Spread design is one of my favorite things to do. I love coming up with creative ways to glean info from the Tarot. It can seem challenging and intimidating to design a spread from scratch, but it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it. Here are my tips and tricks for how to design effective, innovative tarot spreads.
I. Use Pre-made Positions
In terms of spread positions, when you design a spread, you don’t have to come up with totally unique positions every single time. One tried and true strategy for spread design is to come up with some master positions and then adapt them to your chosen topic. Most effective spreads have variations of one or more of these positions. Just mix and match to suit.
- State the obvious: This would include positions like a card describing the person asking, or their feelings on the matter, a card for the situation itself, etc. Things that you would assume the person asking already knows about, but they’re useful to know because it gives an overview of the reading.
- External challenges and obstacles: What’s standing in the person’s way? Let the tarot show you what is blocking the person from getting what they want.
- Problem + a Solution: define a potential problem related to the spread topic and then make a position for that plus how to resolve the stated problem. You can group the problem and solution in one position. Or you can pull one card for the stated problem, and another for the solution.
- Hidden Information: I usually title this position as blind spots, what you don’t know about X, a hidden factor, or subconscious influences. This is always useful to reveal surprising information that could totally change someone’s perspective.
- Past, Present, or Future: A past position is helpful for providing background info and context. Present gives a good overview, and if you’re accurate with the past and present, a future position is most likely to be accurate as well. Future or outcome is good for showing what track the person is on currently. I personally like to have positions like “outcome if the advice is followed” or future rewards, something that the person has to look forward if they take the advice.
- Strengths and weakness: What skills, talents, and abilities does the person have that are applicable to the situation? On the flipside, what are the person’s weaknesses and achilles heels?
- Advice: A lesson that is being learned, words of wisdom to get the situation the right track, spiritual guidance.
- Suggested Action: What can the person actually do to help the situation along?
- Who, where, when, why: Classic questions that work for tarot spreads too. Who is influencing the situation for good or ill? Why are certain factors related to the situation occurring? Where can a solution to the spread’s problems be found? When will event X happen? When could literally refer to timing or under what circumstances will an outcome happen.
You get the picture. I’m sure you can come up with more yourself if you think about it.
So for example, here’s my self-love spread and how it corresponds to the above suggested positions.
- Where you are on your self-love journey (Present situation)
- Ways in which you are successfully nurturing yourself (current skills and strengths)
- New habits to try (suggested action)
- Qualities to love about yourself (unknown or overlooked skills and strengths)
- Self love blind spots (hidden challenges and lessons)
- What self-love will bring to you (outcome/future rewards)
II. Take Inspiration from the Tarot or Oracle itself.
I find this works better with simple Oracles, but you could use Tarot too. Think of the topic you want to do the spread on and shuffle the deck and pull 3-5 cards (or however many you want, but I prefer to keep spreads small). The cards you pull will represent positions for the spread.
For example, the New Year is coming around and I need a spread to give some helpful nuggets of advice to carry me through the year. Using my Wisdom of the Oracle, I shuffle and pull 5 cards. Here are the cards I pulled:
- Deep Knowing
- By the Book
- Exchanging Gifts
Can you think of possible positions that fit the theme to go with the cards? Try to think of some before you scroll and see my ideas.
This is what I got, off the top of my head:
- Deep Knowing: What wisdom are you bringing with you into the New Year from the last?
- Blessed: Hidden blessings to look forward to in the new year.
- By the Book: What rules and habits do you need to stick to to make the year a success? (i.e. how not to fall off the New Year’s resolution bandwagon lol)
- Exchanging Gifts: How to nurture your relationships in the upcoming year.
- Peace: What will bring you solace during the challenges you’ll face this year.
This method is really fun and creative when you’re stuck for ideas. Instead of shuffling, you could also just go through your Oracle deck of choice and pick out cards that would make good positions.
III. Theme Method
You can use songs, books, movies, holidays, seasons, general themes, and lots of other ideas for spread inspiration.
For example, I’m an on and off watcher of Scandal. Here’s what a spread based on the characters of the show would look like for me:
- Olivia: the Fixer – In what ways are you powerful and influential?
- Fitz: your Forbidden Love – what do you desire that you know is bad for you?
- Mellie: your Nemesis – who or what is working against you?
- Jake: your Hero – who or what rescues you from despair?
- Abby: your Frenemy – who or what means well but also poses a challenge?
- Cyrus: your Dark Side – in what ways are you cunning or ruthless?
- Papa Pope: your Controller – what oppressive restrictions do you need to release?
- Huck: your Trauma – what dark parts of you are currently in recovery?
Or let’s do something random and silly, how about a Living Room spread:
- The couch: where in your life are you most comfortable?
- The TV: what entertains you?
- The carpet: what foundations in your life do you take for granted?
- The lamp: what provides illumination when you can’t see?
- The living room itself: where in your life do you best connect with others?
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Pick a theme, think of some symbols associated with that theme, and then craft some positions around what they represent.
Usually this takes some tweaking. With any of the methods you choose, it’s very unlikely you’ll get the spread right on the first try. Usually what I do is come up with a surplus of positions and then keep testing and tweaking on myself until the spread feels just right. It’s a lot of fun and I could devote hours of my time to spread design.
Hopefully these tips were helpful, and if you tried any of my crazy and random spreads or came up with a few of your own, leave me a comment!