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How to use tarot spreads without a deck

Tarot spreads are a great tool for creativity, and the best part is that you don't need a tarot deck or tarot knowledge to tap into all the cool things a spread can do.

All a tarot spread really does is assign meaning to random cards based on when they are drawn and where they are placed.

For example, in a "challenge, advice" spread, I’d draw and lay down a card to represent my challenge, then a card to represent the advice I need. For creatives, they're brilliant methods of prompting unexpected associations and ideas.

The underlying principle of using a spread to help you make new connections can be used anytime, anywhere, with any tool you have at hand.

Here are three tips on how to use tarot spreads even if you don't have a deck on hand:

1: Use your Spotify account.

Our phones let us shuffle music the way we shuffle cards. Music touches us on an emotional and creative level—so replacing tarot cards with your Spotify playlist is a no-brainer!

Here's how you do it:

Find a simple spread you like - let's say "past, present, future", plug your headphones in, and hit shuffle.

Let the first song you hear represent your past. What memories, feelings, and associations does this song bring up for you?

When the song ends, shuffle again for a song to represent the present. Do the same a third time to reflect on your future—what you want, what you need, where your current actions are leading you— through the lens of another song.

2: Use a photo album.

To get a really personal connection to a spread, flip through a photo album (you can scroll randomly through your phone camera, too, if you'd rather— but make sure it's really random!).

Here's how you do it:

Find a spread you like - let's try "mind, body, soul" for this one.

Open the album to a random page and look at the first image that draws your eye. What do you think about when you see it?

Open to another page, choose a photo, and reflect on how it makes you feel physically, or what the subject's body language tells you.

Work similarly with a final photo that represents "soul".

3: Use a pen and paper.

Tarot spreads make great journal and sketch prompts! They're totally worth taking advantage of when you're creatively stuck.

Here's how you do it:

Choose a spread you like and spend five minutes per card position doodling/sketching or writing stream-of-consciousness responses to each prompt.

It can be as easy as a "yes, no, maybe" spread. Sketch or write out what "yes" looks like to you, feels like to you: things you want to say "yes" to, memories of having said "yes", or whatever else comes to you.

Do the same for the next two positions.

Try these spreads to start:

  • past, present, future

  • mind, body, soul

  • create, destroy, rescue

  • yes, no, maybe

  • rest, dream, try

  • release, embrace, change

  • forgotten, remembered, imagined

  • open, close, return

  • how i feel, what i want, what i can do

  • where i am, where i'm going, how to get there

  • a challenge, a gift, a reward

  • how i love, how i hurt, how i grow

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