Tarot Card Spreads Explained: The Horseshoe and The Pyramid

Most Tarot readings are conducted around a particular spread, generally chosen by the reader. The spread can be likened to a map through which the reader can easily identify the relationships between the cards and the key issues that relate to the querent’s question. Spreads are one of the most significant components of a reading and yet they can be one of the most overlooked. Without deciding on a spread, it becomes very difficult for the reader to understand how the combination of cards and their combined meanings impact on the querent’s circumstances. While there are a huge number of spreads to choose from, most readers have one or two favourites that they feel more connected with. The Horseshoe and the Pyramid are just two.


Choosing a Spread


There are various things to consider when choosing a spread, but the most important is that it should relate directly to the question being asked of the cards. Tarot readings can be tangential and flag up other issues, but the reading should always return to its primary principle - the question set by the querent. It is also important to remember in which order the cards are laid, as the preceding card will have an influence over the card that follows it. Choosing a particular spread can help the reader keep an eye on just which cards are influencing which. It can also aid the reader in noting how many Minor and Major Arcana cards crop up or even note any numerical associations. If two or more cards with the same numbers appear, then there is likely to be a specific reason for this.


The Horseshoe


The Horseshoe spread is one of the most widely used of all spreads. It is an ideal spread for beginners, but is also used by seasoned readers as it is complex enough to offer insights on a general level. The level of accuracy depends entirely on the question being clear, concise and unambiguous. In this spread, seven cards are arranged, from left to right, forming a horseshoe shape, with the fourth card being the highest point of the curve. Each of the seven positions of the horseshoe has a significance that will influence the meaning of the card that is placed there:


● Card 1: This represents the past. The card drawn will explain the importance of certain past events or actions.


● Card 2: This position represents the present. Current thoughts, feelings or situations are revealed in this position.


● Card 3: This card will reveal hidden influences in the querent’s life. These are likely to be of some surprise and may or may not be welcome.


● Card 4: This position represents obstacles in the querent’s life. They may well be self-imposed obstacles in the form of a poor attitude or they may be circumstantial.


● Card 5: This card will reflect the attitudes of other people in regard to the question being asked.


● Card 6: This position offers practical suggestions to overcome obstacles in the querent’s path.


● Card 7: Should the querent follow the advice offered by the previous card, this position suggests the most likely outcome.


The Pyramid


The Tetractys Spread, more commonly known as the Pyramid Spread, is used by more experienced readers. It is a 10-card spread, arranged in the shape of a pyramid. The first row consists of one card, the one below consists of two, the one below that uses three cards and the final bottom row consists of four cards. This spread is believed to be based on the glymph of the Tree of Life, found in many Cabalistic engravings.  


It is generally used for ‘review readings’; those that evaluate the progress of the querent to evaluate how much they have learned over a fixed period and how their past decisions impact on their current life. As with the Horseshoe Spread, each of the positions in the pyramid has an effect on the way the reader will interpret the meaning of the drawn card.


● Top card. This represents the querent and their current position in life. It is a ‘summing up’ card that puts all the other cards into some perspective to give a condensed picture of the prevalent aspects at play in the here and now.


● Second row. These two cards represent the lessons that the querent has learned over a fixed period of time, such as a year. The lessons may be from teachers, other people or even circumstantial. 


● Third row. These three cards are representative of current influences in the querent’s life. They may be influenced by the life lessons in the second row and also reflect the querent’s current beliefs, thoughts and feelings.


● Fourth row. These are the foundation cards of the pyramid and take into account all of the influences of the other rows. While they represent how things are going for the querent in the present, they can also hint at how things may unfold in the future, good or ill, if the querent continues along his particular path.


This particular spread is thought to make use of one of the most sacred symbols of the Pythagoreans and is therefore most suitable for use with the Pythagorean Tarot.


There are many other types of Tarot Spread such as the Celtic Cross, the Single Card Spread and the Mirror Spread. However, there are spreads being developed almost daily, as readers discover that particular card lay-outs appeal to their intuitive sense more than others. While these are probably not for beginners, there is no harm in a novice experimenting with different patterns of cards to see how it affects the readings. 


All that really needs to be remembered is that the spread must bear some pertinence to the question being asked and offer the reader a chance to readily identify the relationships and influences between the cards. However, established spreads, such as the Horseshoe and the Pyramid are both tried and tested, giving the reader a practical approach to specific questions. 

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