Contemplative vs. Predictive Divination

I want to make a confession. Until recently, I almost never used spreads1 in my tarot readings.

I would throw spreads, such as the Celtic Cross, when a client would request one. In all other circumstances, I would either line up seven cards to read as a line, put nine cards in three rows of three, or simply draw card after card as I was speaking (in which case my experience was more akin to channeling than reading cards). I could never get comfortable reading the Celtic Cross because, as a spread, it sends out mixed messages.

My clients either want a spiritual tarot experience, or they want answers to whether or not they’ll get the business loan. Rarely do the two mix. But the Celtic Cross, and many other tarot spreads out there, mix contemplative tarot with predictive tarot. Does my client who wants to know about her business loan care about subconscious influences; how she views herself in the world? Does my client who wants a general reading, interested in the spiritual insights that they might garner from the cards, care about the problem/outcome cards dangling at the top?  My problem with tarot spreads is that I often felt like my predictive readings were getting cluttered up and unnecessarily complicated and long-winded because of all the insightful self-reflective stuff. And my contemplative readings were being convoluted and overshadowed by that tiny bit of prediction, often out of context, at the end.

I’ve come to accept two precepts about divination:

  1. Predictive divination is best accomplished by reading in lines or blocks.
  2. Contemplative divination is best accomplished by setting aside the expectation of future prediction.

Predictive divination is best accomplished by reading in lines or blocks.

Ok, I admit. I read tarot like a Lenormand reader. Or I read Lenormand like a tarot reader… I’ve been told both by different people ;). I guess I read cards the way I read cards and this is what works best for me.

Explanation: My son, who is four, has started to tell stories. He tells his sister stories now. His stories begin, “Once upon a time, this happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. The end.” Try to recall everything that happened to you this morning. You probably recall it like, “This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. The end.”

Now I want you to make predictions about what will happen to you tomorrow morning. Think about it a minute, then come back… I’ll wait right here. 😉

Ok, so it probably went something like, “I will wake up. I will drink coffee. I will eat an omelet. The end.”

Clear narrative is the key to powerful predictive divination. I could write a whole book on this topic, but for now I’ll just promise to touch upon it in a later blog post. 😀

Contemplative divination is best accomplished by setting aside the expectation of future prediction.

This didn’t occur to me until I was writing in my journal one morning. See, I’m a compulsive journaler. Journaling, for me, is a totally indulgent experience. I write all about ME ME ME. I write about my deepest, darkest, inner desires, dreams, impulses, fantasies… In my journal, I’m really a 14-year old girl – because that’s about how much awareness of any world/connection beyond my self makes it to the pages.

And then one day, I thought it would be fun to mix that up a bit — and combine one of my Goddess-care routines with something a little more “Godly” — that is to say, I yearned for an exercise that would prompt me to dig deeper in my journaling. So I picked up my cards and sat around trying to fathom a way to use them. It occurred to me to try a tarot spread! Ah, finally, a use for that pesky Celtic Cross! But then, when I was working through it, I got to that pesky problem/outcome at the end and it suddenly made no sense in context of my reading.

To that end, I started collecting and creating tarot spreads to use in my journaling. And starting later this week, I’m going to be sharing some spreads I’ve created for contemplative divination with you. Wait, it gets better! The spreads I’m going to be sharing with you are Halloween themed! And wait, wait it gets even better!!! I’m illustrating it with an adorable little Halloween tarot I’ve whipped up for just the occasion (preview at the left)!!!! Just because I love Halloween that much! Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!! (*dies*)

I’ve already written six entries for the series, so there will at least be that many posted before the end of October, but perhaps more, since I have a grand total of 28 Halloween-themed spreads in my notebook at last count… 😉

You can treat this series as a free e-course, because that’s really how I’m writing it. And you won’t want to miss it. So if you aren’t subscribed via RSS in some reader already, do that now. I’ve also set it up with my new mailing list provider to send out blog updates once a week via email. If you want to subscribe to the blog by email, fill out the form below. NOTE: this is a different list than my email list — this form is for blog subscription only, and you will ONLY get blog updates via this email. If you’re not on my regular mailing list, you’re also missing out — and you’ll want to subscribe in the sidebar of my blog. 🙂


  1. For the n00bs out there, a tarot spread refers to the arrangement of the cards on the table. Placing your cards in a specific layout will give each card significance based on the meaning assigned to the spread position. For example, you might do a 3-card reading, laying the three cards in a row on the table. The first card refers to bodily matters, the second card refers to matters of the mind and the third card would refer to spiritual matters. This is a common 3-card spread — body, mind, spirit.

Author: Melissa

Melissa Jozefina is a poet, stargazer, and fortune teller.