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HACKING THE TAROT – THE FIRST KEY SPREAD

Last week I wrote about how to get started with the tarot. Today I’d like to explain the main spread that I have been using, which is simple to learn but provides quite a bit of information. I’m calling this spread The First Key. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with pulling a single card to get some basic insight into a situation, but often when I do I’m left wondering. Is this card referring to a person? A situation? Challenges, but in what area of my life? And so on. So, the First Key. First things first: set out a cloth for the cards if you want, and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. You can focus on a question if you want to, or just draw cards and see what the tarot happens to comment on. When you’re ready, pull a single card to represent the heart of the situation. A cool thing about this method is that you can start the spread from a single card reading if you want – for example, if you pulled a single card for some issue and you’re totally baffled. You can decide to use that single card as the first card of the key spread, and pull the rest of the cards to get some clarification. Anyway, whether you start out intending to do the full spread or not, the first card is often confusing. Pull three more and place them next to each other above the first. These cards offer clarification and detail about the situation. The thing that’s both simple and somewhat nuanced about this spread is that these three cards aren’t given different significance. Consider the meanings of all three cards, in particular any similarities. These cards can often give you a good idea of the subject of the reading, for example if they’re all pentacles there’s a good chance the question is regarding money. If all three warn of dire events, you really might want to take that warning seriously. On the other hand, these cards can be mixed and seemingly unrelated, showing a variety of influences on the situation. The interplay of these influences can also spark intuitive insights into the situation. Finally, pull a card representing the key to the situation, and place it at the top of the spread. This card shows what you should do or keep in mind to benefit from the situation as much as possible. Sound simple? It’s really pretty easy when you do it. I’ll describe an interesting reading I did recently to give an idea of how the spread works in action, but keep in mind that the meaning of cards can vary slightly from person to person, deck to deck, and even intuitively from reading to reading. For the situation, I pulled the ten of wands, which I read as being overly defensive or reactive – a perfect example of a card that’s interesting and informative but very vague in terms of context. For the explanation cards I pulled the two of cups (love), the princess of cups (equivalent to the ace of cups, a sensitive, emotional and romantic person, or the early stages of something), and the three of wands (the first fruits, the stage where something starts to pay off). With these similar cards combined, I had a strong sense that the situation of defensiveness was related to romance (or at least close personal relationships) and a tendency to react out of fear and unfortunate personal patterns in the early stage of relationships, probably preventing them from continuing to grow in a healthy way. For the key, I pulled the prince of cups (knight of cups) who is also very romantic and ruled by his heart. As a key, I interpreted this to mean that the querent should focus on his spiritual and emotional desires in these situations, rather than allowing himself to over think them. Still a little confused? Try a few readings. Like most aspects of tarot, the easiest way to really understand this spread is to try it yourself.

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  • is a co-editor of BAD WITCHES. She also offers witch medicine for what ails you (along with more art and other stuff) at Dream Horse. She lives in the wilds of Pittsburgh with her partner and two children who are mainly being raised by wolves.

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