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Workable Spread Positions for TdM


sixdegrees

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Hello all! I was a longtime member of Aeclectic who recently got back into tarot in order to learn to read the Tarot de Marseille, and I joined this forum because it appears to have more active discussion of the topic than many others. I look forward to learning from all of you and helping out where I can. Speaking of, I hope that I am posting this in the right place...

 

I was wondering if anyone could help me brainstorm useful spread positions when reading with TdM. I know that many traditionalists dismiss the use of explicit positions and read lines of three to seven cards, and though I've experimented with that a little, I'm interested in creating and working with formal spreads as well. I also know that some TdM readers like working with a French Cross or a variation on a five-card star spread, so it's not completely alien to the study of TdM.

 

The thing is, I'm having some difficulty finding workable spread positions for the method that I've developed. You see, after studying lots of different published approaches to the TdM minors (including Jodorowsky, Ben Dov, Matthews, Simon, etc.) and scouring internet sources (Parsifal's Wheel, Andy B, etc.), the system that made the most sense to me is actually Papus's Commencement-Opposition-Equilibrium schema in Tarot of the Bohemians. I have refined his ideas to match my own style (especially in adjusting the meanings of the suits), but I also find that my favorite spreads for reading within the RWS tradition won't work with this new structure. When using the RWS I (like many people) view each card as inherently neutral and encompassing good and bad qualities that fit differently into different situations, but my Papus-informed approach fairly explicitly marks cards as favorable or unfavorable. As an example, the TdM Four of Swords represents the Commencement of an Opposition to a Struggle or Strategy; I think of it as a card of adversity, despair, and at best a sense of fatigue arising from these. So, a spread position like "What You Hope For" wouldn't really work well with this card no matter how much you squint (unlike in the RWS, where one could readily read the image in such a position as a desire for rest or peace of mind).

 

In short: While I traditionally read the RWS with neutral cards and spread positions that skew positive/negative, I now find myself with cards that skew positive/negative and am looking for neutral spread positions--positions that can still impart helpful information without explicit valence. Positions like "Source of Difficulty" or "Your Strength" won't cut it because the cards are now explicitly commenting on such elements. Here are some positions that I have gathered from many sources that do exemplify what I'm looking for:

 

1. "What you understand well about the current situation" and "What you don't see/are choosing to ignore": I would always use these two together, and together I can see them imparting a helpful snapshot of the querent's situation. Both favorable and unfavorable cards can be intelligibly interpreted in either of these positions. Another way to state this dynamic would be "Your perception of the situation" and "The reality of the situation".

 

2. "What you're attracting" and "What you're repelling": It is possible to attract and repel both favorable and unfavorable elements, though I'm not sure how useful this information would be in general.

 

3. "Confirm this before acting": The element in need of confirmation can be either favorable or unfavorable, and I can see it providing an empowering undertaking for the querent after the reading is over.

 

4. "This needs to change": I think of this position as a good end point in a spread. It provides the querent with something useful to concentrate on without calling it "Advice" or "Do This" (which often must skew positive). It is up to the querent to decide how to change the element based on its favorability in light of the question. Plus, it works well with the very progressive structure of the minors in this system, where the emphasis is already on one energy or state giving way to another.

 

5. "Speak up about this" and "Keep silent about this": Another way to to provide takeaway information for the querent regardless of the favorability of the card, though perhaps not useful for every question.

 

I hope that I've been able to be clear here about what I'm searching for, and I'm happy to elaborate if not. Does anyone else have any more ideas?

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I highly recommend you watch the channel of Vincent  Pitisci on Youtube.

 

He is a VERY seasoned professional tarot reader who mainly works with TDM - I am using RWS but I have adopted his version of the CC to great effect.

He also explains it in depth and gives example readings using both RWS and TDM I think it might help you.

 

On a personal note- I am looking to start learning TDM- you seem to have done quite a lot of research- could you perhaps give me pointers/suggestions how best to start ( I have ordered Ben- Dov's book and cards but perhaps it isn't the best of ways? )

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With TdM, I tend to use the Tirage en Croix or the straightforward line of 5/7.  

 

I’ve also had some success recently with the ‘Inner Landscape Layout’ described on Josephine McCarthy’s website. 

https://josephinemccarthy.com/tarot-resources/

 

Personally, with TdM I find techniques generally used with playing cards work best if you have very defined meanings for the cards. 

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Hello and welcome @sixdegrees! You may have inadvertently answered your own question 🙂 Your Positions 1-5 would make a lovely horseshoe or in-line spread. The usefulness of the "attracting / repelling" position will obviously be determined by your or your querent's belief in such energies, but I could certainly see it being useful in a love or relationship-related spread. You could also vary it to "Why I'm attracting / repelling," and determine which question is being answered based on the card that shows up.

 

It seems that you've developed or discovered a method of reading and interpreting TdM cards that works for you, and that is a huge step. I think with the TdM, and the pips especially, context and consistency are key. The cards will say what they say. Your job as the reader is to translate that for your querent and discern what the relevance is for their question or the spread's position. So I think that with the method you are following for reading the cards, your instincts are correct to use spread positions that are open-ended.

 

Some things worth considering: you mentioned that you have some favorite spreads that you use with RWS decks. Would it be possible to adapt those to meet your needs? For instance, if you like the look of the Celtic Cross, there's nothing that says you can't use such a layout. You'll just want to tweak some of the positional definitions a bit. And others (past influences, influences of others) are already open-ended, in that there is room for either auspicious or inauspicious cards in those positions. If you prefer the look and feel of more "traditional" TdM spreads, like horseshoes or in-line, I think it's still reasonable to use them with defined open-ended or neutral positions. A simple version would be:

 

Past Influences*Present Influences*Hopes/Fears (which would be determined by the card)*Advice/Caution(again, a positive or negative card will guide you here)*Probable Outcome

 

Anyway, I'm not sure if this quite answers your concerns. Apologies if I've gone too much off on a tangent! For further research, it might be worth paging through a book of spreads and seeing if there are any pre-designed that fit your needs, or if there are some that you could adapt. There's a ton of online resources as well. Just doing a Google image search for "Horseshoe tarot spread," "Celtic Cross spread," etc. might help spark your imagination. And obviously bouncing ideas around here is most welcome! When you've hit your five posts, you'll be able to test-run spreads in the exchanges section. I had a lot of fun doing this with a past-life spread that I wanted to try out. 

 

This is a really cool topic, and I'm looking forward to seeing what others have to say! Thanks for starting it.

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Oh, and @Aldor44... if you don't mind my two cents, I think Ben Dov's deck and book are quite lovely. As with most things tarot, some people love them and some don't. The important thing is how they speak to you. I love working with my reproduction decks like the Madenie, but that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of the Ben Dov deck any. I find the latter reads quite nicely, and it is very accessible right now if I were to ever need a replacement.

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On 12/21/2019 at 7:04 AM, sixdegrees said:

I know that many traditionalists dismiss the use of explicit positions and read lines of three to seven cards, and though I've experimented with that a little, I'm interested in creating and working with formal spreads as well. I also know that some TdM readers like working with a French Cross or a variation on a five-card star spread, so it's not completely alien to the study of TdM.

In terms of the French literature, the opposite is true: the cross spread is the norm for specific questions, followed by the astrological wheel, or some simpler spreads for general readings. The psychological "tell me what you feel" thing, or the "Madame Robin" waffle act (see Jodorowsky's book for this anecdote) is not the norm, never mind "traditional," although to be fair, the latter form of commercialised mystification is sadly very common.

 

 

On 12/21/2019 at 7:04 AM, sixdegrees said:

the system that made the most sense to me is actually Papus's Commencement-Opposition-Equilibrium schema in Tarot of the Bohemians.

Since you have an affinity with his approach, get yourself a copy of his much more practical Divinatory Tarot, which has been out for a few years now, but mostly overlooked. The thing to bear in mind is that these reading systems have gone from complex to more simple over time: the Hegelian synthesis of the cross spread has become somewhat simplified and more  concretised in more recent iterations of the spread, and different authors will present slightly different functional aspects to each card in each position. Comparing and contrasting - and above all - experimenting these differing approaches will help you hammer out your own method, but you will necessarily need to abandon your RWS preconceptions and instead rely on the respective meanings given by the French authors until you have things figured out satisfactorily for yourself. (This will take time where the minors are concerned, I concede. In this regard, it is not a bad idea to dispense with arbitrary and unjustifiable meanings to avoid unnecessary frustration.)

 

What you say about your "Papus-based approach" seems somewhat limited according to my reading of some other, more nuanced, authors, where the "valency" of a given card is determined by its position in the spread. That said, there are some more folksy methods (see the Grimaud LWBs) where a handful of cards have strong "valency" (as you put it), and a bad card anywhere is apt to ruin the entire spread regardless. Again, your mileage may vary, and the way to do this is by constant study and practice.

 

Be sure to take a look at the Grimaud LWB thread, as well as the online translation of Marteau's book for more on the minors (his spreads are more fully dealt with in the little book, by the way).

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On 12/21/2019 at 2:16 AM, Aldor44 said:

I highly recommend you watch the channel of Vincent  Pitisci on Youtube.

 

On a personal note- I am looking to start learning TDM- you seem to have done quite a lot of research- could you perhaps give me pointers/suggestions how best to start ( I have ordered Ben- Dov's book and cards but perhaps it isn't the best of ways? )

Thank you for the suggestion. I will look into him.

 

I think that Ben-Dov is a good place to start learning (it's where I started, in any case). Fred Gettings's book on TdM helped me adapt Papus's own schema for the minors into more workable language as well. Otherwise, I'd check out Tom Benjamin's Tarot on Earth for an explicit overview of what many people do implicitly/roughly in crafting a system, and Caitlin Matthew's Untold Tarot for many helpful tips (though I find parts of her work a bit unorganized/baffling as well).

 

On 12/21/2019 at 4:18 AM, Flaxen said:

I’ve also had some success recently with the ‘Inner Landscape Layout’ described on Josephine McCarthy’s website. 

https://josephinemccarthy.com/tarot-resources/

A fascinating website, thank you! I shall read it over in greater detail when I have more time.

 

On 12/21/2019 at 6:21 AM, HermitWriter said:

Would it be possible to adapt those to meet your needs? For instance, if you like the look of the Celtic Cross, there's nothing that says you can't use such a layout. You'll just want to tweak some of the positional definitions a bit. And others (past influences, influences of others) are already open-ended, in that there is room for either auspicious or inauspicious cards in those positions.

Yes, this is the approach that I've taken thus far, including looking though books of spreads and creating a list of what seems workable. I think that you're right that many classic positions (Past, Others, etc.) work well for my purposes, but I'm trying to come up with auxiliary positions to work with in designs as well. I'm particularly interested in performing readings that provide illuminating, precise information (such as the "what you're seeing/what you're repressing" dynamic), so I want to incorporate something beyond the classic positions.

 

6 hours ago, _R_ said:

In terms of the French literature, the opposite is true: the cross spread is the norm for specific questions, followed by the astrological wheel, or some simpler spreads for general readings. The psychological "tell me what you feel" thing, or the "Madame Robin" waffle act (see Jodorowsky's book for this anecdote) is not the norm, never mind "traditional," although to be fair, the latter form of commercialised mystification is sadly very common.

 

Fascinating! I had no idea. Thank you for the information.

 

6 hours ago, _R_ said:

Since you have an affinity with his approach, get yourself a copy of his much more practical Divinatory Tarot, which has been out for a few years now, but mostly overlooked. The thing to bear in mind is that these reading systems have gone from complex to more simple over time: the Hegelian synthesis of the cross spread has become somewhat simplified and more  concretised in more recent iterations of the spread, and different authors will present slightly different functional aspects to each card in each position.

...

What you say about your "Papus-based approach" seems somewhat limited according to my reading of some other, more nuanced, authors, where the "valency" of a given card is determined by its position in the spread.

...

Be sure to take a look at the Grimaud LWB thread, as well as the online translation of Marteau's book for more on the minors (his spreads are more fully dealt with in the little book, by the way).

 

I will locate a copy of his Divinatory Tarot; thank you for the recommendation. Do you know of any other English resources for the evolution of the spread, or is this mostly contained across the Grimaud LWB's? I must admit that my study has been greatly hampered by my lack of speaking French.

 

The Papus-based approach is limiting from a certain vantage, but I wanted something different than my method for reading with the RWS. In other words, I'll reach for the RWS for certain questions and a particular reading style, and I'll reach for the TdM for other kinds of questions and a different reading style. What I don't want is one style that I tend to use regardless of the deck. So, in some ways the peculiarity of Papus works for me and helps me get out of the RWS headspace quite definitively.

 

5 hours ago, Eric said:

Why not just invent your own spread and questions?

That makes it easier on you for readings and whoever you may be doing readings for. 

That's a good idea, though I'd like to have a repertoire of possible spread positions to draw on in the moment of invention, and I believe that this thread may help me generate such stock. Also, if I can design a highly flexible basic spread to have at the ready (a basic overview of a situation with some helpful next steps to take), that would also be useful here at the start of my study.

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6 hours ago, sixdegrees said:

Do you know of any other English resources for the evolution of the spread, or is this mostly contained across the Grimaud LWB's? I must admit that my study has been greatly hampered by my lack of speaking French.

Oswald Wirth's book (Tarot of the Magicians) gives some more details on the legalistic/Hegelian version.

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@sixdegrees

Okay, so, you're wanting to perform a switcheroo by taking the ambiguity from the card and transferring it to a spread position, right? Maybe I'm being a bit dense here, but I don't see the problem. If a card denoting 'stress' falls in a 'what I want for the future' position, then surely we can say that what one wants is not literally stress, but relates to stress, as in a dissipation of such conditions. (Of course, people are strange as hell, so maybe they do want stress!)

 

Also, as pointed out above, different cards have different values depending on the situation - one may be positive in love but less so in readings covering careers.

 

That being said, a system that applies well defined positive/neutral/negative values to cards works very well with non-positional draws, whereby the interactions of card values do the slanting and nuancing. So, for example, a positive card flanked by two negatives will be weakened or thwarted. While a more ambiguous card will have its value determined by surrounding cards. Etc.

21 hours ago, sixdegrees said:

Do you know of any other English resources for the evolution of the spread, or is this mostly contained across the Grimaud LWB's? I must admit that my study has been greatly hampered by my lack of speaking French.

The classical version:
https://marykgreer.com/2010/02/05/oswald-wirths-tarot-spread/
A minor variation (or maybe extension):
http://cartomancier.com/en/2018/06/23/french-cross/
An update (less gray matter required and the one I tend to use):
https://abfortuneteller.home.blog/2019/11/21/le-tirage-classique-the-french-cross/

On ‎12‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 1:44 PM, _R_ said:

there are some more folksy methods

There we go. Henceforth, the term 'cartomantic' shall be replaced with 'folksy'.

Edited by devin
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Apologies for my delayed response. I thought that joining the forum during the holidays meant that I would have more time to post, but it turns out that I've had less.

 

On 12/24/2019 at 4:12 AM, devin said:

If a card denoting 'stress' falls in a 'what I want for the future' position, then surely we can say that what one wants is not literally stress, but relates to stress, as in a dissipation of such conditions. (Of course, people are strange as hell, so maybe they do want stress!)

 

That's a possible approach, though a reading strategy that has always worked for me is to read the card directly in relation to the spread position (I think that the advice comes from Rachel Pollock, perhaps?). The example that sticks out in my mind is the Queen of Pentacles in a "Problem" spread position. We might be temped to say that the problem is not enough attention, but whomever was lending this device suggested "sticking to your guns" and asserting the essence of the card instead--the problem is too much attention, or a smothering approach to the matter. That has always been my approach, and though I am looking to shake up my reading methods, I'm not sure if I'm ready to abandon that concept yet. We'll see.

 

On 12/24/2019 at 4:12 AM, devin said:

That being said, a system that applies well defined positive/neutral/negative values to cards works very well with non-positional draws, whereby the interactions of card values do the slanting and nuancing. So, for example, a positive card flanked by two negatives will be weakened or thwarted. While a more ambiguous card will have its value determined by surrounding cards. Etc.

 

Yes, very true. If I don't end up generating enough workable spread positions for my approach (at least to my satisfaction), I'll just continue to work with non-positional draws. Still, if possible I'd like to work with both kinds of draws.

 

Any other examples of interesting-but-neutral spread positions? (Not just for devin, of course--I'd like to hear from all interested.)

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Over time, I have found that the Marseille tarot is extremely flexible.  There is a small three card draw that is useful:


1 - the client’s state of mind concerning her question; 

2 - the state or subject of the matter in question;

3 - the outcome. 
 

Both the horseshoe and Russian Cross (below) work well:

 

0 – The significator.

1, 2, 3 – The immediate circumstances or influences that preceded the question.

4 & 5 – Describe action that can be taken and advice.

6 & 7 – Discloses on where to forebear and moves to be avoided.

8, 9, 10 – The outcome of events and final result.

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On 12/29/2019 at 10:19 AM, leroidetrèfle said:

Over time, I have found that the Marseille tarot is extremely flexible.  There is a small three card draw that is useful:


1 - the client’s state of mind concerning her question; 

2 - the state or subject of the matter in question;

3 - the outcome. 

 

I love this as a short spread (I tend to gravitate toward 3-5 card spreads). I will add this to my set--thank you!

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