365 Spreads

By Allan Ritchie

My experience of a year with 365 Tarot Spreads a book by Sasha Graham


Late last year, I came across the book 365 Tarot Spreads by Sasha Graham. After some debating with myself and in January of 2020, I decided that I would challenge myself to work through the book in one year.

This is not a review of the book. The book is pretty straight forward. It is a collection of tarot spread for each day of the year, related to the history of the day. Instead, this is about what I learned about the spreads by working through so many different spreads.

I picked this book because I was in a rut. I used the same few spreads over and over again. Mostly, I had completely stopped using spreads. I felt a false sense of personal self-importance that I had evolved beyond the use of spreads. What hooked me was in the introduction of the book. The author writes about what it means to ask questions as part of our human journey. I was confronted that I needed to start asking different questions. This book was a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Lesson One:  Know your client

The book had a learning curve. In the beginning, I thought I would do the readings for myself. This idea was quickly squashed. The variety of spreads in the book, a point in the book's favor, meant that it covered issues that didn't connect with me. After a survey of the spread, I would decide if it was a reading that I would do for myself or not. If the spread didn't fit then I would choose a client from literature, movies, or television shows that faced this issue. I received a lot of personal insight from the readings, but I had fun with these fictional reading sessions. Finding a match between spread and situation is subtle, but the first key for a successful reading.

Lesson Two:  Not all spreads are created equal.  

It is safe to assume that if we all read all 365 spreads in the book we would each find a different favorite spread. We would also find different spreads that we don't like. I committed that for every spread, for the first time, I would lay out the whole spread. This was important as I had to give every spread a chance.

The spreads tend to average in size between six to ten cards, with eight-card spreads seeming to be the most common. At first, I was put off by some of the spreads, but when I used them, I would find that the spread worked its magic. When a spread didn't work, it was not fun. Feeling frustrated after a spread was discouraging. Soon after February 15th "Problem-Solving Spread" I decided that if a spread didn't work then it became my challenge to identify what did not work and how to improve it.

I started using the book along with my tarot journal. By the end of February, I was making notes right in the book itself. I would circle positions I liked and then cross out those I didn't. I rated the spread in the margin and would list instances when the spread would be useful. I commented on the layout and which deck I used for the reading. This made each spread a chance to be constructive.

Lesson Three:  Spreads and Decks 

I thought that I would get to use more decks from my collection as I worked through this book. I learned that not all decks work well with all spreads. Deck tone and style differed for me, they had to match the tone of the spread. This disconnect was often insurmountable, and at times I had to change decks.

 I did learn that great decks can elevate an average spread. This book was almost aversion therapy for spreads. After reading so many spreads they could tend to run together. However, if I used a great deck then the spreads would be more impactful. I stopped the parade of decks and focused on a few that worked more reliably. Stand out decks were the Sasuraibito Tarot by Stasia Burrington, the Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, and the Light Seers Tarot by Chris-Anne Donnelly. These decks, along with my much loved and well used Universal Waite deck were able to give me great readings. These were decks I have connected with and have evocative imagery.

Lesson Four: Questions to avoid

A tarot spread is essentially a bunch of questions that are placed together in sequence to work together to examine an issue so that they can provide a broader range of insight. I began to identify spread positions that I knew weren't going to work. This list is completely subjective, but these are a few spread positions that I would edit out of the reading.

Questions about a physical location are tough for me, and never have been able to do a good job at them. Positions about the appearance of a person never really land for me. Looking for sensory information such as what does something smell like, taste like, or feel like never worked for me. Things like how to decorate or how to change something about personal style is also out of my league. "Should" questions tend to be more judgmental than helpful. If considering an option, then a pro-con spread would work but should doesn't seem right to me in a reading. I feel it can take away an obligation of agency for the client. Finally, I have to eliminate all yes-no questions in a spread.

Lesson Five:  Layout matters 

The geometry of a spread needs to make sense for the progression of the questions. Many of the spreads in the book had amazing shapes and unfolded the information logically. These readings would flow and provide a lot of insight. Sometimes I would be dealing with the spread and have to look at the book a couple of times to see where the next card went. This spread often felt stilted and convoluted. I like a spread that is organic and moves from position to position in a logical manner.

I learned a lot from the book and have honed my use of spreads. I began to look at a spread, like a recipe. I could see the ingredients that were going into the mix. I learned that just because the spread had a good premise doesn't mean it will be a good spread. I also learned to not judge a spread by its title because sometimes the spread was much better than the title. The commitment and the exercise paid off for me, and I would recommend this book for those who want a challenge or want to understand spread mechanics better by taking a year to work through 365 Tarot Spreads.

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