Using the Tarot for Creativity and Empowerment

21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card: Step 12 – Modification

21ways to read a Tarot Card

This week in Step 12 of Mary K. Greer’s book “21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card“, we are looking at the idea of modification; that is to say, how various factors interact to modify the meaning of the card. Mary states that there are 4 main factors:

  1. Elements within the card itself
  2. The question or issue
  3. The spread position
  4. The individual circumstances

In addition to the above factors, we also need to look at the whether the card is upright or reversed and how the card interacts among the other cards (i.e. correspondences ). For example, if you use elemental dignities, you can look at the elements in the cards next to each other – are they friendly or unfriendly? Do they boost each other or hinder each other? Is it an active element (Wands or Swords) or a passive element (Earth or Water)?

By taking the above factors into consideration, we can end up with a reading that it relevant to the question and to the seeker.

Mary spends a good portion of this chapter discussing spreads. Mary states that “The tarot tells a story and a spread provides the structure of that story. The positions tell you the role that each card plays in the story.” Thus, a card’s meaning will change depending on the position in the spread. Mary provides some classic spread positions. Of course, feel free to come up with or use your own.

Some Classic Spread Positions

The situation
Recent Past
Immediate Future
Influences from others
What is blocked
What or who can help
What you need to let go of
What you are giving

In the first activity of the book, Mary asks us to interpret the 8 of Wands from the Nefertari’s Tarots in the following positions:

  1. The Recent Past
  2. An Obstacle
  3. Your Strength

For me the 8 of Wands is a card of swiftness, forward motion and movement, sometimes almost to the point of frenzy. I see this as the “Full Steam Ahead” card and taking quick action. So below are some possible answers:

  1. The Recent Past – You may have rushed into a situation quickly, perhaps without thinking it through thoroughly.
  2. An Obstacle – You may be rushing around so much at your are unable to focus properly – you’re spreading yourself too thin.
  3. Your Strength – You are full of energy and motivation – and are able to take the bull by the horns and run with it!

Then we were asked to determine how we would modify the meaning of the 8 of Wands in response to the following questions and spread positions:

Question: What is my purpose in life?
Position in spread: The best that can be achieved
My answer: My purpose is to use my focus, determination and motivation to achieve my goal. I can be assured of steady, forward motion in achieving my goals as long as I maintain the necessary movement to propel me forward.

Question: What do I need to know about buying this house?
Position in spread: My fears
My answer: I fear I you may be acting too quickly, perhaps resulting in being ill-prepared. I’m afraid that I may have not spent enough time thinking about or planning this move. This card could also signify a plethora of fears, things with which I will need to come to term.

In the next activity, we are looking at our chosen card and the initial question of: What do I most need to look at in my life right now. We are then asked to phrase our response as a question. Since my focus is on changing paths and beginning something new, I rephrased the question to: “What do I need to know about changing career paths?” Relative to my chosen card, The Seeker in the Gaian tarot, this card tells me that it is time for me to “hit the road” and begin a new adventure. This is a time in my life where I can try out new things — or perhaps begin a new course of study. But I would take this card as giving me the “green light” to leave my old career behind and look to something more fulfilling.

The Seeker card from the Gaian Tarot image

The Seeker from the Gaian Tarot

Then, we are asked to take three of the spread positions that were listed in the book and interpret our chosen card from these perspectives. My positions and responses are below:

Position 1: The situation

The Seeker card tells me that I am feeling anxious. I have itchy feet and am looking to move on from what I am currently doing. I’m feeling restless and need to look to something else for fulfillment. This card could also be telling me that a brand new opportunity has presented itself.

Postion 2: Obstacles

In the Obstacles position, this card tells me that perhaps fear of the unknown or fear of making the wrong decision will hold me back. I may be fearing that I have too much to lose by abandoning my current career or just have not thought it through clearly enough.

Position 3: What can help me?

In this position, my chosen card suggests that my desire for adventure and spontaneity will help me along. My heart is open and I am ready for a new period in my life. My willingness to change my situation and my daring — as well as the bit of naivety I still possess – may ensure a satisfying outcome.

So we get the idea really well here I think, on how the meaning of the card can change depending on the situation, the question and the position in the spread. Mary includes many other wonderful exercises in this chapter so if you have the book, I encourage you to work through them as I have found them more than beneficial.

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