Karen Sealey of Pure and Blessed Tarot offered us an odd but intriguing topic—the word “may.” Of course, that’s the current month, and our holiday in folk traditions is often called Mayday. So after working with the topic from a variety of perspectives, I discovered the Maypole Tarot Spread.
Weaving a reading.
Take 78 bright colorful ribbons.
Up and down and over and under and weave in the ends.
When you dance a maypole, there are ribbons tied to a pole, tree, column, or something central with room to dance around. Everyone stands in a circle with the pole at the center. Each person takes a ribbon, then every other person steps out, facing clockwise, while the remaining people step in and face counterclockwise. Then each outer person lifts their ribbon up over the head of the neighboring inner person, then weaves in and ducks under the next ribbon, then swings out again lifting their ribbon over. As the ribbons weave together they create a colorful cross-hatched pattern that wraps tightly down the pole, and the circle gets smaller and tighter as everyone is pulled together by the shortening ribbons.
Up and out and in and down and over and under and weave in the ends.
Difficult to describe in words but easy enough to do when you’re doing it.
Kind of like tarot reading.
Card 1: Top of the Maypole: Attach the ribbons—the situation
Pairs of Ribbons: The complications
- Pair 1.
- Card 2: Ribbon 1 clockwise: Intention or support #1
- Card 3: Ribbon 1 counterclockwise: Complication that undermines #1
- Pair 2.
- Card 4: Ribbon 2 cw: Intention or support #2
- Card 5: Ribbon 2 ccw: Complication that undermines #2
- Pair 3.
- Card 6: Ribbon 3 cw: Intention or support #3
- Card 7: Ribbon 3 ccw: Complication that undermines #3
- Pair 4.
- Card 8: Ribbon 4 cw: Intention or support #4
- Card 9: Ribbon 4 ccw: Complication that undermines #4
Card 10: Bottom of the Pole: Weave in the ends—the solution
“What does this spread tell us that others don’t?” (Fran asks)
It takes all the goals and random complications of a given situation and weaves them into a logical order. Each clockwise ribbon represents something that you want, or something or someone that is supporting you. Each counterclockwise ribbon is something that is working against you, or someone who has an agenda contrary to your own. It is interpreted in three steps to allow you to see the situation in context, determine your intentions and supports and what might be working against them, then resolve the complications by weaving the chaos into beauty.
Interpretation Step 1: Putting the Situation in Context
To interpret, take note of the top of the pole card to discover the heart of the situation. This is the main theme, or the foundation upon which all else depends.
Then, look at the bottom of the pole card to see how this situation resolves, or what you can do to resolve the situation.
Step 1 Example:
Question: How can I make my classes more successful?
Deck: Chrysalis Tarot
Top Card – Theme: Healer (Page of Mirrors): The healer works barehanded with stinging bees. I and my students must immerse ourselves in challenges in order to discover the honey–the sweetness of successfully reading the cards (or whatever I’m teaching). The honey isn’t shown in this image–I and my students might be getting caught up in the complications (bees) without see the motivating result (honey) of completing the work.
Bottom Card – Solution: Six of Stones: The maypole itself. The chaos of the contrary produces the organized beauty of interwoven complexity. This card clearly displays the Maypole dance–the pendant stones are arranged in the inner and outer circles (clockwise and counterclockwise dancers), and the Celtic knot work on the tree indicates the entwined ribbons after the dance is complete.
Because this image is indicating the completed dance, the beautiful pattern of colorful woven ribbons, and not the chaos of the contrary movements it takes to get there, it supports the theme that I need to show the honey more often, the results of doing the work. More practice reading time in tarot classes, for instance. More of how to apply all this esoteric stuff–astrology, qabalah–to produce real life solutions. It’s obviously necessary to include this in class, and part of the problem of showing the results is that it’s a personal process, and your mileage may vary. I create a variety of opportunities for a-ha moments–and time to share experiences, which I think helps students get input from each other. But maybe I’m not doing this stuff enough. Or maybe to get more students into classes, I need to show in my marketing what kind of results can be obtained. Honestly, I think I focus the marketing more on the process (which is what fascinates me), so that’s something that could use a review.
Interpretation Step 2: Establishing Your Intentions and Complications
Next, examine the clockwise ribbons. These show you, your allies, your desires, and intentions.
Each clockwise ribbon is crossed by a counterclockwise ribbon. Once you’ve established the meanings of the clockwise ribbons, look to see what is contrary to or working against each of your desires and intentions. People who are not helping or downright hindering will show up on this side.
Pair each intention with its complication, to gain insight into what the problems are.
Step 2 Example:
- They only want to learn to weave; but I try to teach them everything to be a weaver. (Seven of Mirrors and The Weaver (Queen of Scrolls)
- They poet is too experienced; but they are starting their journey. (The Poet (King of Scrolls) and The Pilgrim (Page of Scrolls))
- There is an enticing complexity to how I work; but they need it simplified. (Bella Rosa (Devil) and 5 of Scrolls)
- Students expect fairies and butterflies; but I provide pirates and parrots and dangerous seafaring missions (9 of Mirrors and the Corsair (Knight of Spirals)).
Interpretation Step 3: Resolving the Complications
Once you’ve examined each pair of ribbon cards as crossing each other, next examine each pair as woven together into a beautiful tapestry.
Step 3 Example:
- “Those who desire to weave become weavers.” (Seven of Mirrors and The Weaver (Queen of Scrolls)
- “The poet inspires the pilgrim’s journey.” (The Poet (King of Scrolls) and The Pilgrim (Page of Scrolls))
- “Fanciful and wandering thoughts (five ornate plumes on hat) are organized and pinned down (sword holds down scrolls).” (Bella Rosa (Devil) and 5 of Scrolls)
- Hmm. This pair was confusing at first and I was tempted to leave it out. Now I look at both cards to discover what is similar–the bright colors of the butterfly and parrot are pretty much the only similarity. I want students to discover their unique, beautiful tarot voice (butterfly). I think too many are parroting me (I become extremely uncomfortable when I hear someone in a class or meetup say, “Joy says…”). Maybe one of the biggest complications is that I am too strong a leader (I’ve gotten the Devil not only here but in other readings on similar questions), too charismatic. “I’m too sexy for my shirt.” (Ha! I wish!) Maybe part of my classes should include a way for them to tap into their own charisma, not only their own tarot voice. (9 of Mirrors and the Corsair (Knight of Spirals))
Variations on the Spread
- You can use as few or as many pairs of ribbons as you like. Use one pair for a short and sweet reading, or use two, three, four, or more pairs for more complicated situations.
- Select the Intentions with intention. If you have goals that you are trying to reach and they are simply not coming together, look through your deck, and by carefully examining the image on each card, choose a card for each of your intentions. Lay those out in the Clockwise Ribbon positions. Then shuffle and randomly/intuitively (cards face down) select the top card, one counterclockwise card for each intention, and the bottom card. This helps you discover the most important thing that is working against your intentions–by working through the resolution step, you can bring these contraries into harmony and realize your goals.
- Or, Select the Complications with intention. If you are acutely aware of what the complications are, look through your deck, and examining the images on the cards, logically choose cards to represent the things that are obviously problems in your life. Lay these out at the counterclockwise ribbons. Then randomly select the top card, one clockwise ribbon for each complication you choose, and the bottom card. This might help you see where the complication is most seriously undermining your intentions. This is helpful if you know something or someone is generally a problem, but can’t tell exactly how it/they might directly affect your life.
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 the most active and one of the largest tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a psychic and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2016 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.