Friday, August 24, 2012

How to Deal with the Good Ole Celtic Cross

NB:  This post first appeared as a guest post at  Sofia's Rose on July 15th.

This covers you. This crosses you. This is beneath you. This is behind you. This crowns you. This is before you.

 This little mantra is a handy mnemonic to learn and lay out the much-loved, and equally dreaded, Celtic Cross Spread. It makes the whole process of doing a reading mystical and mysterious for the querent, and difficult to master for the student.

 After the cross portion with its handy and rhythmic layout, comes the staff portion, which for the most part, seems to tell what the querent likely already knows; Fears, Family Opinion, Hopes, and Final Outcome.

 No wonder so many Tarot newcomers have trouble understanding and mastering this spread! But we should always remember that Tarot is ours to interpret, work out, and reinterpret. If the positions seem unintelligible to you, start moving things around a bit.

 The first thing I felt about it was that placing the “before you” card after the “crowns you” card seemed anti climatic. So I switched the order, though not the placement, of those two cards around.

 This is the original order and layout:

 1. This is You

 2. This Covers You

 3. This is Beneath You

 4. This is Behind You

 5. This Crowns You

 6. This is Before You

But this way works a little better, I think:

 1. This is You

 2. This Covers You

 3. This is Beneath You

 4. This is Behind You

 5. This is Before You

 6. This Crowns You

 Still, it doesn’t help one to learn what these positions mean. Gray has short explanations that are a little bit helpful, but she explains that the Before You card is, “…the near future…” The Crowns You card is also supposed to be something that will happen in the future and, over on the staff, the last card is a future card. Why have three cards that mean basically the same thing?

 It seemed to me that the only way to wrap my head around all this was to read, read, read the cards. I read the cards, studied the examples in the books, and bumbled around as best I could.

 At some point I found that I had acquired a modest but decent library of Tarot books with lots of different points of view on the great Celtic Cross Spread. Greer, Gray, Pollack, a few others. I began to compare and take notes. One book focused on exploring the meaning of the first two cards renaming the positions to The Situation and The Challenge. Of course! What crosses you is what challenges you!

 Someone else changed Family Opinion to External Influences, and somewhere else it came up as Resources. These worked when the question concerned something the family had no knowledge of or no stake in.

 In a basic—very basic—way, the cross seemed to show where you were and how you got yourself there, while the staff showed how to move beyond that or at least make progress.

 I began to read books and interpretations of the spread as much as I read the cards to try and master it. I used different position names and ideas until I finally came up with a Celtic Cross that flowed for me and was helpful. The one I use now is not really a fortune telling spread the way the original tried so hard to be. Rather it is one for insight and inspiration, and helpful clarity.

 I put this new and hopefully improved version of the Celtic Cross below. Ultimately, though, I use the notes as guidelines. I prefer to find the story in the cards and what I see does not always correspond much to the position names. In fact, I consider the position names to be handy for adding another layer to the reading if needed or wanted.


 1. Situation: This is the core of the question. It should help to clarify the situation or a specific aspect of the situation

2. Challenge: This is the challenge the querent must meet in order to change or fix the situation.

3. Roots or Unconscious Awareness: What you don’t know you know. This could indicate ingrained habits or ways and means that fuel the question.

4. Intuition or Inner Voice: Some deep feeling or idea that the querent may have surrounding the situation. This card can move forward to #5 so that the intuition and inner voice guide the next card.

5. Potential Action (outer): A potential action the querent may take and is directly guided by the Intuition.

 6. Goals and Aspirations or Conscious Awareness: Some more options that the querent may wish to explore, and which she may already be aware of.


 7. You: The state of the querent at the time of the reading

 8. Environment and Resources: What the querent may or may not be able to depend on when resolving the situation. Can be an inner resource but probably something or someone from the outside environment.

9. Hopes and Fears: So often the same thing!

10. New Focus or Resolution: Where you go from here.

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