I use the Tarot in a myriad of ways. It has proven to be a very versatile tool for the development of my metaphysical awareness. Of course, one of the most popular ways to use the cards is to lay them out in a spread for reading, and indeed this is something I do more or less regularly myself.
I’ve experimented with many spreads since I began using the cards. I even keep a notebook reserved just for copying spreads which I find in books and online for my own personal use. It serves as a handy index for me to leaf through when I’m considering how to interact with the cards on any given day.
Several months ago, however, I felt compelled to design my own Tarot spread. And so, taking my position as the Sentinel as inspiration, I began to experiment. Eventually, I came up with a rough version of the Sentinel’s Spread. You can read about my original design here, but I must admit that I have since gone back and re-read that post, and am not completely satisfied with it. In any case, the spread has evolved since then, and I’m here today to break it down for anyone who may wish to try it for themselves. The more I use it, the more I like it, so much so that it has become my default method for personal reading, and I would like to share.
As the name suggests, this spread is designed around the metaphor of a sentinel atop a watchtower. It is a fairly complex spread, requiring a minimum of 21 cards, and the entire process of laying it out can be broken down into five parts:
- The Sentinel. (Significator)
- The Watchtower. (Cards 2-4)
- The Cardinal Directions. (Cards 5-8)
- The Horizons. (Cards 9-20)
- “Sound the Alarm!” (Conclusion)
A summary of these parts can be found here; I’d originally intended to link each part above to its own post, and I started that project fairly strong, but quickly sputtered out, as you can see by the lack of links from parts 4 and 5.
The querent may bring specific questions to the spread – in fact, they are encouraged to do so – but the spread itself is not intended to give only one specific answer. It is rather more of a general stock-taking type of thing, to be applied to many aspects of one’s life. To use the aforementioned metaphor, you may ask the sentinel to pay special attention to the north-west, because that is where the advancing enemy is rumored to be camped. However, the sentinel would be remiss in his duties if he did not also look to the other directions and report what he sees, whether to the north-west or to the south-east or anywhere else. In this way, the Sentinel’s Spread is a comprehensive look at the querent’s current state of being, and can offer suggestions on how to best proceed in whatever the matter is in question, but may also bring hitherto unknown circumstances to light. It can sometimes surprise with what it shows.
My own experience playing with this spread leads me to recommend setting aside a bit of time to fully interpret it, and also to record the reading in a journal or notebook so it can be revisited in the future. I’ve often found the experience of re-reading this spread with the benefit of hindsight to be enlightening. I also generally don’t lay down this spread for myself more often than once a month.
*One of these represented me, and the other represented the friend with whom I was reading at the time.