Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sample Reading:Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross, a well-known and traditional tarot spread, has had something of a bad press lately. Indeed, it's often a lousy spread for beginners as the possible combinations and interrelationships can be extremely complex.

Bar that caveat for beginners,  it can be a tremendously useful spread when a problem is fuzzy as it tends to disclose a number of issues, especially those motivations and feelings which may clarify a problem, any of which can then be picked up on for a further, more specific reading. Here is an example of using it for just that purpose.

Here I present, with kind permission from the Querent, a slightly modified version of a recently performed Celtic Cross reading. I have adapted this traditional spread to best address the current state of mind of the Querent. The original version was more detailed and covered the themes in more depth but here, for the purposes of an overview and with respect to the usual life-span for a human being in a busy world perusing a random tarot blog post, is a contracted and somewhat brutalized sample of the reading.

 Samantha  (not her real name) approached me with a puzzle.

Sam's question: "I'm feeling very down and as if I don't want to carry on any more. I'm not quite sure why although my life has never been easy. I recently lost my job and haven't got anywhere applying for new ones. I would also like a committed partner who's honest but none of my relationships work out.  But it's more than that. I feel my life has a message or that there's something about me. Could a tarot reading put the pieces together for me?"

I chose the Queen of Cups to represent Samantha as the "Significator" on the basis that her question relates primarily to how she feels. 

A photograph of the actual spread is above.  The Outcome position does not signify the future or possible future here (the cards only show the future on condition that the dynamics exhibited by the cards are not acted on to alter those dynamics)  but rather the present or how she feels right now. The rest of the spread concerns those factors which have worked together to produce this outcome. Samantha returned a copy of the reading to me with her feedback in red.

Covering (situation; influences surrounding you at the moment, where you are right now): The Tower.
The Tower is a collapse, often catastrophic; everything you thought was safe and structured has been blown to smithereens. This includes your fragile sense of self which, I gather from looking at all of the cards here, has been dependent upon a life assembled together brick by careful brick. Too right. I feel like a construction worker on a ruined building site. Again and again. It seems sudden and overwhelming but here it's both formed out of yet simultaneously demolished by the forces surging up through the card in the "below" position. The "below" card concerns the formation of your "self", or who you take yourself to be, through the unconscious and your personal history. That card situates the main external hits, the other more immediate cards contribute to and reinforce it.  Those same volcanic forces responsible for both your creation and destruction finally explode into the Tower apprehension of an entire life in tatters and relates most forcefully to your inner life and self-identity. You mean my world is rubbish because of how I see it? It's not really a recent bolt from the blue, it's not out of nowhere, but the collapse is as absolute as if it had been and it feels sudden to you at the moment although you've no doubt been close to these feelings before.Yes.

The card in question is the 7 of Swords, stemming from a loss of faith in others and eventuating in the present crisis of self. Our sense of selves are created in large part through how we're treated by others. Forces from the past, tripped by nearer and and more recent disappointments has blown apart the self that you have built. It's always been precarious - it always is, for anyone. Our sense of self is given by others, we recognize ourselves in and through how others situate us. The corollary is that this self-conception can also be taken away by others.That's not to say we can't take responsibility for ourselves and try to set out afresh with altered perceptions and resolving on a new project of who we want to be, but we aren't invulnerable atomic selves free-floating in a cosmos immune from the actions of others. The self is always violable.  I think I see what you mean. I guess a punch in the face and being called a bitch would be violating and ruin a fun night out even if you tried not to let it bother you.

Crosses/Obstacles (what's in the way, what might help or hinder, conflicts, tensions, hang-ups, blocks): 6 of Pentacles.
The card shows a man in a position of authority charitably (or perhaps for some other reason) dishing out pentacles usually taken to symbolize money and/or some other form of sustenance to what appear to be penitents requiring succour at his feet. Sometimes this chap is the querent -  but here I'm pretty sure that's you, Sam, crawling around at his feet.

This must be making you angry - crawling around for handouts and help. It's serious, your well-being is being affected by your finances and you're not getting the help you need from those who could and should be providing it. Yes. That's Welfare and my stingy ex. It's the major obstacle or block right now. It's a form of injustice, which, as the second card of the inner cross forming this pair, means that this lack of charity or benefactor has been the most immediate cause of the current distress. Any idea who has been treating you unfairly, perhaps? Welfare, my ex owes me money, and I was made redundant six months ago.
Sixes are about harmony and balance so there's a deal of tension, unequal give-and-take and disparity in your relations with others at the moment. I feel that they are in a position to do the right thing - but won't. The authority figure in the card is holding the scales of justice (you also have the Major Arcana card of Justice in this spread AND the King of Swords: redoubling and consolidating the theme of justice) which tells me that the people you're trying to deal with do know the truth of the matter and the right or moral behaviour they should be showing you.  But they are not acting on it.

Beneath/Below (personal historical influences, experiences from the past, motivations, th unconscious, where you're coming from, internal factors at work): 7 of Swords.
Here's the important stuff swirling around in your psyche contributing to that life-is-a-disaster sense of catastrophe. Sevens are assessment. Is there something you can't let go of and which continues to be inspected and thought upon? This would slot in with our previous two cards.
The Seven of Swords is theft. Here it's about you. A part of you was stolen away in the far past. The guy in the card seems pretty smug and happy about what he's getting away with. Whoever has harmed you in the past hasn't been brought to any kind of justice, you haven't had any kind of apology or redemption from those who have taken from you. I think this is mostly one person in particular. I'm reluctant to say this, but I often get this card when there's been some form of childhood abuse. I was sexually abused between the ages of 8 and 14 by a relative. The scene here is usually interpreted as a kind of tented military outpost. That's not what it's telling me here and that guy even looks a little like a showman or jester in that red fez. The encampment reminds me of a carnival or fairground, not a military base. Does that mean anything to you? Zoos, fairgrounds, carnivals, a social space where some kind of festivity is carried out, it could even be a Church fête or gala. School play. That was the first time. He picked me up after and was supposed to be looking after me.  In any event, this guy celebrates what he thinks is a sneaky victory. Two Swords are still standing, he hasn't managed to take everything from you. Five swords are being carried away; numerologically fives are turmoil and chaos. It's been that ever since. The two left make me think of what the twos represent in in numerology, so I would guess that you've had to take a lot of decisions in relation to what happened to you and struggled with the best resolution to whatever has happened in the past. I had counselling later on because I hated myself.
I think some people know or knew - in the background is a small group of figures but they have their backs turned to what's going on. They're ignoring it. There are other ways of interpreting the figures but here I feel that the figures are in denial. Who are these people, Sam? Is it family? Yes.
Your peace of mind, your childhood perhaps, was taken away. And it's the Sword suit. It was a colossal injustice. This card at the bottom informs the "Crown" card at the top. 
Swords are also the suit of conflict and communication. It could be important to talk about this, Sam. 

Crown (nascent forces taking shape, hopes, intentions, conscious goal, conscious awareness): King of Swords.
Truth and justice again. Some man in a position of authority and experience needs to transform these 7 of Swords experiences of the "Below" card. The King of Swords is above all a man of complete integrity who does what is ethically right. Is that what you're looking for above all else? The Crown is also your goal or ideal outcome. Here the King of Swords is a rescue figure, a sort of redemptive father figure who would transform what you've gone through in the past and which has situated how you've had to form and build and refashion  yourself. He represents the putting right or restitution of the assault of the past in that 7 of Swords. Freud calls the process "transference". This isn't an intellectual understanding. As Freud also said, "understanding changes nothing". This is because it won't automatically change the coping mechanisms your subconscious puts in place. In the process of transference the actual EXPERIENCES informing your inner life are relived in a positive way and transformed through that process. A banal example would be a boy having his lunch sandwich snatched away by a bully boy classmate at school, so he's had his trust destroyed, but another boy approaches and gives the upset boy his own lunch. The previous bad experience is transfigured by a positive one.We don't have to be a stickler with Freud nor take everything he says as gospel, but you get the general principle. If you were to meet an honest man with integrity who treats you as a person with value then you would begin to feel differently about yourself. You know, you've made me think here. You're right that I'm looking for this. I hadn't thought of it like this before. So that would mend or heal me?
Make no mistake, it's not possible to haul yourself into a new way of being all alone as if you can ignore how you're treated by others. Someone has to "transfer" or change those feelings for the better by behaving differently towards you. Perhaps that's what you need in a romantic partner and why you feel you need one with a very particular character. And it's one who is absolutely resolute and trustworthy. I can't find him.

Behind/Recent Past  (influences passing away, events, feelings, situations): The Star. [Note: traditionally, this card is swapped for the "future" card on the right should the significator be looking away from it. The Queen of Cups looks towards it. Nonetheless, I had a very strong sense that The Star was in the recent past for Sam and so did not swap it over].
Here's the second Major Arcana. It's The Star. That's impacted the current Tower situation. There's you, vulnerable, exposed, putting your neck on the line in hope. Here's faith again, you manage to restore it at times in your life, and it remained in place until quite recently. I think that's the hope in all these job applications and the romantic possibles you've met who haven't been up to the mark. No wonder you feel so devastated, especially if we add that to the Below card. Again, they've taken so much from you with little return. The Star is also a card of honesty and these people haven't been upfront. I don't play games but other people do. 
Was your hope restored a short while ago? I was hoping so with all the job interviews and meeting possible partners through a dating agency. I was let down. 
I often get The Star in the past position when it's a meta-message and not simply applicable to the specific readings but rather supervening upon it as a whole. It symbolizes not just your recently resurrected hope finding a job and a partner but perhaps also divine guidance or someone looking after you and protecting you. My Mom. I feel her around sometimes. I often get the Star when there's a person in spirit who is looking over somebody. Perhaps you feel you are watched over? I don't think we always know exactly how that translates into perceptible help in our everyday lives (although perhaps we're saved from a zillion accidents without knowing?) but you may well have a strong spiritual set of helpers.

Before/Near Future (forces already in existence about to show themselves: events, people, ideas, future situations): reversed 8 of Cups.
Here's the standard Rider-Waite image of the disconsolate chap, head bowed, wandering off into the distance, who knows where. There isn't a path and there isn't sunlight to disclose the way.  He doesn't know where he's going but it doesn't matter in the sense that he knows he's got to go. As a Cups card, this is about how you're feeling.
It's reversed. Reversed cards have an assortment of meanings depending on the surrounding cards. Here it's quite clear to me. This concerns your inner world. You're not leaving home, literally, or any kind of geographical shift. You are, however, or very shortly will be able to leave behind the dissatisfaction you're currently experiencing. I love this card here in this position. There's a tinge of regret in letting a few things go that should have been fulfilling but it's absolutely the right thing to do. The red of his cloak symbolizes a passion and a vibrancy in going. His lifeblood lies in heading off. This is you managing to eclipse and dispense with some old attitudes, it follows on from the realization that the old beliefs are shattered in the Tower card. That lightning bolt above the tower (see that crown toppling, and a crown also represents the head or the mind)  is also insight, an aperçu, an "aha!" moment feeding into knowing what to leave behind in the 8 of Cups.I can't carry on how I was.

Self/You (how you see yourself: views, attitudes, feelings, how you see the current situation. This card, as is apparent here, also affects the potential outcome of the "crown" card): Justice.
This is a Major Arcana card working at a deep and life changing level. Let's call it the guiding theme of your entire life and certainly of this reading. 
The Justice card marries up with the truth and justice themes in the 6 of Pentacles, the 7 of Swords and the King of Swords. It's all very coherent. This card attests to a kind of life purpose or inner journey which is all about you or your identity. It very much asks your question: why is all this happening to you, you've done nothing to deserve it yet life seems unfair. The Justice card in this position confirms your question as the motoring engine driving how you think of yourself and your life. Where is the justice? Her upright sword parallels the upright sword of the King of Swords in your "goal" position. Both hold the sword in the right hand of reason. They're both very "rational" cards (as contrasted with, say, the Queen of Cups, the High Priestess or The Moon). Right!?
No matter how you analyse matters 2+2=5 in terms of all logic and reason.  And at that intellectual level it's right, it's not right! You have no less than three crowns in this spread (authority structures and the realm of the mind) and two sets of scales. Have you got any Libra in your astrological chart?  I AM a Libra. Because it seems that the issue of balance, give and take, harmony, beauty, fairness, right versus wrong, those who stand accused and those who are blamed, even litigation and court procedures - these interrelated themes very much define your life and who you are. So says the Justice card in this position of Self. If you ever wondered about a Higher Purpose it's this. Balancing yourself between extremes. Weighing it all up as impartially as possible and retaining your integrity and inner values. The Justice card is an incredibly powerful card in the tarot, it hasn't quite the ambiguity of many of the others. It's steely resolve. I don't want to be a bad person but it's hard not to give in.

In terms of advice, the sword in the Justice card asks you to discriminate, remain uncompromising on your ethical values, and to cut away whatever no longer serves you. The blue stone in her crown signifies the "third eye", you're nobody's fool and you do see through deception. I see it everywhere.
The grey pillars suggest a rite of initiation, a learning, where the severe sword of knowledge in is in contrast to the scales of mercy and clemency. You're pulled between judging and forgiving, wanting to carry your point of principle and compassion. Reading this with the "below" card, your innocence has been wrested away by knowledge. I always want to forgive and let go but I can't. The knowledge and innocence, is that having my innocence taken away too soon, then this carries on with my trust in people always getting ruined?

Others/Environment (people around you: interactions with friends, family, people at work, anyone involved with your question and how they view the matter): 2 of Wands.
This is usually a business card, and it's about decisions and partnerships with others. There's an expansion of horizons where you're looking out at the world speculatively. Seeing what's out there. At the minute that seems about right, both in terms of partnerships romantically, or business ventures. That is, it reflects what's uppermost in your life with respect to other people and your environment right now and in the past. These are the concerns which propel or motivate your relationships to other people and your surroundings. It's an "early" card, only a two, and that suggests you're having to take the initiative to get things moving ahead and it's still got to come to fruition. As a "Two" it also means that at the minute your immediate context is one of making decisions in relation to both other people and your surroundings. I had a business with someone that I'm trying to start again. 

Hopes/Fears (dreams, aspirations, expectations, goals, desires, fears): Knight of Wands.
Well, this one is what you want: action, drive, speed, full steam ahead! The Knights in the tarot are action cards, these guys are going somewhere and they don't hang about. The Knight of Wands is the zippiest of them all.
So you're hoping that things would just stop being stuck and get going. The inverse is the fear that this isn't happening and your life isn't moving ahead quickly enough. This folds back into the 6 of Pentacles in the Obstacle position where money matters. This is the kind of person my ex business partner is. Maybe he will get things moving again?
I feel that the Knight of Wands is something of a wild card here. He's full of promise which might be bluster. He would well want to sweep you off headlong without thinking too much about the consequences and without planning. He might seem exciting and vigorous but think things through. You'll be attracted by his energy, passion and enthusiasm but step back and consider what's on offer and whether you want to hitch a ride with this person. The card somehow doesn't fit with the other cards, it's like a scald or a scorch which might seem like welcome warmth in a time of aridity but you could get burned. O. He bankrupted the business last time. I am still tempted because he seems like the only option left.

Outcome (here, your current state of mind): reversed 7 of Pentacles.
Here's the second seven of reflection, rest, assessment and contemplation, and the second card of money and material well-being. The Pentacles also relate to health.
Upright, the figure in the card isn't sure if all his hard work is going to pay off. He's waiting for his Pentacles to ripen so that he can harvest the fruits of his labours. And it's unclear how long he has to wait. It's a static, unmoving kind of image. The card is one of expectations.
I want to read this card in two ways. The first is that the reversed 7 of Pentacles reflects how you feel. It can mean loss, dislocation, despair, hopeless, being stuck, financial lack, and general worry and anxiety. Could you be considering an investment that might be a bad one? I was, that ex business partner, but I will think again now. He says he needs the only savings I have. It's not much and I am not sure I should gamble it.
The second perspective is the advice this card could be offering. Reversed, it's letting go of expectations that might be too high and to think carefully about what you already have and how far you've already managed to come. It's saying don't be too hard on yourself! It warns you not to give up too soon. That's where I'm at. I just want to give up. You're tempted to give in to disillusionment and stop trying out of hopelessness. This card says carry on as it's too soon to give up. Stay patient, even though that's hard. Here the reversal also signifies an inner state where you're fretting about fretting, about feeling hopeless, worried about money matters and paying the bills, even despairing. But let's return to all of those inputs in your Tower feeling. Those golden coins are already on the bush the chap is tending to. You've already done a lot of hard work on yourself, and I'm sure you know that you do have value and however unfair life has been you didn't deserve it and there's nothing wrong with you. The everyday or immediate problems have plunged you into feeling that everything is worthless and pointless but, when we go back to your past and how that's formed your sense of self, you can perhaps appreciate where it's coming from and that actually you're not defined by that past, and those events which you feel have demolished your world aren't the main events at all. In a sense, nothing has changed except that these events and disappointments have resurrected your previous vulnerability and self-doubt. So are you saying nobody ever gets over a bad past completely? 

Well Donna thank you for this. It's helped me to think differently. I see why I feel this way. There's more to it than I believed. It's like every knock back connects with my self-esteem and that was damaged a long time ago. I particularly appreciate the insight into how the kind of man I'm looking for relates to my past.
Thank you. I feel more positive and strong after this. It does all fit together now. 

Do you use the Celtic Cross, and if so how useful have you found it?

Images Radiant Rider-Waite (US Games Systems Inc.)

© Donna Hazel at Tarotdon Tarot


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