"Many people get discouraged once they've learned the tarot basics. They lack a model for how to integrate the tarot into their lives in an ongoing way. Learning Tarot Spreads gives them just that. They learn how to assess a reading situation and then create the ideal spread for it. Learning Tarot Spreads will also interest experienced readers. It offers tarot tools to help them unify and deepen their practice." - Joan Bunning
After giving us Learning the Tarot and Learning Tarot Reversals, author Joan Bunning now turns her attention to the subject of tarot spreads. With systematic lessons similar to the previous books, Learning Tarot Spreads deconstructs the shapes, subjects, position meanings, and patterns of tarot layouts, providing a flexible model applicable to any reading.
Acknowledging the tension between structure and freedom when performing a reading, Bunning reminds readers that tarot spreads provide a framework for guiding and directing intuition. The methods outlined in Learning Tarot Spreads gives readers the flexibility to improvise and draw upon higher wisdom while at the same time apply intellectual analysis to the underlying "facts" of a reading.
Keeping the main subject (the focus or gist of the reading) at the center of a spread, Bunning explains the nature of related people, areas of life, situations, and time periods--and the location of the card positions related to these areas. For example, while the main subject stays at the center, cards signifying related people would be placed below, related areas of life would be placed to the left, related situations would be laid out above, and related time periods would go to the right.
Bunning also explains the difference between situations and areas of life, noting that areas of life are long-term--such as health, career, spirituality, and finances. Situations, however, have a goal or a definite beginning and ending--work assignments, celebrations, an argument, and choices.
In-depth charts and card layouts comprise about 50 percent of Learning Tarot Spreads, further helping readers discern which areas and qualities to explore, as well as how to interpret cards in a myriad of positions. Bunning offers exhaustive analysis of opposing quality positions, such as Avoiding/Embracing, Strong/Weak, Blocking/Clearing, Active/Inactive, Enduring/Temporary, and so on.
For example, for the quality "Avoiding", Bunning provides keywords, a description of the quality, reversed meaning, the opposite position, and the flex-spread card placement. A portion of her description for "Avoiding" says:
"To avoid means to deny or push away. If we fear or dislike something, we keep our distance. We try to pretend it's not true or doesn't' exist. A card in avoiding shows something the main subject is resisting or denying. You may be avoiding your power (Magician). You may be refusing to be a martyr in some area of your life (Ten of Swords). A situation may involve someone who's denying rejection (Five of Pentacles)."
For the reversed Avoiding, she observes:
"The main subject is avoiding the fact that something is missing. The reality of this lack is what's being denied or pushed away. You may be avoiding a lack of recovery (reversed Six of Swords) or some lack of experience in yourself (reversed Queen of Swords)."
Learning Tarot Spreads is NOT an encyclopedia of specific spreads (think Power Tarot), nor does it provide card meanings for specific placements (e.g. Chariot interpreted in the light of a romance reading or the meaning of 5 of Pentacles in a health reading). Rather, Bunning breaks down the reading process in manageable chunks, giving readers a framework for assessing a situation and creating an ideal spread based on the answers desired.
Admittedly, I did NOT like Learning Tarot Spreads at first--nor did I like it after I read the entire book! I felt that the layout was overly complicated and "anal", providing too much structure and details. Also, I was a bit irritated that I was required to flip back and forth between lessons and charts. However, I gave it a day for digestion--and tried a personal reading based on Bunning's model.
I was very surprised at the results of my 14-card spread, especially when I applied her suggestions for additional guidance. Bunning says that if a card meaning doesn't seem to make sense to you as it relates to the position, to tip the card (or cards) to the right. This signals the Universe that you need additional guidance. Then, gather up the unused cards, re-shuffle, then draw clarifying cards for the positions you want to explore further.
After reconsidering Learning Tarot Spreads, I realized that there was more here than meets the eye and that Bunning's model could--in theory--simplify the process of spread creation. Because I read exclusively over the `net, I have the luxury of assessing a client's dilemma, drawing up a set of questions that would answer relevant concerns, and then submit them to the client for approval before the actual reading.
Perhaps this is why I felt, initially, that Learning Tarot Spreads was too "structured". However, for those who do in-person readings, I can see how having a flexible model could prove an invaluable time-saver that allows intuition to flow freely.
If you enjoy Bunning's methodical approach to the tarot and seek additional tools for your reading toolbox, Learning Tarot Spreads will likely provide helpful insights and new ways for spotting connections among the cards. Geared towards intermediate and advanced tarot readers, a thorough knowledge of the cards is a prerequisite for getting the most out Bunning's newest offering.
Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book: Picture the Past, Experience the Cards, Understand the Present (coming Fall 2008 from Hampton Roads Publishing)