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Understanding The Reading Layout

By CinnamonMoon

Understanding the Reading Layout Reading layouts are patterns that lead you to understand the individual you are reading for, they are more than just the insight into a matter. I feel this is something that will help our practicing members get a feel for doing a reading and what they should be looking for. If you can understand how the individual is processing their perspective it allows you to better understand the messages and how to deliver them. It allows you to communicate with them better and improve your technique and style. The layout thus has purpose for the reader…it's an important guideline to follow…a matrix if you will.

Most people are familiar with the Mystic or Celtic Cross spread and I use it myself so that will be my example here. For those of you who don't know it, there are ten cards spread into the pattern; 6 that form a cross and a vertical row of 4 to the right side. How it's laid out doesn't matter as much as what the placements of the cards represent. The layout pattern itself helps to remind you of what those placements mean and how they fall. You could (and I often do depending on my space to spread out) lay them out in a straight line, or put them in a stack of 10 and turn one card at a time.

Whatever method you choose, you'd get the same insight and the emphasis each card holds in placement is what matters. I hope that made sense. Also whether you take the cards that are face down and flip them top to bottom or bottom to top you will find they come out the same. Don't get hung up on that, what matters is what each placement symbolizes.

If I want to do a full reading for someone I use the entire deck dealing 10 cards out, then repeating the layout creating ten piles. That way each pile tells a more detailed story. Guidance taught me the layout and I've worked well with it for many years. When you have 10 piles face down (the last two are a card short as there's 78 cards in the deck but it still works out extremely well) stack them from pile ten to pile one. Pile one is then on top and all cards are still face down. I crisscross them. You flip the entire pile face up which places the first card dealt on top. Read the pile as if it were a continuation of insight for that card's placement.

From the point of the first pile a story begins to unfold in detail, you can see where it shifts from issue to issue, you'll start to feel a natural break there. Explore that for yourself a little as in this method of full-deck use the main issue can be more than one thing. You won't use it for everyone, but you will at times when you want to be thorough. At this point I want to go into the positions of the layout and what you, as a reader, should be looking to piece together so you can share your message and tell the story.

I feel it's important to step into each card visually and get a feel for that environment rather than go by what the book says too. Let the card talk to you and see how it relates to each placement. Each card is therefore like a page in a book, one page leads you to the other based on what happened in the last page. Each placement is a chapter in that book. One experience (or group of experiences) leading to another and you begin to see how this person's life has been unfolding.

Stepping into the essence of that environment can often take you in new directions too...into things they're not asking about but want to know or need to know for some reason. Guidance takes over and you may find yourself channeling like crazy; I do. Just keep taking it out...extrapolate until you feel you are empty or there is no more to say about the matter and then pick up where you left off again. But what is being shared is going to relate to the specific placement. This is important to remember.

Interpreting the layout comes from your understanding of the pattern. It serves you as well as the querrant and I want to breakdown the layout in sections for you to better understand it. Feel free to experiment with this concept in this forum when you read for others, I think you'll find it very helpful.

Stage 1:
Card 1) The issue being addressed in the reading. Whether you're looking at one card or a pile of cards in this position, the position addresses the issue/s being raised in the message itself. This is going to be an important aspect of that person's life, something they are facing or soon will be. So you would look at that card and see what you needed to keep in mind as you address the rest of the information that comes forward in other cards.

Card 2) The placement here represents a challenge or supportive influence the querrant is contending with or utilizing. This is very helpful to see if they are handling current matters well or not. It often indicates lessons they are currently experiencing through the challenge (remember, challenges help us grow beyond our comfort zones).

Card 3) Events from the distant past that formed a perspective held as a world view. An abused person in the past would quite likely be guarded expecting to be abused again or striving to avoid that happening. A person exposed to wealth in the past that belonged to their parents would strive for that same wealth or more in their life. This is about the conditioning of the environment and individuals in their life that served in creating the querrant's perspective. This can go back to childhood or even a few years so don't try to define the exact timeline, just explain the circumstances that made them feel life was 'this way'. In doing so they immediately relate to their life and see that you're understanding where they come from. This placement is going to indicate the past of the matter or something in their life that has formed the querrant's attitude. The card will determine this and you'll feel if it's the issue or the person's personal history.

A common mistake is to read this card and the next one (distant past and recent past) as if they were happening now. They're not. These are lessons the person has learned in life, experiences that have made them what they are today. So it's important not to advise here but to acknowledge you see they've been through these things. It's easy to forget that and slip into presenting the past as if it were present circumstances. The past is there to tell you how the person thinks and acts, it shows 'you' how to approach this person, and you share it to show them that you're tuning in on them. They'll recognize things. You can read someone blind this way and trust it. I do and people love it. This is my own experience talking but it will sure lead you into a lot more detail for people because you'll see deeper.

So with these first 3 cards you have a glimpse of the person in a nutshell. You get to see the lessons they have learned in life, how they received them, and you get a feel for what they need to understand as well as what they already do understand. I use those cards to tell them what I see has happened in their lives so they know I'm tapping into their energy signature. That's validating to them and to me. I also tell them where I see their growth in life, and commend them for making it through their particular lesson well. This is an important phase of the reading, it establishes the foundation and it gives the person a feel for being part of the reading. That starts to create the intimacy for confidences shared about the future…and intimate issues will come out into the open. It's important for the querrent to get comfortable with what you'll be sharing, that happens when you take your time and don't rush. It serves both reader and querrant to get a feel for each other.

Stage 2:
Card 4) This covers the past 6-12 months of experiences; sometimes you'll find it's even less than that, perhaps only 2-3 months back. These are things that have happened recently to either support or alter the worldview...attitudes and perspectives leading to the next card. We all have more recent experiences in life that change us in some way or serve to support the way we are and convince us that we should stay that way. So this is very helpful insight. At this point you should be able to see how that individual has basically developed to face the current situation being addressed…or to see if they are continuing to repeat patterns due to refusing to change when they need to. You'd be looking at how they discern things.

Card 5) This is how they are thinking now...today...and thoughts that are leading them to take action...what we think is how we choose to act and so thoughts become "things". Here you begin to see if they are on track with their thinking or if they are heading in a direction that can cause them some trouble. You can't think for others, but you can shine a light and let them see what they should consider based on what you can show them. They must act on their own free will and you should never make their choices for them. Simply express the course their thinking is taking them on so they can choose to continue that or not.

This current thinking is therefore a look into that person's mind in regard to the issue/s raised in the message. Everything keeps coming back to card number one in relevancy. This placement in the pattern is what the person is seeing and what they intend to do about it. It's already "in mind"…their current plan of action…the awareness held, a thought process leading to the next action taken and the events unfolding as predicted in the cards that follow. See? Up to this point there's no need to advise the client beyond awareness of how they're looking at life and where that could be taking them. You merely need to point out where they're at as you see it so they know you're tapping into their mental, emotional, spiritual and physical state of being.

It allows you to see how to relate to that person…if you know how they're thinking you know how to present things better. What they can accept and what they need help in understanding. You'll see what they need to see in themselves to correct behavior for a more optimal outcome or to support their choices.

It's here the reading turns to advising, you're moving from the past and the present moment into the future. This is the information they are looking for. Up to now it's all been insight for them and understanding of what they're like to a point relative to the issues for you. Here the nutshell completes itself. You know what they're like in regard to the individual and the issue at hand (card #1).

Stage 3:
Card 6) The next turn of events roughly covers a period over the next 2 months or so. I tend to say 8-12 weeks but that varies from reader to reader and often between clients depending on how well they embrace and learn from their experiences. Sometimes we repeat the lessons over and over again until we finally 'get it' so these issues can be intense and are often quite intimate. You may or may not feel comfortable with using timelines at first. You can refer to this as simply the next series of events to unfold instead. What you're looking at here is the person's life and why it's unfolding that way. You can then advise where they need to jiggle their perspectives and actions to avoid pitfalls or to continue with what they're doing to achieve their goals. They need guidance and reassurance when they're right or putting themselves at risk so either way it's a very important issue you're looking at. You know what they're thinking about and what approach they're taking. Forewarned is forearmed, but not everyone wants to hear they're 'off' on things.

It's a delicate presentation and you need to see how they think to present it in a way they can accept and utilize the information. At this point I see them with one foot in the air…about to take the next step in their journey, about to make a choice to act and in what direction that's taking them. The decision they make is going to alter their life in the manner the cards that follow are indicating. This is where you see then to steer them towards a more positive outlook if they're heading for trouble but always open-ended advice.

I will not make their choices for them or tell them what to do when faced with opposing options. Don't fall into that trap, it has to be their free will and that's not to be manipulated. If their course is a good one tell them that, let them know they're doing things right to achieve the outcome they desire. If it's leading to trouble tell them that too, they can choose to take another course of action if they want to. That's what they're coming to you for, the insight to act wisely.

Stage 4:
Card 7)
This card indicates the hopes and dreams the individual is striving for. I know the books tell it differently, but in my experience I've found it to be otherwise. Most books claim this card is the fear they hold and card 9 is hopes and dreams....I reverse the two. Looking into someone's hopes and dreams you see what they really want to come to pass. What they're 'looking for' and hoping you can either validate or confirm coming into being. You see where they want to go and what they want to happen. Again a bit of understanding but sharing these things shows them that you know something about them, that you've tapped into these 7 areas of their life and have pinpointed what's going on. Its more than the card, it's the pattern the layout itself unfolds with. Learn to read the layout and the cards will start making sense to you. Learn to turn the pages, and move forward with the message as if you were telling a story.

Card 8) The immediate environment socially and intimately is revealed in this placement. This is going to show relationships to family, friends, acquaintances and co-workers along with the overview of current events taking place. It validates for the querrant that you're seeing something they can validate in short time if not immediately. It's the next event they should watch for. I tend to give people a timeframe of 1-21 days there, usually the shorter end of the stick (1-3 days but it can stretch out and I let them know that). These events shown to you or the influences they bring to bear on the reading will directly pertain to the unfolding events over the next two or three months. You're seeing how it will begin to manifest for them. (Remember if this is a major arcana then it's an influence by the universe and something beyond their control. It will be something they must pass through to learn from. If it's a minor arcana then they will have choices in how they handle matters.)

Card 9) Here we see their fears being substantiated or not. If it looks dark then the person's fears are in control and they're calling negativity to themselves, making it harder on themselves, or they need forewarning in some way to avoid that happening. You'd see if they are overly fearful or emotional (depending on the card that falls there). If it looks good any fears are unsubstantiated and should be set aside or are to be minimized as wise cautions. Remind the person that they need to remain open to a positive outcome. They should be assured that things will go smoothly, that kind of thing. So in cards 7, 8, and 9 you have the general state of emotions and the circumstances that the person is contending with. Again it allows for advice as to what they need to adjust or strengthen in themselves. You forewarn of pitfalls around their processing or encourage them to keep going in the manner they are taking with things.

The conclusion:
Card 10)
Here we have the outcome based on what has been shown in the story to this point. Everything you've seen about them and how they're handling things is leading to this. If the outcome is favorable you can tell them that. If it's not then you want to tell them why they should consider handling matters a different way for a different outcome. The conclusion itself is generally about 3 months away but I've seen it take up to a year or more if people are stubborn and keep repeating their lessons.

Timelines are vague for this reason and only ballpark figures. If the outcome is negative then you want to point out to the person how they need to shift things and perspectives to avoid that...it's only carved in stone in the sense that if they keep doing what they're doing that's what will happen. They have free will, they can change things, and giving them the foresight to see they have that option they are then forearmed. Anyone can avoid things by changing the course of their actions. That negative outcome can be reversed most of the time by their own free will.

Throughout your reading the outside forces beyond someone's control are going to be depicted by the major arcana, minor arcana are physical forces we can control to a major degree most of the time. Some things we can't change, but we can change our reactions to them. The outside forces are the universe in action, archetypal influences, or life lessons we're passing through. Trust every empathic impulse to be talking to you and weave that into your reading. They all stir when you need to see what's what with people. It's giving you an idea of where they are spiritually too. If I see someone standing out spiritually I'll comment on it. I can feel if they're hiding the issue and don't want to discuss it directly. I respect that and I slip into general terms then to convey what is coming across from guidance.

Guidance and the Tarot will work together in this way and the more you trust it the stronger it gets. You're not going to avoid intimate things and can remind them they came looking for the truth of the matter, not illusions. There's no need to embarrass anyone though and messages can be gentle no matter what their content. We all have secrets and that needs to be respected too. So much comes into play. Be open with them and they will open to you. Don't rush from one card to the next, take your time with each. In other words…RELAX!

It's a separate issue if you're nervous and it can blind you to sensory impressions. Trust your own intuitive insights as they will complement the reading and let you pin things down even better. They take you deeper into the card's story and you can piece it together much stronger. It will help you to see each card as a dot…an aspect of who this person is, why, and how they're thinking coming to you. The cards are the threads that connect those dots and form the big picture. It's quite the insight and you have opportunity there to drop many feathers. They'll do what they want with them, but you'll be dropping left and right. The layout is a matrix, a pattern of dots, and as you read for others you start to gage how far they have or haven't come. Where the advice will be called for to be stronger or softer...the tempo and rhythm you will take with each person. It doesn't matter what someone else gets as a reading for someone either. You might both pick up on similar or even very different things. So don't compare yourself that way. Look for the feedback from the querrant to determine your accuracy. Trust your senses to interject things and do not second guess yourself. Just let it out. That's what the practice forum is for, so you can develop your skills. Tell the story and let the rest take care of itself. You're delivering the story/message and nothing more. We're not all going to tap the same information, sometimes we do, or we pick up things along similar lines. But you have to open yourself to what you get or you're mechanical, technical, and shutting out the sensory aspects. If you can't describe a situation tell them what you're feeling...tell them "Guidance is letting me feel like this __________; are you feeling ___________ in some way? It's the strongest 'feeling'." They'll share and you'll grab that and understand what you're seeing much better. It's about communication and validation for both of you as you go. Things make more sense this way. We don't always understand what we're being shown but the person we read for will…if not immediately then along the way.

The 'book' that defines how to read the Tarot cards for someone is usually for people that don't understand symbology or feel there's only one way to see things. The cards (the same card) will tell many, many different stories. Those stories change when accompanied by other cards and the way they fall in the pattern placements. The variations are endless. Understanding the layout pattern and how it weaves through the stories is more important than what the book says the cards mean. Let the pattern tell the story to you so you can retell it to the person you're reading for. Tell it in a way they can understand based on what you're being shown about their processing of things. Keep it simple, follow where it takes you, add in your impressions and sense of things and you have yourself a good reading! Remember…practice makes perfect!

Thanks, Cinn. I've found the Mystic Cross works really well for me. The layout provides a flow that I haven't quite found in other layouts. And, to be truthful, for me, I find that just laying the cards out straight across and in piles helps me with the continuity better than an elaborately placed spread. Makes it easier to tell the story. It does flow like it's from chapter to chapter that way. Others may need to see it differently, but that works best for me. I don't get distracted and can focus better, too. Maybe I'm more linear than I thought!

I have had difficulty with the past/present confusion. Now that I see how the first four cards link together that helps considerably. Thanks for that!

I was so frustrated for a while when first doing readings thinking I had to memorize a whole bunch of stuff. All the books, the online instructions on how to read cards and what they are "supposed" to symbolize and so many decks with so many different styles and symbols - Aaaarrrggghhh! - I felt like I didn't know what I was doing and never would!

When I did do a reading I felt/saw something else happening, but I thought I was "wrong" with what I saw because it wasn't exactly what the instructions said it was supposed to be. *shakes head* I knew something wasn't jiving and so I just figured I wasn't meant to do readings.

Then when I found the Faerie Oracle deck something changed. Well, the something was a guide who, literally, kicked me into the readings. But it was still a struggle and I wound up so exhausted after a reading I felt like I'd been slogging through glue. I was excited and I knew it was finally working, but something still wasn't "right." They didn't flow...it was hard, patchy work. How could I possibly do more than one reading in a day when it took me almost the whole next day to recover from one? This just wasn't going to work at all! (Maybe it was all those kicks in the forehead I got from my guide that exhausted me! Fae can be mighty feisty taskmasters!)

This Mystic Cross came to me just when the idea of Storytelling through the cards gelled in my sluggish noggin. Hah! That's it! That's how it works! Let the books go hang and just tell the story I saw/felt coming to me. BINGO!

Now I still have oooodles to learn, but it flooooowwwsss now. *sigh* It takes time to both mature and integrate with your own path and the use of the cards in telling the stories. It doesn't happen overnight. It does take practice....and patience...and sometimes, as in my case, a lot of Ibuprofen for headaches!

(((SwanFeather))) Thank you for sharing that. I think most people go through that and it seems they have to figure it out on their own most of the time. It really is storytelling isn't it? *Smiles* The message is a story, the layout is a story and we put them together. The more we open to guidance doing this the stronger our guidance becomes. It's trusting what you get and putting it out there and that's so hard to do initially.

Thank you for bringing up those points. Yep, I like laying them out in a row too, or sometimes I split them and make two rows (again depending on space at the time). It's just easier and for me it's faster, I'm not hung up on what the spread should look like, cards don't get brushed against each other and mixed up. (I can be a klutz with my sleeves! LOL)

Yes, there is a lot to every card and even in the books they will give you a variety of interpretations for them. To me it just makes more sense to step into them and their environments and describe what I'm getting from that. It's far more accurate (for me) to do it that way. Sometimes I do match the books in what I pick up and sometimes it's very different. It trust what I get more. My Guides will jump in if I'm veering off track and shove me back in line and I find that happens more when I'm grabbing at universals than the sensory impressions the card elicits in me. Saves a lot of time this way IMHO. So much more comes through when we just relax and go with it rather than trying to be so mechanical with the 'systems' and technical interpretations. The cards speak many languages, use all sorts of symbology, there's something there for everyone. As for having oodles to learn, we always continue to learn from the cards. It's a lot like the spiritual path...always something new around the next corner.

You do beautiful readings, so do keep up the good work! Here's hoping those headaches are gone for good now. Thank you for joining the discussion.


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