The Ten Card Tarot Spread

The Ten Card Spread works best as a five position reading with two cards in each position, which suggests that the four elements plus spirit is the base. Alternatively, there are 10 sephiroth on the Tree of Life, and and there are ten positions in the Celtic Cross Spread. This spread originates from the Golden Dawn, which is why it is included.

To get the best out this spread, use Elemental Dignities:

A card is strong or weak, well-dignified or ill-dignified, according to the cards which are next to it on either side. Cards of the same suit on either side strengthen it greatly either for good or ill, according to their nature. Cards of the suits answering to its contrary element, on either side on the card in question, weaken it greatly for good or ill. Air and Earth are contraries, as are Fire and Water. Air is friendly with Water and Fire, and Fire is friendly with Air and Earth.

The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, Cicero

This quotation is probably the best and most succinct definition of Elemental Dignities I have come across, but unfortunately, the Cicero's do not show how to use the system in a reading! In their book, the Cicero's present three Tarot spreads:

The Opening of the Key Spread is analysed in depth on my site, but the other two spreads merit further investigation.

As we shall see, using Elemental Dignities makes these spreads come alive - and they are so much more simpler than they appear.

The Ten Card Tarot Spread

The Cicero's comment:

This layout (our personal favorite) is simpler to use than the traditional Golden Dawn method and is quite reliable for rapid divinations. Its advantage over the Celtic Cross spread is that it eliminates the need for reversed cards, depending instead upon neighboring cards for interpretation.

The Celtic Cross spread has the same number of cards, ten. The cards are laid out in the sequence shown in the diagram. Note that in most positional spreads, there is one card in each position, but for this spread, and the Fifteen Card Spread, there is more than one card. Here are the definitions of the positions as given by Cicero:

This card represents the querent and the question, as well as the primary influences surrounding him or her. A court card here might refer to the querent or some dominant person.
2, 3
These cards represent the subconscious mind of the querent. They give information on the hidden influences which effect, but are not detected by the querent.
4, 5
These cards represent the conscious mind of the querent. They give information on the thoughts and feelings of the querent toward the nature of the question (which may or may not be in harmony with cards 2 & 3).
6, 7
These cards shed light on the querent's past. They indicate past events or influences which relate to the current question or problem.
8, 9
These cards represent the final outcome or potential future events or influences
This is the crossover card from past to future. This indicates the psychological implications on the querent or the actions he/she will take in making whatever decision may be necessary. It may also indicate forces operating beyond the control of the querent to which he/she must adapt.

Using Elemental Dignities in the ten card tarot spread

Having studied Elemental Dignities, we can see that the relationship between each paired cards can be analysed according to the elemental basis of each card. We also know that we can utilise the elemental basis of the position, but unfortunately the Cicero's have not supplied this information. However, enough is given in the descriptions to make a fair guess of which element goes where. Since there are 5 positions, we know that one of them must represent Akasha or Spirit, and the centre cards, 1 and 10 fit the bill. Incidentally, this also suggests that Akasha is at the start and end of the sequence.

Water - 2, 3
'subconscious mind'
Air - 4, 5
'Conscious mind' and 'thoughts and feelings'
Fire - 6, 7
'Past events' are actions
Earth - 8, 9
'Final outcome' as the manifestation of a situation

Armed with this analysis, we can simplify the spread greatly:

  • Air
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Water

Shamanic Directions

The ordering of the elements is slightly different to the Shamanic Polar system, which has Water and Earth transposed:

  • North
  • West
  • East
  • South

This arrangement is useful to remember as the 'enemy' elements are in opposing positions.

You may wish to experiment with the elemental attributions I have presented. Whichever elemental attributions you end up with, I am sure you will find that you have a more powerful spread when using Elemental Dignities.