- Le Chaudron de Morrigann /
- original spread
This spread is my intellectual property. Reproduction without written permission strictly prohibited.
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Though it was designed to be used in May, this spread may be done whenever the querent needs this kind of insight, no matter what time of the year it is. Its connection to the month of May comes from the folk ballad "Barbara Allen", which inspired it. This song tells the sad story of two lovers, the one too proud to forgive the other's hurtful behavior.
The earliest known versions of this ballad date back to XVIIth century Scotland, where Barbara and Sweet William are common folklore figures. Throughout the years and due to people leaving Europe, the song was brought to the United States and was soon integrated to the musical folklore, too. It was collected by Francis James Child during the XIXth century when he decided to compile American traditional and folk songs with English and Scottish origins, attributing a number to each one in order to make classification easier. That is why "Barbara Allen" is also referred to as "Child Ballad #84" or "Child 84".
As it survived through the centuries and spread in different areas, the ballad went through a large number of transformations and adaptations. The song was transmitted orally, which led to many variations as the legend evolved as nuances were added to the main frame according to which features or feelings singers wanted to put into light. However, the basic structure is always the same: the story takes place in May when flowers and trees are in bloom, in a small town which is sometimes identified and sometimes nameless. The love he feels for Barbara Allen makes Sweet William very sick, which forces him to stay in bed. As he wants to talk to her, he sends his servant to get Barbara Allen to come and see him. She reluctantly accepts to come to his bedside but as she gets there her attitude and words are cruel, for she explains she cannot forgive the way Sweet William behaved with other women, which made her feel humiliated. She thus refuses to listen to what he has to say and only tells him coldly that he must be dying before leaving him to his sorrow. Sweet William understands he lost her for good and dies asking his friend to take care of she who broke his heart. While walking back home, Barbara Allen hears about Sweet William's death and realizes how hard-hearted she has been. She falls on the ground in sorrow and understands she has lost her true love. She dies the day after and is buried besides Sweet William in the old churchyard. On William's grave grows a rose and on Barbara's a briar. As they grow from William's and Barbara's hearts, the rose and the briar intertwine to form a true lover's knot, the rose wrapping around the briar. Sweet William and Barbara Allen are thus reunited beyond death.
The renditions of this ballad are countless, for various artists made their own versions by reappropriating the legend and the tune in their own style. Among the best adaptations are those by Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan ("Barbara Allen" is one of his all time favorites and inspired several of his own songs), The Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton (with Altan, with the first and last verses in Irish Gaelic), Crystal Gayle, Johnny Cash (text adapted by Johnny Cash), Emmylou Harris, Simon & Garfunkel, Judy Collins, Marie Laforêt, or Blackmore's Night.
Ever since I listened to it for the first time, this song has been one of my favorites for I was enchanted by its magic and by the poetical way it deals with love and the different aspects of this complex feeling. The briar and the rose are very strong symbols and since they are at the heart of the story, I decided to use them to design this spread. That is why its shape pictures them as they grow from Barbara's and William's hearts, intertwining into the true lover's knot that brings them together again at the end of the ballad. The spread follows the usual structure of the story in chronological order, and each of its steps are represented by a card in one plant or in the other. As the story unfolds, one climbs up against the wall with the briar and the rose to finally reach the possibility of potential reconciliation, or in any case to find solace depending on the querent's situation.
This spread aims at examining to what extent and whether it is possible to heal a damaged relationship and find solutions to get what keeps the two lovers apart out of their way.
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw fourteen cards and lay them as follows:
This spread has four parts, each of them referring to key elements in the ballad. The first part is made of cards 1, 2 and 3 and represents the cemetery ground where the briar and the rose grow from; cards 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 are the second part and depict the briar; cards 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 are the third part and depict the rose. The last card (14) crowns the whole picture and represents the true lover's knot formed by the intertwining briar and rose.
First part: The cemetery ground, the roots, the situation as it is – cards 1 to 3
Card 1. The roots of the current situation, the situation as it is right now, what the two lovers' feelings are like when the cards are drawn.
Card 2. The roots of the briar: what broke the relationship, the grievances that initiated the quarrel.
Card 3. The roots of the rose: the feelings of love that still exist despite the current misunderstandings and animosity.
Second part: The briar – the situation as Barbara sees it (cards 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12)
Card 4: The sorrow that causes Barbara's heart to turn to stone. The painful feelings generated by the actions and facts alluded to by card 2. The sorrow caused by the discord, and the resentment that keeps the two lovers apart.
Card 6: As she is hurt, Barbara refuses to listen to Sweet William. The reason why communication is not good between the two lovers.The lack of communication, why one refuses to communicate.
Card 8: Barbara hears about Sweet William's death and realizes that she loves him. This card shows the emotional shock that leads to understanding that a painful change is needed in order to focus on the situation with a different point of view. Only then will it be possible to determine whether the feelings of love are still there. One realizes what they have lost.
Card 10: As a consequence to William's death, Barbara's sorrow is stronger than her resentment and she blames herself for being so cruel to him; she thus follows him in the grave. This card represents what one will regret (not) doing or (not) saying and points towards the first signs of reconciliation.
Card 12: Barbara is buried next to Sweet William. This card shows what leads the two lovers to get together again.
Third part: The rose – the situation from William's point of view (cards 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13)
Card 5: Sweet William suffers from the situation and gets very sick. The consequences of the pain caused by the quarrel. This card shows what keeps the two lovers apart despite the feelings they share.
Card 7: Sweet William tries in vain to explain how he feels to Barbara. The communication attempts that were unsuccessful or that kept the two lovers apart instead of bringing them back together. The reasons why these communication attempts failed.
Card 9: Sweet William's death. Resignation. Accepting the situation as it is and the possibility of a definitive break-up, of non reconciliation. This card can also show one's good wishes for the other person. How one considers stepping aside and disappearing from the other's love life if there is no other solution.
Card 11: Sweet William is buried in the old churchyard. What one is willing to sacrifice to mend the broken relationship, what one is willing to let go or to forgive in order to facilitate reconciliation and go towards a peaceful future.
Card 13: The rose that grows from Sweet William's heart. The feelings that will survive and/or that will be reborn, helping the relationship to be peaceful again, giving it one more chance.
Fourth part: The true lover's knot – the reunion of the two lovers and the overcoming of all difficulties (card 14)
Card 14: The knot formed by the briar and the rose as they grow up the wall. How the quarrel will be resolved; how the two lovers will find each other again (or not). How the efforts will pay, thus leading to the resolution of the conflict. The final outcome of the situation.
This spread is quite complex, which is not due to the number of cards involved, but rather to its structure and to the fact that it allows a thorough analysis of a given situation. Indeed, it explores the querent's relationship and the current conflict in the details. As a consequence, in order to produce a good interpretation, one has to take into account the complexity that is inherent to any relationship and to this kind of feelings.
The two parts entitled "the briar" and "the rose" respectively depict Barbara and William's behaviors and feelings in the ballad, but one has to remember that things are rarely that clear or that distinct in everyday life. Though one of the two lovers might be blameless while the other might take full responsibility, things are far from being that simple: feelings are very often confused (and confusing), which leads to apparently contradictory words or actions that do not reflect what one really feels. That is why it is very important for the querent to be willing to be completely honest with themselves while doing this spread, for they will have to face their darkest – and most shameful – aspects.They will thus be face to face with their feelings, but also with their ability to hurt the one they love, which is rarely considered in such a detailed manner in tarot readings.
In addition, it is important to note that although the structure of the spread follows the events alluded to in the ballad in chronological order, there is no guarantee that the outcome of the querent's relationship will be the same! In other words, the end of the legend has the two lovers reunited beyond death, which marks their eternal and unbreakable union. Though it is obvious that the outcome shown in the spread uses Barbara and William's death on a symbolical level, it is necessary for the interpret to keep in mind that the outcome shown by the cards might not be as favorable to the couple: depending on the final card, it might indicate that it is impossible for the relationship to continue. The only outcome might thus be separation, for it is sometimes the only way for the two lovers to find serenity and peace of heart again.
This spread thus provides detailed analysis, taking into account all the aspects – however intricate they are – that govern any relationship, especially in difficult times when distance settles between the two lovers. Thanks to this spread, one can identify what caused the situation and get a glimpse of what they can do to mend the relationship... if these solutions exist. In any case, it helps to find solace, no matter what the actual outcome might be.
Which decks for this spread?
A tarot or an oracle deck will be the perfect tool for this spread. However, considering the main subject of the spread, I recommend to choose a deck whose main theme is love. There are many decks displaying references to mythological or literary love stories, such as The Lover's Path Tarot by Kris Waldherr, which is a wonderful tool. Decks focusing on self-exploration and introspection will be perfect, too. Among them, Madame Endora's Fortune Cards and the gorgeous Chrysalis Tarot will be particularly relevant.
(© Morrigann Moonshadow, May 22nd, 2016, trans. June 1st, 2016. Further reproduction prohibited.)
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This introductory spread aims at getting to know a new deck and getting an idea of the kind of work you will do with it. It will show you what kind of insight you will get from your new deck.
How to proceed
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw eight cards and lay them out as follows:
Card 1: Who are you? Introduce yourself. This card represents the main characteristic of the deck, which is something that was given to it by the person(s) who created it.
Card 2: What will the nature of our relationship be? This card is a general overview of the kind of work and of the type of explorations that will be done with the deck. It is thus important to read this card according to the kind of feelings (enthusiasm, excitement, calm and peace, etc.) and tendencies it shows. Do you get an impression of peace or do you get worried by the card? Do you see trust and confidence, a harmonious relationship, or something else?
Card 3: What do I expect from you? This card shows what the reader-querent expects from the deck, what they would like to do with it and the hopes they nourrish toward this new relationship.
Card 4: How will you help me deal with my fears? This card pictures how the deck will confront the reader-querent with their own fears, worries and doubts. Will it be in the soft way, or on the contrary in the harsh way? Will the reader be directly confronted with their fears or will they rather be suggested to them? Will they find solutions to weaken them, dominate them, or even vanquish them with the help of the deck?
Card 5: How will you help me deal with my sorrows? Whether they belong to the past or to the present, sorrows are part of everybody's life and can only leave prints into it, which act as everlasting reminders. This card thus helps the reader-querent to know how the deck will enable them to "digest" and to transform their sorrows so that they are no longer obstacles in their life. The reader-querent will then be able to start anew, rich of their experiences.
Card 6: How will you guide me toward the accomplishment of my hopes and desires and the fulfillment of my dreams? This card highlights how the deck may help the reader-querent to go forward toward the fulfillment of their dreams, hopes and desires. Important personal accomplishments are also shown here.
Card 7: How can you and I work together in order to help others? The card pictures how the reader-querent can use their deck to help other people. It may also reveal the very nature of this help.
Card 8: What aspects of myself will you help me look deeper into? A tarot or oracle deck is a mirror to the person who uses it. It helps the reader in getting to know themselves better and in unveiling hidden aspects of their personality. The card thus shows in what way the deck will help the reader to know themselves better and what aspects of their own personality will be revealed thanks to it.
In a question-mark shape, this spread aims at helping the reader – who is also the querent – to get to know their new deck better. Consequently, the card positions in the spread are defined by questions which address the deck directly. That is how we can have an overview of several aspects of the situations and feelings that can be explored with the deck, which, according to the responses they get, enables the reader to decide to what purpose they will use the deck. Indeed, some decks are more accurate for such or such kind of analysis and questioning, that is why choosing the appropriate deck according to the questions that have to be solved. I thus recommend writing the spread you get down in a notebook with its interpretation so that you can get back to it whenever you need it and know your deck and its possibilities better and better each time. This is a very good way of evaluating the kind of relationship you can build with a new deck!
I designed this spread after receiving the stunning "Chrysalis Tarot" by Toney Brooks and Holly Sierra so that I could get to know it a little bit, for this deck looks particularly interesting and innovative to me and I was curious to get an overview of how I could work with it and of what it could reveal to me, both about itself and about myself.
Needless to say, this spread has not been designed only for the "Chrysalis Tarot" and can very well be used with any tarot or oracle deck you buy (or are given). It will shed light on the specific characteristics of each deck, whether they are due to its structure or to the cultural approach it illustrates.
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Despite what we might think, Litha is here and we are currently going through the longest days of the year. Also called Summer Solstice, Litha will occur on June 21st, celebrating the moment when the creative and regenerating Sun Force will reach its zenith on the Wheel of the Year. Litha is traditionally the perfect time to draw this life force and use it to nourish new projects or to practice magick, for all undertakings thus benefit from the power of this flow of energy.
There is no better time in the year than this one to test our own strengths and the forces that are working within ourselves: those which we use everyday, but also those which are still germinating deep within and which will grow and help us in what we undertake. In the same way, "charging" one's projects and initiatives with this energy will surely help!
Hommage to Cernunnos
This year's special Litha spread has been designed to put into light the forces and energies that can be found within the Querent at the time of the sabbat. As you will see, several degrees are taken into account according to the stage of development of each kind of energy. I thought that a spread shaped as a stag's head would be particularly appropriate (cards 1, 2, 3 and 4 form the head while cards 5 to 10 are the antlers).
Litha being the sabbat which honors Cernunnos as the Horned God, I wanted the lay out to illustrate this, for he is the masculine half of the Sacred Energy which rules Nature. Indeed, this Supernatural Being is very often depicted as a majestic stag, or at least with stag antlers. That is why the king of the forest was, to my mind, the best image I could use to create a special spread in relation to Litha.
Help the Querent to analyze the way forces are working within him at the summer solstice. Through the image of Cernunnos, he will thus see what the sabbat holds for him. No need for a question.
How to proceed
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw ten cards and lay them out as follows:
The spread is divided into two main parts where cards 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the head of the stag and are to be read first while cards 5 to 10 are the antlers.
Card 1 describes the Querent at the time the spread is used and thus at Midsummer.
Below is card 2, which show what lies beneath, what lies asleep within the Querent, what he is about to become.
Card 3 presents him with what makes him strong at the time of the sabbat while card 4 allows him to face the things that make him weak or to see what is weakening and waning within him.
Card 5 shows which force among those that lie in the Querent reaches its zenith at the solstice while card 6 hints at the one that is retiring, allowing it to grow.
Card 7 depicts a force already developed within the Querent but which needs to continue growing until next Litha. Card 8 is what will be "sacrificed", what will diminish little by little in order to allow it to grow.
Card 9 is a force yet sleeping within the Querent, just like a seed that was planted but is still in the ground as a young shoot. Present Litha will give it the energy it needs to "get out" and start growing and manifest. Card 10 is what this seed is about to replace.
Remark about the structure
Cards 1, 2, 3 and 4 are a variation on the simple cross spread. They set the frame of reference that describes the Querent at the time of the reading.
Cards 5 to 10 are the stag's antlers. In the World, each and every thing and force obeys the laws of balance... and this spread couldn't ignore them! As a consequence, connections between what is growing and what is declining are shown through the way these cards are read. Indeed, the first antler (cards 5, 7 and 9) shows the forces that are currently growing within the Querent while the second one (cards 6, 8 and 10) identifies what he will "lose" as a counterpart. The cards are thus read with a mirror effect.
Recommended decks for this spread
Because of its obvious connections with neo-pagan traditions, this spread was especially designed for "Madame Endora's Fortune Cards". However, any deck with a Neo-Pagan atmosphere is appropriate, just like for instance the beautiful Oracle of Shadows & Light and Oracle of the Shapeshifters or the wonderful "Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle" and other decks which will be reviewed here in the next few months.
Indeed, a tarot deck can also be used, but you will get better results if you make sure the one you choose reflects the spirit of the season and/or neo-pagan ideas and themes. Faery tarots are also great tools for this kind of spreads and will do wonders if you combine them with the summer solstice!
Merry and blessed Litha to you all!
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The witch is definitely a part of the Halloween folklore. That's why it seemed quite logical and natural to me to dedicate a special spread to this emblematic figure. The following layout is the first of a series specifically designed for Samhain.
Traditionally, witches ride their brooms on the night of a sabbat and fly towards the place where the celebrations take place. By doing so, they go from one state to another insofar as the sabbat is connected to a rite of passage since it marks an important step on the Wheel of the Year. This is all the more true about Samhain, for this festival is the door to the new year.
The spread – broom-shaped! – is called "The Witch's Flight" and explores the notion of passing from one state to another and of evolution. It is perfect for the new year in order to have an overview (past and present) and foresee what lies ahead. It allows close examination of a situation in which the querent is emotionally or spiritually involved so that the implications and consequences of the decisions that are made or the changes that are taking place around the querent can be fully measured. This spread can thus be used with or without a question.
How to proceed
After the deck has been shuffled and cut, draw ten cards and lay them as follows:
Visually, this spread is divided into two main parts: cards 1 to 6 are the straw of the broom while cards 7 to 10 are its stick.
This structure can be divided again into several smaller parts, which are distinct but complementary and based on the three-card spread.
Cards 1 to 3 show what we leave behind, what we are going away from, what we turn our back on.
Cards 4 to 6 show what pushes the querent forward, their deep motivations.
As the connection between the straw and the stick of the broom, card 7 is the convergence of what we leave behind, what pushes us forward and what lies ahead (which is indicated by the last three cards). This card puts into light the way these three axes are connected.
Cards 8 to 10 represent what lies ahead for the querent, where they are headed, strong of their past experiences and of what has already been revealed in the spread.
Each of the three axes is composed of three cards. Individually, the cards have no particular meaning defined according to their respective positions. The different groups are rather read as full entities and the cards they contain are deciphered as if they were telling a story for they describe a logical sequence of events or states of mind that the querent has been through.
Which decks to use?
This spread fits any tarot or oracle deck. However, considering the special event it is related to, some decks will be more attuned to the season and to the kind of explorations allowed by this spread than others.
Among tarot decks, you may of course use the classical Marseille, Rider-Waite Smith or Crowley, but you may also like the “Halloween Tarot” (no kidding!) or Joseph Vargo's "Gothic Tarot", or any deck close to this kind of atmosphere.
Concerning oracle decks, “Oracle of the Shapeshifters” is just perfect since just like this spread, it explores changes and transformations. “Oracle of Shadows & Light” and "Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle" are very pleasant too, as well as “Madame Endora's Fortune Cards”.
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Here is a spread that I designed specifically for “Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards”. Just like any other spread, it can be performed with any deck, but it really fits the atmosphere and the structure of “Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards”.
This spread aims at exploring a situation beyond what the eye can see. It sheds new light on what the Querent knows (what they see, what is shown to them) on the one hand, and on what is hidden from them (what they are not aware of) on the other hand.
How to proceed
Shuffle the deck, cut and spread the cards before you in a fan. Draw nine cards and spread them as follows:
The Significator (S): the Center of the Mirror. Being the Center of the Mirror, this card represents the situation, the reason why the Querent ask their question. It can thus show the elements that trigger the Querent’s questioning the oracle. It can be either a reflection of the situation as it is or of the way the Querent sees it. If the question is about a person and their intentions, this card symbolizes them.
Card 1: the Mask. What is shown to the Querent. The way things look, what the Querent sees.
Card 2: Behind the Mask. What lies hidden, voluntarily or not. Things the Querent does not see, what they ignore.
Card 3: the Tree. The way the Querent sees the situation (or the person). Their perception. This card may reveal a small problem the Querent is aware of.
Card 4: the Forest. What the Querent is about to discover, an aspect which is yet unknown and hidden by the Tree.
Card 5: the Path. What the Querent expects, the logical evolution of things according to what is known to the Querent when they question the oracle.
Card 6: the Surprise. What the Querent does not expect. This card is about an event or a person the Querent will meet on the path. This shows something that (or someone who) will play a crucial role in the situation, helping the Querent or obstructing their way.
Card 7: the Star. What the Querent wishes, what they would like to come true.
Card 8: the Anchor. What brings the Querent down to earth, back to reality. What they need to know, the truth. This truth may be about the potentials contained in the situation or about the intentions of the person if the question is about someone).
The structure of this layout is defined by several horizontal and vertical axes. The horizontal axes respectively show cards 1 and 2 (the Mask), 3 and 4 (the Tree and the Forest) and 5 and 6 (the Path and the Surprise). Through them, a linear reading of the different aspects of the situation under scrutiny is performed. There also three vertical axes. They comprise cards 1, 3 and 5; 7, 5 and 8, as well as 2, 4 and 6. The axis 1, 3 and 5 shows what is visible, what the situation (or person) looks like. Here are the elements that are submitted to the mirror’s evaluation. Once they pass through the mirror, these items become axis 2, 4 and 6, which reveals the hidden aspects of the situation/person and what remains hidden to the Querent’s eyes. The central axis does not go “through the looking-glass” in the same manner as Alice does in the novel, but from top to bottom, passing through the Significator. This indicates what influences weigh on the situation. These are due to the Querent themselves: the Star shows what they wish for whereas the Anchor brings them back down to earth (reality).
The different positions were named so the cards placed on the horizontal axes echo each other and show complementarity. Therefore, the two sides of the Mask are considered, then the Tree with the Forest that is hidden and remains unseen behind it, and at last the Path unfolding before the Querent, with its lot of unforeseen events. The central axis is built in the same way, with the Star and the Anchor helping the Querent in finding the right balance regarding the situation. In addition, these two cards synthetically picture things as they really are.
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