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Author of The Ending of the Words – Magical Philosophy of Aleister Crowley, Hermetic Qabalah – A Foundation in the Art of Magick, Hermetic Qabalah Initiation Workbook, Ritual Magick – The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light, and The Flaming Sword – A Magical Sepher Sephiroth. Visit Ordo Astri to view these titles: www.ordoastri.org/books

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Thoth Tarot Spread

This article has proved to be very popular. I have therefore decided to publish the whole paper here, reproduced from Ritual Magick – The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light (Revised 2014 Edition).

The Fifteen-card Tarot spread is sometimes called the “Thoth” Tarot spread, as it seems to have been devised by the publisher of some early editions of the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. The advantage of this spread is that cards are read in sets of three, so the elemental dignities of the Tarot can be applied. The method of laying out the cards is very attractive, since a widdershins spiral is formed, outward from the centre. Numerically, there is a strong relationship with the Pentagram.[1]
The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

The Fifteen-card spread has six cards (centre and lower left) that represent the questioner. This can produce surprising insights, since it is often not realised quite how much the question and its likely outcome is determined by the spiritual, mental and emotional state of the questioner. Here is an example of the cards on the top right and the top left in agreement, from the journal record of an actual divination: 

The cards Adjustment VIII and The Priestess II mirror each other; they are both feminine figures, represented by Libra and the Moon respectively. The Five of Disks mirrors the Prince of Disks; the Ten of Wands mirrors the Nine of Wands. Since the two sets of cards are clearly in agreement, there is a flow or natural development of the future, reading from right to left.
Tarot Dignities
Traditionally, the cards on either side are used to evaluate the meaning of the centre card. The elemental qualities of classical Hermeticism are used:

Wands and Cups are inimical
Fire and Water are contrary
Wands and Swords are mutual
Fire and Air are complementary
Wands and Disks are mutual
Fire and Earth are complementary
Cups and Swords are mutual
Water and Air are complementary
Cups and Disks are mutual
Water and Earth are complementary
Swords and Disks are inimical
Air and Earth are contrary

If (for example) a card of Wands has a Wand on either side, it is greatly strengthened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Cup on either side, it is greatly weakened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Sword or Disk card on either side, it is moderately strengthened by those cards, according to their nature.

If a card of Wands has a Cup (inimical) on one side, and a Sword (mutual) on the other side, it is said that the “Sword takes the Cup to the Wand” and the Wand is moderately strengthened according to the nature of the two cards on either side. But if the Wand has on one side a Sword and on the other side a Disk, it is said that the two cards on the outside cancel or neutralise each other, since Swords and Disks are opposite in nature. In that case the two cards on either side have little or no effect on the Wand in the centre.
Trump cards, as a rule, greatly outweigh the small cards; their operation is on a different plane and in a reading they tend to represent spiritual forces or destiny. One must be careful, therefore, when there is a mixture of trumps and small cards. The trump cards correspond to zodiacal, planetary and elemental forces.
Fortune X (for example) corresponds to Jupiter, and so if this card appeared with The Hermit IX, which corresponds to Virgo, the effect would be similar to that of Jupiter in Virgo in an astrological chart. The Tower XVI corresponds to Mars and so if this card appeared with The Empress IV, the trump for Venus, the action would be similar to Mars aspecting Venus in an astrological chart.
The three elemental trumps can be problematical. The Fool 0 (for example) is the primary element of Air. What if this card appears with The Devil XV, corresponding to Capricorn, a cardinal Earth sign? Air and Earth are inimical, yet the trumps are more than elemental; they are composite glyphs that mirror the paths of the Tree of Life. Both cards, in fact, depict an aspect of Pan the All-Begetter. Fortunately the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, can be assigned to the elemental trumps:

The effect of The Devil XV and The Fool 0 together can then be taken as similar to that of Uranus in Capricorn. In any reading one should look first to see if there is a predominance of any element or type. Many Wands in a reading, for example, would indicate much energy and activity. A majority of court cards would indicate that many persons were involved in the question, or there is much social activity. A large number of trumps in a reading indicates forces of destiny or karma involved with the question. 

[1] The number 15 is the grand number of the pentagram as 5 multiplied by the trinity. It is also the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 5, or Σ (1–5) = 15.

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2015

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