I am the Sentinel on the Council. It is my job to keep my eyes on the metaphysical horizons and to be aware of forces at work or play in the distance, to report to the Council so that we may learn from and adapt to the magical goings-on around us.
The following is a spread I devised myself for just that purpose.
This is a large and somewhat complex spread that uses up to 21 cards, including a significator. It will take some time to interpret. It’s purpose is to evaluate your current position in life, including potential strengths and weaknesses, as well as what may be off in the distance. It’s a spread for meditation on what’s current and preparation for what is to come. This spread is not meant to answer any specific question; it’s more of a general stock-taking type of thing. It is my spread, used for purposes of observing and interpreting external magical energy, and to be considered in consultation with the Council. However, I share it in hopes that it may be of use to anyone who wishes to gain a better vantage point in his or her life. Here it is:
Cards 1-3: The Watchtower. These cards are placed one on top of the other.
1: This card represents the foundation of the tower. It should be strong; if it is weak, immediate action should be taken to fortify it. In a magical sense, this card represents your innate understanding of the world and your place in it.
2: This card represents the body of the tower. How have you built upon your foundation of knowledge?
3: This card represents the platform upon which you stand. What is your current perspective? How clearly does this perspective allow you to see off into the distance? is there anything blocking your view?
Card 4: The Sentinel, placed on top of the Tower stack. This is where you place your significator. You can choose one prior to laying out the other cards, or you can choose one at random. If you choose the latter, what does this say about your current state of mind? Is the Sentinel alert? Does he/she maybe need glasses?
Cards 5-8: The Defenses, placed left to right in front of the tower. These cards can represent a couple things. They can be seen as the four walls of your fortress; they can be elements at your disposal, to use against whatever dangers may be approaching. You can place significators here to represent certain people who are close to you or part of your support system. If you choose to do this, perhaps it would be a good idea to place an additional card on top of each significator as a reading on how that person is doing in relation to the rest of the spread. Whatever these cards represent to you, they are in the vicinity of your tower, not far off in the distance like the next cards (watch out for dangers here which may have escaped your watch in the past).
I recommend briefly studying the first eight cards (your completed fortress) before laying out the next cards in order to have an idea of where you stand. This will help you to interpret what’s coming up.
Cards 9-12: the Cardinal Directions. Placed from left to right around the cards already laid, these cards represent the horizon.
9: East. Associated with the element of Air and the suit of Swords.
10: South. Element of Fire and suit of Wands.
11: West. Element of Water and suit of Cups.
12: North. Element of Earth and suit of Coins.
These are the cards that show what’s in the distance (metaphorically speaking); they may or may not correspond to cards 5-8. You’re the Sentinel; it’s your job to perceive if these are friendly, neutral, or hostile forces. Are they approaching? Retreating? Or are they just passing by? What do they indicate is on your horizon? Once you’ve placed cards 9-12, you can either consider yourself finished and move on to the final card, or you can add more cards to the horizon to help clarify the situation. I wouldn’t recommend more than a total of three cards in each direction, or a total of 12 cards on the horizon.
Should you decide to place more cards, they should be added one at a time to each spot, in the order that the directions were placed. In other words, cards 9, 13, and 17 go in the East; 10, 14, and 18 in the South; 11, 15, and 19 in the West; and 12, 16, and 20 in the North. You can then read each group as a progression of events, or as a whole. Whatever makes the most sense at the time of reading is what is recommended.
The Final Card: The Alarm. This card is placed directly behind the significator as a general conclusion to the whole spread. Given the state of your fortress and what you can see on the horizon, what is the best course of action to take? Is it all quiet on the front? Or should you sound the alarm? Should you muster the troops? Should you just keep silence until something more definitive can be reported? Should you call in the contractors for repairs? Or should you abandon your post altogether and scramble to find a safer vantage point? The message this card holds should be carefully considered both by itself and in conjunction with the entire spread.
Some other points to be considered: Is your tower a solitary fortress, or is it part of a vast system of defenses around a central point? Is it on the fringes of an empire, or part of the Citadel that houses the government? do you answer to a higher power? What is the surrounding landscape? Forests? Mountains? Plains? Or are you on an island, surrounded by waters? Are you an appointed Sentinel (like me), or are you just a common soldier summoned to keep watch for a shift? Is your tower guarding something specific, or is it just there for general security? Is it wartime, or peacetime? I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but these can all represent variables to keep in mind if you decide to use this spread to its fullest potential. What they really mean is up to you. Keep an open mind when using this spread. The basic idea is just that you’re standing on a platform elevated above your everyday life, and you’re keeping watch. Maybe you know what you’re looking for, like a signal from a Scout, or the return of a messenger or questing Knight Errant. Maybe you don’t know what you’re looking for, but you want to keep an eye out anyway for whatever the winds of fortune might be blowing your way.
One possibility is to use exclusively the Major Arcana, which would use all but one of the cards. This can show you where each of these archetypal energies are present in your life, how they are working for or against you, and what aspect you are currently missing.
So there you have it: the Sentinel’s Spread. As I said, this is a personal spread that I use for specific magical purposes. But any are encouraged to give it a try and let me know how it works out. I’ll post a sample reading with pictures using this spread next time. In the meantime, happy watching.
Here are other examples of readings with the Sentinel’s Spread: