Creative Spreads

Spread of the Month: Boundaries Check-In

Spread of the Month: Boundaries Check-In

By Alana Davenport

Boundaries Check-In Spread Layout using the Mary-El Tarot, 2nd Edition

For this Spread of the Month, I was inspired by a spread I saw that was used to check on the state of one’s chakras, simply pulling one card for each of the seven chakras to get a message about what’s going on with each one. Although I personally wouldn’t use Tarot as a diagnostic tool for physical health problems, I do like the idea of using it to check in on the health of spiritual or psychological functions. I designed this spread to be used for assessing one’s own personal boundaries — something we all need to work on at various times in our lives, and something that can be notoriously difficult to look at objectively.

This spread includes a central significator card (card one) and four surrounding cards. The cards to the left of the central card (cards two and four) describe factors that are being kept away by one’s boundaries. The cards to the right (cards three and five) describe factors that are being allowed in. Cards two and three (the lower left and upper right) show where our boundaries are healthy, where we are making good choices about where to draw a line and where to be more flexible and open. Cards four and five (the upper left and lower right) show where we may want to consider adjusting our boundaries. 

The top line of cards (cards three and four) indicate where it serves our best interest to be open. This includes card number three, where we are already appropriately receptive, and it includes card four, showing something we are currently keeping out that might benefit us to allow in. The bottom line of cards (cards two and five) indicate where it serves our best interest to be firm and protective in setting our boundaries. This includes number two, where we are already strong, and it includes card five, where we are currently allowing something in but it might benefit us to close the door on that particular factor in our lives.

When I tried out this spread for myself, I had an idea of some boundary work that I need to do in my most intimate relationship. I chose the Mary-El Tarot, Second Edition, and the cards I pulled for myself made sense to me. I’ll walk you through my own reading below.

Boundaries Check-In Reading using the Mary-El Tarot, 2nd Edition

Position 1: My boundaries (significator)

For myself, I pulled the 2 of Cups, which is a nice, happy, balanced card that could mean my boundaries are in good shape, but intuitively I felt it was probably more accurate to interpret this card as saying that this spread would be specifically focused on my boundaries with my spouse. 

When I created the spread, I imagined that the significator card might give an overview of one’s general approach to personal boundaries, or it could point to a specific area that needs work. To me, the suit of the card that falls in this position would be very telling. 

Pentacles/Coins/Disks may tell you that this reading is going to relate to the boundaries you set at work, or physical boundaries like your own body or your home. Swords may be pointing to boundaries on verbal or written interactions, and with telling or being told the truth. It could also indicate that the issue is not so much with the boundaries you are setting, but with how you are communicating them to others. Wands speak to our energetic boundaries and the limits we set on projects and activities. The 10 of Wands is often thought of as representing over-commitment and warns against burnout, for example. Finally, Cups will point to the boundaries we set on emotional exchanges in our interpersonal relationships. Cups will refer to the degree to which we are open and vulnerable or closed and protective with respect to intimacy and/or spirituality.

Position 2: Where are my boundaries appropriately firm? What am I successfully excluding?

Here I drew The Devil, and I’ve never been so happy to see this card! This tells me that I’m doing a pretty good job of supporting my spouse without getting too deeply entangled with demons that aren’t mine to face.

Position 3: Where are my boundaries appropriately open and flexible? What am I allowing in that is beneficial to me?

I drew the King of Swords reversed. I felt that this represented my ability to hear criticism and hard truths about myself, to listen to another person’s perspective instead of shutting them out.

Position 4: Where are my boundaries too rigid? What am I blocking out that could be helpful to let in? Where could I be more open?

I drew the 6 of Wands reversed, and I took this to mean support and encouragement. While it’s true that I’m open to hearing critical feedback, I’m actually much less likely to accept praise without immediately dismissing and forgetting it. I’m happy to offer support to someone facing Devil-like problems, but I’m less happy to have that support reciprocated. Here I could work on being more open to receiving help and positive feedback from my spouse.

Position 5: Where are my boundaries too relaxed? What am I letting in that would be healthier to exclude? Where could I be firmer in setting a limit?

I drew the 2 of Wands, and I saw this as representing my tendency to get carried away with worries about the future. I tend to make long-term predictions and put energy into resolving what I think will happen if a current issue is drawn out to its logical conclusion five or ten years from now. In doing so, I end up having arguments about things that haven’t even happened yet. If this card had been upright, I would have seen it as a boundary that needs to be placed between me and my spouse, but the reversal tells me that it’s actually a limit I need to set on myself.

I found this spread to be reassuring about the things I’m doing well and helpful in suggesting some adjustments to make. Will you give it a try and see how it works for you?