Written by Frater TP
Here is an in depth version of the traditional Celtic Cross tarot spread. I warn you that this may be almost entirely incomprehensible to people who are unfamiliar with the Hermetic Qabalah. Adepts will get the most usage out of this, especially since those who are not yet Adept, even in possession of knowledge, are unable to effectively create dramatic change. I have included graphs that will help to provide a visual representation of some concepts but the reader is expected to have at least intermediate knowledge of the tree of life and the occult elements as well as other esoteric and alchemical ideas. This version of the spread works best with DuQuette’s Tarot of Ceremonial Magick (the book and the deck), since these items include a vast array of traditional correspondences.
When I read tarot I do it in a way that is explicitly focused on alchemy and alchemical processes. That means that if I do a negative tarot reading, there are often actions available to massively change the projected outcome. When using tarot for self knowledge or spiritual development, the cards can be used to give several actions which actually guide the person as to the next steps to take in order to work on their shadow, rather than simply presenting the shadow to them and then awkwardly halting communication.
There are technically twelve cards in my version of the spread and many more are implicated through connection in terms of astrological and temporal cycles. The first card, starting at base zero is the significator and represents the thing which we want to know information about, and/or from.
Exoterically, this is going to be the querent, but esoterically this may be an entity such as a goetic spirit, a planet or planetary intelligence, a group of some kind, or anything else that you would not “usually” think to be a significator such as a plant or gemstone. Basically, you can ask about anything if you know how. Esoterically, choose the significator based on something that has the qualities of both the consciousness of interest as well as the issue at hand.
The querent may be the significator but the significator might not be the querent. The significator is always a card which expresses an energy but the querent is the person asking the question.
Here are images showing the spread and explaining its positions:
[If you look carefully, you will see the significator underneath the knight of cups in the middle of the equidistant cross, which forms the first 6 positions.
The overall energy here is the Ace of Wands and is from the bottom of the deck.
I shall explain the order in detail after telling you how I shuffle the cards. I must admit I use DuQuette’s method of shuffling recommended in the book that comes with the deck. It goes like this:
Invocation of IAO (Tiphareth): “I invoke thee, IAO, that thou wilt send the great Angel, HRU (hay-roo) who is set over the Operations of this Secret Wisdom, to lay their hands invisibly upon these consecrated Cards of Art, that thereby we may obtain True Knowledge of hidden things, to the glory of the Ineffable Name. Amen.”
Shuffle calmly for about 2 minutes until the desire is felt to stop. Then cut the deck. If a card “jumps” out, put it back in the deck and make sure you are shuffling calmly. Do not read if you are emotional because you will influence the cards.
DuQuette says to then fan the cards over a table, but I found this really difficult and annoying. Instead, I get told which half of the deck the significator is in by asking (my Higher Self) and I look for it in that half to be able to find it more quickly, simply searching through whilst holding the cards. This is a simple exercise that makes use of psychic abilities.
Once the significator is found, it and the cards to the right are put on top so that the significator is the first card you pull if the deck was face down.
You then place the significator on the table as card 0.
Then pull the other cards in their order.
1) This is the energy covering whatever the significator represents and goes on top of it.
2) This is the energy crossing the significator, for good or for ill. It may be in harmony or contradiction to the first card. It is placed at an angle of either 45 or 90 degrees on top of card 1.
3) This represents what is consciously known/in awareness to the significator and what is currently being focussed on. It is placed above.
4) This is the subconscious mind, the messages to meditate upon (or find in meditation) or what is hidden. It is often a clue as to what is being manifest into the environment (card 8) and goes below the other cards.
5) The past. Specifically, indicating influences that are leaving or have recently gone. It is placed to the left of cards 1 and 2.
6) The immediate future. This goes to the right of the of the first 2 cards.
7) The significator. This is the first card in the column of 4 which goes to the right of the cross. It is parallel to card 4.
8) The environment. Above card 7, parallel to cards 1, 2, 5 and 6. These cards together show a linear progression in time, along with card 10. Card 10 is different however because it may be changed in the most dramatic way through the deliberate alteration of current energies. I will explain soon.
9) The hopes and fears of the significator. These may shed light on card 6, like a clarifier.
10) This is the result of all the current energies influencing the situation and is subject to change if the querent (not always the significator) takes steps to enact transmutation.
If the significator is the querent, they have control over cards 3, 4 and 7. In such an instance, that is their conscious, subconscious and as a result the sum total of their energy (what we ordinarily consider to be them), respectively. Usually, they have control over card 10 as well but this is not guaranteed if there are several Major Arcana cards in the reading. It is hopefully intuitively obvious without me going into intricate detail how one can tell whether this is true in the circumstance. We may use casuistry in it’s amoral and non-pejorative sense in order to assess this (Therefore, keeping a tarot journal will be particularly useful for interpreting through this method). This does not mean that free will is not existent in these cases, but it does mean that sometimes things cannot be stopped, even by occult means. If this is the case, I suggest that you get on your knees and pray for guidance, then accept the reality of the situation.
If the significator is not representative of the querent because it is representing something else, the alternative meanings of the positions may be employed as deemed intuitively appropriate.
I said I would explain time in this spread, so here we go. Cards 5, 6 and 8 show a linear progression. Card 7 spans from the immediate future to an uncertain point not so far as card 10, the ultimate outcome. Card 8 does the same. Card 11 spans the entire situation including the past and the future, with equal and immutable power. This fact is deduced by the qabalistic numbering which is described below. Cards 1 and 2 represent super/natural forces that exert an influence over everything else except card 11 (which they are derived from) and card 5 (the past). This is because cards 1 and/or 2 may be the result of this fading/faded influence.
Cards 1 and 2 also have diminishing influence as time passes into the future, meaning that the vast majority of their influence is at the present time. Their influence never goes to 0 insofar as the natural part of the reading is concerned, as with an asymptotic graph. Therefore, the timespan of the reading tells us how much influence these cards have over the other aspects of the situation – the cards in different positions. The curvature of this diminishing influence is determined by whether cards 1 and 2 are Major or Minor Arcana or Court Cards and the progression along the x axis is determined by the timespan presented
If they are Major Arcana, the planetary energies involved will dictate the speed of diminution, with Saturn and Jupiter being slow and the Moon being relatively fast, as examples. In some instances, this includes zodiacal Majors, which by their nature must have planetary linkages.
When these positions are filled by elemental Majors, Fire (Aeon) and Air (The Fool) are quite fast, Water (The Hanged Man) is receptive to the time period indicated by context (through the stipulations of the question, or zodiacal/planetary energy time-frames) and Earth (Universe) is slow. Spirit (Aeon) is non-temporal.
There are things to consider regarding the curvature of the graph and Major Arcana in these first two positions. Spirit is an exception to the asymptote rule and remains evenly dispersed throughout time by its very nature. By default, the rate of diminution in elemental Fire is also much faster, becoming negligible within a short time. Earth depletes much more slowly and has a “heavy” influence whilst Air’s influence fluctuates depending on elemental dignity in relation to each individual card in the temporal positions. The pattern of any element may be partially indicated by the time-frame given in the immediate future or the speed/time-frames of the planetary and zodiacal energies at cards 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8, along the temporal line. (Therefore, keep in mind that overall energies may in rare instances be already somehow (to varying degrees) weakened at the present moment due to their peaking in the past)
If they are Minor Arcana, their influence falls flat pretty quickly but still following in miniature form the rules of the Majors, unless they are strengthened by the querent, in which case their influence will change with the querent’s Will. The effect can potentially be amplified to the point of a Major Arcanum’s influence should the occultist have enough skill. This can be done, for example, by embodying the zodiacal energies. If the 3 of Disks shows up within the first two positions, the 2 of Disks (Harmonious Change) and 4 of Disks (Earthly Power) energy might be made manifest by the occultist to complete the energies of Capricorn in the microcosm, “unlocking” The Devil (macrocosmic Capricorn) and the cards under its own rulership according to DuQuette’s Qabalistic mandala (in his Tarot of Ceremonial Magick book). Should they be negative cards, knowledge of the diads and triads on the Qabalistic tree of life will allow favourable energies to be unlocked through transmutation. Alternatively, the energies may be deliberately banished in order to make way for more appropriate ones. In this alchemical process, all energies within the deck can be accessed deliberately, in a systematic manner.
If they are court cards, there are double elemental correspondences to consider. In DuQuette’s Tarot of Ceremonial Magick, the Princesses are Earth, the Knights are Fire, the Princes are Air and the Queens are Water. This makes, for example, the Prince of Disks and the Knight of Cups a scattered energy so having a corresponding effect, as is also indicated by elemental dignities. Meanwhile, the Queen of Cups is extremely reflective, being Water of Water elementally. According to DuQuette’s qabalistic mandala, the Princesses and Aces rule over quadrants of the zodiac (the seasons), therefore the cyclical peaks and troughs, giving indications as to where we should ground our energies as well as other valuable information.
If they are Major Arcana, the first two cards have a much larger impact on the reading, for better or worse. Should they be positive, any negative outcome is certainly avoidable by focussing on these energies except perhaps in the event of a disruptive Major Arcanum at position 10.
Now, as for correspondences to the Qabalistic tree of life, the order is not of the lightning flash, but as follows: 1 and 2 are Binah and Chokmah. 3 and 4 are Gevurah and Chesed. 5 and 6 are Hod and Netzach. 7 is Tiphareth. 9 is Yesod, 10 is Malkuth, 11 is the non-sephira of Da’ath which “overshadows” even Kether and 8 is also attributed to Malkuth.
Alternatively, 1 and 11 are Kether, 9 is perhaps Qlipothic, 8 is of Yesod, following ad absurdum the Hermetic law of Mentalism.
Qlipothic energies are also indicated if anything relating to the reading – the cards or the issue queried – corresponds to Malkuth specifically, not elemental Earth, and the cards present persistent and extremely polarized energies.
Which attributions are used depends first upon on the querent’s level of development and then on context, making the first set overwhelmingly likely to be used.
Let us now move onto implied cards. When a card is implied in this sense, it is within the projected outcome from the cards, before alchemy is attempted. Remember that everything is in a constant state of fluctuation. Some things change relatively slowly but only in comparison to faster things. If we see for example a 5 of wands – Strife – which is a disruptive card, we know that following it by default – via the path of the lightning flash – is the 6 of wands; Victory. After this must come the 7 of wands – Valour. Then the 8 of wands, and so on. Thus, if we have, for example, an Ace of wands somewhere at the beginning of the reading in terms of time (as has been explained above) we know that this Ace is actually going to manifest pretty soon into the 2 of wands – Dominion. It is very likely that we have another wands card which allows us to mentally fill in the gap and thus observe with ease how quickly the current cycle is progressing, but if not we may still be able to deduce this using the linkages found in DuQuette’s Qabalistic mandala, meaning that the Major Arcana and the Court Cards that appear in the reading will provide us with this information implicitly. If this is still not the case, which I doubt will ever really happen, we can still work out how fast the cycle of, in this case Fire, is going, by looking at the other elements in the reading. However, it should always be the case that somewhere either explicitly or implicitly we are able to work out the speed of these cyclic progressions.
When looking for alchemical change, we may wish to avoid the path of the lightning flash and go directly across – to the other pillar on the tree – or vertically – remaining on the same pillar – whilst being aware that we still need to make up for any missed energies when doing this. It is not a substitute for the lightning flash (down) or path of the serpent (up) but a very strong catalyst. We need not always navigate the tree though, and even when doing so we may switch elements in various ways.
In transmutation we can work with sephirotic, zodiacal, elemental and/or planetary energies. Any other categories such as the use of goetic spirits happen to fit into one of these four categories. This includes the use of tarot as we are using it here.