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Big Spreads or Small? How many cards do YOU like to read with?


Misterei

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I was looking through an old topic on Tarot spreads and @Nemia wrote something that piqued my interest in a different direction:

 

@Nemia said

<<Personally, I prefer to milk a small number of cards for what they're worth instead of pulling a lot of cards. But I've seen people work very well with big spreads. It's not for me, I'm easily overwhelmed 😉 >>

 

This got me wondering about other people here ...

Do YOU like large spreads with many cards? Small spreads? Medium?

I define large as anything more than 10 cards.

 

I dislike large spreads ... BUT ... I often end up reading with a lot of cards ... it's situational for me.

Reading for my self I generally use 5, 7, or 10-card spreads. And I'm quite strict about clarifiers and nearly never pull additional cards.

On rare occasions I use 3-4 cards, sometimes open reading, sometimes with assigned positions. I never read only 1 card. This is sacrilege to me!

 

For clients it's quite normal for me to use a LOT of cards ... but it's really just multiple spreads. For example a 10-card spread starts things then various 7-card or 3-card spreads for additional questions or additional insight on the some aspect of the original question. I easily end up using 17+ cards from 2-3 decks when reading for a client. But it's never one huge spread ... its multiple smaller spreads.

 

Edited by Misterei
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@Misterei - I am totally in your camp with this one.  There are only 78 cards in a normal Tarot deck (156 if you use reversals, which I do.) Once a card is used in one position, it can't be used for another position in the same reading—even if the issue the card is messaging us about crops up in more than one part of the reading.  So we rely on 'related' cards to get the message across.  Which is fine in readings like the Celtic Cross, with only 10 cards or so.  But in much larger readings the overall message can get watered down.  Aside from your feeling (which I share) of being 'overwhelmed,' this imprecise vocabulary bothers me.


The size of the cards and the table becomes an issue as well, with large spreads.

From reading various posts on Tarot, Tea and Me, I realise that we all use cards differently. Interaction between a deck of Tarot cards and the Reader is intensely personal, so we all get different things from our cards and our spreads.   There is no Right or Wrong way to use cards, as long as we get the needed result from them.  So if Readers can get good results using all or most of their deck at one time, more power to their arms!  That's just not my way.

Occasionally I do like to pull a single card for meditative purposes, or maybe read two together as a thought-provoking exercise.  However, if I need a concrete answer to a real-life problem or dilemma, I always use a spread with well-defined positions, including an 'advice' card—usually 5-10 cards—and read them in a pragmatic manner.  I do use the occasional clarification card, because that works well for me—in a situation where the card itself can mean several very different things, or if the situation I'm reading about could go one way or another.  When dealing with the future (as yet unknown) a clarifier can be very helpful to signpost what I need to know or do.   I read the Tarot because I want to know, not because I want to guess.

Edited by Chariot
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Natural Mystic Guide
3 hours ago, Misterei said:

Do YOU like large spreads with many cards? Small spreads? Medium?

Typically personally and professionally I like between 3 and 5 cards.  Of course, I may do multiple readings, even on the same or a related topic.  And, yes, I do re-shuffle in between in such instances.  Then I do a great reading that I really love on 'Evaluating Options'.  I do a 3-card layout for each option.  I use a different deck for each option.  This allows the same card(s) to come up  for different options.  Sometimes they do, which is really interesting.  Now as I immerse myself in studying the Spirit Keeper's Tarot with Benebell Wen I find that we are being given some large spreads to use.  It's all good.  It's all super interesting.

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In general I prefer small spreads, and consider the Celtic Cross a very large spread....

 

For most issues I take a simple three card spread, Situation Advice Outcome, and I also use the bottom card as an extra bonus. If I try a spread I see in a book I tend to prefer the ones up to about seven cards. Though I will do a 13 card clock-face plus centre spread for new year or birthday spreads. I also think that if I ask a similar question later on I will get more guidance rather than trying to use a very large spread which makes the reading more confusing for me. Too many cards, too many correspondences and too much to take in at one go!

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Often only 3 cards, Celtic Cross and Wheel of the Year when reading for others more often than not because most people seem to know the spread. But I have managed to use complete decks before. It all depends on the situation.

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FindYourSovereignty

This is an interesting question. I lean towards @Misterei’s and @Natural Mystic Guide’s spread style where I start with 3-5 cards and the reading may grow as information is revealed and more questions arise. It is very similar to the Rachel Pollack approach recently posted by @Raggydoll. I learned to do this additional question approach from Jeanne Fiorini and feel it works well for me. I also resonate with @MichaelH’s comment and consider the Celtic Cross a large spread, although I do enjoy doing it on occasion. 
 

6 hours ago, Natural Mystic Guide said:

Now as I immerse myself in studying the Spirit Keeper's Tarot with Benebell Wen I find that we are being given some large spreads to use.  It's all good.  It's all super interesting.


OT: Are you using the workbook? I printed out both books, but haven’t started the study yet. It looks so interesting and I hope to start in the near future. 

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13 hours ago, Chariot said:

@Misterei - I am totally in your camp with this one.  There are only 78 cards in a normal Tarot deck (156 if you use reversals, which I do.) Once a card is used in one position, it can't be used for another position in the same reading—even if the issue the card is messaging us about crops up in more than one part of the reading.  So we rely on 'related' cards to get the message across.  Which is fine in readings like the Celtic Cross, with only 10 cards or so.  But in much larger readings the overall message can get watered down.  Aside from your feeling (which I share) of being 'overwhelmed,' this imprecise vocabulary bothers me.

Yes, you state it very well. That's why 10-cards seems to be my limit.

Also I like 10 cards b/c it's easy to calculate odds. Like a 10-card spread normally has 2-3 majors. A spread that's 70% Majors (7 of 10) is noteworthy.

 

@Chariot said
<<The size of the cards and the table becomes an issue as well, with large spreads.>>

Haha I didn't even think of that one. Too true!

@Chariot said

<<Occasionally I do like to pull a single card for meditative purposes, or maybe read two together as a thought-provoking exercise.  However, if I need a concrete answer to a real-life problem or dilemma, I always use a spread with well-defined positions, including an 'advice' card—usually 5-10 cards—and read them in a pragmatic manner.  >>

 

Yes, 5-10 is my sweet spot.

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9 hours ago, MichaelH said:

For most issues I take a simple three card spread, Situation Advice Outcome, and I also use the bottom card as an extra bonus. If I try a spread I see in a book I tend to prefer the ones up to about seven cards.

I like your 3-card spread example. I teach similar to my beginners. Keeps things simple. LOL I hadn't thought about it ... but yeah. 6 cards is about my limit on "new spread from the internet or a book". LOL after 6 cards it just takes away too much bandwidth from actually READING the cards!

6 hours ago, Arania said:

Often only 3 cards, Celtic Cross and Wheel of the Year when reading for others more often than not because most people seem to know the spread. But I have managed to use complete decks before. It all depends on the situation.

I've seen some full-deck spreads ... and you mention using a full deck. HOW ON EARTH???

 

I can't even do the full LeNormand Tableau and that's only 36 cards.

Even in a 1-hour reading with a client I prolly max out around 26 (in various 10, 7, 5, or 3 cards spreads).

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Natural Mystic Guide
13 hours ago, FindYourSovereignty said:

Are you using the workbook?

Workbook?  I'm not sure which is the workbook.  I am working with the SKT Revelation Second Edition.  I received 'The Book of Readings'.  I have done the first reading in that book.  I already completed all of the work offered in the Video Course III -- which was excellent.  So systematically, I shall now go through the Book of Readings.  These exercises are exhaustive and can take hours.

 

I wish that I could print out the books.  I live in Bali, Indonesia.  I have a very small house with few book shelves.  So I work a lot with Kindle edition books or from digital copies of books as is the case with Benebell's work.  Once the Daybook Journal that she offers becomes available for 2024, I think that I shall order that hardcover and try getting it sent to me here. 

 

How are you liking the SKT deck?  What do you use it for?  Do you participate in the FB Study group?  I am loving working with the SKT specifically and with everything that Benebell Wen dishes out.  Is she ever prolific!  I believe that studying with her will really up my game as a Tarot reader and professional mystic.

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15 hours ago, Misterei said:

 

Also I like 10 cards b/c it's easy to calculate odds. Like a 10-card spread normally has 2-3 majors. A spread that's 70% Majors (7 of 10) is noteworthy.

 

That's a very good point.  All cards aren't 'equal' when it comes to long-lasting or important effect.  It's a lot easier to recognise this situation in a smaller (10 card maximum) spread.  I recently did a Celtic Cross reading that had NO major arcana at all.  And nope, it wasn't a big deal—short-term easily solved problem.  

Edited by Chariot
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Natural Mystic Guide
On 9/13/2023 at 5:56 PM, MichaelH said:

I also use the bottom card as an extra bonus

That's a great idea.  A new practice I have been doing -- since I read about it from Benebell Wen, is that Pages are messengers -- they each bring a secret message.  So often, when a Page appears in a reading, I will draw an extra card right next to it.

Edited by Natural Mystic Guide
misspell
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FindYourSovereignty
On 9/13/2023 at 2:22 AM, Chariot said:

Once a card is used in one position, it can't be used for another position in the same reading—even if the issue the card is messaging us about crops up in more than one part of the reading.  So we rely on 'related' cards to get the message across.  Which is fine in readings like the Celtic Cross, with only 10 cards or so.  But in much larger readings the overall message can get watered down.  Aside from your feeling (which I share) of being 'overwhelmed,' this imprecise vocabulary bothers me.


This really resonates with me.

 

On 9/13/2023 at 2:22 AM, Chariot said:

 I do use the occasional clarification card, because that works well for me—in a situation where the card itself can mean several very different things, or if the situation I'm reading about could go one way or another.  


Although I don’t tend to use clarifiers, I have appreciated your examples of how this can be very useful to clarify 😊 the actual direction a card is inviting you or the sitter to focus. 
 

23 hours ago, Arania said:

Wheel of the Year


I forgot about this one or the year-ahead readings. I like these also.

 

9 hours ago, Natural Mystic Guide said:

Workbook?  I'm not sure which is the workbook.  I am working with the SKT Revelation Second Edition.  I received 'The Book of Readings'.


I think it is this book. I am not home to check, but pretty sure it is. 
 

I haven’t started using the deck yet or reading the books. I do love her work and took a Past Life and Ancestors reading class with her and had her daily planner book a few years ago. She provides so much information and I love her work. I hope you get to meet her one day. She is really fun, too.

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20 hours ago, Misterei said:

I've seen some full-deck spreads ... and you mention using a full deck. HOW ON EARTH???

 

I can't even do the full LeNormand Tableau and that's only 36 cards.

Even in a 1-hour reading with a client I prolly max out around 26 (in various 10, 7, 5, or 3 cards spreads).

And considering I prefer to use my self made deck which is way larger, 31 greaters and 9 minor suits with 5 court cards each. I work with more elements than the standard 4.

 

You need space. Preferably a whole room. It is a complete ritual, the cards are either laid out in spirals on the floor and you walk through them/between them. If that is not possible a large table will do, with some consecrated figure to represent yourself. Haven't done it in years though, with moving around a lot and never enough space anymore. But once renovating is done, our gaming table might just be big enough. Except that I'll have to reprint the whole deck as the original got lost and that's just so much work. I might just use a normal sized deck but it's missing something for me.

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12 hours ago, Chariot said:

That's a very good point.  All cards aren't 'equal' when it comes to long-lasting or important effect.  It's a lot easier to recognise this situation in a smaller (10 card maximum) spread.  I recently did a Celtic Cross reading that had NO major arcana at all.  And nope, it wasn't a big deal—short-term easily solved problem.  

Exactly. This is what I love about a 10-card spread };> We humans are wired for base-10 and percentages. It's all about the fingers and toes haha.

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6 hours ago, Arania said:

... my self made deck which is way larger, 31 greaters and 9 minor suits with 5 court cards each. I work with more elements than the standard 4.

You need space. Preferably a whole room. It is a complete ritual, the cards are either laid out in spirals on the floor and you walk through them/between them.

Ahhh. I guess I would call that a ritual not a spread. I love the image of a card Labyrinth and walking through spiral arrangements of cards. There's a labyrinth on the property where I live. Now you got me thinking to lay-out an expendable deck on the Labyrinth (it's outdoors) and try something along the lines you describe. Hmmm.

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I used to do love spreads with 40 cards. My friend taught me. I do this very rarely now. This technique only works for situations involving two people. Despite the large number of cards, the spread consists of 6 positions.

  • The actual situation - 10 cards
  • How partner 1 sees the situation - 5 cards
  • How partner 2 sees the situation - 5 cards
  • How it will end for partner 1 - 5 cards
  • How it will end for partner 2 - 5 cards
  • The actual situation after (period of time, usually 3-6-9 or 12 months). - 10 cards

On one hand, the spread is very tedious, and describing all the cards can be exhausting. But I've been told that clients like to see such a large number of cards. They feel that you've worked seriously. However, I've noticed that the same results can be achieved with just 10 cards if the positions are chosen correctly, and it's much less tiring.

 

The only real benefit of working with such an extensive spread, in my experience, was that it pushed me to memorise the card meanings, so I didn't have to constantly look them up in a book or online for every 40-card spread.

Edited by Arianalit
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Natural Mystic Guide
6 hours ago, Misterei said:

I love the image of a card Labyrinth and walking through spiral arrangements of cards

I actually experienced such a Labyrinth.  It was for the Winter Solstice in Ashland OR.  It was indoors in a large room.  A number of different decks were used.  Very nice experience.

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13 hours ago, Misterei said:

Ahhh. I guess I would call that a ritual not a spread. I love the image of a card Labyrinth and walking through spiral arrangements of cards. There's a labyrinth on the property where I live. Now you got me thinking to lay-out an expendable deck on the Labyrinth (it's outdoors) and try something along the lines you describe. Hmmm.

 

For outside, I laminated an old RWS deck and a few print outs of collab decks. I often take a deck with me when I'm walking, you never know where you'd find a spot for a bit of quick Tarot magic.

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For me, it depends on what type of reading I am doing. Readings that ask for guidance or that aim to answer a question tend to not require large spreads. But if I’m exploring something which is unknown or where the details are really unclear, then a larger spread can be handy. Also, for spirit work, ancestral work or past life readings, I tend to go with more cards. 

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9 hours ago, Arania said:

For outside, I laminated an old RWS deck ...

@Arania I admire crafty people. This is a brilliant idea ... but if I'm honest ... it will never happen for me. I have decks I've been meaning to trim for the past 3 years ... 🙄

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8 hours ago, Raggydoll said:

For me, it depends on what type of reading I am doing ... past life readings, I tend to go with more cards. 

@Raggydoll yes. Past life readings I do 10-cards. Sometimes a spread turns into a past life reading when neither myself nor the client expected it. Then I might do a 7-card spread as a clarifier ... but I would have already gotten 3-5 past life cards in the first spread (if that makes sense).

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I mostly use 1- to 4-card spreads and rarely go beyond 6 in my readings. I believe that a 6-card combination should already carry enough unique detail to satisfactorily answer a question. YMMV though. 

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Saturn Celeste

My staple reading when I was working was 3 tarot cards and an oracle.  I did do past life readings as well and used a larger spread (as well as multiple decks) for that type of reading.  I also have an adapted Celtic Cross but I use between 12/ 14 cards even though the cross is typically 10 cards.  Normally I don't read for myself but have been considering giving that a try.

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I think an important learnt skill as a reader is to work out the right spread and the right number of cards for what you are asking or what someone wants a reading on. There is no point doing a lot of cards for every question or query, why waste your energy and time? This requires great effort and makes people give up tarot when they are learning. How many newbies do we get who are constantly doing Celtic Crosses and are burnt out or want to give up? Then if you do too few cards, you are not getting enough info.

 

I think if the reading is when you (or the querent) is confused or the situation is unclear, then you should use more cards and clear positions. This is better for clarity. Same also for complicated situations, go big, go detailed and get precise with positions to give more insight. I always do this for complicated love, relationship and emotional readings.

 

If it's a daily reading or smaller in importance or things are clear for you, go smaller. Save your time and energy! I also mostly do 3 cards with no positions a lot. This works well for me. I get the message in a freestyle way and it's less structured but I like my readings to flow in that way. You can get a lot from fewer cards.

 

Each reading needs a different spread depending on what is being asked.

 

I have a tarot friend who just takes one card when needed for her own personal readings. She went through a bad health spell and used one card every so often to see the progress and it was very comforting for her. She also takes one card for how each year will be. Even I think that seems too little but it works perfectly for her as messages, it's her method 🙂 .

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On 9/15/2023 at 5:56 AM, Arania said:

 

For outside, I laminated an old RWS deck and a few print outs of collab decks. I often take a deck with me when I'm walking, you never know where you'd find a spot for a bit of quick Tarot magic.

I've thought of laminating a deck. How do you feel about the result, vs. the plastic water-resistant RWS they are advertising? 

 

As for the OP's topic, I am using less now as I get decades into my tarot journey. And I have REALLY moved away from the Celtic Cross.

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