Guest post by Theresa Reed
The Horseshoe Tarot Spread is a very reliable layout that I have been using for years. It gives more depth than a 3 card spread but isn’t as complicated as something like the Celtic Cross. Although I can take no credit for designing it (I believe I found it in a book called Classic Tarot Spreads), I can attest that it is effective and powerful.
There are 7 cards in this spread. Begin by shuffling the cards and cutting them as you wish. Put them back together and then, taking the cards from the top of the deck, lay them out face down in a “horseshoe” formation, with card number 4 being at the top.
The positions are:
- Past events that may be influencing the question
- Present events
- Immediate future
- Attitude of querent regarding the question
- Other influences
- Likely outcome
How To Use The Horseshoe Tarot Spread
I always turn over the 4th card first as this gives insight into how the questioner is viewing the situation. For example, if a Major Arcana shows up, it can indicate that this is a very important and perhaps life altering question. Also, notice if this card is in conflict with what they asked – this can indicate that they may desire something different than what they said.
After you have assessed how the client is viewing the situation, turn over all the other cards and then proceed to look at patterns or read them in sequence if you prefer.
For me, the obstacle card is the focal point – as a practical gal, I want to know what the questioner is up against and how we can work around it. If there is a positive card here, I view it as a sign that there will be no issues or the client will surmount things easily. (There are other schools of thought here – some readers may view a positive card here as an obstacle! You’ll have to decide what makes the most sense to you. We all have different ways of seeing and the beauty of tarot is in its flexibility.)
Now, if the obstacle card is a challenging one, this could point out what needs to be done. For example, if the 5 of Swords were in this position, they may have to work on being honest or practicing teamwork in order to get the best results. A very difficult card here can also suggest a big “NO” to the question. Trust your own instincts here but do pay attention as I have found this position to be extremely relevant to the outcome.
Sometimes if the spirit moves me, I may turn throw out one more card to see if there is any additional advice for the client.
Let’s look at a question to see this spread in action. The following Tarot reading is a personal reading I did for this post and centres around some family issues that I’m currently experiencing.
How do I deal with the current situation with my family?
The cards drawn are as follows:
- Past events – King of Swords
- Present events – Knight of Pentacles Reversed
- Immediate future – The World Reversed
- Attitude – 6 of Cups
- Other influences – Queen of Cups Reversed
- Obstacle – Knight of Cups
- Likely outcome – The Fool Reversed
Of course, if I look at card number 4 first, the 6 of Cups indicates that I do have some fondness for my family and would like to see harmonious interactions with them. (I tend to be very negative about my family due to the current situation but this is true – ultimately, I would like better relations.)
Next, I notice that there are a lot of Court Cards here, and to me, each one represents the different family members that I am dealing with. (My dad, my sister and my 2 brothers.)
I also see that 2 of these cards are reversed and the upright cards are not in sympathy with each other (Swords vs. Cups). Two Major Arcana cards are also in the future positions – and these are both reversed. Interesting.
So how to interpret this hot mess?
Although inwardly a peaceful situation is what I desire, there doesn’t seem to be enough cooperation at this time to achieve this. Too many conflicts are present and there may not be a resolution that serves everyone’s agenda.
The King of Swords indicates that my father is the base of the issue (currently, we are at odds about his care) – and the other court cards show much different attitudes regarding how this should be dealt with. There is grasping concern over money (Knight of Pentacles reversed) and other raw emotional issues (Queen of Cups reversed) that seem to have dammed the whole works up and perhaps there may not be a way to rectify it.
The Knight of Cups in the obstacle position is overall a positive one in my opinion. It could indicate making a peace offering, an olive branch to get beyond this – or it could also point out relying on one of the brothers to lean on (I get on very well with my younger brother). But even with this card and the 6 of Cups present, the majority of reversals don’t allow for a rosy picture.
The World Reversed and The Fool reversed suggest that my karma is not completed here and it may be time to develop a spiritual attitude, turn this situation over to the universe until I can get absolute closure. It may be out of my hands for now.
The Story So Far
So in short, it doesn’t look hopeful (although I may wish it to be so) but if I can view this as part of my own spiritual reawakening and allow my younger brother to be a source of support, perhaps I can find a healthy balance and move forward at the proper time. Until then, I may have to accept that this conflict is simply not under my control.
(On a side note – not everyone reads reversals and that is fine. If the cards were not reversed, perhaps this reading would have looked a bit more positive than my interpretation.)
Card Pairing The Horseshoe Tarot Spread
This spread is ideal for card pairing – which can add an extra layer and depth to the reading. Let’s try it on this spread, shall we?
Since there are 7 cards, naturally the 6 of Cups will not have a partner – this gives it a special significance as it stands alone. Again, it points out where my head is at regarding this situation and I will stick to the original thought of wanting harmony.
- The World reversed and the Queen of Cups reversed
- This pairing can indicate unfinished business either with the sister or perhaps with the emotional aspect of the situation. Is there a way to bring closure? Notice that the image of the World reversed looks longingly towards the Queen of Cups reversed who is looking away. Even if a positive ending is desired, there is an unwillingness to do the emotional work to get there. This indicates fruitless effort, and difficulty getting to the heart of the matter.
- The Knight of Cups and Knight of Pentacles reversed
- When we pair the two Knights, we also see that they are looking away from each other – suggesting an impasse. Two people who cannot see eye to eye. The Knight of Cups and Knight of Pentacles could work together but if they are both concerned with their own agendas, then it seems as if nothing will get accomplished. They are stuck because of stubbornness and an unwillingness to put aside differences.
- The King of Swords and the Fool reversed
- By far the most interesting combination to me, this is mastery and folly combined but also what this says to me is that the father has created this situation, whether unwittingly or not. It is a family dynamic, karmic in nature that was borne many years ago. And there is no way this can be changed unless he does something about it – or we create our own families, separate from this situation. Sometimes the people we are born with are not necessarily our “spiritual families” and we need to take the lessons but then move on, put the baggage behind us and surround ourselves with the people we really want to be with.
So again, this only confirms to me that things are not in my hands but I can choose to create the harmony I seek in my own household – and I can refuse to play into the pattern. It may not be an easy answer but it may be the only answer.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the Horseshoe Tarot Spread, and would love to hear what you thought about it in the comments section below!
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