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The Triptychs of TarotVille

June 5, 2015

After several years of posting Pithy Tarot Meanings (hundreds of them!), I am considering moving on to a new series of blog posts soon – “story spread” interpretations of three card triptychs.

First let me explain what I mean by a story spread.

If you lay out three cards in a row, you can interpret them, not merely using each individual card meanings, but with an overall meaning for the three cards taken as a whole, i.e., as one image.  In that case, the whole is greater than (or at least different from) the sum of the parts.  This spread, called “the story spread” is a very different sort of three-card spread than what we usually see.  I learned it from Robert Place, and you can read about it in his book, The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination (pages 273 – 284) if you want to find out more about it.  (PS: In any case, I heartily recommend that book!)  You can also read more about this spread in one of my blog posts from a few years ago called “Robert Place at Readers Studio 2010.” Briefly, though, here is how you can do this kind of reading.

If you lay out three cards, you get something that looks like a comic strip, which you can read as if it were a story.  You can do this based on the apparent movement of the characters and the flow of energy seen in the cards.  The middle card functions as the verb of the sentence, so to speak, and as such, it establishes the direction in which to read the trio of cards.  (Consequently, you don’t always read the cards left to right.)  For example, if the middle card is the Knight of Coins, you would read from left to right (because the Knight faces to the right in the card image), but the Knight of Cups will take the narrative from right to left.  With other cards, such as the Wheel of Fortune, the flow seems to emanate from the center toward the flanking cards. In other cases, the central card provides comparison or advice about the cards to either side of it.  The Two of Coins is an example of such an instructional card.  Finally, some cards may seem like blockage cards in that they obstruct the flow of energy between the flanking cards.  The Five of Coins may be such a card. (These are not hard and fast rules however.  Let the flow of the reading come to you intuitively.)

story spread directional card examples

Note that an advantage of this spread is that it works pretty well when you’re doing a reading for yourself, even though self-readings are not usually easy since your ego often gets in the way for them.  However, reading three cards as a story can trick your ego into not interfering since “it’s just a story.”  Then, once you’ve seen the story in it, you can apply its message to your question for the reading.

By the way, this spread works well with decks that have pictorial images on all the cards, such as the Rider-Waite deck and variants of it, and my own Tarot of the Masters deck.  However, decks such as the Tarot de Marseilles, which have only suit symbols on the pip cards, are ill suited for storytelling. (Perhaps, though, you could just use the Major Arcana if you want to use the TdM deck.) And with decks that use complex images, such as the Voyager Deck, it may be hard to get a sense of flow from the cards.

So why do we want to examine readings of this sort? First of all, this is a great way to do short readings.  Secondly, considering such readings is a fun and interesting way to hone our skills in doing readings with multi-card spreads as it encourages us to think about how the interpretation of one card in a spread can be influenced by adjacent cards.

You can see a couple of examples of readings with this spread in the aforementioned blog post, Robert Place at Readers Studio 2010, and I plan for future blog posts to provide more. Keep your eye on this blog for those!

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3 Comments
  1. Ted permalink

    Oh, excellent!! I look forward to this series!! Thank you doing this!

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