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Dealing: Face up or down?

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 20 Nov 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Macavity  20 Nov 2002 
OK, this may be too obvious a question for *some* Tarot books to cover? :)

BUT I always *imagined* one laying out the spread with all the cards face upwards before starting the reading. But IS IT an alternative practice to deal the cards face down and interpret each single card as it is tuned over sequentially? Presumably one (obvious) disadvantage is a lack of access to the "whole scenario"... so maybe a two pass process or something like that?

Any comments?


zorya  20 Nov 2002 
i read mine face up. i like to be able to see the whole picture at once. i think this helps in reading between the cards. i don't think this method prevents me from seeing the cards as a story or progression...and i don't really see time as strictly linear.

many do, and several books do recommend, flipping them as you go and reading them like a story. it's not for me, but such things are personal choice. 

Laurel  20 Nov 2002 
For me, it depends completely on the type of spread that I'm doing.

My two primary spreads both utilize 15 cards, laid out differently. In the Past-Present-Future spread, I have all the cards faced down and flip them over one at a time as I address them, going through all five aspects (Health, Finances, Emotional, Spiritual/Family, Social/Relationships) of the Past before flipping the first cards of the Present and doing the same before addressing the future.

On the other hand, when I'm doing a 15 card "Crowley" spread {with three in the center for current situation, 3 to the bottom left for environment, 3 to the bottom right for hidden factors/forces outside your control and 3 each to the top left and right for general advice and course of action} I lay everything face up right away and look at the entire picture before commencing with the reading. 

Sorceress_Jade  20 Nov 2002 
I deal my cards face up, one at a time. I take a moment to take in the card, write down what I get or tell the querrent, then I place the next card and do the same thing. With each progressing card the one before it does have some influence on what I get, but more so I feel as though it’s a sequence of separates. Once the cards are all layed out I then look for the patterns and relationships, etc.

This could be done the same way by laying all the cards out face down first and then turning them one by one. And I can easily understand laying them all out face up to begin with. However I’d like to urge you not to disclude the individual meanings of each card. They do indeed have relationships, but they also are there for a reason to themselves. Or so I see it. 

WolfSpirit  20 Nov 2002 
I use the same method as sorceress jade.
Glad this saves me from typing it all out again ;) 

raeanne  20 Nov 2002 
Hi all,
Well, until this question was asked, I never realized that I approach different spreads in different ways!

With a three-card throw I usually deal the cards one at a time and look over each card in great detail before moving on to the next cards. Finally, I look at all three cards together or in pairs and see what combinations are there.

For a CC throw, I do it completely different. (Why? I don’t have a clue!) Anyway, for a CC I lay all the cards out face up. I just realized that I usually try NOT to look at the individual cards as I am laying them out! I didn’t know I did this! Once all the cards are “on the table”, I count the number of Major Arcana cards, Court Cards, and how many cards there are in each suit. Next I look for any interesting combinations such as Twos from more than one suit or a Two and the High Priestess. I look to see if card position 1 matches with position 10 or if they are in conflict with each other. I also look at the above/below combination and the past/future pair. I try to take notes about anything else that catches my eye like different color combinations or any such thing. All of this information helps to give me an overall impression of the direction the reading is going. Once I have done all of this, I start at position 1 and go through each card one by one.

I just got to thinking about some of the other spreads I use and some of them I do like I do a three-card spread and some I read like a CC. It seems that spreads with fewer cards I read like the three-card spread. For spread with more cards, I use the same basic method as I use with the CC.

Well, I learn something new about myself everyday! Thanks, Macavity for an interesting subject! 

truthsayer  20 Nov 2002 
i almost always deal the cards face up b/c i like to look for patterns like more majors than minors. then i use that information to help me build the story that makes up the reading. i've tried turning them up one by one. the spread this works the best is a 3 card past/prsent/future. in a ppf, i don't want to know all the cards b/c i'd end up telling a story instead of reading ppf. does that make sense? 

RedWood  20 Nov 2002 
It does depend on the spread..I usually turn them over in if there is a row of what this means say what you need to work on..I look at turn them over together..then i do each one seperately..then read them as a whole.. 

Teranar  21 Nov 2002 
I always lay them face up, because my decks are screaming enough to have their say - best to not keep them waiting! 

allibee  21 Nov 2002 
I always lay my/my sitter's cards face down for effect, so that when I'm ready I turn them over and get a real buzz, just like coming down Christmas morning and getting your pressies.... hehehe, I'm a sad act, aren't I? *LOL*


HudsonGray  21 Nov 2002 
I do them face up also, but I imagine that if people read for others it might be more beneficial to do them face down so the person they're reading for is concentrating on each card as it's read instead of getting distracted by a 'death' card or some other one that grabs their attention. 

Macavity  21 Nov 2002 
Thanks for the many interesting responses to my question. Some things seem "obvious" until you try to describe EXACTLY what you ACTUALLY do! Some more great insights... ;)


(Who hasn't stopped posting but *IS* doing more thinking on such matters :D) 

ChrisZ  21 Nov 2002 
as a relative beginner, I haven't had that much experience, but I've always just dealt them all face up and read them that way...Guess I just like to see the whole/big picture at once... 

Pollux  21 Nov 2002 
Unlike Raeanne, I always knew I approached different spreads in a different fashion. But...
Originally posted by raeanne
I just realized that I usually try NOT to look at the individual cards as I am laying them out! I didn’t know I did this!
... honestly I just realized this too... *LOL*

Basically, if the meanings of the position are rather self-inclusive and complete (as in a past-present-future), I like to flip the cards one by one, give a three-step reading if the cards are three like in this example, and then sum it up with an overview of the three all together - patterns...

Otherwise, in other spreads (like the CC), with lots of aspects being dragged in and different perspectives, I like to look at the overall spread, try to catch the big energies moving, hovering on the pictures, and last but not the least be more open to notice combos, special relationships and such.
In this case, first I try to give a brief overview mentioning the first things that pop up in my brain with relevance to the question, then I expand by considering the cards singularly and eventually, after a sort of overall summary again, I try to give a gist and indicate important patterns or elements to work on.

The different way I flip the cards is functional to the type of spread.

Anyway, geeeez, I'm weird... Raeanne, it's true, I true not to look at the cards before I have spread them all! *LOL* 

Umbrae  21 Nov 2002 
Uh…for starters I don’t think it matters.

Personally, sometimes I turn them face up one at a time so I can pay attention to the static moments, before I add the dynamics of the entire spread in.

Sometimes I do not lay out the spread – but go section by section…

Sometimes I deal out the entire spread face up and begin with the dynamics and move towards the static.

It depends on how the situation “Feels” at the time.

Oh..and sometimes…I’ll turn over the the first couple of card sets…and not turn the other cards over at all…leaving them face down for the entire reading. 

Major Tom  22 Nov 2002 
Originally posted by Macavity
OK, this may be too obvious a question for *some* Tarot books to cover? :)

It's not really an obvious question - it's actually a rather difficult one. :)

This is one of those questions where the answer really is to deal the cards any way that 'feels right to you'. So it doesn't matter which way you do it as long as it feels right.

Some authors perfer to avoid saying that if possible. }) 

The Dealing: Face up or down? thread was originally posted on 20 Nov 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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