A student of mine asked me for feedback on a reading she did. Someone had challenged her with a question along the lines of “Will the Muslims take over the world?” Setting aside techniques for rephrasing poorly worded questions, I’d like to share for you the spread my student did and what we learned about reading tarot from it.
She drew the Tower, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Eight of Swords, using the Legacy of the Divine Tarot. She shared her interpretation, which I’ll paraphrase and reduce here: that the Islamic extremists were destructive (Tower), that they were trying to change the world (Wheel), and that we were stuck and needed to remove the blindfold to see what was really going on (Eight of Swords).
I had the other students lay out those same cards from their respective decks. One person asked if the Tower could represent the Paris attacks. Also, she pointed out that her Wheel of Fortune showed a woman drawing a circle in the sand (DruidCraft Tarot)–she suggested that an interpretation could be drawing a line in the sand, or drawing a circle of protection.
Good interpretations all.
But What is the Point of View of the Spread?
But what I noticed is that the different interpretations lacked the focus of a common point of view. In literature, point of view refers to the perspective from which the story is told. There are several different kinds of point of view, mostly commonly first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient.
First Person POV
First person point of view occurs when the story is told from the unique perspective of one character, using first person pronouns like “I saw” or “I felt.” We see the story through their eyes and whatever feelings and experiences they choose to share with the reader. A commonly used example of this is Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” told from the point of view of Scout.
An example of using first person point of view would be reading for yourself–in what way does each card reflect you–what you think, what you feel, what you are or should be doing. This can be a great help when reading for yourself–do the spread from your perspective, not worrying about digging into how others are feeling or thinking about you.
Second Person POV
Second person point of view–“You saw” or “You felt”, or more commonly, “Look here” or “Feel this” –is not commonly used, except in instructive writing. Your tarot books (and posts on this blog!) will often use second person point of view: “shuffle the cards, cut the deck, lay out the spread, look at the cards and make your interpretation.”
Third Person POV
Other common points of view include third person limited, in which the author narrates the events from the perspective of a single character, using third person pronouns such as “he saw” or “he felt.” In third person limited, the reader is given insight into the inner thoughts and feelings of only one character. There’s also third person omniscient, in which the author tells the story with insight into the minds of many of or all of the characters.
When reading tarot, we have to agree on certain conventions so that the cards know how to communicate to us. Choosing point of view can be very helpful. As the reader, it’s nice to think that we have third person omniscient point of view, but it’s important to be aware of whose head we’re in and whether we’re relating a coherent story.
In the first example, the reader switched point of view from the Islamic extremists to those affected by them. The extremists want to destroy the world. The extremists are trying to create change. The victims of the extremists need to remove their blindfold.
The second reader also used an omniscient point of view, but keeping it more general: Paris was attacked by extremists, those affected need to draw a line in the sand or create a protective space for themselves, etc.
My thought on the spread was to keep the point of view the same–if the question was about the extremists and how effective they would be, we as readers need to keep all the cards in the spread focused on addressing that question: Islamic extremists blew up Paris, Islamic extremists will undergo a change of fortune, Islamic extremists will be boxed into a corner and unable to be effective. That answers the question directly–no, they will not take over the world. Once we looked at the cards from a single limited point of view, it was easy to see the signification of the Legacy of the Divine Eight of Swords–all the countries of the world would bind the terrorists, each country pointing their weapons at this squirming and squishable bug.
When working with larger spreads, it is more likely that you will have more characters and more opportunities for a shifting point of view. But even in these larger spreads, try to keep the narrative focused on the main character (your querent) as much as possible. Although it is possible in any spread that the perspective or point of view may change, it’s very helplful to try to avoid a floating perspective and keep the reading tightly focused on the querent.
Next time you do a reading, take a look at your point of view and see if it is keeping your narrative tightly focused or giving you an excuse to wander all over the place. I’d love to hear your experiences with this technique in the comments!
Joy Vernon has been studying and teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for more than twenty years. She is the organizer of the Denver Tarot Geeks, Denver Tarot Meetup and Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup, and she served on the faculty of Avalon Center for Druidic Studies. She is one of the psychics at Isis Books and is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy Tarot Association. Joy also teaches Traditional Japanese Reiki. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2015 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.