Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop!

As the wrangler for this hop, I proposed our topic: the Six of Swords, titled “Earned Success.” The “Earned Success Tarot Spread” takes us into the dark forest so that we can come out again seeing a catch-22 situation in a new light.


Earned Success

A fishing boat on a moonlit sea becomes the inspiration for the Earned Success tarot spread.
Moonlit Sea by Koho Shoda, c. 1910-30.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might have noticed I’m doing a Friday series on “Could This Art Be a Card?” After choosing the Six of Swords for the blog hop topic, I found this artwork of a fishing boat on a moonlit sea by Japanese artist Koho Shoda. Definitely a Six of Swords piece of art! I end up using the artwork to create a tarot spread that will help you earn your success.

Reframing for Success

When a spread doesn’t work, sometimes it’s because we’ve cut off all our options. I had a client who had a question about her social life. I laid out the spread and let her know she simply needed to get out of the house. For the remainder of the time, she argued with me. She couldn’t leave the house because she couldn’t leave her mother alone, no one else could handle her mother but her, she was exhausted and needed a break, she wanted to make some friends, but she couldn’t leave the house because she couldn’t leave her mother alone. (She did work a job, so the “can’t leave her mother alone” thing was not as literal as she made it sound.) There was no possible suggestion I could come up with that would let her leave the house. She was caught in an unresolvable Catch-22. Ever since this client interaction, I’ve been contemplating how to create a “Catch-22 Tarot Spread.” I think this is the closest I’ve come.

I use the idea of reframing as the underlying structure of the reading itself. There are five positions to this spread. First, we lay the cards out and interpret them according to the five positions when seen as challenges. Then using the same cards in the same order, we re-interpret the positions as indicators of success. It’s a fascinating process and I have used it with very intriguing results.

Into the Woods

The idea is to go into the challenges so that we can work through them and come out the other side, like the crossing of the boat from difficulty to ease in the Six of Swords. As I was explaining this admittedly abstract concept to someone, I remembered the lyrics from the Sondheim musical “Into the Woods.” Early in the play, one character complains that “Slotted spoons don’t hold much soup.” After the character goes into the dark woods and comes out again, she sings, “The slotted spoon can catch the potato.” We have to go into the woods, the darkness, the difficulty, the fear, the unresolvable quandary, to “To find there’s hope/ Of getting through the journey.” Entering our darkness helps us uncover the useful purpose of something that doesn’t work the way we’ve been using it.

The "Earned Success Tarot Spread" takes us into the dark forest so that we can come out again seeing a catch-22 situation in a new light.
The “Earned Success Tarot Spread” takes us into the dark forest so that we can come out again seeing a catch-22 situation in a new light. XIII Black Shuck, III The Green Mother, XII Suspension, Seeker of Vision, Four of Boons, and V The Oldest One from the Forest of Enchantment Tarot by Lunaea Weatherstone and Meraylah Allwood, Llewellyn, 2019.

The Positions

We’ll use these five positions twice, once considering them as challenges, then reframing them as steps to success.

  1. The Darkness of Night
  2. The Poleman who Steers
  3. The Water Before
  4. The Reeds Which Obscure
  5. The Fragments of Moon

This spread is perfect for a situation that you are stuck in or can’t resolve. For your question, ask how you can earn success in this sticky situation.

Spread 1

Shuffle up and lay out five cards. Interpret them according to these five positions. These indicate the challenges of your situation.

  1. Darkness of Night: What is Unclear
  2. The Poleman Who Steers: This Pushes Me Off Track
  3. The Water Before: This Is What’s Stagnant
  4. The Reeds Which Obscure: This Blocks My View
  5. The Broken Moon: This Is the Threshold I Must Cross to Succeed

Spread 2

Leave the same cards in the same order, but this time re-interpret them as steps towards success. Taking a card you’ve already interpreted as a problem, and seeing it now as a step toward success, will loosen your stuckness and get the wheels turning again.

  1. Darkness of Night: This is My Rest
  2. The Poleman Who Steers: This Pushes me Toward My Goal
  3. The Water Before: My Next Step
  4. The Reeds Which Obscure: This Marks the Shore So I Know Where I Am
  5. The Broken Moon: This Is the Path to Success

Your Earned Success

Pull one last card to express the success you have earned by reframing your problem.

  1. The Full Moon Above: My Earned Success

The Earned Success Tarot Spread

I love pretty things, so I put together a two-page pdf of the spread that you can download and print. Keep it close at hand to use whenever you feel stuck in a no-win situation.

By the way, I love giving away cool free stuff! And I hate feeling ransomed for my email address for every neat thing on the internet. So this free resource is completely no-strings-attached. But if you like stuff like this, and if you think you’d like other cool stuff that I put together (check out all my downloadables), then I’d love it if you signed up on my mailing list. Thank you!

Click the image to open a pdf that you can download and print.

Hop On

Please share any questions about the spread, or your results with using it, in the comments below! Or let me know how you resolved a catch-22 situation successfully. And please use the links below to check out how the other bloggers have earned success with tarot!


Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five 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 grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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  1. This deck is eerily familiar, the artwork is similar to a deck of cards that I have in the collection, so had to double take when I looked at them. Like the different spread ideas, thank you 🙂

    • It’s a good deck. It has that magical quality that elevates the images beyond mere illustration. Any one card by itself might feel “meh” but together in a spread they enchant you. Just like the name 🙂 “Forest of Enchantment Tarot”

  2. Joy, oh my gosh, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this spread and also the idea of a Catch 22 reading. I can’t say how much I LOVE this. It’s delightful. I may have to print out your post for future reference!

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