First published on Autostraddle.
What’s the first thing you do when you get a new tarot deck?
Tear off the packaging, shuffle and leap straight into a reading? Gingerly leaf through every card one by one taking in the feel of the whole deck? Seek out cards you like and simply sit with them? Or maybe you have a special ritual that you carry out, like cleansing or ‘charging’ your deck with crystals?
I like to take my time with a new tarot deck, working through the full 78 cards one by one several times before I’m ready to shuffle. I like to notice what jumps out at me, any symbols which feel especially relevant to me in the moment, or characters who seem to be speaking to me. This process can take anything from 20 minutes to several days.
When I am ready to shuffle, however, I normally turn to one particular tarot spread to get to know my new cards: the ‘tarot deck interview spread’. I don’t know where I found it. I’m not the creator (though lots of bloggers have attributed it to me!) but I do use it frequently. Here are a few tarot deck interviews I’ve shared on my blog over the years.
The interview spread is a really neat way to introduce yourself to a new tarot deck and allow it to introduce itself to you.
Essentially, it’s a conversation about your potential working relationship, where you can discuss the deck’s strengths and limits and discover the best way to approach and use these cards. Many people find that certain tarot decks work best for love readings, others are more suited to questions about work or practical matters, and others are the kind for ‘going deep’. This interview spread is a helpful way to explore those ideas in more detail.
So, if you’ve recently got a new deck and you’re keen to begin working with it, clear yourself some space, light a candle if you like, and try out this little spread. (This would also be a nice way to reconnect with an old deck you’ve been neglecting, or one you’ve never really bonded with!)
The tarot deck interview spread
Here are the spread positions:
- Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
- What are your strengths as a deck?
- What are your limits as a deck?
- What are you here to teach me?
- How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
- What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?
You can lay the cards out however you wish. I usually place them in one long line, but you could also try two rows of three, or perhaps a circle. You do you! Go with what feels good for your deck. And you can go as deep or as simple as you like with your interpretations of each card. Sometimes I write an essay for each one, sometimes it’s just a short, snappy line or two. It’s totally up to you, though with this spread I’d suggest you try to let the deck guide you.
I’m gonna try this out with a deck I bought a while back, but have never taken the time to interview — the Tarot of the Cat People by Karen Kuykendall, and I’m gonna go with a circle layout for this one.
1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?
The Tarot of the Cat People is a strong-willed, resourceful deck that will get the job done. As Magician, it brings together the power of all of my own resources, then bridges the gap between me — the reader — and the Universe. I feel like the deck is telling me: I am magic. Be careful what you wish for.
2. What are your strengths as a deck?
Whoa. This deck wants to take me there. Right out of my comfort zone, beyond what I’m willing to hear, beyond what is cozy and expected. This isn’t the deck for confirming what I want to hear, but for pushing me, shocking me, busting apart illusions and outdated beliefs.
3. What are your limits?
Page of Pentacles
This deck isn’t interested in the small stuff, the mundane detail (as the Magician and the Tower have already shown.) It’s not for exploration, for learning, for gently experimenting. Where the Page of Pentacles approaches, curious, wide-eyed and eager to learn, the Tarot of the Cat People stalks away, seeking something bigger. There’s a haughtiness here, much like a cat — a disinterest in the details I may care about.
4. What are you here to teach me?
Where this deck wants to push me beyond my comfort zone, it’s aim in doing so is to clear space. This is a deck for the revolutions, the total upheavals, and the hope that lies beyond. If I’m willing to accept the Magician and face the Tower, the rewards are great. This is a deck for transformative readings and rediscovering myself over and over, through a process of breaking everything down.
5. How can I best learn and collaborate with you?
Six of Pentacles
I must approach the Tarot of the Cat People as an equal. Not as a reader, controlling cards, not as a passive recipient, at the mercy of their message. No — these cards want me to enter into an equal, balanced relationship with them, appreciating their wisdom and power as they will do mine. I am asked to pay attention to power dynamics when using these cards — the dynamics between the cards and I, and between me and any querent I may be working with.
6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?
Three of Cups
A lasting, trusting, supportive friendship. Aw.
This feels a lot like entering a relationship with a cat! These cards are full of that aloof superiority a cat has no qualms about demonstrating, but show me that it’s worth persevering. The road won’t always be calm — on the contrary, I can expect to feel totally disorientated and pushed to my limits when reading with these cards — but here this is shown almost as an initiation process. If I’m strong enough to bring my whole self and be honest about what I want, what I will, the Tarot of the Cat people will be an honest and supportive companion.
How about you guys? Got any new decks lately? Try out the spread and let us know what the cards say!