I’m quite the bad direction follower: this was apparently the first time in Roderick’s tarot series that we were to use both the Major and Minor Arcana together! The only time I split them up was for day 310! Ah well. In my opinion, today is really important because it introduces the most popular spread in all of tarot reading: The Celtic Cross.
The Celtic Cross spread is basically formed of two primary parts: the Circle/Cross (left six cards) and the Staff (right four cards). The Circle/Cross part looks a little like the crosses found all over Ireland (some have a longer bottom section), which is essentially a circle linking four perpendicular spokes. I like to think of it as the feminine side of the reading and the staff as the masculine side of the reading…for fairly obvious reasons.
The Circle/Cross part is actually made up of three sections: the center, the horizontal bar, and the vertical bar. The central cross represents the heart of the matter, or the things most important at the time of the reading: it is the axis upon which the wheel of your life is currently turning. The horizontal bar shows time moving from past (on the left) into your future (on the right). The vertical column shows consciousness moving from your unconscious (on the bottom) to your conscious mind (on the top). Combined, these elements give you a snapshot of your inner and outer environment at the time of the reading.
The Staff section offers commentary upon your life beyond the immediate situation. It offers some reflection upon what is shown in the Circle/Cross section and gives you some guidance about yourself (your fears as well as your hopes), others, and the overarching outcome of the current path.
This interpretation of the Celtic Cross is what Rachel Pollack and Joan Bunning teach, but others may have different interpretations or variations. Bunning, for example, often uses the “hopes and fears” card (position 9) as a lesson or guidance card. It’s always possible to adapt the spread to your own needs…but you really must decide what those are before you pull any cards for the spread.
For a more in-depth series of lessons on the Celtic Cross and its positions, I highly recommend Bunning’s free on-line lessons. Quickly, however, we can characterize the positions as follows:
- Position 1 (Heart of the Matter): The general atmosphere surrounding the question.
- Position 2 (Crossing Factors): The challenge within the situation at position 1; the problem, the oppositional energies.
- Position 3 (Root Cause): The foundation of the matter at hand; this is how the situation evolved.
- Position 4 (Recent Past): The influence that is just passing or has recently passed away from the situation.
- Position 5 (Possible Outcome): This is the conscious influence that may come into being, given the unconscious foundation of 3.
- Position 6 (Immediate Future): The influence that will be of importance in the near future.
- Position 7 (Yourself): This is your own self-image, or how you see yourself. It can also be the forces you are capable of.
- Position 8 (Environment): This can be you in interaction with what is around you. It can be the public face you put on and show the world. It can also be how others may view your situation.
- Position 9 (Hopes and Fears): This can be what you fear deep down, or what you secretly long for. It can also be guidance in the situation or an overlooked factor.
- Position 10 (Outcome): This is the most probable outcome of the current path, either how you will end up feeling or how others will change. It can also note a backlash to changes wrought on the current path.
It is to be noted that these descriptions, especially those in the Staff, differ slightly from what Roderick provides. (There, 7 is doubts and fears, 8 is how people close to you feel, 9 is your hopes, and 10 the outcome.)
In my sample Celtic Cross spread, I asked “What forces to I need to consider in developing my love life?” I chose to ask about my romantic life because it is perpetually non-existent, and I’m comfortable with sharing anything the cards say on the matter online.
In the heart of the matter position, I have the Devil card, which–I’m sorry to say–is very apt. I’m definitely more than a little greedy in relationships. I know what I want out of them, and I want nothing less than the whole package. If I just stopped to appreciate the factors any one person brought to a relationship, I’m sure I would be very contented…but I want it all or nothing, so I end up with nothing. I also have to admit I’m not as attentive to my partner’s emotional requirements as I could be.
Crossing the Devil is the Fool, which comments on my lack of discipline (or even experience) in romantic affairs. I think it means that my lack of experience is holding me in the greedy position, for it lets me stay unchallenged in that state.
The unconscious root of the matter is the Moon, reversed. The moon is such a wild, restless, elemental force. I think its reversal here indicates that I’ve greatly repressed those uncontrollable, lustful urges that lead into starting relationships.
In the recent past, we have the Two of Wands, or the “Watch and Wait” card. This is a kind, generous character who waits while his well-thought out plans come to fruition, or the planned journey comes to an end with all the riches of new lands coming into harbor. It’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s just not the right time for him. This definitely summarizes my past. It’s very rarely been the right time for me to start any relationships, so I’ve put effort into preparing myself in other ways.
A possible outcome of this path is the King of Swords. In many cases, court cards in the Tarot signify actual persons. This could mean I take up with a fellow with dark hair and light eyes (which is so my type it’s almost comical). The general energy of this king–a perceptive, strong willed commander who controls the situation–is also something I find really desirable in a partner. The reversal, though, gives me pause. With this card, I think that signifies an intensification of its negative attributes, which can mean premeditated malice or exploitation: in other words, a sadistic, cruel bully of a man. There’s a fine line between a healthy control and an abusive situation. Alternately, this could indicate the factors in ME that are my own outcome: I become a selfish, sarcastic, callous shrew. I have to admit, I have those seeds within me.
My immediate future holds the reversed Hermit. Upright, we know that this is a really healthy card: someone who has found an enlightenment and is in a position to help others there, too. Reversed, however, I think this indicates more of a lack of human contact and excessive self-reliance; even a fear of intimacy and a tendency to cut others out of one’s life. Um. Yes. I have been the reversed Hermit, and I can see where this is something I will struggle with in the near future.
My inner-self card, the Page of Swords, Robin Wood calls the “Running with Scissors” card. She has vision and agility, but there’s an element of danger with her. It’s association with air indicates a person who can resolve disputes rationally and dispassionately; someone who is mentally and physically dexterous. The dangerous aspect of those traits is that this is a person who may have malicious rumors spread about them–gossip and rumors play a significant role. As we know, this is exactly what happened in my last living situation, and it had explosive results. I tried very hard to always approach house debates rationally and without passion, and that lack of passion apparently made me seem so cold and off-putting, some of my housemates thought me capable of animal abuse. (My hatred of our rat infestation didn’t help that.) I guess that experience affected me a lot more deeply than I thought it had.
My environmental card is the reversed King of Pentacles. If this is how others see me, I’m ashamed of myself. Reversed, the healthy, security minded King becomes too preoccupied with money and is superficial, mean, greedy, dishonest, and insensitive. It is true that I am very worried about money right now, and I’ve not really been managing my resources well at all…and I think that is having some really negative effects. I am no where near as adventurous as I used to be. The meanness and pettiness of this card certainly aren’t attractive factors, that’s for sure! I hate that this is my presentation to the world.
My hopes and fears card couldn’t be clearer. The Three of Swords is the famous heartbreak card. It’s sorrows and woe–of being stabbed right in the heart. I am pretty sure this means I’m scared of all this sorry, hurt, and misfortune that comes from a failed relationship. As an adult, I got to see my parents “June and Ward Cleaver” relationship go up in disastrous flames, and I think I might just be terrified of the type of deep betrayals my dad was capable of. I don’t think I could live through that sort of heartbreak again, so maybe I find that it’s better to be alone.
The final outcome here is the reversed Eight of Pentacles. In my recent job-focused reading, this was a hopeful outcome of new, low-paying employment. Here, I think it means that problems regarding my lack of work are preoccupying my mind and affecting my behavior. Alternately, it could mean I’m cutting a lot of corners and am dissatisfied with the results. I think both have some truth in them.
Let it never be said that Tarot readings are all sunshine and daisies. God, I feel like someone slugged me in the stomach with a two-by-four.