In responding to a comment by tarotgirl about my previous post I wrote:

You can also create a spread around a definition or description of a single word or concept.

She asked: “How would you create a spread around a single word?”

So I thought I’d write my response here.

It’s not the word itself, but the definition of the word that I use. The parts of the definition become the position meanings and the word itself is the theme of the reading. Word roots could also be used.

I collect definitions of words that I find intriguing like for “symbol,” “imagination,” “meaning” and “myth.” Almost every writer on these subjects defines these words as they have come to understand and use them. Some of these definitions are very poetic, some strike at the heart of life’s dilemmas and issues. They can help us see the world and our mundane situations through a different lens, similar to what Rachel Pollack calls “Wisdom Readings” – but in this case, focusing on the wisdom in our own lives.

For instance:
According to Joseph Campbell: “A myth is a public dream; a dream is a private myth.”
You could draw two cards for what is the “public dream”/myth of your situation and what is the “private myth”/dream aspect of a situation. In doing this you take yourself out of the mundane level of what’s going on and choose to look at it from a wider perspective.

Or, Freud: “A myth is conscious ignorance and unconscious wisdom.”

You could ask “In this myth that I have about my mother . . . (add specific details) . . . : what is the conscious ignorance on my part (Card 1)? and what is the unconscious wisdom (Card 2) in that story?

Besides elucidating situations in your life, you can arrive at a very deep understanding of what the author of the definition was trying to convey. By operating “as if” this definition were true, you can also get a sense if it really works or not – it may just be a nice platitude that doesn’t go anywhere. Your life becomes the test case.

If you try this technique and like it, leave a comment and let us know what definition (or favorite quote) you used and how it worked.

Although I’ve been using this technique for a long time, I want to mention that the inspiring tarot author James Ricklef came up with it independently and taught it at one of the Bay Area Tarot Symposiums, using favorite quotes and proverbs. His book on creating spreads, Tarot: Get the Whole Story, is excellent.