Cartomancy 101.14 – A Simple Positional Spread

positional spread is read by a method unlike that used to interpret the storybook spread. In a positional spread, one links a card’s meaning not to the card ahead of it but to the significance assigned to the position in which it is located. Below is the layout for a simple positional spread using five cards set out in the form of a cross.

equal armed cross spreadThe card falling in the first position (at the top of the cross) describes the way the inquirer sees the problem. The card in the second position (the bottom card in the diagram) reveals further details about the inquirer’s problem but from a more objective standpoint. The significance of these cards taken together generally sum up the degree of control the inquirer has over the situation in which she finds herself. Outside influences also need to be taken into account, naturally, and these are depicted by the card in position three. These outside influences may have a personal or impersonal source. A letter calling the inquirer to jury service comes from an impersonal source, as does a minor illness or a win on a lottery. The actions of someone known to the inquirer are often represented by a court card in this position, and the type of action by the suit of the card and whether it is upright or reversed.

Position four can relate to advice the cards want to offer the inquirer. At other times, the card in the fourth position describes a forthcoming event in much the same way that the card in position three does. The outcome – how things will turn out – is denoted by the card in position five, the central card in the diagram above. Occasionally – and particularly where the answer to the inquirer’s query is no – the card in the fourth position will deliver the bad news of the outcome and the card in position five will have something upbeat to add, along the lines of ‘better luck next time’ or ‘another, more attractive proposition lies ahead, so don’t feel too downcast that today’s answer was ‘no’.’

From my files, I’ve chosen a question pertaining to a new job the inquirer was hoping to attain within the organization for which she worked. She was an attractive, well-dressed woman in her early thirties. She told me that she worked in finance and was married. Having been with the company for five years, she felt ready for advancement and had applied for a position with more responsibility in-house. She had heard on the grapevine that this promotion was being hotly contested and this news had prompted her to come to me for a reading. What were her chances of securing the promotion?

She shuffled the deck; I cut it and dealt off the top five cards.

Position 1, 9 Diamonds. Position 2, Ace of Spades.
Position 3, Queen of Hearts reversedPosition 4, 8 Spades.
Position 5, 4 Hearts.

The spread is composed of two Hearts, two Spades and one Diamond. No suit predominates . . . but there is a lack, a missing element, and it is a significant one. There are no Club cards in the layout. The cartomancer can take this as a hint that matters to do with business are probably not well-starred for the inquirer at this time. The positive trend currently running in her life concerns the affections and the home (two Heart cards). There is also a negative trend associated with obstacles, setbacks and disappointed hopes (two Spade cards). This negative trend, in combination with the absence of any Club card, alerted me to the fact that the message in the cards was unlikely to be as cheery as the inquirer hoped.

In position one, we find the 9 of Diamonds. It represents new opportunities in business, and also a restless state of mind. (The card can show travel, too, but as this meaning is not backed by other factors in the reading, I discounted it.) The card in position one tells us what the inquirer thinks or feels about the problem inquired about. It can be extremely useful when the inquirer is reluctant to say what the problem is. Then, the 10 of Hearts falling in position one reveals that her concern is love, the 7 of Diamonds trouble with money, the Ace of Spades some specific misfortune.

When we already know the inquirer’s question, however, the card in the first position will usually simply confirm what we have been told. That’s what happens here. The inquirer wants to learn about the promotion she has applied for and is ready for change in the context of her professional life. We should read no more into the combination of card and position than that. The next four cards could be Spades or Diamonds in reverse, so we should make no predictions based on the significance of the card in position one until all elements in the spread have been considered.

The Ace of Spades, denoting misfortune and possibly an unhappy ending, lies in position two. It already begins to look as though the inquirer will not get her promotion, and with a reversed court card and another Spade to follow, I could be fairly certain by this point in the reading that her hopes were going to be dashed. Position two sheds light on the externals of the situation: not what the inquirer hopes will happen, but, often, the harsh realities in play. In terms of trends, this isn’t the moment for the inquirer to shine or to stand out in any favorable sense.

A fly in the ointment appears to be a female co-worker. The Queen of Hearts is in position three and she is reversed. In all probability this woman is big-hearted, dependable, sympathetic and genial, but for some reason she is not well-disposed towards the inquirer. The card being reversed also indicates that this woman represents a barrier to the inquirer’s hopes of promotion. When we discussed the spread later, the inquirer told me that I had described her boss, confiding that they had never got on from the minute they started working together. A recommendation from one’s superior was a vital element of the promotional process, and the inquirer felt that she would be given a less than glowing report by the woman she called Godzilla.

Of the various meanings assigned the 8 of Spades, the card in position four, I selected ‘disappointments’ and ‘plans not working out’ as the most appropriate to the scenario I was reviewing. The inquirer would naturally be disappointed when her plan to move ahead fell through.

The final card, in position five, is the 4 of Hearts, which can mean a change of home or changes in business. For the purposes of this reading the latter meaning is the most apposite. Because the card is upright I could predict a change for the better. I floated the idea that the inquirer might consider taking a position with another company. I was prompted to veer in this direction because another meaning for the preceding card, the 8 of Spades, is ‘trouble ahead’, suggesting that matters are likely to worsen for her at her present place of work. The inquirer agreed, saying that she had a premonition that her ‘good years’ with that company were over and that if she stayed she would enter a trough. She had applied for the vacant post because she felt the time was right for her to spread her wings and because she had ‘had a ball’, as she put it, during the five years she had worked for her present employers. If she didn’t get the promotion, she informed me in businesslike tones, she would apply for a job with a rival company. As I never saw her again, I can’t tell you how things turned out.


While the delineations above are not formed in the way they are for a storybook spread, there is an aspect of the storybook method that applies to positional readings. Its separate sections – the subjective and objective views of the problem, the outside influence, the advice and the outcome – do usually link together to form a narrative. When you first work with this spread, you may feel that you end up holding five disparate pieces of information that don’t easily arrange themselves into a rational storyline. If so, do your best to weld them into a unit, or if that is beyond your powers, into two or three units. Then wait for events to bring coherence to what at first felt like a jumble of unrelated data. Facility comes with practice, and without practice you won’t improve your cartomantic skills.


About auntietarot
Born in Britain just before the outbreak of the second world war, I was taught basic tarot skills by my maternal grandmother. In the sixties, I joined a Golden Dawn-type esoteric school, passing through the curriculum and becoming an instructor in ritual etiquette and the making and consecration of talismans. At the beginning of the eighties, I left the school to plow my own furrow in areas such as tarot and astrology. Since my retirement I have spent time researching the occult history of the tarot and the various ways the tarot has been used for divination in the past.

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