The World Spread


A spread is the way in which cards are arranged on the table with as objective to consult them about a specific topic or question. There are many spreads, and none of them has a universal value. Most spreads have been developed with a specific thematic background in mind. The spread I will explain here below is a general spread. It can be used in many situations, where you need some background information. But it is a little bit complicated, so it cannot be used for simple questions where you want a direct answer (like yes/no spreads). The development of the spread has been inspired by the World card of the Marseille Tarot, so evidently the Marseille Tarot and their regional variations give the best result with this spread. The spread is not adapted for decks with illustrated pip cards.  My preferred deck for this spread is  designed in the 17th Century by Jean Noblet, and I will use images of this deck  to explain the spread.

At the left, we have the World card of Jaques Vievil. On this card, the figure in the Mandorla is clearly a man. He has a wand in his right hand, where on the Noblet card the figure holds it in his/her left hand. The position of the figures around the Mandorle on the card made by Jaques Vievil is exactly the same as on the Cathedral of Chartres. On the Cathedral the four figures represent the four evangelists, the Angel representing Mathew, the Eagle representing John, the winged Lion representing Mark and the winged ox representing Luke. This is exactly copied as such on the Tarot of Jaques Vievil, with as only difference that the Ox and the Lion don't have wings anymore.

On the card made by Jean Noblet the Ox and the Lion have changed places, but not the Angle and the Eagle. Why? As we have remarked in the section about the development of the Tarot, most cards of Jean Noblet are mirrored when compared with Vievil. Why?

The reason for the mirroring of the cards is as simple as astonishing, the Marseille Tarot is probably the first card deck specially conceived for self meditation. On the Tarot of Jaques Vievil we are looking at an illustration, on the Marseille Tarot we are looking in a mirror. The images on the cards represent the inside of our Soul. When looking at the cards of the Tarot of Marseille, we are looking at a mirrored image of our inner selves.

Now let us go back to the World card. The disposition of the figures on the card is not random, and it is no copy of the disposition of the illustration of Christ in Majesty. Every figure is on a specific place adapted to its characteristics. In fact, in this way the World card, representing the Universe and God, is a summary of the whole Tarot deck, trump cards and suit cards together. Let us have a look at the details.

The spread is based on the card called "Le Monde". What we see on this card is a human figure, half woman half man, standing inside a Mandorla. In the four corners around this mandorla four figures, three animals and an angel. This image strongly resembles the illustration called "Christ in Majesty", a composition used above the entrance of many medieval cathedrals, on paintings and in scriptures. As an example, here below the representation at the entrance of the cathedral of Chartres, close to Paris in France. Around Christ, we see the same figures, a lion, an ox, an eagle and an angle, representing the four evangelists.  It looks a lot like the World card of Jean Noblet, but there are some differences.

Looking at the World card of Jean Noblet, we see on the top side two winged creatures, that are linked to spiritual values. On the bottom of the card, we see two Earth bound creatures, linked to earthly matters. On the left side of the card, we see two docile creatures, an ox and an angel. On the right side of the card, to killing machines, an eagle and a lion, who need to kill other animals to stay alive. The ox and the Angle have receptive female characteristics, and the eagle and the lion have dynamic male characteristics. In the figure here below, we will replace the four figures with Trump cards having the same characteristics.

The flying figures have been replaced by the Popess and Pope, representing spiritual values. The Earth bound animals have been replaced by the Empress and the Emperor, rulers over the material world. The docile figures are represented by two women, the Popess and Empress. And finally, the voracious eagle and lion are represented by two men, the Pope and the Emperor.

After having added four Trump cards, we will add four suit cards, representing the four elements. Earth is down on the bottom of the card, Water can be found on the women's side, Air is on top and Fire (Life, Energy) at the men's side. Coins (Earth) will be represented by the Page (representing the Earth aspect in the court cards) on the bottom of the figure, Cups (Water) by the Queen (the Water aspect in the court cards) on the left side, Swords (Air) by the Knight (representing the Air aspect in the court cards) on top and finally Batons (Life/Fire/Energy) will be represented by the King (who is representing the Life/Fire/Energy aspect in the court cards) on the right side.  The final figure  is the following:

The above figure is the base of the World Spread. The spread consists of 10 cards. After shuffling and mixing the deck, put the cards on a pile. Discard six cards and put the seventh card in the center of the table. Repeat this procedure of discarding six cards and putting every seventh card on the table on the place as indicated below. When laying out this spread, the first card indicates the general atmosphere of the question. The next four cards are placed anticlockwise on the place of the Trumps II, III, IIII and V. They represent the influences on the general subject, on the bottom we have the influences of other people and the outside world on the consultant and his direct environment and on the top spiritual influences that work on the values and behavior of the consultant. At the left apparently hidden influences working constantly in the background, and at the right strong influences working over a short period of time in the foreground. The next four cards are placed clockwise on the place for respectively the Coins, Cups, Swords and Batons. We shift them half a card size to the outside to imitate the Mandorla. They represent relationships, Coins the relation of the consultant with himself, Cups his relations with his close friends and family, Swords his relations with other people and Batons his relations with society. The tenth card is placed on top of the first card. This card gives advice how to  deal with the question. There are no reversed meanings, all cards are placed with the topside above. The figure below indicates how the spread represents itself. If you want, you can use two decks together, to allow for the same card appearing twice.

The ten cards together give more in details about the spread. If there are 2 or 3 trumps and 1 or 2 cards of each suit, we have a well-balanced spread. If this is not the case, if a suit or the trumps are under- or over-represented  this gives us more detailed information  about the general atmosphere around the question. When certain numbers appear twice or even more, this is also significant. If the court cards are over-represented (more than 2) or under-represented (less than 2) this can also give us some information.

The interpretation of the different positions can be summarized as follows:











The general atmosphere of the question

Background influences on your values and behavior

Background influences on your daily life

Foreground influences on your daily life

Foreground influences on your values and behavior

Coins, your relationship to yourself

Cups, your relationship with close friends and family

Swords, your relationship with other people

Batons, your relationship with society

Advice how to behave relating to the question

Because an example is clearer than a thousand words, I will show you the cards I have drawn on the first of January 2016 for myself to give me information and advice about the year 2016.

In the same way as you can draw a card for one day, you can lay out a spread for a particular year. This spread is my personal spread for the year 2016. The first card defining the general atmosphere was the Popess. The Popess represents the Virtue of Faith, so in this context I interpret the card with confidence. I conclude that I can have confidence in the year 2016. This is confirmed by the overall picture, 3 Trump cards, 2 Coins, 2 Cups, 1 Sword and 2 Batons, a very well-balanced overall picture. There are 3 court cards against 4 pip cards, where we should expect respectively 2 and 5 cards. The court cards are over-represented, indicating that my relations with other people will be important in the coming year. This is further emphasized by the fact that two of the court cards are Knights, so good communications with other people will be essential. The number 5 appears twice, indicating changes taking place during the year.

The influences working on the background are the 3 and 4 of Batons. In a general way, materially I will encounter growing energy, an energy that is supported by stable spiritual energy sources. As a foreground influence on my daily life, we see the 5 of Cups indicating an event that might indicate a change in my relations with my family and friends. The Sun that shines brightly in the foreground indicates an event strongly influencing positively my values and behavior. 

The 4 cards representing relationships are dominated by court cards, that is highly significant. The card dealing with me, is the Knight of Coins, so it is highly probable that I will have important news concerning myself during the year. My relations with my family and friends is represented by the Fool, so these relations might change in a wholly new direction. That confirms the presence of the 5 of Cups on position 4. My relations with other people are represented by the Knight of Cups. I interpret this here that I will communicate a lot with the outside world, and this communication  will give me new friends. Finally, the Page of Coins on the place of the Batons indicates me that my children (page = child and coins = I) will take an essential place in the way how I interact with society.

The 5 of Swords finally advices me to change my attitude towards other people, to be open, to listen and to learn from them.