Alternatives to Year Ahead Tarot Spreads
Whenever the new year lands for you whether in January or one of the many seasonal and celestial celebrations of the year, it’s a popular time to cast a big ol’ annual spread of cards. I did this myself for many a year and then I stopped. Not because I don’t think the tradition of a year ahead spread is not a completely magickal way to begin your year, but because it no longer was useful for me and my practice. I began to notice that by the time I hit months seven through twelve of my reading in real time (i.e. seven to twelve months after casting my spread), the cards energies felt water down if not completely out of alignment with what was occurring in my life. Were the cards wrong? Or was I reading them wrong? No. In truth my life in recent years has seem to go through these seismic shake-ups and changes that the lines of my wyrd, to use the Old English word denoting a combination of personal unfixed destiny and the power of becoming, have been reweaving at a rapid pace.
Experiencing a weird and wild wyrd? I think that’s true for a lot of folks right now. And I think at different parts in our lives different styles of an annual spread make sense. I imagine that in a decade or two I’ll probably try a traditional twelve month spread for my new year, but in the meantime, I’ve come up with a few alternatives. These spreads developed from my own seeking to find something that felt more flexible and co-creative with my cards and my magick. Here are my three alternatives to annual tarot spreads that are a little less fated, more wyrd, and a way to keep engaged with the turning wheel of the year.
The Yearly Guide
The simplest alternative is to choose to work with one card as a guide and ally through the year. Since I work with the wheel of the year, I like to call this card the Guardian of the Wheel. The Yearly Guide(s) act like a teacher, helping you to meet anything that may come your way during a year. They also embody qualities for you to examine within yourself including qualities that we might need to release and others that need developing. I recommend pulling from the Major Arcana of your deck to find a Yearly Guide card, but feel free to that which you are called to do.
There are a few ways to figure out which card is your Yearly Guide. You can pull out your deck and shuffle through, pulling a card at random to be the card of the year for you. You can look through your deck face up and purposefully choose a card to work with (this is especially powerful if you’re trying to gain a sense of will and personal power about yourself). Finally, you can use a bit of sacred numerology to discover your year card from the Major Arcana. To do this, add together the number of your birth month and birth date with the number of the year. Here are a few examples:
Someone born July 17 and seeking their annual card for 2019 would add their numbers as so: 7 + 1 + 7 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 9 = 27. Since 27 is larger than 21 (the highest number of the Major Arcana) they would then add 2 + 7 to get 9. Their card for 2019 would be The Hermit.
If you were born on November 9 your numbers would add up as so : 1 + 1 + 9 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 9 = 23. Then adding together 2 + 3 you would get 5 representing The Hierophant.
Sometimes you get two numbers. For example, someone born on January 17 has an annual number of 21. You could further add together 2 + 1 to get 3. So they would have two Yearly Guide cards - the World and the Empress. Alternatively, they could choose to work with one card over the other or work with one card for half of the year and the other card for the second half of the year.
Once you’ve discovered your Yearly Guide card, you can incorporate it into your magickal work, add it to your altars, keep a copy in your wallet, paste it to a seven day candle. Keep it in your sight both physically and magickally.
Six Months Ahead Spread
As the title suggests, the six months spread is half the length of an annual spread recognizing that energies often change halfway through the year. The six month ahead spread is a great choice for those who like the familiarity of the annual spread but are feeling, like me, that the cards for the last six months of the spread aren’t always as resonant as the first six. It’s also establishes a great mid-year magickal practice where you cast another six cards for the final half of the year.
The Solar - Lunar Spread
Here’s my most complex proposal for a year ahead alternative spread. It combines the tradition of the twelve card annual spread with a bit of Moon magick. Begin by casting your twelve monthly cards which we’ll card the Solar Cards from here on out. Alternatively, if you want to really tie it to solar energies, cast twelve cards for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. So your first card would be for Aries corresponding roughly to the period of March 20 to April 20 (this changes year to year, so be sure to check your astrological calendar).
Your Lunar Cards are cast each month on the New Moon. If your Solar Cards are just for each calendar month, on the New Moon in January you would cast a Lunar Card to go alongside your Solar card. If you’ve chosen the astrological method, you would cast your Lunar Card on the New Moon corresponding to the solar sign. To cast a Lunar Card for your Solar Card of Aries you would cast it on the New Moon in Aries.
The Solar Cards act much in the same way as a the twelve cards in a traditional annual spread. They give an overview of energies for a month-long period in their life. The Lunar Cards, which are cast month-to-month, take into consideration the fluctuating energies and changes happening for you at the moment in time that you’re casting them. The Lunar Cards can reveal what had been hidden but come to light or speak to the ways that you have changed since you cast the original twelve Solar Cards. They’re really helpful at nuancing the message of Solar Cards cast for the latter half of the year. It can be very revealing to read the twelve Solar Cards at the beginning of the year and then notice how your interpretation shifts or deepens when you pair each Solar Card with their Lunar Card partner.
What will I be doing this year? A combination of all three! I’ll be working with my annual guide along with pulling a six month Solar - Lunar spread.
So there are my three alternatives to year ahead tarot spreads! You can check out all of my divinatory spreads or my spreads for each one of the Sabbats if you’re feeling inspired. And if you’re thinking it’s time to discover the intersections of herbal healing and tarot, come this way.