A wonderful way to create spreads is to adapt a self-help process that you especially like to a spread. You can also do this with a favorite quote or aphorism (a technique favored by tarot author James Ricklef). I undertook a long-term study of Dante’s Commedia in a small study group and made it my special task to look for tarot images—of which there are many.

When I came to Inferno, Canto 32, line 76, I found, “se voler fu o destino o fortuna, non so.” Translated, it says, “if it was will or fate or chance, I do not know.”

This struck me as one of the great questions that is implied when we seek answers through the Tarot. Don’t you sometimes wonder how you got into a situation? Do you always have a choice? What keeps you bound to your past? Are some things fated? What role does chance play? What furthers your destiny? Fate, destiny and fortune are often used interchangably. How do they relate to will? In exploring this topic I’ve come to see each of these as having their own implications in a situation. I went back to Dante’s Italian language to see if I could understand these perspectives better.

If you have ever wondered, along with Dante, about such things, then you might want to try this spread.

1What is my current Will? Voler means will, wish or volition (all come from the same root). This is your personal desire or intent and suggests deliberate, conscious choice.

2What is my current Fortune? Fortuna means luck in Italian, but it also suggests something stormy and tempestuous or chaotic. The Goddess Fortuna throws you around in a random and unpredictable way. This shows you what chance or happenstance has in store.

3What is my current Fate? Related to karma, Fato assumes that an outcome is the result or consequence of an earlier, though sometimes unknown, cause. This includes the playing out of previous actions or tendencies as they’ve become conditioning and habits. Carl Jung noted, “That which we do not confront in ourselves, we will meet as fate.”

4What is my current Destiny? Destino suggests destination and implies a higher, divine or ultimate goal toward which you are impelled by something greater than or outside yourself.

An example showing the difference among these four is: I wish (will) to lose weight, but fortune takes me to a dinner party where all my favorite fatty foods are deliciously prepared. I am fated to break my diet because I’ve always done so when tempted. It is my destiny to eventually . . . become fat? Or, to overcome my habits and develop willpower? Or, as a friend mentioned, remain overweight as a divine flaw that keeps me from getting too arrogant (thanks to James Wells). The cards will reveal all.

Added: I was reading Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul and came across the phrase “the demands of fate.” I wondered how this related to the four concepts above—if it could add another dimension to the positions. So I came up with the phrases that follow. What do you think?

• Fortune happens
• Fate demands
• Destiny urges
• Will decides