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Saturday, February 4, 2012

REVIEW: Tarot Spreads & Layouts


Tarot Spreads & Layouts:
A User's Manual for Beginning and Intermediate Readers

by Jeanne Fiorini
Schiffer Books
ISBN: 978-0-7643-3629-4


"Easy-to-read, this manual provides methods to gathering useful information from your Tarot cards. Basic card meanings and principles of the Tarot are given and are followed by effective ways to use the cards. Gain reading tips and practical advice for beginning and intermediate-level practitioners. Learn suggested techniques for designing and expanding your queries. Create queries about relationships, money and work issues, health concerns, decision-making, and matters of choice—the big questions of life as well as the mundane. Readers are encouraged to blend intention, intuition, and a sense of adventure with visual images and card meanings to gain maximum benefit from this ancient system of wisdom. Take out your cards and be prepared to ask the right question and get the right answer!"


This slim, well-made paperback book measures 6 x 9 inches. It has a rather unexciting glossy gray cover depicting card layouts in red, green, blue, and purple. Included in the 126 pages are:
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Section I: The Ground Rules
  • Section II: Simple and Effective Spreads and Layouts
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix

The font used for the text is easy to read, and pages are broken up by text boxes, subheadings, lists, and an effective, generous use of white space. Simple black-and-white diagrams of card layouts are included in Section II. Divider pages feature black-and-white illustrations of Tarot cards.


I have been enjoying Jeanne Fiorini's articles/columns in the American Tarot Publication Tarot Reflections for a long time. I loved her recent "Reading for Readers in 2012" (in the January issue), in which she explored what we must bring to our clients (from our perspective as readers), what our clients need most from us, and a key thought for readers to keep in the forefront during 2012.

Naturally, I was predisposed to like Jeanne's book Tarot Spreads & Layouts: A User's Manual for Beginning and Intermediate Readers. And guess what? I do like it. Very much! Let me tell you why.

I'll start with the layout and organization. From its detailed Table of Contents to its handy, dandy Quick & Easy Tarot Card Reference Guide and List of Resources, this book is a pleasure to read and study. Text is broken up by boxes and subheads, and there is plenty of white space around and within the various segments. After reading it once all the way through, you can actually go back and review the material by reading only the text boxes labeled "Important" that are sprinkled throughout the book.

Subtitles are engaging and inviting. For example, under The Art of the Question, we have:
  • Importance of Intention
  • Beliefs Inform the Question
  • What Are You Looking For?
  • Don't Save it For a Rainy Day
  • Size Doesn't Matter
  • No-No's
  • Who is Right and What is True
  • What if Nobody Answers When You Knock on the Door?

Jeanne Fiorini's views on many Tarot issues happen to be the same as mine, which of course makes the book even more appealing to me. For example, she writes that spreads with a huge number of cards "aren't always the best choice. . . because they provide much more input than is required." She goes on to say that "all those images and all those card meanings and all that information can be overwhelming, and in truth, are unnecessary." (Yes, I realize that many Tarot readers disagree!)

I love the way Fiorini stresses the importance of "formulating a clear and concise question." She does not advocate pulling cards randomly from the pack in moments of uncertainty. (Again, I do realize that quite a few Tarot readers swear by that method.) Before beginning the reading, Fiorini recommends that we "think very carefully about what we really need to know, what is possible to know, and what we'd like the cards to address."

We are advised to keep in mind that interpretations of the cards depend to a large degree upon the reader's (or client's) ingrained perceptions, beliefs, and world views.

One of my favorite comments from the book is the part where Fiorini describes "No-No" number two: the use of the words "should" and "will" within the query itself. As she points out, these types of questions "imply that there is a correct answer written somewhere and that you'd darned well better discover it before you make a grave mistake."

Fiorini also covers the use of a significator in readings, reversals, and the absence of an element in a reading.

I also like that Fiorini recommends a balance between knowledge and intuition when reading the cards. One of the "Important" text boxes reads: "In any and all layouts illustrated herein, remember to ask yourself: Does intuition provide any insight beyond the meanings of the images and the surface definition of the cards?"

In Section II, we are given a variety of layouts using from 1 to 5 cards. For each of these, Fiorini provides suggested lines of questioning and Guidelines for Expansion of the Layout.

What I really appreciate is the way the author gives us questions to ask as we study the cards that were drawn, in order to help discern the message. For example, with the Mind/Body/Spirit Spread (a 3-card layout), we are encouraged to consider the following thoughts as we view the cards that were drawn:
  • Where, if at all, do cards of strength and power appear?
  • Where, if at all, do cards of frailty, caution, or fear appears?
  • Is one of the aspects more intact than the others?
  • Is one aspect noticeably weaker than the others?
  • Is any one aspect calling out for attention?
  • Do you see a harmony -- or a schism -- among the aspects?
  • Is there a common theme among the three cards shown?
  • Are differing needs expressed by different aspects?
  • What might it imply that certain elements appear as indicators of certain aspects?
  • Do reversed cards appear? If so, what does the reversed position depict or imply?
  • Where, if at all, do Major Arcana cards appear, and what do they indicate to you?

In the book's Conclusion, we have a Reader's Check List that provides "the essential keys for getting the most from any Tarot layout." The Quick & Easy Tarot Card Reference Guide provides succinct, basic meanings for the cards. For example, The Hanged Man is "The need for patience; suspension of willpower; standing on the sidelines while matters unfold; unwillingness to accept responsibility" and the Six of Wands reads, "Success; reward for one's efforts; support of community; pride in one's accomplishments."

The insightful information, clear and engaging writing style, and logical organization of Tarot Spreads & Layouts combine to create a valuable reference book that I know I will consult regularly from this point forward.


In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.

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