Creative Spreads

Spread of the Month: Astrological Modes

Spread of the Month: Astrological Modes

By Lisa Stockley, known on the forum as Lys

I’ve never been a fan of big complicated spreads, which all too often seem to lead to information overload. All of my favourite spreads are simple, with plenty of space for interpretation and adaptation. For me, the best tarot spreads are the ones which can answer a wide range of questions and still give plenty of meaningful information. I have a few standard spreads that I use, one of which is a simple line of three cards that I’ve relied on for over a decade, with positions based on the astrological modes.

The astrological modes are some of the basic building blocks of natal astrology. Along with the four elements (earth, air, fire and water, just as in the Minor Arcana of the tarot) and the polarities of active and receptive, the modes are used to group the signs and describe the kind of energy they carry.

For this tarot spread, I simply draw three cards, one for Cardinal mode, the next Fixed mode, and finally Mutable mode.

Cardinal energy is initiating energy, the first step or action which gets us moving. In this spread, the Cardinal card is likely to be something new, something that the querent hasn’t tried yet. Often it’s something that they know they need to do, but haven’t found the right motivation or impetus yet. This is a card of directed movement, showing where or how the querent needs to generate energy and get things moving. It can indicate accepting a challenge or facing a reality and acting on it.

Fixed energy preserves and holds on. Ideally this card shows something that the querent is already doing, an ongoing practice or process. It may be something that needs determination, persistence and focus. This card shows where the querent needs to be acting in a disciplined way, thinking long term, taking their time, and putting in the work whilst being patient about getting results. There is little movement here, rather consolidation and sustaining of an existing situation.

Mutable energy moves and flows. This final card shows where or how the querent needs to change, adapt and be flexible. Often, it shows what a querent needs to let go of or release, an energy which has outlived its usefulness. Whatever is shown in this card needs to change its form. This might be a subtle shift or a complete transformation, depending on the card. Energy is dispersed and transformed in this position, and movement may be scattered or lacking in focus.

This spread is a great way to look at the way energy is flowing around or through a particular situation or even life in general. As an example, in a recent question about a work situation, the Cardinal card was the King of Swords, indicating a need to take decisive action based on a carefully thought out strategy. The Fixed card was the Six of Pentacles, showing an ongoing concern with the balance of give and take in the workplace, as well as the need to balance work with the rest of life and not take on too much. The Mutable card was the Nine of Pentacles, suggesting a cycle which was reaching its end. This card can mean being self-reliant and, in this case, the querent needed to let go of that self reliance and be willing to ask for help, then maintain the balance indicated in the previous card, the Six of Pentacles.

For a question about moving home and putting down roots in a new place, the Cardinal card was the Six of Swords, showing the move which had already taken place. It also indicated a need to consciously “arrive” in the new area, perhaps by making the effort to explore new surroundings or meet new people. The Fixed card was Death, suggesting a need to accept and acknowledge the change that had already taken place. This card of transformation may seem like an odd one to get as a Fixed energy, but it made complete sense in this context. There was a need for some inner processing, to continue an ongoing process of release and making inner space to accommodate the new outer space which was opening up. The Mutable card was the Emperor, indicating that the querent might find it helpful to let go of the need to be in control, to go with the flow rather than trying to force the situation to be what it “should” be.

For more from Lisa/Lys, you can visit her blog at

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