Last Tarot post of the week, I swear.
It should tell you the sort of person I am that, two weeks into learning the Tarot, I'm designing spreads and compiling my own book of card meanings. I am incapable of getting into something without wrapping myself up in it, getting all snuggly, and making it my own.
As I mentioned in my last post, the Llewellyn Tarot comes with two extra cards, each one depicting a spread unique to the deck. One in particular sounded exciting to me: the Red Dragon spread, whose purpose is to assist the querent in overcoming an obstacle.
Fabulous! One of the things that has always bugged me about the Celtic Cross is that, while it gives you a great picture of the overall mess you're in and tells you where you're likely to end up given the situation you and your circumstances have created, it doesn't offer any real help in how to get there. In many cases you can divine some form of advice from how the cards fall, but sometimes you can't, and are left saying, "Well, yeah, I knew that already. So what do I do about it?"
The Red Dragon spread seemed like a good alternative, or something to use as a supplement if the Celtic Cross didn't get me where I wanted to go. It's a seven-card spread, laid out in an undulating line (I'm assuming this is meant to suggest a dragon's spine), depicting: your heart's desire, your companions, new places you will go, the gift you will receive, a hidden obstacle along the path, the Dragon itself, and the outcome.
Sounds great, right? Progression along a path and some knowledge about what you'll need to get figured out in order to win the day. The trouble is, every time I used the spread, I ended up having to add at least three or four extra cards to clarify the message. It seemed to only tell part of the story and leave the querent with a picture just as limited in scope as the Celtic Cross, but without the CC's insight as to how the situation arose and how the querent relates to it all.
Still, the idea of a spread that told a story intrigued me, and one afternoon I tossed the Red Dragon's diagram aside in frustration, grabbed my notebook, and rebuilt the spread from the ground up.
The result, if I do say so, is pretty cool: I call it the Storyteller's Spread, but it could just as easily be the Dragon Quest spread or something similar. I've had great feedback about it so far and have done several on-target readings, so I thought I would share it with those of you who read Tarot and are looking for something new to play with.
(Note: the horizontal cards go from left to right, which means that an upright card would have its bottom edge toward the left.)
The spread tells the story of a man or woman who sets off on a quest to slay a dragon (or, if you prefer your dragons unslain, insert your own preferred mythical beastie or obstacle to surmount). It follows a fairly standard Faery tale/fantasy story format, and you could look at it as an abbreviated version of the Fool's Journey told by the Major Arcana if you really wanted to.
The four horizontal cards represent the path the hero takes, and to the querent represent the challenges at each stage of the situation at hand. The lower row of cards represents motivating factors, external forces that move the story along; the upper row of cards represent gifts and lessons the querent receives or acquires.
The story begins at Card 1: Home. This is where the hero is at the beginning of the tale--the querent's mindset, life circumstances, or current situation. In most stories there are two ways for a hero to leave home--either he is comfortable there and is shaken out of that comfort by what comes next, or his life is already somehow intolerable and he is seeking a way out.
Either way, the quest begins with Card 2: the Dream. The hero is gifted with a vision of what he must set out to do; this card tells us the nature of the quest itself. The hero knows that he can't stay in his comfortable/awful life another day, and so he gathers his gear (Card 3: the Pack) and heads out. Card 3 represents the querent's assets going into the journey--skills, talents, sidekicks, whatever he brings with him, whether positive or negative. If a negative card comes up here, it represents baggage the hero has to shed at some point before it gets too heavy to carry.
Setting off into the unknown, the hero follows the road into the forest, but quickly gets lost in the woods and ends up at Card 4: the Witch's Cottage. There, deep within the quiet embrace of Nature, the Witch tends her garden and offers cures and counsel to anyone brave enough to accept the challenge she lays before them. The hero asks for her help, and she sets a task before him. Card 4 is that task--a struggle, whether internal or external, that the querent has to face before she can even begin to deal with the Dragon itself.
Once the challenge of Card 4 is met, the Witch gifts the hero with two very important items: Card 5: the Map, which shows him how to get out of the woods and find the Dragon's keep; and Card 6: the Sword, the enchanted weapon with which he can defeat the formidable creature awaiting him.
The Map gives the querent further information about where the quest is leading her. It is Divine guidance, just as the Dream was--but while the Dream shows her what will motivate her to change her life, the Map helps her grasp the bigger picture of how this particular issue fits into the larger scheme of her life. It can also help indicate to the querent where she is on the map, particularly if confusion and uncertainty are motivating factors on her quest.
The Sword symbolizes an important and possibly overlooked issue that will significantly affect the outcome of the whole story. Somewhere during the challenge set forth by the Witch, the querent acquires or finds within herself the thing she's going to need to prepare herself to face the Dragon. Each challenge along the path yields its reward; leaving Home, the querent took with her everything she had learned up to that point, and leaving the forest, she takes with her the strength or skill she learned from the Witch.
Following the Map, the hero can now find her way to Card 7: the Dragon's Keep. The Dragon is the central issue, or the Big Bad that the querent has to defeat, befriend, internalize, banish, or otherwise deal with in order to achieve the overall goal (which began with the Dream). It may turn out that the Dragon was the querent himself, or something that must be embraced rather than slain.
Having come this far, the hero has everything he needs to win the battle. His victory gains him Card 8: the Key, which unlocks Card 9: the Treasure. The Key represents the evolution of the idea of the Dream--it reflects how the querent's motivations may have changed since the whole thing started, and is also Divine guidance on how to proceed from here, how to unlock the Treasure and reap the rewards of all this struggle.
No story ever truly ends, however, so Card 10: Home finds the hero either returning to his homeland victorious, or moving on to the next adventure (or both). Card 10 shows the querent the resolution of the quest, but not a final resolution--this story is meant to be told within the larger context of the querent's life, so there is always another quest waiting, another Dream to dream, another Dragon to face. However, the difference between Cards 1 and 10 is obvious--by the time she has reached 10, the querent is a different person, with new strengths.
Obviously I could have expanded this in all sorts of directions, but I chose to keep it to a 10 card spread so it wouldn't take up half my living room floor and half the deck; I wanted something relatively simple but with the potential to yield a lot of useful information.
Enjoy. :) If you use the spread feel free to send feedback; I'm interested to see if it works for other people as well as it has, so far, for me.