I have been known to state that I avoid the Celtic Cross spread, mainly because I feel it can give way too much information that can be distracting when trying to answer a specific question about a specific area. However, The Book of Shadows Tarot really wants me to play Celtic Cross with it, and I thought it would be quite interesting to do so, using both the “As Above” and “So Below” decks associated with it.
I will draw cards from the “As Above” deck, but will place the same card from the “So Below” deck next to it in the spread.
The Celtic Cross spread I am using is provided by Barbara Moore in her book The Book of Shadows Tarot, which accompanies the deck(s). The layout looks like this:
1. You: this card represents you.
2. Crossing: this card indicates the conflict
3. Foundation: this card illustrates the basis or foundation of the situation
4. Past: this card shows influences from the past that are affecting the present situation
5. Immediate Future: this card illustrates what is likely to happen next
6. Crown: this card represents the outcome you desire most in this situation
7. Yourself: this is your self-image; how you see yourself in the present situation
8. Environment: this card represents the influence of those around you; it can show how others see you in this situation
9. Hopes and Fears: this card indicates either what you hope for or fear the most in this situation
10. Outcome: what is likely to happen if nothing changes
Ready? Here we go! (By the way, I am not
using reversals in this reading.)
1. You: this card represents you.
ACE OF AIR / Ace of Swords
I am delighted with this card representing me. The Ace of Air in the As Above deck is subtitled “Dreams.” The scene on the As Above card represents Divine guidance or the Universe giving us messages or information through our dreams. I have a very active dream life, remembering several dreams almost every morning. I also experience lucid dreaming, in which I am aware of being in a dream and choose to act or interact in certain ways. The Little White Book (LWB) for the So Below card describes the Ace of Swords as indicating “a new approach or solution to a problem.” I do experience the positive effects of dreaming but also experience “nightmares” or “bad dreams” that deserve my exploration and understanding.
The suit of Air in this deck represents how we think – our world view, philosophy, or outlook on life. It represents our words and our thoughts.
2. Crossing: this card indicates the conflict.
NINE OF EARTH / 9 of Pentacles
In my opinion, this position in the Celtic Cross spread is extremely important, and especially important to understand. How I interpret the meaning of this card sets the tone and colors my interpretation of every other card. This is “the conflict” or “the issue” that the entire spread addresses.
The Nine of Earth in the As Above deck is subtitled “Land creatures,” referring to the many animals that walk the earth with us and the state in which these animals exist. The Earth is our symbol for stability. In this card there is a sense of satisfaction and/or satiation, a feeling that all is right and as it should be. On the 9 of Pentacles from the So Below deck, we see a woman who is “justifiably pleased with her work.”
On both cards, we see little Earth elementals gathered around – nine of them on the As Above card and three on the So Below card.
So how can such a lovely card represent “the conflict”? It makes sense to consider the reversed meaning or shadow side as described by Barbara Moore: “doing things or creating things in order to meet emotional needs” (So Below) and “a pre-occupation with the past or the future.” In other words, a failure to appreciate and enjoy the gifts of the moment, the things that bring satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment right now, today.
As the Ace of Air, perhaps I am living too much in my mind instead of allowing myself the satisfaction and enjoyment that can be experienced in the physical, material world. On the other hand, another possibility is that I am focusing too much on the physical, material realm, on the things that bring satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in this world rather than a higher world. Either way, this is the area in which there is conflict.
3. Foundation: this card illustrates the basis or foundation of the situation
THE ELEMENTS / The Magician
Whereas I am represented by Air and the conflict is represented by Earth, the Foundation or basis of the situation consists of all four elements: Air, Earth, Water, and Fire. These four elements are pictured on the As Above card. For the So Below card, we have a Magician with all her tools in front of her as she prepares to manifest change in her life and in the world. The number ONE does seem to be an excellent number to represent a Foundation on which something is built.
4. Past: this card shows influences from the past that are affecting the present situation.
FIVE OF WATER / 5 of Chalices
In the As Above deck, the Five of Water is subtitled “War.” Featured on this card is Bellona, an Etruscan goddess of war. In the suit of Chalices, we are talking about “a clashing of wills and desires, when one party wants something that the other party does not want.” (Moore) We are likely looking at a highly dramatic situation from my past in which all parties involved felt highly charged and restless. We may be looking at chaos and wanton destruction – physical, emotional, or relationships.
On the So Below card, a woman is mourning the fact that her expectations were not realized. She experiences loss and grief, as things did not turn out the way she had hoped they would.
I know exactly what this refers to in my past, and I also know that it does influence my present situation.
5. Immediate Future: this card illustrates what is likely to happen next.
CRONE OF WATER / King of Chalices
On the As Above card, the Crone of Water holds dear memories in a bottle, knowing that there will come a difficult time when these memories will be needed. The people on the King of Chalices card in the So Below deck appear to be creating the sort of memories that the Crone of Water might choose to cherish and preserve in her bottle. The two cards contrast strongly in terms of color and “mood.” The Crone of Water seems deeply serious or sad, as if the “difficult time” is already upon her, while the King of Chalices card is filled with joyous color and smiling faces.
With the “conflict” (position 2) being related to Earth (physical, material world), I am wondering if what happens next (A loss? A difficult time?) will bring that conflict to the fore, causing me to face it and deal with it.
6. Crown: this card represents the outcome you desire most in this situation.
NINE OF WATER / 9 of Chalices
Another Water card, pointing to relationships as well as how our feelings and emotions shape our relationships and vice versa. Like the Nine of Earth (Crossing / conflict), the Nine of Water suggests prosperity. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi governs over abundance and wealth – both material and spiritual. On the So Below card, a girl makes a wish while blowing out her birthday candles. She is surrounded by friends and family.
The outcome I desire most in this situation is material, emotional, and physical well-being that arises from my own generosity and willingness to share abundance with others. In order to fully enjoy my blessings, I need others with whom to share. This relates quite well to the conflict represented in the material, physical nature of the Nine of Earth (Pentacles). The conflict may stem from a feeling that I am not giving as much as I could, that I am not going beyond merely appreciating what I have.
7. Yourself: this is your self-image; how you see yourself in the present situation.
MOTHER OF AIR / Queen of Swords
It is so interesting that I am represented by the Ace of Air in position 1 of this spread, and by Mother of Air in position 7 representing my self-image. I am especially intrigued by Barbara Moore’s description: “The Mother of Air writes books and creates language. She builds bridges with words and ideas, helping you communicate more effectively.” Well, yeah, that is exactly how I see myself. The So Below Queen of Swords depicts one woman helping another “focus her actions by eliminating the unnecessary and highlighting the essential.” I see myself in this mostly through my Tarot-reading and astrology work, teaching both subjects at an online school and doing free readings through the American Tarot Association.
As I mentioned earlier, the element Air in this deck represents words and thoughts, including world view and philosophy of life.
8. Environment: this card represents the influence of those around you; it can show how others see you in this situation.
SIX OF AIR / 6 of Swords
I love that the woman on the As Above card is surrounded by papers, books, and a cat. That’s how others see me, I’m pretty sure. Animals (cats among them) have a strong influence on me, as do books and other written documents. The card is subtitled “Familiar.” It emphasizes our relationship with and connection to special animal companions, guides, or familiars. The 6 of Swords from the So Below deck is quite different in mood and coloring. On this card, a woman is seen leaving a “dark or dangerous situation” as she seeks the truth for her highest good, knowing that her search will reveal guidance for the way out. She is obviously very happy doing so.
I am being shown the “way out” of the conflict represented by the Nine of Earth – or at least the way to find the way out. Guidance is available all around me, in the form of my connection with nature and other resources, whether on the physical plane or another plane.
9. Hopes and Fears: this card indicates either what you hope for or fear the most in this situation.
OSTARA / Temperance
A common keyword for the Temperance card in any deck is “balance.” Pagans celebrate Ostara (Spring Equinox) around March 20, as the world is filled with new life (in the northern hemisphere). This idea of balance is shown on the As Above card by the white rabbit in the Goddess’s arms and the brown rabbit at her feet. The So Below card depicts moderation and control, “the right thing at the right time in the right place.” I certainly hope for all of these things (and perhaps fear that I won’t achieve or experience them). Going back to the “conflict” of the Nine of Earth, my hope is that I will learn to put my focus on the physical, material realm in its proper place, in balance with the other elemental realms in my life.
10. Outcome: what is likely to happen if nothing changes.
LITHA / The Sun
I have to love this! As an outcome in this spread, The Sun suggests that the conflict represented by the Nine of Earth is already in the process of being resolved, or that I have the ability to resolve it right now. Nothing actually needs to change in order for that to happen. I already have the tools (Magician) I need. The As Above card shows us the Oak King in his full power at Litha (Summer Solstice, Midsummer, around June 20). DMs are: “a time of pleasant success, enjoyment of everyday life, happily reaping the first fruits of your efforts.” The So Below card depicts “connections, generations, and cycles that bring joy.” With the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas) now approaching, I have every opportunity to address the conflict and achieve balance in my life.
Of these ten cards, three are from the Major Arcana (Foundation/Magician; Hopes & Fears/Temperance; and Outcome/The Sun). This suggests a certain level of significance and “higher self/higher power” involvement, especially in the areas represented by those positions. The elements represented are Water (3), Air (3), and Earth (1) – and that lone Earth card is HUGE, representing the conflict that the entire reading is supposed to address. Two of the Air cards represent me and how I view myself, revealing the large impact that thoughts and communication have on my identity.
I keep going back to the Ace of Air (representing me) and the Nine of Earth (representing my conflict). The chaotic swirling of images and thoughts shown on the As Above Ace of Swords is such a strong contrast to the pastoral scene on the As Above Nine of Earth. It seems no wonder that I am conflicted about life in the physical, material realm when so much of who I am exists in a dream state, entirely in my mind. The lines from an old hymn keep running through my head: “This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.”