The other night, I did a reading for myself with the Sentinel’s Spread that I’d like to share here for a couple of reasons.
First of all, I have become more accustomed to interpreting it since I posted my sample reading, and I would like to present a new example with a more experienced and thorough approach. I have done this spread a handful of times now, at least once a month, sometimes as often as once a week, since designing it.* Every single time, I have used an RWS.
Which brings me to my next reason for sharing this reading. The other night when I read the Sentinel’s Spread, I used the Wildwood Tarot. This is significant on two levels: firstly, on that of the spread, having previously only been used with an RWS; secondly, on that of the deck, having prior to this reading only been seriously used for purposes of studying, and not for reading.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Wildwood is an ideal place to build my Sentinel’s Watchtower.
So, without further ado, here was my perspective from that tower.
(I am going to assume a general knowledge of the spread on the part of the reader. If you are not familiar with this spread, and you are reading this, please refer to the link at the start of this post for clarification.)
Card 1: the Sentinel. For my significator, I chose the Stoat (the Page of Bows [Wands]) prior to shuffling and laying the cards. I did this because it’s the court card which corresponds to right now on the Wheel of the Year (roughly July 9 to August 1, or the final quarter of the Time of Bows). The Wheel of the Year is the underlying system of the WWT that distinguishes it from other decks, to be discussed in-depth in a future post. Because all of the Wildwood Court are depicted as animals, none of which I really personally identify with, I find this the best method of choosing significators for myself when using this deck. It also has the benefit of keeping me in time with the rhythm of the yearly cycle whenever I use these cards, which I foresee as a helpful tool for tracking my yearly mood-swings in the future.***
The guidebook (essential reading for anyone who wants to seriously comprehend this deck, and my point of reference from here on out for interpretations specific to it) stresses the earthly nature of the Stoat, in stark contrast to the fiery nature of its suit. It is described as a gifted emissary, with an “ability to perceive the truth in almost any matter” and a “freedom of spirit [that] marks you out as and original and unique personality.”
Oh, Stoat, you flatter me.
In this particular instance, though, it is in fact fairly accurate. Of course, my element is the Earth. Also, I have been acting as the go-between for a developing power-struggle in my band, which is becoming a somewhat uncomfortable (and frustratingly non-musical) position. In this way, my focus for this reading has been at least partially decided right at the outset; if I were using the RWS, I would have chosen my significator based on my own prior intentions.
My “free spirit,” on the other hand, is no new development. I am who I am, and I have been for quite some time. But it allows me to identify on a more general level with this version of the Sentinel. In other words, while the band is on my mind, it’s not all that’s going on in my life, and this spread will illustrate that.
Cards 2-4: the Watchtower. For these cards, I pulled the Seer (Priestess), the Wheel (Wheel of Fortune), and the Mirror (Hanged Man). Once these cards are placed in the spread, I put the Stoat in his position atop the tower.
The first thing I notice is the position shared by all three of these cards on the Wheel of the Year: they are all on the Autumn Equinox during the Time of Vessels (Cups). This leads me to think that this spread is in some ways an effort to prepare myself for the oncoming change of seasons.
The Seer is depicted wearing the “owl’s cloak of wisdom.” As the foundation of my tower, this suggests to me a mindset based in creative writing. The reason for this jump is the presence, at least in spirit, of the owl, which is the symbolic bird of a main character in a writing project I am currently engaged in. This inkling will be cemented later on, as we shall see, by the appearance of the raven in card 16, a bird symbolic of another, antagonistic character in my story. In general, this card is associated with inward and focused reflection, as is typical of Priestess types. It is one of the four most elemental cards of the Wildwood’s Major Arcana, connected with water, and of course, Autumn.
The Wheel confirms this notion of inward contemplation. It is the only card to directly reference the eponymous Wheel of the Year, intended to suggest stepping back for a time from moment-by-moment life and consider its grander pattern (something this spread is designed to facilitate); it encourages the conscious weaving of your metaphorical cloak of fate (it literally shows a loom with an unfinished robe). We all have an active hand in shaping our own destinies. This card suggests we take advantage of that. However suggestive this card is, though, it maintains the eerie atmosphere of an otherworldly limbo, which grounds it firmly as a reflective, rather than active, card.
This is a natural and fitting progression from the Seer at the foundation. My tower is capped by the Mirror. It appears that my cards may be trying to hint at something with all these reflective cards – it doesn’t get more obvious than the Mirror. All of these cards are water cards, and as I already pointed out, all of them are associated with Autumn, the season of transition towards decay. The Mirror is especially eerie (I know I already used that adjective, but ‘creepy’ just isn’t right. There really is no better word). It occupies the position of the Hanged Man in traditional Tarot. It is both the same and totally different in meaning than the Hanged Man. At its core, it is supposed to represent the threshold between this world and otherworldly, subconscious realms.
And so from the tower thus constructed, the Stoat has a clear perspective into the waters of the subconscious. Time to examine what tools he has at his disposal.
Cards 5-8: Resources/defenses/etc. (the walls of the fortress). For these cards, I pulled the Stag (Justice), the Archer (Chariot), the Pole Star (Star), and the Otter (Page of Vessels).
The East. Element Air. Season Spring. Realm of the Mind. Suit of Arrows (Swords): While the imagery is totally original (like most in this deck), the reading points of the Stag are essentially those of Justice, with a focus on the consequences of our actions and the natural balance of the Universe. Any time this card comes up for me these days, I am immediately reminded of my ongoing struggle with the American Justice System.**** True it is that this occupies my mind often. I take comfort in the Stag’s appearance here, though. I am reminded that balance prevails, and I have sown only seeds of honesty.
The South. Element Fire. Season Summer. Realm of the Spirit. Suit of Bows: Another, more radical departure from traditional imagery, the Archer nonetheless conveys an attitude recognizable in the driver of the Chariot: confidence, determination, skill, focus, and control. Victory is imminent. I like what I see here. It is in some ways a counterpoint to the Stag, the action that generates the consequences wrought by him. Having been reassured of my peace with the Stag, I can direct my energies towards more productive things. Like writing, or music, both of which are on my mind and waiting to take form by my hands.
The West. Element Water. Season Autumn. Realm of Emotions. Suit of Vessels: This is the quadrant from which the bricks of my watchtower have been cut. The Pole Star, on the other hand, is associated with the winter, and while its counterpart in traditional Tarot depicts water in plenty, there is none here that we can see. Perhaps it is the star towards which my tower is oriented, after the fashion of the Druidic monolith architects before me. It is the North Star (but in the West…), and it operates as a compass. Is this hope for guidance in the turbulent waters of my emotions? What is my Pole Star? Perhaps this is why my tower is cut from these parts; from here, will I be able to glimpse whatever it is I’m searching for when I gaze into the Mirror? This card suggests hope, but how distant?
The North. Element Earth. Season Winter. Realm of the Material. Suit of Stones (Coins): Here, conspicuously, is the first card I’ve drawn that is not from the Major Arcana. It is the Otter, or the Page of Vessels, and as the Stoat is Earth of Fire, so the Otter is Earth of Water. Earth is my element, so a Page in this quadrant grabs my attention. According to the book, in this position I have at my disposal one who is “a dreamer and a visionary, [able to] weave a spell that few can resist.” Dare I consider this to be myself? It does go on to mention loyalty, devotion, and a “sense of fair play,” which reminds me once again of my current non-musical position in the band. If not for these things, I wouldn’t be in this situation. However, these are qualities I see in myself, and they are qualities I like about myself. As another page, is this perhaps another aspect of my significator, or maybe a progression from him? This is the next page in the cycle of the Wheel of the Year, although not the next court card (that’s the Heron, King of Vessels).
I don’t know. We shall see how these four elements work to my advantage (or possible disadvantage, knock on wood) in the face of what’s on the horizon. Perhaps I’ll get some clarification on the points I’m unsure about.
Cards 9-20: The Horizon. My initial thoughts upon seeing the horizon are fairly neutral. I see some comforting cards, and I see some frightening ones. I notice that there are many Arrows, and no Bows. This imbalance could be potentially frustrating to my Archer energies. I also notice a third Page popped up, as well as one of my Patron cards, the Hooded Man (the Hermit), along with three other Major Arcana, one of each in every direction. There are a lot of Major Arcana overall in this spread, suggesting a spiritually-oriented view from my tower (is that a surprise? The High Priestess is my foundation, after all).
To the East (cards 9, 13, and 17), I see the Eel (Knight of Vessels), Ten of Arrows, and the Guardian (Devil). Naturally, the Guardian grabs my attention first. I have an interesting relationship with this card. He turned up as the Devil during many significant situations over this past winter, especially towards the end, with the world around me warming up to Spring. Spring, East, Air, Arrows. There’s an alarming occurrence of these last just ahead of the Guardian – the Ten of Arrows. But this is one of many instances in the WWT where the divinitory meaning of a card differs from tradition. Where Swords almost always represent something awful at Ten, the Arrows offer Instruction, depicting a youth being instructed in the art of archery by an elder. The Eel, as a “great purveyor of wisdom and [with] a reputation as a protector,” compliments the Ten of Arrows, and suggests a teacher or sage of some sort. And following these two… is the Guardian. The Devil conjures many conflicting images in my mind, and has been on my mind more or less regularly ever since I wrote about him (he’s one of two that I’ve written of so far that has had such a thorough effect on me). But the Guardian is not the Devil, at least, not exactly. He is intentionally terrifying, but beneath that exterior, the Guardian serves a natural and necessary function, and he is even playful in his own terrifyingly mischievous way. Once you meet him and are allowed to pass by him, he no longer seems scary at all. He is located at Samhain at the start of the Time of Stones on the Wheel of the Year, roughly coinciding with Halloween, an especially apt location given my birth and my magical (elemental) leanings. That means I feel oddly at home in his presence, but it doesn’t make him any less terrifying at times. I take all this to mean I should be on the lookout for instruction and instructors in the realm of the mind, with the ultimate goal of preparation for some sort of encounter with the Guardian, probably to occur around the time of my birth day.
To the South (cards 10, 14, and 18), I see Ten of Stones, the Kingfisher (King of Arrows), and Balance (Temperance). Each of the four directions on the horizon offers me one Major Arcana card. In the South, it is Balance. It stands at Beltane (May 1) on the Wheel of the Year, but aside from marking the beginning of the Time of Bows, I see no significance in its place. Ten of Stones is Home, and the Kingfisher helps with the process of judging what is no longer of use in my life, what I need to let go of. The South is the realm of my spirit, my passions, and my creativity. That which pumps fire into my veins. I take these two cards to mean that, in order to follow the direction of my passions, I have to decide what is really important to me and leave behind the comfort of Home (or the past, or my current silly notion of reality). Balance suggests to me that, while it is tempting to set a course based on passion, it is important that I not get carried away. Moderation is key. Striking a balance is an art. It drives home my desire for the Kingfisher to guide my potentially life-altering decision-making. The Archer I have in my corner doesn’t hurt, either.
To the West (cards 11, 15, and 19), I see the Ace of Arrows, the Hooded Man (Hermit), and Three of Arrows. Here the Major Arcana card comes up in the middle position, rather than the last. It is the Hooded Man, one of my favorite incarnations of the Hermit. Before him is the Ace of Arrows, or the Breath of Life. This is the direction of water and the emotions; perhaps new life will be blown into my emotional situation? This quadrant almost always stumps me when I read. A new lease on an emotionally-charged situation that leads to solitude? Rest? Withdrawal? That in turn leads to the Three of Arrows, probably the most emotionally-charged of the Arrows. Three arrows pierce a burning heart. Jealousy is the keyword given it. This was all troubling to me, until I read the book’s entry on the Three. It warns against the “grass-is-always-greener” mentality. We each have our station in life, and to envy others for theirs is ultimately destructive. This advice calls to mind my work, for which I am thankful, although it grates on me at times. But how does this have to do with my emotions? Anger is an emotion, yes, but I don’t quite see how it connects to the Ace and the Hermit. The West is distorted by fog, it appears, but from what I can glean through the haze, I should be wary of emotional withdrawal after an apparently optimistic beginning of some venture, whether of the mind or heart I can’t quite make out. The Hooded Man stands at the Winter Solstice, which, while promising longer days to come, lies in the depths of Winter on the Wheel of the Year. While the Hermit is always a comfort to me, that time of year has not been an easy time for me in the past. Thankfully, I’ve got the Pole Star as a beacon to guide my way should I get turned around in the possible turmoil.
To the North (cards 12, 16, and 20), I see the Wren (Page of Arrows), the Journey (Death), and Two of Arrows. The Wren, as Earth of Air, makes the third Page. The only one absent from the spread is the Lynx, Earth of Earth. The Wren is regarded as a particularly clever bird, which I’m sure will come in handy if I hope to navigate the mists of the West (the Wren is also on the Hermit, which is why I made that connection). Immediately following the Wren is the Journey. The raven(!) feeds on the carcass of a deer. Death. Like the Guardian, not as fearful as it seems at first glance. Also like the Guardian, it stands at Halloween. Some sort of transformation is going to occur during this time, but then again, it does every year as I grow older. This particular transformation will probably manifest itself in the material realm, though. It will not be a mental, spiritual, or emotional change. Something concrete will happen. Will the Wren guide me? I certainly hope so, because it leads to the Two of Arrows, or Injustice. Not promising. What does this portend for me? When I look at my first defense against this frontier, I see the Otter. If the Otter does indeed represent a continuation of my current situation with the band, does that mean I’ll be leaving them as an eventual result of a misunderstanding? I’m not totally convinced the band is what’s in question here. What is the Otter’s relation to the Wren? The broken bow pictured on the Two, combined with an almost total lack of Bows elsewhere in the spread, reminds me of the Archer. Is this injustice going be the negation of the potency of this card? The Archer is located in the quadrant of Bows, or my passions. Maybe it is referring to music after all.
Whatever injustice it may turn out to be, the Stag is luckily not too far off. He’s the best remedy I could possibly have against the Two of Arrows.
Overall, I feel encouraged from what I’ve read so far, although things seem to fall apart a little to the West, and the North culminates on a bit of a sour note. My watchtower stands strong, though, even if my Archer ends up disarmed by an injustice. I think I can handle whatever comes my way, even if I need help every now and then from an Eel or a Kingfisher, or even a Wren.
Card 21: the Bell. Nothing is certain, though, and with one final word from my cards, I will decide whether or not to sound the alarm. For this position, I draw the Sun of Life (the Sun), which is a very positive Major Arcana to receive here. Relief. Illumination. This spread certainly has opened my eyes to new perspectives on various current situations. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, grasping for control. But there are things I never will control, and that’s probably for the best. The Sun will always rise again tomorrow, no matter what I’ve done today. I can sleep soundly tonight.
My next step will be to use smaller, more focused spreads to throw light some of the cloudier issues presented by this one, such as an emotional/water clarifying spread, or a spread centered around the question of what to do about the band or other such issues that have come up. I’m intrigued by the questions this spread has raised about the role of the Archer (and to a lesser degree, the Pole Star) in my life at this time. Perhaps I’ll look into that.
So, there you have it. A very in-depth tour of my Watchtower and my current view from its heights. As you can probably imagine, this spread takes some time to interpret. When I first laid it out the other night, I spent an hour with it. I spent quite a bit more than an hour writing these reflections on it, and I’ve really only hit the tip of the iceberg. I encourage anyone and everyone to try it for themselves, but you should understand that something of a commitment is required to best comprehend all that it has to show you.
*By design, I don’t recommend reading with this spread more often than once a week.
**Those who have read my original description of this spread will notice the shape, while remaining essentially the same, has evolved a bit. Also, to those who may be curious, underneath the spread, acting as a makeshift Tarot alter, is a study in Cubism titled “Guitar Resting in the Practice Room,” signed in the bottom right corner by one “Pythagoras.”
***In theory, you could use a Wheel of the Year approach for significators with any Tarot court in the form of Zodiacal attributions. Personally, I follow Mr. Crowley’s attributions in such instances, for the simple reason that his is the most overtly astrologically-oriented deck of my collection.
**** “That’s none of your damn business, and I’ll have to ask you to stay out of my personal affairs.” – Ace Ventura.