The Celtic Cross
Samhain is traditionally a time of divination. Some methods – such an apple and tossing the peel over your shoulder and seeing the design of the peel – have gone down in history as “folk love magic”, since the apple peel, left overnight on the hearth, will set into the letter of your true-love. We did this as children.
In my own Samhain rituals, I always use tarot cards – tarot cards have always been my first and favorite form of divination. I first picked up a deck in 1988 – a Rider-Waite deck – and I have never stopped loving the feel and the ease of reading the cards. At this point in time, I own seven Tarot decks. Most of the time, I use the Rider-Waite – it’s just my go-to deck – easy to read in every aspect.
I have a Tarot notebook filled with notes of the twenty-eight years of study. Once a section of my Book of Shadows, it is now a giant-sized notebook of its own with numerous divisions. I have read almost every book I have found in libraries or borrowed from friends or have been able to buy. In the 1990’s, when I became connected to the Internet, I found another rich source of Tarot information and my Tarot notebook grew by leaps and bounds. Now my favorite source of information is Pinterest – for images of cards, for new spreads – for all kinds of enlightenment. I’m at a point with my Tarot notebook where I’m thinking of dividing it up into two notebooks – one for notes and one for spreads alone. I have 102 Tarot spreads as of this writing – organized by subject matter, shape of the spread and number of cards used. There is a section for The Celtic Cross, which was the first spread I learned to read and remains my favorite spread to use.
I have eighteen versions of the Celtic Cross, including the one I developed myself. The first one in the section is from Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice, by Eileen Connolly, which was published by Newcastle Publishing in 1979. I used to own this book but gave it away because I felt it had too much a Christian bias and I am a Dianic Witch. But looking at the spread today, it is a simple and easy-to-use spread that is perfect for the beginner, and I do remember that the entire book was the same way so if you ever come across this book, I do recommend it for that reason. Don’t let the Christian-speak turn you off. For years, this was the only Tarot book I had in my possession – since you have to return library books – so I am glad that the woman who gave me my first deck of cards also gave me this helpful book. Teachers do come from all spiritual backgrounds so it is important not to let religious or political differences get in the way of enlightenment.
In the beginning of my spiritual search, I hadn’t learned the rules of research so many of my spreads do not have bibliographic information telling me from which book I found it, which is disappointing to me today. But nowadays I make sure I cite all my sources on each page. Some of the spreads are named after the person who wrote the book in which I found the spread – therefore, Celtic Cross #5 is subtitled “Angeles Arrien” Celtic Cross #6 is subtitled “Joanne Kolwalski”. Celtic Cross #7 has the subtitle “Mary K. Greer” and it is one of the more involved spreads that I have seen, in that for each position it presents between seven and ten concepts to consider. Mary K. Greer is one of my favorite Tarot instructors via her books, website and blogs. Her book, Tarot for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation has an entire chapter devoted to the Celtic Cross and just rereading it for this column was like a refresher course in Tarot! I bought this book back in 1993 and did all the exercises – many of them turned into poems. I cannot recommend it enough. ALL of Mary K. Greer’s books are fabulous.
My personal Celtic Cross came about simply because when you do something all the time, you naturally start seeing things in a certain way and the cards start speaking to you in a certain way. Reading all the spreads that I have collected, I can see how they all influenced me – from the very simple ones to the very complex ones. Being on the simpler side, I keep my spreads easy to read and to the point. I scanned the page with my Celtic Cross but since it was written in pencil – which I do in case I make a mistake and can easily change things – my tiny handwriting didn’t show up very well. So here is the basic spread, which is of course the same as everyone else’s Celtic Cross:
This is how I read it:
Cover. The basic situation.
Cross. What is screwing up the situation.
Base. What is at the bottom of the situation.
Past. What is no longer happening but is still affecting the situation.
Hopes. This is connected to #9, Fears.
Future. This is connected to #10, Outcome.
Environment. What is surrounding the situation.
Querent. The person who wants to know what’s going on.
Fears. Worries & anxieties surrounding the situation.
Outcome. If this card is from the Minor Arcana, then deal three more cards and see if a card from the Major Arcana comes up. If none appears, then the situation is as yet unsettled spiritually and set it aside for another day. This is the way it is sometimes. Meditate on the issue and do another reading on another day.
I have kept records of my tarot readings in my regular diary and in special tarot journals since I started using the cards in 1988. It’s a good
practice to acquire. Looking back on my old readings, I can see how I have developed as a reader. I rarely read for other people – I look for my own answers – and I use the cards for meditation. But I’m at the point where I can lay out the cards and generally read them at a glance. Quite often – after writing it all down in my journal – I’ll refer to one of my Tarot books or the notes I have in my Tarot notebook for more enlightenment. As I said before, I love all of Mary K. Greer’s books. Another favorite is A Feminist Tarot, by Sally Gearhart and Susan Rennie. Originally published by Persephone Press in 1976, it is now published by Alyson Publications and is in its sixth edition. I have the fifth edition, which was published in 1981.
Of course Radar has to get in the way when I’m recording the reading in my Tarot Journal!
There are as many versions of The Celtic Cross as there as tarot readers – many more than I have in my Tarot notebook – so find some of the books I have mentioned and teach yourself some of the finer points of this easy to learn, easy to use Tarot spread. And on Samhain evening, as you sip your apple cider by candlelight, shuffle your favorite deck and find out what your ancestors have to say to you. Brightest Blessings!