I am going to tell you all a secret that may be unseemly. Whenever I am teaching tarot, mentoring, or working with people new to tarot, it drives me absolutely bonkers when they throw down 42 cards in front of me and ask me what I think they mean. "What spread did you use?" I ask. They often look at me blankly, and say, "No spread. I just threw the cards."
"Oh..." I may say. "Well, then what was the focus of the reading? Did you have a specific question?" I am often met with just as blank a stare.
"Well, um, I just thought the cards would tell me what I need to know, but they don't make any sense to me. What do you see?" The truth is, although I rarely say so this bluntly, is I see a clusterbang of cards that don't mean anything, because they were given no context and there was no focus.
There are as many techniques for reading tarot as there are readers, and I know some very talented readers who do free flowing readings with no spreads, no contextual meanings, and no need for focused questions. I am not one of them. One of the reasons I love tarot over other forms of divination and most other oracle decks is something about the structure of tarot, the 78 cards, the hierarchy, the Majors and the Minors and the way they all work together, that really frees my intuition to soar, to open up, and to glean the answers my clients and myself are seeking.
I do even better when I add spreads with specific meanings for each placement of the card to the inherent structure of tarot. This, combined with the relationship of the cards in a spread, is how I determine if the Three of Swords is heartbreak or heart healing, how I can tell if The Emperor represents strength and order, or Daddy issues. If you work the same way, you need a plethora of tarot spreads in your arsenal, and Barbara Moore's Tarot Spreads: Layouts & Techniques to Empower Your Readings brings them.
There are dozens of well thought spreads in this book, and they are organized, indexed, and easy to find. There is a spread for nearly any situation you may find yourself in, and they are all presented in a clear, easy to understand format that is Barbara's signature writing style. Even better, she explains the psychology of spread design and how you can make your own spread, which is akin to teaching a man to fish rather than just giving him a fish. Further, the focus on every spread is personal empowerment, so that whether we read for ourselves or others we are always fully in the drivers' seat of our own lives.
I often work with people asking about relationship issues, because we all have them, and my personal favorite spread in the book is a variation of a five card Yes/No spread created by Susyn Blair Hunt for her book, Tarot Prediction & Divination: Unveiling Three Layers of Meaning. All readers get questions that require Yes or No answers, and Barbara has tailored this one to address the Whys and Hows, which is an even more important piece of the answer. For the curious, while holding the question lightly in your mind, you lay five cards. Even pip cards and Major Arcana cards equal yes, odd pip cards and court cards equal no, and whichever dominates the spread is the simple answer. However, you can look more deeply into the cards in order to gather more information and possibilities of changing the answer if you do not like it. I use this spread, with Barbara's variation, nearly every single day.
You won't find card meanings in this book, and physically it is 264 pages of paperback awesomeness, measuring 6 inches by 9 inches. I would prefer it to be spiral bound, for ease of use, but that is easily remedied if you care to take any book to a printer near you and invest a few dollars.
In summary, this book gets the 78 Whispers seal of approval, and will remain a permanent fixture in my tarot reference library.