Friday, October 13, 2006

The Celtic Cross Storymaker v.3.0

When I began reading tarot, I learned, as many tarot newbies do, to use the Celtic Cross spread. It's a 10-card spread that has been a staple of tarot reading at least since Arthur Waite published it, but he claimed it had been used among tarot readers long before he brought it to the masses. The spread is fairly general, but useful, and gives a lot of information, even some you may not need. A lot of people have difficulty with the Celtic Cross Spread. Some say it has too many cards, others say it's too general and doesn't answer the questions specifically enough. I understand those objections and there's no reason to use the spread if you can't seem to get it to work for you. However, I've found a way to read it that helps me, and maybe you, too.

The Celtic Cross Spread is like a story. It has literary elements like a protagonist, antagonist, conflict, climax, and denoument. It also reveals hidden forces at work, for better or for worse, and gives advice to the protagonist on how best to complete his mission. Tarot is story-telling with pictures and this spread lends itself quite well to that method of reading.

The first two cards are the actual cross, while the next four cards are the circle around the cross. The staff up the side is puzzling to many as it is disconnected from the circular cross and some of the positions seems to repeat the ones in the circular cross. There are many, many variations on this spread and different orders of positions as well. I have included a diagram here of the Celtic Cross but actually, I lay the cards down in a slightly different order than pictured here. It doesn't really matter, but it's best to choose an order and stick with it, embedding it in your subconscious so your readings will be more clear to you.

Some readers will use a Significator as well, underneath the first card. In Waite's version this makes sense, as you'll see, given his position designations. A Significator can be chosen by the Querant from the entire deck or from the court cards. It represents the card they see themselves as in their current situation. Or, you may decide to choose a Significator at random which can tell you what may really be going on under the surface with the Querant. Others don't use a Significator at all and just proceed with the spread without it. If we view this spread as telling a story, this card represents the protagonist of the story. The main character. Our noble hero: The Querant.

The first position card is laid just over the Significator, if used, and is called, "What covers you." If you want, you can say that in a spooky voice. This is the main issue at hand. This can show the main focus of the Querant, the main issue or challenge in front of him/her, their strongest feeling or attitude, or even how they have been or desire to approach the situation. Basically, I see this card as saying, "Ok, here's the situation from your point of view." In the story of this spread, this is the protagonist's dilemma or situation facing her. This is the basic issue around which the plot is centered.

The second position card is laid sideways over the first card. This one is called, "What crosses you." This card indicates the obstacles or that which opposes the Querant. In story terms, this is the antagonist. An antagonist can be another person, an external force, or something within the protagonist that brings conflict our hero must overcome.

Using the diagram above, the third position card is laid above the center cross and this is called, "What is above you." There are various ideas about what that means, but generally speaking this is the intended goal of the Querant. It is a potential outcome if she is able to successfully navigate the challenges and if others cooperate as well. The other cards will show if this goal is realistic or not under the current circumstances. So, in story terms, this is the dream of the hero, the intention of his mission, where he has set his sights to end up.

The fourth position card is laid to the right of the cross and is called, "This is before you." This card shows what the very next action in the Querant's situation is likely to be. It will either give advice or simply show what's coming next. It's also called the Immediate Future position and it foreshaows the coming events in the story. It is also the beginning of the action of the story.

The fifth position card is laid below the cross and is called, "This is beneath you" and will give the backstory about how this situation came about. It's like a flashback in a novel, filling in the missing information about a key feature of the more distant past that brought about the present circumstances. It can also indicate a strong character trait that the Querant has that has gotten them thus far and may remind her that she can get through the current problems in a similar way. It, of course, depends on the card and your interpretation to understand what exactly it is referring to.

The sixth position card is laid to the left of the cross and is called, "This is behind you." Rather than being the foundational issue, as in position five, this position tells the reader what has just happened immediately prior to this situation that is even still currently impacting it, but which is passing now as event unfold. This is backstory, too, but because we are able to see dynamics still present, it's current as well. This is action as well, but it's as if we walked in on the scene already in progress.

This portion of the Celtic Cross gives a good idea all by itself about what is going on and where it is likely to go. But our hero has other influences and the challenge is still before her. So, on to the staff.

The seventh position card is laid to the bottom right of the spread and it indicates the Querants present attitude, feelings, and actions. It should be taken as advice, in that if a card comes up indicating a negative attitude or approach, the reader may point that out as being disadvantageous to the accomplishment of the goal the Querant seeks in the third position card. Also, if her approach has been positive, that can be affirmed as well. This is the hero's action plan.

The eighth position card is laid directly above the seventh and it indicates the Querant's environment, the forces and other people who are impacting the events and the way they may be impacting them -- their actions, their opinions, advice, etc. If, say, the Tower appears here, this could show an event out of the Querant's control that will impact the situation and change things for her quite dramatically. If a court or other "people card" is in this position, this would indicate another person who plays a direct role in shaping the events. They could be helping or harming, depending on the situation. Good information for our hero to know.

The ninth position card is laid, again, above the last and it indicates the Querant's hopes and fears concerning the outcome. Other versions use this position as "something the Querant should know." In either case, it sheds more light on what will be the necessary approach, given all the other cards information thus far. It's the final conflict, and if it be her own hopes and fears, it is the protagonist's own inner struggle which brings about the climax as she resolves this conflict within herself and ....

The tenth position card above the ninth indicates the Outcome. This card shows what will likely happen if the story plays out as described in the sequence of cards already shown. Sometimes a card that isn't welcome shows up here, so sometimes one needs to look carefully at the other cards to determine where something might be going badly. It's possible the end result is simply outside of our hero's control and the story becomes rather a tragedy, riveting but sad. Other times there are clues to attitudes we can change, behaviors to adopt and new things to try. The outcome is not written in stone. All the other cards are there to tell our hero what she needs to know to make her OWN outcome, if she can. She can re-write the story at will, and that is one of the best qualities of a tarot reading: that it provides information, ideas, and clues to help us write our own life's stories as we go along.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I've been trying to learn the Celtic Cross, but have been having a hard time, I'll have to give it a go later, using your post to see how it goes.

Ruby

Ginny said...

I wonder, Ruby, if you could explain where you're struggling with the CC? I know it's not the most intuitive spread, so I'm just curious what is giving you the most trouble with it?

kat said...

Lovely explanation!

I kind of like the Celtic Cross, but since I only read for myself so far - I can freely "cheat" and call into play my favorite books to pull the story together.

Ginny said...

Hey kat, that's not called "cheating" that's called learning. :) This is one oft used method for writers using tarot -- using spreads to flesh out characters, plot direction, creating conflict and conflict resolution. Such a great tool for igniting the creative spark. I just figured why not use the same method when reading for oneself or others? Just treat it like a story in progress.

RChMI said...

Lest we forget, that the Celtic Cross was patterned so as to bear reference to The Tree of Life... The hidden Significator is the "invisible" Sephira Da'ath. Positions 1 and 2 relate to the Sephiroth Kether and Chokmah, which have no planetary attributions, with the remaining positions relating to the planetary Sephiroth Binah through Malkuth.

Additionally, positions 3-9 also relate to the Chakras... 9 being the Root and 3 being the Crown.

Ginny said...

RChMI, now...THAT is a whole series of posts in itself. :) It actually works well with my "elements of story writing" theme in that the Tree of Life is an experiential path of life, so the "hero" of the story moves through the...um...branches. I'll have to do a lot more studying on the Tree of Life before attempting that, but you've certainly given me ideas about further posts on the Celtic Cross and how to better understand its positions. Thanks!

RChMI said...

Let's not forget that the positioning of the outer four cards around the two inner cards imparts an important aspect as to the "nature" of the operation... Circular or Lateral.

The positionnings in their circular format being either clockwise or counterclockwise conform to the ideals of empowering/attracting and diminishing/banishing

The positionings in their lateral format being either left to right, or right left conform to the ideals of Western esotericism or Eastern esotericism.

The positioning of these four cards needs to be taken into consideration with far more thought and care than most people give to them, if they even give any thought to them at all.

Ginny said...

I really don't think most people do give thought to the direction in which the cards are laid to circle the cross. There are so many variations and most of the time no reason is given for them. In the example I used in this post, the ordering of the cards seemed a little counter-intuitive to me, but I thought maybe that was because I am used to a different order. But I find it helpful for me to begin the circle with card 3 representing the foundational aspects of the situation, placed below the crossed cards, then move clockwise through the recent past to the higher goal then to the immediate future/next step in the journey. I'm not sure what that says about me, but it appears to me that progression and direction would, as you say empower/attract.

You've inspired me to delve into the Celtic Cross more. It really is a deep spread with a lot more to it than most give it credit for. I've always learned a great deal from it, even when I didn't understand what I was doing. ;)

RChMI said...

With the circular format,the Cross can be thought of in the same regard as that of the Pentagram within various rituals, where the starting point on the star is equivalent to the starting point of the Cross and the direction of the numbers determines the nature of the operation. The top being North/Earth, the right being East/Air, the bottom being South/Fire, the left being West/Cups...


Clockwise: Empowering/Attracting

Earth/Pentacles/Senses:
---3---
6-----4
---5---

Air/Swords/Intellect:
---6---
5-----3
---4---

Fire/Wands/Will:
---5---
4-----6
---3---

Water/Cups/Emotions:
---4---
3-----5
---6---


Counterclockwise: Banishing/Diminishing

Earth/Pentacles/Senses:
---3---
4-----6
---5---

Water/Cups/Emotions:
---6---
3-----5
---4---

Fire/Wands/Will:
---5---
6-----4
---3---

Air/Swords/Intellect:
---4---
5-----3
---6---

RChMI said...
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RChMI said...

There is also the aspect of utilizing "restricted suits" for readings with the Celtic Cross. Some find that doing so may help to clarifiy specific issues by using the specific suits to focus attention on the question.

The Minor suits used follow their specific attributions... Cups for love/emotional relationships, Pentacles for financial matters, etc... With a Court card in the same suit used as a significator.

Restricting the cards to that of the Minors and a particular suit, allows for the aspect of the material or mundane level of conscious awareness to be tapped into specifically, in order to relate better to the material/mundane nature of specific questions.

Ten specific postions within the Celtic Cross - Ten specific Minor cards within a suit... Just something to think about.

[The Courts should be considered distinct and separate from the Minors.]

Ginny said...

RChMI, I think YOU need to write a series of posts on the CC! :D The subject is broad enough for a book!

Molly said...

Wow, this is a brilliant interpretation of the celtic cross. I'm just learning it and have been using it for a few years, but this sheds new insight on all the cards that came up in a spread I did recently. Thank you! I am bookmarking this and will come back again next time I do a reading. =)=)

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain a Celtic Cross reading I had done and maybe clarify some things for me. I have the layout of the cards and the question that was asked. I just don't want to read my hopes into it.

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