Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Phrasing questions for a Tarot spread

I'm really enjoying the opportunity to respond to questions. I may not always be free to respond right away but I will where I can.  Here's another great question from the Facebook page;

Lesley wrote: 

 Hi Trevor! I read for myself quite a bit using the Celtic Cross spread. What are your thoughts about asking, or thinking, a specific question while shuffling? Is an actual question necessary? and if so how best to frame the question for optimum results?

Great question! I think formulating a question as well as some preparation before a reading is very important and can make a tremendous difference in the results we get. If you follow my blog at all you know I love to improvise in working with Tarot and although there's a part of that which can involve flying by the seat of your pants, we also need to have some structure if we don't want to just be on a wild goose chase. Forming a question or phrasing an intention or need before a reading is an important part of that. Whether we are getting a reading done, or doing a reading for someone else or for ourselves it's necessary to set some parameters before we begin.

There is a great difference between going for a general reading like what I do professionally and a reading around a specific question. I have an approach where I usually ask the person when they come in to relax and shuffle the cards while reflecting on their life, there's usually more than one question and there's usually other people on their minds but even when there is a major issue I don't ask to know this at that point as it would interfere with my objectivity and intuition. I don't try to guess what a person's questions are, rather I see the reflecting around the shuffle as an opportunity for the person to get settled and receptive. I usually cover the person's concerns in the reading without them needing to ask verbally and then I allow time near the end of the reading for other issues or anything needing clarification to be asked.

Reading around specific questions though is another kind of approach, I can usually refer back to the same spread for answers and I have my own non-linear variation on the Celtic Cross spread that I use for that (that's a whole other article). But going into a reading with a specific question is more often what goes on when we are reading for ourselves, something I still do, both for study and inner work.
Also when I read for friends or people where I would not be as objective and relying more on the cards it is good to have a clearly formulated question in mind. Here are some suggestions to that specific kind of work:

1. Write it down. I've mentioned before the immense value in keeping a Tarot journal. Some people just incorporate their reading into their already existing diaries. Being able to spend a few moments checking into how you are doing before phrasing the question can help us see later elements we may not have immediately thought of as relevant. Don't just write the question, use this as a chance to check in with you.

2. Tailor your layout. Even if you are doing a traditional Celtic Cross layout strictly by the book (now decide which book beforehand - they vary!). I find there is something about determining before hand what the flow of the reading will be. You may decide you want to go with another layout, there's tons out there, just google "Tarot Layouts", and there's plenty of great books - most good "how to" Tarot manuals have at least two or three spreads. Aeclectic Tarot (one of my favorite resources) has tons of info (type in layouts in their search function!) as well as discussion groups etc. around this and many other topics. But decide your layout beforehand. Frankly I find the Celtic Cross a bit stilted for a single query. The main thing is decide and sketch it out beforehand. 

3. Focusing and phrasing. Think of what could symbolize this question. Just as in reading for another person we choose what is traditionally called a "significator" you could also choose what I call a "signifier".  A significator traditionally can be associated with a person's physical appearance, astrological sign or any number of other attributions, it is generally a court card or in some instances where that person might fit with an archetypal role it could be a major arcana card. A signifier however is more situational, this is usually a minor arcana card for a mundane situation (i.e. conflict around work could be the 5 of wands, an emotional decision the 2 or 4 of cups). Or a major arcana card around a life lesson or something more internal. Also Aces make great signifiers, you can use an Ace to be a focal point for a particular area of your life or the part of your consciousness it corresponds with. Here's a neat suggestion too; go through the deck and visually recognize cards (that's right more than one) that could help you phrase your question. For example: Aunt Harriet (the Queen of Wands) is needing a lot of medical assistance (maybe the 4 of swords) and has worries around property and some dependant people (5 of pentacles). We could write those cards down with our question, take them out and look at them while shuffling and then shuffle them back into the deck. It could be that some of these cards actually come up in the reading!

4. I'll throw in this groovy little suggestion too: an alternate approach is to set aside a particular card (only one in this instance) go through the shuffle while looking at it, then when you have gone through the overall procedure (shuffle and cut) set aside the number of cards from the layout (10 for the Celtic cross for instance) and then (as you would traditionally with a significator) you could lay that first card of the spread down on top of that OR (and this is fun) shuffle the significator/signifier into the pile of cards (in this case 10) that are to be used. Where that comes up is where things are in relation to the question  so if the signifier comes up as the third card you still lay a third card on it but it is telling you your question is particularly relevant to position three.  This is meant to be an example of how we can further design or set up structures for insight. Have fun with it, be creative and enjoy! I've formulated a lot of spreads this way.

Hope this helps, thanks again for the question and by all means to everyone out there, post back and let me know of your results!