A 3×3+3 Goal-Oriented Life Purpose Spread

A question commonly asked by those who consult a tarot reader is “What is my life’s purpose?” – often with the implicit (and more urgent) undertone “What should it be that it isn’t right now?” coming from those who are completely at a loss. The typical fortune-telling spread is inadequate to address such broad inquires since it is more a “slice-of-life” snapshot than a panoramic overview. I’ve created a few such comprehensive spreads in the past but wanted to craft one that is goal-oriented (that is, one that shows progress over time) as well as bringing to bear an idea that I just picked up from reading Paul Marteau’s 1949 Tarot de Marseille book: rather than representing a window on the querent’s past, cards placed to the left – or facing to the reader’s left – in a spread show the passive reflection and discernment that precede (or should precede) taking some kind of action (more on that in a future essay).

At its most basic, this is an “exploded” three-card layout taken at three levels (ideal, personal and practical) of three steps each with the addition of a fourth, synthesizing “quintessence” card at each level that summarizes the main thrust of that series; its symbolic implications are intended to be read as general guidance for the querent. I also plan to interpret the columns as transitional three-tiered phases in each progression. The deck must be split into trump, court and minor-card sub-packs for this spread.

As an aside, some readers may not know how to calculate the “quintessence.” I haven’t seen it described in many places; Hajo Banzhaf once addressed it in one of his books. As I understand it, the origin was in the old French “tirage en croix” spread. It’s a numerical sum (expressed as a trump card) of the face value of all the cards in a spread, reduced to a number that falls within the trump-card sequence. There are a couple of ways to reduce: “theosophical reduction” that adds the two or more digits of the total together (this can never give you the Fool as “quint” so some renumber it as 22), or “casting out nines” (subtracting sets of nine) which has two advantages: it can yield the Fool, and it lets you stop at a higher-numbered trump if it suits the reading better. Also, since the courts are unnumbered, some leave them out of the calculation; I think all the cards on the table should play a part, so I consider them to be 11 through 14.

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