Checking In: Reader Development Spread

Put the jug on, friends, and settle in. It's time for a tarot reading!

A little over a year ago, I posted a reading with the Reader Development Spread, designed by the exceedingly wonderful Sarah Dawn of The Tarot Parlor. I'm a firm believer that, no matter how experienced, a tarot reader is a student of the discipline for life. There's always so much more to learn, and one's style as a reader is ever-evolving. 

This time last year, I was nearly six months into running Two Sides Tarot, and was experiencing a period of rapid growth as a reader and as a business owner - what a learning curve! The insights that this spread gave me back then really helped me to put my work in context, and to think about where the potential was for further growth as a reader. A year on feels like a good time to check in again and see how much my practice has grown, and where it might lead me next! 

Using the Centennial Edition of the Pamela Colman Smith Deck, here's what I came up with.

1. My strengths as a tarot reader - Ace of Pentacles

My strengths as a reader lie in the solid foundation that underpins my work. I'm pleased to see the Ace of Pents here, because I think it speaks to the many hours of courses, study, and reading (both books and cards!) that I've put in over the years, which in turn, I bring to every new reading I take on. 

Being an Ace, this card also reflects what I mentioned above - that being a tarot reader means being a perpetual student. As with any Ace, there is a suggestion here of beginning, the first step in a journey. My strengths lie in being ready to take a new approach, in starting afresh with the cards whenever I pick them up, and in being open to going in new directions with my reading and learning style. 

Finally, my strengths as a reader lie in an insistence on practicality. Pentacles are the suit of the grounded and the worldly, after all! It has always been my belief that, although tarot is an esoteric practice, it must have practical applications. There's no point in doing a tarot reading if it isn't going to offer tangible insight that can be applied to real world situations. I'm glad to see that this philosophy is still serving me well! 

2. My weaknesses or areas that need improvement - Four of Cups

I must admit, at first I didn't know what to make of this one, the irony of which is not lost upon me since the Four of Cups is all about not being able to see the thing that's right in front of your face! There was obviously a piece of my tarot puzzle that I just wasn't seeing. Perhaps this is a new skill, a system I haven't yet learned, or a way of using my existing reading skills that hasn't yet dawned on me. There is an offering available, but I haven't yet taken it up and that delay is working against me. 

When in doubt, I refer back to my own best practices, and for this card that means I would urge my client to take some time out and reflect, to turn within and see if they can uncover the nature of the blockage they're facing. I took my own advice and did some quiet contemplation with the card image, and believe it or not, a burst of intuition popped right into my head. The key lies in the image itself. When you examine it closely, that suspended Cup has much to teach about where I need to strengthen my skills.

It may come as a surprise, but I'm not much of a visual learner. My recall and comprehension is much better with text on a page than it is with images, and I have noticed a tendency in myself to defer to my verbal/linguistic understanding of a card over, say, examining the imagery in detail in the moment and letting that speak for itself. Playing with language is one of my favourite pastimes, and sometimes that may overshadow other ways of representing meaning. Of course, tarot is a visual art form, and engaging with the artwork on a card is an essential part of what I do, but this is definitely something I want to expand in my practice. I've witnessed readers I admire delving into the imagery on a single card, and drawing out minute symbols, pictures and patterns that lend themselves to such original and complex readings, based almost solely on visual cues. There is myriad visual information on every card, both obvious and subtle, just waiting to be mined for understanding. This is something I want to improve on and integrate more deeply into my practice.

3. How to develop my skills as a reader - XV The Devil

Well, this is a juicy one! The Devil is inviting me to come face to face with my own demons in order to grow my tarot skills. What fun! It should come as no surprise that even your trusted tarot reader has their own lifetime of baggage to unpack, and I think for all readers, being attentive to our own personal growth can only be helpful for our work with our tarot clients. 

My tarot skills will continue to develop as I engage fully with my personal, spiritual, and emotional journey in this lifetime. The Devil does represent certain things in my own life that I am working through over time, and I'm happy to know that this personal work has positive implications for my tarot practice. I'll just have to keep at it!

4. How to deal with blocks in my development or readings - Knight of Swords

Could there be a more effective enemy of blockages than the Knight of Swords? This card asks me to use momentum, focus, and clear intent to overcome any obstacles I might be facing in my practice. The Knight of Swords has eyes on the prize at all times, and he never allows fear, anxiety, or any other emotional trepidation to stop him in his tracks. 

I am being called to maintain steady focus on my goals as a reader, and to allow my core motivation - my passion for tarot - to continue to fuel me, even when I might want to shy away from difficulties. It's an emboldening card to see here, and I'm happy to have the Knight of Swords on my team. I hope his courage is contagious!

5. What to avoid or what will block my growth - Two of Pentacles

Interestingly, the Two of Pentacles appeared in the previous position, How to Deal with Blocks, in my reading last year. Last year, the Two of Pents was helpful, but this year, not so much! Last year, this card cautioned me to hone my focus, to be mindful of taking on too much at once. This year, it seems this card's insistence on prioritising could limit my development as a reader.

This ties in quite nicely with the Ace of Pentacles and the Four of Cups. The focused, solid foundation of my practice is already there, so what I should be thinking about now is the beginner's mind aspect of the Ace - always be ready to try something new, even if it means a bit of a juggling act. Instead of worrying about prioritising in my tarot study and practice, I should take a more expansive approach. Follow whims, take on disparate systems, ideas, and methods. Working more deeply with images a la the Four of Cups, as well as exploring the theory, is only going to enhance my work as a reader. It's ok for me to have multiple balls in the air right now! 

6. The lesson I am learning at this stage in my tarot practice - I The Magician

For me, The Magician is always about preparedness. The Magician's table is heavy with materials, holding the symbols that represent all four suits of the tarot. In her right hand, a wand stretches to the heavens, and her left hand points down to the worldly realm below. She has all the elements at her disposal and the power of heaven and earth on hand, which is just as well, because she is right at the beginning of the Fool's Journey, and who knows what is to come? I'm not sure that I have achieved quite Magician levels of readiness, but it is great to know that I might be in the midst of acquiring some of this badassery!

Interestingly, there is a parallel between the Ace (one) of Pentacles, and I The Magician, the first numbered card of the Major Arcana (given that The Fool is usually zero, or sometimes twenty-two). One seems to be my lucky number in this reading, and suggests that I am embarking upon a new phase of my tarot journey. The Magician says that I am learning to marshal my powers and skills in readiness for this new adventure, whatever it might be. Bring it on, I say!

7. The outcome of my work with tarot and my development as a reader - Seven of Pentacles Reversed

Subtle workings! The Seven of Pentacles reversed is a curious card to find in this position, but one I think has a lot to say for itself. Upright, this card is about standing back and evaluating one's progress, and seeing how far one has come from the start (from the Ace of Pentacles, in fact). Reversed, my intuition is that this progress is not so obvious. It can't be easily measured, represented on a chart, quantified or counted.

The expansive approach this spread is urging me to take might lead me in many different directions, into disparate disciplines and methods. Focusing too much on set pathways or particular results, such as the step-by-step road to completion represented by the Seven of Pentacles, would be missing the point. I'm going off-map here! Outcomes will be intangible, ephemeral, subtle, possibly even difficult to show or communicate.

In one sense, I would have preferred to see a more structured, victorious card here, maybe the Six of Wands, or Ten of Pentacles! That certainly would have been a more comfortable direction to take. However, the reversed Seven of Pentacles really reinforces the message of this spread - I have the opportunity now to undertake a new phase of my tarot practice, a journey into uncharted territory. My hunch is that this new phase requires less of an earthy, methodical approach, and more of a watery, whimsical one. The Ace of Pentacles might be my existing, earthy strengths, but the Four of Cups is an invitation to dive in and swim somewhere new. Things might get weird, but I think I'm ready!

If you have a tarot practice on any kind, I highly recommend trying out this spread from time to time, and if you do, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If this isn't your bag, do you use any kind of tools - tarot-related or otherwise - to reflect on the development of your tarot practice?