Tarot for Teddy – The Three-Card Reality Check

January 23, 2017

While people can work with tarot cards individually, it's most common that you'll work with at least a few at a time. An arrangement of tarot cards is called a "Spread," and each spread is usually designed to either answer a specific category of question, or be a workhorse for asking pretty much any kind of question.

If you go for a tarot "reading," the reader will have you ask a question and then blindly choose cards from the deck. The reader will then put them down in the spread for you as you choose them and interpret the spread based on their knowledge of the cards. A good reader will work with you rather than just reciting information, and help you construct a meaning from what you see. You can do this for yourself by reading the cards intuitively or if you have knowledge of the cards' meanings, but many people find it hard to relax into their intuition and go a little overboard checking "the book" for the meanings. This is why an experienced reader is worth the money -- they have "digested" the meanings of the cards and how they relate to each other, and can figure out what the cards mean for *you*.

There are ways you can work with the cards intentionally, in that you choose cards that represent specific things for you and then either journal or do exploratory work. This is a good way to use the cards if you are not comfortable with going anywhere near the concept of divination or synchronicity or anything remotely "woo woo."

Sometimes it's fun combining both. I've found that picking cards unseen is often amazingly accurate, and usually lets a little air into what might otherwise be my mind just walking the same territory over and over again. The point isn't where the information comes from -- it's just finding some wisdom in the situation that you otherwise wouldn't access.

In this post, we'll introduce a basic spread, and a way to work with the tarot in both a representational and a "divinatory" manner. Each month I will introduce you to different spreads and tools, as well as different decks so that you can see what you like and what works for you.

If you wonder why the blog picture is a teddy bear, that's because Teddy is our guinea pig for the year. Tarot writer Bennebell Wen recommends that if you want to learn to be a tarot reader, it's handy to practice by getting comfortable reading for your teddy bear or something else inanimate and possibly stuffed.

Mostly, we'll be reading for Teddy so that you can follow along with a "real" client (or querent in tarot language) and see how the interpretations worked for him. By the end of the year, you'll get a pretty good look into the complex mind of our friend Ted.

One of the most common spreads is the three card spread. It can be read as any triad of three -- past, present, future; body, mind, spirit; head, heart, and hands -- whatever you wish. We'll use it as past, present, future.

First, we'll ask Ted to think about a specific issue or conflict, and the energies involved in it. Then, he'll look at all the cards and pick out three that represent how he has dealt with the situation in the past, how he thinks he's dealing with it in the present, and what he thinks will happen in the future. This will give him a good picture of his "modus operandi" regarding the situation. Then, we will have him shuffle the deck, ask something like "what was and is really going on with this situation," and pick three face down cards.

For this reading, we'll use the Fenestra Tarot. The Fenestra Tarot corresponds directly to the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which is the one that most books of meanings are written about, but has much more pleasing art (at least to me).

Teddy, who has a massive crush on a stuffed duck, is wondering whether he stands a chance with his cross-species love, who doesn't seem to know he exists. He rifles through the deck and picks the following cards:

The cards are, in order, the Five of Cups, the Hermit, and the Three of Wands. Teddy explains his choices: "I've always felt like I have so much to offer, but she isn't interested and I'm lonely. Right now, I'm trying so hard to make her notice me, but I'm really sure that she has better things to do and doesn't even notice me."

I point out how it's interesting that both figures are looking away from the card in the center. I also wonder, I tell him, if maybe the light he thinks he's shining is only visible to him. Maybe, also, he might just be standing there expecting her to notice him instead of actually doing anything to interact with her?

Then, Teddy shuffles the deck and asks what's really going on with him and his beloved duck. Perhaps we can shine some sort of light into his depressed little soul. He picks:

​From left to right, we have the Queen of Wands, the Chariot, and the Ace of Disks. The Queen of Wands, staring right at us, is a woman of spirit and charm. The Chariot means go ahead and aim for your goal. (As a side note, this is the ONE card of the Fenestra Tarot that people often have an issue about -- I mean, is that guy riding two sphinx women? What the heck? In most Chariot cards the driver is steering two horses who, without his direction, look like they might want to go different ways.)  The Ace of Disks is one of the most hopeful cards in the deck, meaning the beginning of something new or real, something about to happen. 

As I told Teddy, looking at the two different spreads gives me some thoughts. First, perhaps in the past he's always been worried about himself and about what he has to offer instead of paying attention to his friend the Duck. The Chariot suggests that he might be more active and confident in the present, and perhaps pursue his love instead of just hoping she notices him. And certainly the Ace of disks gives him hope for the future!  This spread certainly paints a different picture than what he chose to represent his feelings. Perhaps now that he sees how much his thoughts might have colored his reality, he might have a better time of things!