Tarot Spread: Making Magic

There are lots of great magical resources out on the internet, but people sometimes ask me for my thoughts or assistance for some reason. I've normally turned them down. There are a few reasons for this. Mostly, I don't really consider myself to be a witch (or magical practitioner) because that requires more effort, clarity on one's religious and spiritual beliefs, and consistent ritual craft and practice than I can currently claim. I'm actually not even entirely sure about my own beliefs on magic and spell-working, but I do clearly believe in the power of tarot, and I think that tarot can be used to affect probability and not just divine probable trajectories (my take on "predictive readings"). And you can do tarot for yourself with your own magical beliefs present without having to ask someone else for a spell. Thus for this veil-thinning period of the year, I offer a tarot (or oracle) spread for working magic. 

Note: This is based on my slap-dash knowledge of witchcraft and spellwork. I studied Wicca and neopaganism for many years a while back, so it's probably very late 90s/early 00s in vibe, but it's also supposed to be based on centuries-old knowledge. What's datedness after all that time?

Since my version of magic requires intention, I have my explainer before the spread rather than after. An ye care naught, skim as ye will.

The Meaning Behind the Spread

What I think of as magic does take work and effort and intention. The way I learned witchcraft and magic—in the sense of working to shift probabilities in your favor—taught me that it requires will above all else ("do what ye will" isn't just about going hog-wild). That does mean a little bit of work, but it doesn't mean anything too specific beyond some basics to help align energy. The primary idea behind it is that engaging with the energies of the thing that you want to occur helps that thing occur ("sympathetic magic"). As a disclaimer, it doesn't guarantee anything obviously, and you probably shouldn't try for anything that will permanently alter your life forever overnight because either it will fail miserably and you'll be really disappointed or, worse, it will work and you'll have unwittingly sold your soul or something else awful. (I kid. But I don't.)

The first step is to figure out "what you will." This is where you are directing your focus and your intent. It's what you will be trying to bring into being (that can be the negation of a thing) through energy and focus, encouraging the probability that it happens (or is negated or whatever). 

The next step is to consider any correspondences relevant for your practice and the spread. The spread is itself designed for giving you some basic built-in sympathetic woo. I like the Western four-elements model mixed with the meaning of the pentagram (Spirit above the four elements of Matter), along with the basic invocation of "As above, so below." All combined into six cards, they make a handy hexagram, which is also spiritually and alchemically significant. Those are the associations I used in designing this spread, but you do you. Add a card if you want the five Chinese elements and a seven-pointed star at the end (also significant) or throw in some other cards for past, present, and future. It's your spell. 

Then gather whatever relevant accoutrements you think will help you encourage the right magical balance and the enhancement of your specified will. This is where witchcraft can sometimes feel like "work" because "I want to do it now but I don't have my cinnamon, bird feather, green candle, knife, etc." But seriously? You're trying to alter the current course of probable events. Be willing to spend a modicum of time on your own magical work. If you can't do that, then why are you bothering to try to will something to happen?

Once you've done all that, pick a card for your focus. Be clear and confident in your choice. Don't second-guess it. If you do, there isn't enough will to make a damned bit of difference even in my hazy notions of magic. 

Now after that, you can get your spread layout space / altar / TV tray / whatever ready with your correspondences, and place your focus card in the center. You'll be asking questions and laying the cards out in a specific and magically relevant order and position. For my baseline correspondences, I use the cardinal directions as tied to elements the way that I learned them, which I have since learned is also related to the invocation of archangels in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. And the system is probably older than that. I don't know if it's from Arabic mystics who had similar archangels or what. It doesn't really matter. I used to use the directions in Kate Bush's song "Lily," but that messed me up. Again, you do what's right for you. 

I go in a spiral pattern here (thanks, Wicca and North-centricity), so feel free to change the order of things if you, for example, like the LBRotP and want to cross elements and directions, putting East first and then West. I won't be offended. Again, intention is the driving factor here. And if your card surface, altar, or what have you faces east rather than northwest (as my diagram assumes), then just shift the diagram in your head and lay the cards out accordingly. Tip: The Spirit and Mundane cards are based on the central card's orientation, while the four elemental ones are based on cardinal direction. The point is to get some sympathetic magic working just by card placement even if you don't have all the other bells and whistles (both of which can be associated with air if you do have them at hand).

If you want to divide your deck into the component elements (e.g., pick from a pile of only Pentacles for the Earth question, from only majors for Spirit, from all minors for Mundane), you can do so for extra correspondence goodness, but it's not required, and it does limit your possible outcomes.

After you've done your reading, it's up to you how you use it to make magic, but I will offer two possible avenues that might interest most people. As always, feel free to deviate based on your own best practice.


The Spread

Central: What I Will

Earth (North): What would benefit from greater grounding and stability to help me encourage this outcome?

Air (East): How can I use my mind and my words to accentuate my will?

Fire (South): What will this ignite within me that I can use to burn away that which doesn't serve my will?

Water (West): How can I best understand the subtle connection between the result of my will and the bigger picture?

Spirit (Above): With what magical energy can I connect to encourage the outcome I will?

Mundane (Below): What small activities can I do in my everyday to encourage the outcome I will?

Now what do I do?

You've had a great little reading to help you get a sense for what will help you put your will into action and set the gears of magic and probability turning, so you should do those things. Be active about it. That's one option, and it's really that "simple." It helps to go into the reading with that intention if that is how you're going to come out of it, though, so that you know to be open to messages with very practical and proactive applications. Reception is all well and good, but that's what divination normally is and here we're trying to use divination to actively do magic.

For example, when you see the Two of Swords, you might normally read that as a message to seek answers within through careful contemplation and without interference from outside voices. But if I have the intention for receiving specific, actionable, and productive guidance, and I draw the Two of Swords in my Air or Mundane position, then I might decide that I would do well to recite a rhyming mantra or spoken "spell" (you know, of the "Double, double, toil, and trouble" variety). And if I draw the Empress for my Spirit card, then I might decide that I should create some art to help guide the right divine energy I want to help me.

See how that works? How long or how often do you have to do that stuff? Well, how long or how often do you want to try to enact your will? That's your call. But be reasonable. Try more than most people would, but don't devote your whole life to one thing that isn't coming to you. Not everything is right for each of us, and it's better to acknowledge that when that happens and move on.

Another alternative is the more passive and reflective approach which requires keeping the cards out in a ritualistic manner, as in a mandala. The hope is that this sacred creation will attract the energy you want of course, but then through reflection, you'll hopefully also start doing some things as well. The difference is that the ideas you get for active work may come to you more subtly and without clear reference to the tarot cards you drew. You should plan some time each day to review your cards and reflect on what comes out, preferably writing it down or recording it in some way for yourself. This not only helps you remember, but you can also "put out there" as its own form of sympathetic magic. How long should you review the cards? How long are you will to not be able to use the cards and to reflect on them? Just don't leave it out so long that it collects a tangible layer dust or so long that you forget why it's there. Once it stops serving a function, don't let the stagnant energy just hang around taking up space. Feel free to redirect it somewhere useful when you "withdraw" from that bank of sacred energy.