The Reading Layout
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
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
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
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
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.
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"
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
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.