This post provides an introduction to the 3-card Tarot variation, the centerpost of this World Servers' Spread. The Three-card reading is one of the most simple and yet most subtle tools in the Tarot reader's arsenal of spreads. Because it can be adjusted to highlight a number of concerns inside a very tight scope (the steps of 1-2-3), a creative Tarot user can virtually carry on for an entire career using only this spread and its multiples.
For the 3 card variation of our World Servers' Spread, let's look first at the sequence 1-2-3. One way to look at this is to use the ancient titles for these things; Monad, Dyad, Triad.
Other trinities that can be attached directly to the numbers are:
*singleton, polarity, fulcrum (in the sense of dividing the question by one, then two, then three).
*In geometrical terms, this means Point, Line, Plane, and defines the close-in nested dimensions that emanate from or converge upon the One.
*In terms of consciousness this means Self, Other, and Relationship or Communication.
*In terms of the causality, this means Action, Reaction, Result.
Already we see the beginnings of a method for employing this kind of tri-fold analysis to study an event, situation, or experience in our lives.
Now let's look at some of the traditional variations on the "classic" three-card spread. One very popular approach is to pick one card each for the Past, the Present , and the Future. We can see how this approach combined with the 1-2-3 inner structure suggests that as time unfolds from the past into the future, it takes on increasing complexity and multiplies the potentials for realization.
The past is strictly limited by being a "done deal" with no new events happening within it (one). The present allows for the personal will to recognize contrast and enact a choice between possible paths (two). Ultimately, the future includes potentials that are still-undreamed-of in the present, and which we will only learn about as they arise, unbidden, from our conscious intent (three). (Also note the similarity of the general outlook of this spread with the meaning of the 6 of Cups.)
Another oft-seen arrangement that comes easily to mind echos one of the categories I mentioned above -- Self, Other, and Relationship. Again one can see how the increasing complexity of the 1-2-3 sequence gets expressed, but this time from the point of view of the ego. The Self card represents the internal universe of the questioner, separate and distinct from all other selves.
The Other, however, introduces an alien force into the Self's reality, which changes the information-stream completely and introduces difference-value into the Self's world. Finally the Communication (or Relationship, or "we" card) demonstrates whatever common ground there is upon which the overlap of these two different selves can stabilize.
Projecting the triad within the Self instead of outside the Self, we can also derive a more introspective version of the three-card spread. This divides the querent's inner universe into three zones, which can be correlated with the three main regions of the body -- belly, heart, and head. Now the questioner has a tool to examine and amplify the different messages of these power-centers that make up the personality. I consider this to be one of the least-used but most-powerful of the three card spreads because it aids self-awareness and communication between levels of the self, and it also supports taking personal responsibility for one's own experience no matter what is going on outside one's skin. It is up to the user to decide whether they want to lay the cards head-to-toe or toe-to-head, as either arrangement can be meaningfully enhanced by including the underlying 1-2-3 framework. (This spread is available on the Tarot Magic interactive CD.)
The three-card spread that is used at tarot.com is actually the opening movements of the larger Celtic spread. This gives the three positions as Self, Situation, and Challenge. For many people this makes a perfect snapshot of the Self in context, and even just this much current insight can be tremendously liberating to see portrayed objectively in the cards. This is the spread that is shared for free at tarot.com, and I will never tire of saying that a savvy Tarot user who knows how to ask nice, tight questions can get a lot of free mileage out of that feature.
I want to support my students in applying the Tarot to macro-issues on a societal, cultural, and global scale, rather than only using it exclusively as a micro-tool for individual, private issues. Therefore I will suggest another approach to a three-card spread based on a "great mystery" hidden in the Trump pattern.
Some of you might have already been exposed to the idea that the Trump sequence can be visualized as a circle rather than just a straight line running from the Magus to the World (or the Fool, depending on your deck). When the beginning and the end of the sequence are bent towards each other like the ancient symbol of the snake eating its own tail, we see the first and last cards inter locking in a way that is not enough emphasized. Controversies over where to place the Fool card only serve to further bury this convergence-point in confusion.
The way I link the first to the last cards is influenced by my background in Continental Esoteric Tarot. This is the method it pleases me to use, and you can use it too if it makes sense to you. Envisioning the Trumps as progressing from the Magus clockwise in a circle, and keeping the Trumps in Marseilles order, we will see the World wrapping around, through the Fool, to return to the Magus again. The Fool becomes the "middle term" between the World and the Magus, serving as hinge, lock, or glue to bind the sequence into a circle.
But in what order are the cards to be placed, then, in order to make best use of the 1-2-3 sequence in which every group of cards is laid out, no matter what the spread? This turns out to be a philosophical point, much like the decision one has to make to use the inward-directed three-card spread above (which details the belly/heart/head triad).
In my own mind, I see the World as the Monad, the Fool as the Dyad and the Magus as the Tetrad. In the imagery and teachings of the Number Theologians (like the Pythagoreans), the World is the Monad, the BIG ALL from which all forms and categories of beings are drawn. So this position is filled first, followed by the Fool spot (to the right).
The realm of the Fool represents the "great unknown", the zone of transition whereby the will of The One is made known to the little wills of humanity (the Magus). The Fool manages to find a way to "step down" the Mystery Teachings of the Monad/World into a manageable current of energy that is not too large for the Magus to comprehend. Representing everything "between the worlds", the Fool finds the cracks in the Magus' consciousness, so the message from The World can penetrate in and add to global consciousness, one soul at a time. Thus the Fool carries the transitional stage of "twoness" (difference-value, polarity, contrast) from the Macro (World) to the Micro (Magus; think of him as a creature of head/heart/belly to get that sense of "threeness" anchored in this position. )
The Magus position in this spread represents the awakening individual self, rising to a new level of relationship with the larger creation, and sending forth healing energies from the individual psyche to be shared with the rest of reality.
A Reading for the Now:
Just how does this spread work in practice, then? Let's pull some cards and see... It really doesn't matter what Tarot deck gets used, since I don't read from the pictures as much as I do from the numbers, suits, ranks, and titles. But for your information, in this case I have been shuffling the Golden Tarot by Kat Black.
My question is "How can the readers of this Tarot ArkLetter relate themselves to the World in such a way that they can make a positive contribution to the problems of stress, environmental degradation, instability and fear that we all feel and see around us?"
#1 - The "World" Position
The card that emerged here is the Ten of Swords. From my essay on the Minor Arcana in Tarot ArkLetter Number 3, you can see that this card traditionally indicates "terminus", as in endings, deaths, collapse of an enterprise, or fatal hostilities.
Having this card show up in this spot gives a somewhat ominous opening to our spread, because it seems to suggest that the World, Gaia, our Great Mother is suffering through a harsh transition that might be so extensive as to change terrestrial life as we currently know it.
Perhaps it's the heat and drought that seems so extreme in the Northern latitudes this summer. Certainly there's the incredible floods in Mumbai and its surrounds, representing the highest concentration of rain in 24 hours that any region in India has suffered since records began to be kept 150 years ago. The fearfully-projected Asian Bird Flu epidemic (expected by viroligists around the world, possibly as early as this winter) could be part of the picture here. And of course there's the routine poisoning of every human, animal and plant in the ecosphere by industry, excreted prescription drugs, power plants and vehicle exhaust.... In short, unsavory as this card appears in this position, it's clearly making a pointed statement about how crucial it is that the situation at hand be addressed, and quickly, before our loss of species, critical habitat, clean water, fertile farmlands, coastlines and even the weather pattern itself becomes irreversible.
#2 - The "Fool" Position
This card came up the Knight of Wands, and his job here is to simply ~embark~ upon the path of change, ready or not. This Knight carries the Spring energy of the Wands (the fire signs), so his traditional role is to start things, whether it is a new project or a forest fire. Since the #2 position specializes in raising contrast, becoming aware of difference-value, and highlighting polarities, we will look for the trend of change that this Knight can introduce, hopefully to restore, revive or revise the energy of the Ten of Swords in the previous position.
My inclination is to see this Knight as a bearer of enthusiasm and optimism, who can ride into problem areas with a can-do spirit, fresh inspiration and as-yet-unspent resources. He might or might not arrive as a hero and role model (there's always a chance he'll be a Trojan horse!), but in any case he brings new approaches to bear on what is clearly a troublesome set of givens.
I hope this card is hinting that the new environmental technologies that our President recently announced with his Asia-Pacific climate-change pact can be produced and brought online soon enough and energetically enough to make a difference on the dismal direction our global environment is devolving.
#3 - The "Magus" Position
This card is another ten, this time the Ten of Wands. Of the three cards in this spread, this is the only one which has presented itself reversed, or upside-down. Clearly the individual soul is placed under an extra burden during times of general stress and breakdown.
Not only does one have to deal with the usual tensions of individuation, socialization, and family survival, but then on top of those are added the general malaise of mass abnormalcy and disruption. Issues of self-protection and survival become more acute when the ecosystem around one suffers stress.
This card is the last term in a sequence that is athletically and willfully rigorous in most of its stages (by this I mean the 1-10 of Wands). Therefore this 10 will often have a feeling of great relief and exhaustion about it, as if representing the runner's grateful collapse at the end of race, or the final clank of the drawbridge closing just as the enemy's troops clatter into sight. I often find myself saying "just in the nick of time" about the way this card manifests, and I hope this principle is applicable in this reading as well!
The reversal suggests that there will probably still be painful losses, that the risks might nearly balance the gains, and there's a good chance the heroic individuals who serve on the front lines of this struggle will have their individual dreams and goals sacrificed for the greater good.
The World Servers' Spread
Let's give our powerful little spread a name, and call it the "World Servers' Spread". Feel free to use it whenever there's a need to make a bridge between the indescribably large forces around you (the World) and the private universe you personally live in (the Magus). Consider the card that falls into the Fool position as a kind of "wild card", in that it has the catalytic power to scale communications from the Macro situation to the Micro situation and back. The #2 card also carries within it the surprise-quotient of felicitous accident, reconciliation of opposites, and figure/ground inversions.
Together the three positions in this spread detail how the World is reaching out to humanity, calling us to awaken to the evolutionary crisis that all creatures are facing at this collective moment. In return humanity can be reaching out to The World as well, braving the void of the unknown and trusting the process, even in the presence of great fear and uncertainty. Let us pray that by leaving the Fool space open to the emerging "AHA!", both the World and Humanity can be led, as if by the Holy Spirit, to higher ground.
Research: Esoteric Tarot, Literature and Practice;
Author: Divinatory text at Tarot.com
Author: The Underground Stream;
Bishop, Gnostic Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Founder: Tarot University;
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*copyright 2005 christine payne-towler all rights reserved*