Timing of Events: Linear, Rotational and “Scatter” Spreads

The subject of time is a fascinating one. In some quarters it is believed that time is not linear (if I recall correctly, some theoretical physicists say “curved” as a kind of wave-form, some say “cyclical,” some say “synchronistic”); in the last one, any conceivable event is likely to occur (or may even be occurring somewhere in the multi-verse) at any given moment; we just tap into the ones we need to experience for ourselves. (The topics of “need” and “want” are covered in another essay.) This gives a wide berth to the diviner’s art since the often-subconscious methods used can be more sensitive to such predilections than the waking consciousness, and can come up with some remarkable insights not otherwise attainable.

Most of us (and certainly our clients) are intrigued by, and often vitally interested, in the timing of future events with the tarot. There are numerous ways to do this, none of them in my own estimation very reliable. Setting aside the single-card pull that some use, first and foremost there is the “line” spread, three or more cards typically read left to-right as “past/present/future.” Then there is the “rotational”spread popularized by Eden Gray in her version of the Celtic Cross, which scraps Waite’s “Sign of the Cross” model in favor of a more “diurnal” design that emulates the daily motion of the Sun (as a non-religious astrologer with a strong temporal flow in my tarot readings, I much prefer Gray and often employ “rotational timing” in my own spreads). Finally, there is what I call the “scatter” spread, which follows no formal pattern and is just a random “dump” of a few cards on the table.

The third one requires some explanation. When I use it, I apply a metaphorical “fluoroscopic scan” to the array. That’s a term for an obsolete (and radiologically aggressive) medical technology so I doubt many of you have ever had one. It was once used to find small-bone abnormalities in a “moving-picture” fashion, and in my case it identified a malformed “styloid process” bone in my neck that was literally snapping every time I moved a certain way and made me see stars, as well as producing a lingering migraine headache. If you’re interested, the long-term cure was an othodpedic pillow I’ve been using for forty years. A modern equivalent would be the CAT scan; much later I had one of those too in the same area but, interestingly, it didn’t pick up on the styloid process anomaly.

In a tarot spread of this type, the timing challenge is to sort out some kind of logical order in the cards, not necessarily in a rigid sequence but rather in a type of “sub-group gestalt” that places emphasis on a moving series of cards, either from top-to-bottom or left-to-right. Each minor pattern is rolled up into a tapestry of meaning that flows like any other story-line, just with more “local color.” (By which I mean that they have both a unique contribution as a discrete entity and an integrated interpretation as part of the whole; in this way highlights can be picked out that might escape the single-card analysis.) There are frequently several “nuclei” of information to process in a progressive-development sense, something that appeals to me greatly. Here is a previous post on the technique:

To be honest, though, I don’t use “random scatter” spreads much at all, vastly preferring “semi-positional” meanings in my layouts. Here is my personal Celtic Cross model, where you can see how a certain amount of flexibility is squeezed out of the timing rotation segment of Cards #4 through #6. Refer to the “expanded” position meanings on the last page.

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