Massive Spreads

I have been posting a lot about the tarot of late. I guess because I have been working a lot more in depth with the cards this last while. I seem to go through cycles where I begin wrestling with the 78 mysteries, and in fact wrestling with myself, more seriously. The tarot seems to be this force that is always tugging at my consciousness - teasing me to go deeper, unravelling me further. And always in directions contrary to those I imagined. I don't care much for the Victorian qabalistic associations projected onto the cards. I think tarot is deeper than that. Yes, deeper.

The numinous mechanism that not only makes the tarot work but helped it emerge into popular occulture as such an enduring form of divination is far more sophisticated and profound than these later accretions. Don't get me wrong I find the qabalah stuff interesting and at times I have found value there too but there is so much more going on in tarot than that. Paul Huson's Mystical Origins of Tarot has been blowing my mind after I picked it up in a while ago. Do yourself a favour; if you love the tarot get this book it will take you deeper than any of the watered down qabalah-for-the-masses that gets thrown at the art usually.

Anyway, I have been playing around with massive spreads. Which is to say, spreads that are contain twenty one cards or more (all the way to 58!) and rely less on positional meanings and more on patterned insights. I remember seeing a reader working a massive spread like this years ago and being astounded at the complex and subtle story she was able to draw from the massive fan of cards that covered the entire table. It was like she was plucking at the threads of fate following the threads through the entire tapestry of this persons life. I watched as she followed certain patterns and cycles and began piecing together an increasingly refined narrative for her sitter. This is an art form that should not be lost and relies on looking at the cards in an entirely different way. It requires skill and a marrow-deep sense of the 78 mysteries and their interconnectedness. A spread like this can be overwhelming - you are no longer sure what is nonsense and what is truth as you are flooded with possibilities -but I am slowly getting a sense of how to go about it.

First I just stare at the spread in a very relaxed way; I don't try to make any rational sense of it at all - I just let the thing hit me like a massive wave of symbols as I try and find my way into it and, hopefully, surf it. A pattern begins to emerge: a cluster of cards there, or a line here and I begin interpreting. Next I begin to find interconnections between this and other areas in the spread and I let it unfold from there.

Sometimes nothing comes at all - its just white noise. So, I let the spread sit. I get up and I walk away and I come back to it later. Usually, after being away something will strike me upon returning to it and I will begin finding my way into it. If I still cannot find my way in, then, I cheat. I get out another deck and I lay out a small layout on the same question, using a more contained, and decipherable, spread. With the information from that spread I can usually clearly see the same pattern emerge in the massive spread. This nifty trick and has really helped me great deal with getting into massive spreads.

Suffice to say I am not going be whipping out a massive spread for one of my regular sitters just yet! It can take several hours right now so I am not ready to use it in that way just yet. I am having a tremendous amount of fun practising though.


  1. OMG yes! There is a wonderful spread in the Golden Dawn which uses the whole deck called the five part Tarot, I can't begin to tell you the detail of events that comes out when using it...amazing. Although I poo pooed the tarot when I was younger, after its mysteries opened up to me I saw what an amazing tool they can be in helping one to connect with your Higher Self, massive spreads are time consuming,but worthwhile, also when having trouble deciphering the cards you may try and invocation of your Higher Self, per your tradition, then commune with that energy, I have found it to work wonders...you have an amazing blog...thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Oh yeah that reminds me of another *massive* Golden Dawn spread called Opening The Key. It involves counting cards backwards and forwards based on the number value of the card you are currently reading. It also uses elemental dignities for its interpretative basis (which I sometimes use when I am not using reversals). Thanks!