. Teresa teaches on-line tarot courses for beginning and intermediate readers, and has published her first book on Designing your Own Tarot Spreads in 2002.Teresa lives near Seattle, Washington, and in addition to her tarot work, has home-based businesses in environmental consulting and mediation.See Teresa's website below for more information on her online Tarot classes!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Elements of a Tarot Spread

The first step toward designing your own tarot spreads is to define the basic elements of a spread and be able to recognize and work with them. In general, every spread you will design or use contains the following basic components: A question or topic area The number of cards to be dealt The spatial arrangement of the cards The meanings of the card positions The order in which they will be laid and readSome spreads have additional elements, including: Special constraints on how the cards will be placed or read Additional cards that are not part of the main spread but add to it in some way. Even a one-card reading can be thought of as a spread, although it doesn't have all of the elements above. For a one-card reading, the question you define is especially important, as even more than usual it will determine whether or not you receive a clear answer. For example, if the question is "Why can't I ever seem to meet my deadlines at work?", you could define the card you receive as "The main reason you can't meet your deadlines." Other choices are also possible. For example, you could choose "The one thing you can do to meet your deadlines more often."

An interesting design element of a one-card reading is that you can define upright cards to mean one thing and reversed cards to mean another. This provides added information and flexibility to the reading. In the example above, let's assume we defined the one card as the main reason you can't meet your deadlines. We could also say that if it is an upright card, it represents an external influence (such as constant interruptions at work), while a reversed card would represent an internal issue (such as really wanting a different job).

Now let's look at the larger, widely used Astrological or Horoscope spread shown in Figure 1 to see how all the basic elements of a tarot spread are incorporated into it.

The Question The Astrological spread lends itself best to questions that are similar to those that might be answered using various kinds of astrological charts. For example, a spread could be laid out similar to a natal or birth chart to examine a client's life purpose and the strengths and challenges she faces in this life.* Another approach, similar to a solar-return chart, would be to look at the coming year starting on the querent's birthday. A third choice would be to look at the compatibility of a relationship by laying out two cards in each house-one for each person.

Number of Cards In this spread, there are twelve cards, one for each house in an astrological chart. Twenty-four cards may be used if you wish to place two cards in each house, or if looking at a relationship as described above.

Spatial Design Spatial design refers to the arrangement of cards in space, or the geometric layout of the spread. In this case, the cards are arranged in a circle, starting just below the nine o'clock position and proceeding counterclockwise around the circle. This is based on the arrangement of an astrological chart, in which the first house falls just below the nine o'clock line.

Position Meanings In this spread, each of the twelve cards falls within one of the astrological houses, which govern a particular area of life or the personality. Some keywords for the houses and positional meanings are shown in Figure 1.

Order of Laying and Reading This spread is normally laid in the order of the houses, starting with the first house and proceeding to the twelfth. The cards may be read in the same order, however, there are often patterns among opposite houses and houses with the same elemental affinity that are worth noting and may affect the order in which the cards should be read or discussed.

Special Constraints There are normally no particular limits on what cards can be placed or dealt into each position. However, one example of a more specialized approach would be to use the client's actual astrological birth chart. You could place the major arcana cards associated with each planet into their actual houses at the time of birth, and reverse any cards associated with retrograde planets. Then conduct the reading, perhaps filling in empty houses with minor arcana cards dealt from the shuffled deck to represent less significant influences.

Additional Cards As with most spreads, additional cards can be added to an astrological layout. One example might be to place a card in the center of the layout. With a life reading, this card might represent one's life purpose. With a solar or birthday reading, this card might represent the general outlook or main theme of the coming year.

The following chapters discuss each of these design elements in detail, focusing on how to use them in creating your own spreads.


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The first step toward designing your own tarot spreads is to define the basic elements of a spread and be able to recognize and work with them. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Reference... April 7 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author takes the reader step by step through the process of designing Tarot card spreads in terms both beginner and experienced can understand. There is also a selection of spreads the author has designed which she includes as examples. These examples have their own table of contents so one can find them easily within the book. All in all, this book is worth the money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best !!! July 29 2003
Format:Paperback
I own about 50 tarot books, and this is one of the best. No repetition of information that most tarot books always do. She goes straight to the point of guiding you to make the most of a spread. She teaches the ideas that only experience and wisdom had proof to serve. She teaches how to make spreads that really shows the essence of a reading. She gave's many ideas about making good layouts, spread design(form of the spread), multi purpose spreads,alternatives spreads, predictive spreads, psychological and interactive spreads,articulating feelings in a spread,spiritual and metaphysical spreads,finding lost objects and persons ,past life readings. The most I liked is the guide to make practical spreads: "Rather than telling the client what is likely to happen, use the majority of cards positions to give him a to-do list that he can take away."
This book i will keep for a long time by my side.Theresa Michelsen is indeed one of our best Tarot teachers that can guide you step by step in improving your reading style and accuracy...good readings rely mostly on a good layout...and she will guide in a very special way!!!
This is a must to book if you want to be a good tarot reader. Aurora Diaz, Puerto Rico
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best !!! July 29 2003
By Aurora Diaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I own about 50 tarot books, and this is one of the best. No repetition of information that most tarot books always do. She goes straight to the point of guiding you to make the most of a spread. She teaches the ideas that only experience and wisdom had proof to serve. She teaches how to make spreads that really shows the essence of a reading. She gave's many ideas about making good layouts, spread design(form of the spread), multi purpose spreads,alternatives spreads, predictive spreads, psychological and interactive spreads,articulating feelings in a spread,spiritual and metaphysical spreads,finding lost objects and persons ,past life readings. The most I liked is the guide to make practical spreads: "Rather than telling the client what is likely to happen, use the majority of cards positions to give him a to-do list that he can take away."
This book i will keep for a long time by my side.Theresa Michelsen is indeed one of our best Tarot teachers that can guide you step by step in improving your reading style and accuracy...good readings rely mostly on a good layout...and she will guide in a very special way!!!
This is a must to book if you want to be a good tarot reader. Aurora Diaz, Puerto Rico
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly useful Sept. 23 2004
By Theia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this book because I had reached a level in my tarot studies (I have been learning for a little over a year) where I felt I needed to go beyond the celtic cross, but was having little success using the other spreads I found in books. I tried a few times to design my own spreads but was only successful in creating one truely useful spread. In the week after receiving this book I created six spreads, four of which I deemed good enough to add to my book of shadows.

The trick, the author explains, is to focus on the question first. I had been too busy trying to create a multi-purpose spread like the celtic cross to realize the power of this simple technique. This is not to say that the spread will not be multi-purpose, in fact a whole chapter is devoted to generalizing the spread to fit more situations. Packed full of examples and great excercises (I had one spread grow out of an exercise) this book gives you all the inspiration you'll ever need.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put the question first Sept. 11 2005
By K. Rominger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads by Teresa Michelsen, part of the Special Topics in Tarot series for intermediate to advanced students of the Tarot, teaches the reader that creating spreads begins with the questions you're considering. Card positions flow from the various aspects of the question asked, not the other way around.

Michelsen provides a wealth of spreads, not for the reader to copy, but to modify, expand, and learn from as they craft specific, often multi-layered questions to put to the cards. One of the most useful aspects of her book deals with reading for others and how you can help a friend or client clarify the issues they seek answers to. Doing a reading this way, with give and take in a conversational model, takes more time, but delivers an often empowering experience for both querant and reader. The advice, options, and possibilities offered by the cards take on a greater richness, and ultimately, are far mor applicable to a given situation than "canned" spreads -- even if they are "tried and true."
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Verry good book Jan. 2 2005
By Erika - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This Book is an very good book to help you get started in designing Tarot Card Spreads. I learned how to revise spreads for the questions being asked. It help me to make up my own spreads. The spreads in the book are good foundation to get you started designing spreads.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite good since it's the only choice out there July 12 2009
By Kyana - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I like it, but maybe I expect too much from this book. I expect I can learn to design spread like the title says. I feel after reading it, I understand how spreads out there usually work, but still designing a truly original is hard for me. (Tho you can always alter other spreads to fit different areas of your tarot reading). Since now, there's only one, this book can claim to be the best, but later when me tarot books publish in this area, this is still good yet I am still expecting a better book that exceeds this one.
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