That Ol’ Celtic Magic

I’ve been going through some relationship challenges lately, and I was prompted by Catherine Chapman’s book Beyond the Celtic Cross to give that classic tarot spread a working. While I don’t do much with “positional spreads” nowadays, it was fun to go back to the Celtic Cross, a tarot staple that has a special place in my heart. As it does for many tarotists, I suspect! While elemental dignities are a normal part of my reading style, I’ve never applied them and card counting outside of the Golden Dawn’s Opening of the Key spread. So I thought it would be fun to apply these techniques to this reading exploring the state of my relationship.

Below is the spread with the cards I chose using the Lo Scarabeo tarot deck (minus title and borders). A summary appears after the image.

Summary of Positions with Cards

1. Covers – issue at hand – 8 of Wands

2. Crosses – obstacles – 4 of Swords

3. Beneath – situation root or subconscious – 5 of Swords

4. Behind – recent past – Emperor

5. Above – goal or striving towards – 5 of Pentacles

6. Before – near future – Queen of Wands

7. You – querent in this situation – 7 of Cups

8. House – environment or people around querent – 3 of Wands

9. Hopes and Fears – 5 of Wands

10. Outcome – Death


Not the rosiest of spreads, is it? Right away I had Death there staring me in the face. Obviously something is expected to come to an end! The Queen of Wands is there in the future; just what I want, a court card. I usually like to see the Queens as people, which means the Queen could be a woman reminiscent of this card’s traits. However, in this case I would be more likely to see this as a needed aspect of my personality.

Three of the fives showed up, so this emphasizes the transition and change indicated by Death. Fives are a halfway house to the ten; they can indicate struggle and change, as one is halfway to the end goal, and it’s hard to want to give up at that point.

The first two cards at the center of the cross are often considered the core of the spread, and can encapsulate the whole issue. In this case it would appear that the crux of the matter is the 8 of Wands, which can speak of haste and a need for communication. In my case it it likely reflective of my nature to be impatient; and it has hints of the fact that I’m using this web-based communication method as part of my solution. 🙂 I also had a tarot reading from a friend, which could loosely come under this umbrella.  The crossing card is the 4 of Swords, a need for rest after strife; an opportunity to remove oneself from the turmoil of the world. In my case and as an obstacle, this suggests my reluctance to let go and relax into what is likely a natural and probably requisite ebb in my relationship. (Easier to write about than to do!)

Central Elements

Elementally, the two center cards are friendly: fire and air are both active and feed each other. This is a feed-the-flame effect, so both of these cards are well dignified and therefore strong. Both are equal strength and they can signify my impulsive, just-do-it attitude as well as my tendency to be in my head. (I’m not a Virgo but I analyze everything like one!)

In fact, five of the cards are fire cards; that element dominates this reading. So it’s fair to say that impulsiveness and actions are dominant in this matter. Another spin on fire is one I learned from Paul Hughes-Barlow and Douglas Gibb: they also consider fire as representing actions, and therefore it can be the past — those actions that led to the present circumstance. This is interesting when I note the Emperor, another fire card, is also in the past. It speaks of issues related to being in control or dominant, and I must admit there is some truth to that. I tend to need to be in charge of things, for better or for worse.

Other Elements

Lastly, there are two water cards, two air cards, and one earth card. There is some emotion in play — usually good in a relationship reading, right? — balanced by worries, problems or the eternal analysis that can come from air. The one earth card brings a small amount of grounding to the reading, although not necessarily a lot. Perhaps this is a warning to bear in mind if I want to avoid the negativity shown by the 5 of Pentacles?


Overall, still not the rosiest of spreads. Lots of fire — action — and fives — change. Death is still there, and that potentially awkward Queen of Wands. Change is afoot! It’s worth mentioning that my friend did a reading after I’d done this one, and the 5 of Swords and Death both showed up as key players in that reading as well.

I’ll continue to break this spread down in future posts.