I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I wanted to write about this book. I picked up Secrets of the Celtic Cross: The Secret Hisotry of the World’s Most Popular Tarot Spread Featuring New Tarot Reading Methods out of sheer curiosity. There was another book by these authors, Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin, that caught my eye, but was a bit costly. I thought I would give this book a go instead, and see if the other book of thier’s, Tarosophy, was worth getting.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was that these two are also the authors of Around the Tarot in 78 Days, of which I’ve heard high praise.
Secrets of the Celtic Cross: The Book Itself
Publishing Details and Formatting
Secrets of the Celtic Cross is a self-published book, as are, I believe, the rest of their books (though I’m sure there are a few exceptions). While I’m not opposed to self-published books, I do generally prepare myself for plenty of mistakes within the book, though I will say this now: I only found one typo in the whole book. Of course this doesn’t matter, as it doesn’t contribute to the book’s content, but it’s nice to know they did a thorough job of editing.
Edit: Since publishing this post I discovered that this book is not self published, but was published in 2016 by Forge Press. The information I found on Forge Press is that it’s an independent student press at the University of Sheffield.
I got the e-book version, and as always, really do wish I’d gotten the print version. While this book contains photos of example readings, the formatting isn’t quite right. Some of the pictures are tiny, making it really difficult to see what the cards are. Thankfully, the authors were good about listing what each card is in the photos, but it still makes the visual representation difficult.
History of the Celtic Cross
The book’s content begins by looking at the history of the ‘Ancient’ Celtic Cross, where it was first published, what Waite, Gardner and poet Yeats had to do with it’s popularization and design, and how it’s developed.
The authors provide documents found in university research libraries during their time as a PhD student (I don’t know which one found the documents) which show Gardner’s rendition of the Celtic Cross spread which pre-dates Waite’s 1910 publication of the spread.
The authors then raise many questions regarding what they’ve found, and share their conclusions.
This section is beautifully presented as a research paper—which, as a former philosophy student of a research-oriented university, I highly appreciate.
Celtic Cross Methodology
The next section spends a great deal of time taking apart the Celtic Cross and reorganizing the spread so that it’s less directed toward prediction readings, and more along the lines of ‘outcome orientation,’ as the authors call it.
In this section, we will look at the powerful methods of reading the Celtic Cross that arise from an outcome-oriented approach…[The spread] is also formulated from the work of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and Solution-Oriented therapy, although you do not need to know anything specific about these approaches in order to apply the methods in this book…As most of these methods are about causing change in a client’s life after a reading, towards a defined and practical solution, the change-work model of problem formation and resolution from Paul Watzlawick and John Wekland is used as an under-pinning to the whole approach.Location 618
The authors first define the positions of the Celtic Cross. Their method takes in the traditional language of ‘this card covers him, this card crosses him,’ etc., with reference to a signifier card that is first placed on the table. The positions are then translated to a different meaning which still relate to the original recital of the card positions:
- Covers Him – This represents the present moment of the Querent.
- Crosses Him – This is the challenge of the Querent.
- This is below him – This is the resource for the Querent, or the foundation from which the Querent can draw from.
- This is behind him – This is the Querent’s relevant past.
- This is above him – This card represents the Aim or goal of the Querent.
- This is before him – This is the future representation of the Querent.
- Himself – this is what is within the Querent and how the Querent view themselves.
- His House – This represents those around him, and how they see the Querent.
- Hopes and Fears – This card represents where the Querent’s Attention is.
The authors then layout how to read the Celtic Cross to give a deeper understanding of the spread itself.
They point out that while it’s common for readers to read each card one at a time and in sequence of placement, the better and more in-depth way to read it is to turn all of the cards face up at once, and begin with the outcome in combination of the first card, the present position.
I want to note here that there is a lot of information, and I don’t want to give away the entire book, as there is some really good information here. They provide 23 steps to reading the Celtic Cross Spread, though I’m only going to list and summarize the first 11.
1. Reading from the Outcome
As I’ve already said, the first step is to read the outcome and present positions (positions 10 and 1) together. When I read this, my first thought was to consider the Minor Arcana, and the journey from Ace to 10, and how with each 10 of a suite, there is the implication of a new beginning, just as the Ace implies having just ended. These, I think, are valuable things to keep in mind, though no what is mentioned regarding reading these two cards.
Look at the card in the outcome position and allow a keyword to arise, such as ‘juggle’ for the 2 of Pentacles in [the example] spread. It can be something obvious or something else that arises, from your knowledge of the card or your intuition…Then immediately apply that word to the card in the present situation/now position…This bridges the outcome card straight back to the present situation card.Location 645
2. Find the Flow & Set the Tone
This looks at the flow from the past to the present, and how the energy is flowing from one card to the other, not necessarily in that order.
The flow between the two cards gives us a sense of the current or energy which in actually being experienced by the client in response to the present situation, which usually sits between the past and future positions…To understand the flow, we imagine how it might be to go from one card to another. Would it be a smooth transition or choppy; would it be fast, casual, urgent, easy, hard?Locations 671, 681
3. The Resources Always Meet the Challenges
This looks at the Resources (card 3) and Challenges (Card 2). The idea is get the client to consider what they have available to them to help them attain their goal, and how to use their challenges to their advantage.
…[T]o really empower and elaborate the reading, we next imagine how the Resources card would resist the Challenges card…This shows us exactly the type of resistance the unconscious can provide to resolve the obstacles placed in this way…It is perhaps counter-intuitive to read the ‘resources’ as a ‘resistance’ and the ‘obstacles’ as ‘opportunity’ but that is exactly the way in which those positions provide insight in an outcome-oriented reading…Think of that Resources card as an Aikido or Zen warrior—or Walter White in “Breaking Bad”, always one or three steps ahead of the challenge. It is simply going to take the energy of the obstacle and direct it somewhere…By allowing the challenge to take place (rather than fighting it or ignoring it) and then incorporating it int the resources you will discover that resources always meet the challenge.Locations 695, 706
4. The Future Comes to Those Who Make It
The idea here is to look at the Future position, (card 6) and work to alter it via the outcome card. ‘[T]his dynamic can be discovered by looking at a triangle of cards which is the Aim, the Future (again), and (again), the Outcome’ (Location 725). This concept took me a couple of times to read before I fully grasped it, so I’ll do my best to explain it.
The authors describe the Future position more as a ‘“future” force that is flowing towards our client…’ (Location 737). This to me takes on the image that the client is stopped in time, and all past and future go to the client, rather than they toward the future. The best way I found to interpret this was to think of knowing that astrological influences (say, Mercury retrograde, for an easy example) are coming up, and there will be sway as to what happens, but you ultimately control how you navigate through those astrological forces when they occur. Thus, your future position is what’s likely to be stirring certain energies to which you’ll react.
So, in looking at these future forces, you consider how they’ll assist the Querent in their Aim, which will direct them to the outcome.
So the Aim card is always showing how to incorporate and utilise the Future to achieve the Outcome. This is another example of how Outcome-Oriented Reading is counter-intuitive and works in reverse or opposite to how the client experiences the problem.Location 737
5. Yourself and Others
This step looks at positions 7 and 8, the position of how you view yourself and how others view you. The authors use psychological methods from Virginia Satire (family therapist) and ‘the Self-Relationships approach of Stephan Gilligan’ (Location 757).
The idea of the Self card (card 7) is that it is how you view yourself, or how you directly relate to the journey in this spread. That is, how it is that you relate yourself to your Aim, and how you get from your Present card to your Outcome card.
I will note here that the authors go into specifics for how to examine and read this card depending on whether it’s a Major or Minor Arcana, or if it’s a Court Card. Again, because I don’t want to go too specific into summarizing, I’ll leave these details out for the time being.
After looking at the Self position, the reader moves on to the Others position. ‘This shows how other people are receiving the presentation of the self as we have already read in the previous card’ (Location 771).
In simple terms, one card is “how you see yourself” and the other card is “how other people see you”. Comparing and contrasting these two cards is often the most profound part of a Celtic Cross reading, and often evokes a lot of emotion which drives the required changes.Location 771
6. Where Your Attention Goes is Here
The Attention card is commonly known as the hopes and fears card. The authors explain that by switching the focus of the card from hopes and fears specifically, and looking at it from the perspective of the thing that is hogging the Querent’s attention, the reader can relay how this is diverting their energy to or away from their aim. This card is read by itself because it has no affect on the reading, but is merely something to be pointed out as a potential hindrance or asset.
This card shows us where internal attention is being directed in a way that has nothing to do with the problem…The Card in this position always shows us what the client should drop, forget, release, sacrifice, put out of their heads, and in doing so, make space for reality.Location 823
What the authors suggest is after reading it to remove the card from the spread entirely, with a simple ‘You don’t need this,’ remark.
This is called a “living metaphor”, where your actions with the cards communicate the same verbal message you are giving. This is a powerful and easily implemented trick in the Tarosophy approach to reading.Location 841
7. The Past is Behind You Now
‘[T]he past is only the story we tell ourselves’ (Location 864). Since the past is just a story, the authors suggest that we use it to alter the story we tell ourselves about the outcome of the reading. They create a little bit of an elaborate process in order to do so.
The reader first looks at the present card, then at the challenges through the lens of the Past card, then reflects on the Aim, and lands on the Outcome. Again, I did say this was a little elaborate.
The authors frame this in terms of ‘releasing.’ By considering the effects of the past on the challenges and how that influences the Aim and thus the outcome, the reader can then imply that there are things the Querent is holding onto that they have the power to let go, thus creating a smoother journey.
We then look at the card in the Past position, and weave that into a story like this:
“So, in the Past you said you used to [interpret card] which can no longer meet the challenge of [re-interpret Challenge card] so now, [re-interpret Present Situation card], in order to aim for [re-interpret Aim card], you can release (or use)[re-interpret Past card] which will result in [re-interpret Outcome card]”Location 887
Note: The brackets used in the above quote are a part of the quotation, not my input.
8. Positive Outcome Frame
The authors strongly suggest that consideration of Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques in readings to maintain that the Querent is left with a feeling of being able to accomplish their goals. The technique in particular is the Positive Outcome Frame. What this does is look at what happens after the Querent has achieved their aim. In doing this, it unlocks any blocks that might be stopping them from completing their goal.
The consequence of success can contain something that the person would not want, or to which part of them might object, or find more challenging than the actual problem…It may be more simply that they are not yet ready, prepared, or have the resources or state of mind that will be comfortable with the situation after the present challenge is resolved.Location 905
To do this, the authors suggest looking at the Aim and the Outcome cards together. If the cards contradict each other, then the reader asks the Querent how they might deal with this. The reader might remind them of the resources found in the foundation position, talk to them about how they view themselves in this journey, or look at what external help can be gained from the Others position. From there, clarification cards can be drawn to assist.
9. Finding The First Step
This method was a tricky one for me to grasp. Again, I’ll do the best I can to explain it.
Any Tarot reading should aim toward helping the Querent take steps in the right direction, whichever direction that might be discussed for their particular situation. In order to get to the Outcome or to their Aim, the Querent is going to have to take steps.
The authors suggest that to create measurable steps, they look at the Present and Aim cards, and create a pathway there.
There are many hidden spaces in the Celtic Cross which contains as much information as the visible spaces or card locations…In that space, you can work backward from the Aim card and (whether you say it or not out loud to the client) step backwards to a reasonable and more immediate first step…If [The Aim card] is a Major card, go one back down the sequence, so if it were the Emperor (numbered 4) as the “Aim” card, it would be the Empress (3). If it were the Magician (1) you go back in the loop to the World (21)…You rarely have to go more than a couple of cards back down the sequence to find the required step that will get from the Present Situation towards the Aim.Location 944, 965
The idea is that the card which comes before the Aim card will direct the Querent to get from the Present situation to their Aim.
10. The Anchor Card
There will be words that the reader is likely to gravitate toward, and might find themselves repeating often in the reading. The authors suggest that you find that card and use it as an anchor for the Querent. This means that it will be the one whose lessons or messages you try to ensure that the Querent has a good, strong impression of. Likewise, this Anchor Card could be one that the client reacts strongly to. If the latter is noticeable, use that over your own impressions, as the reading is about and for the client, not the reader. Thus, if their reaction is strong, they’re more likely to hold onto it when they leave.
There are still 13 other techniques that are used to read the Celtic Cross, though I said I would only go into a few of them. As it is, this review has gone into a lot of depth. I’ll let you read the book and find out the remaining 13 steps.
As mentioned before, I felt that this book was fairly professionally written. In an industry such as intuitive arts, I feel that professionalism and academic presentation are extremely important when presenting information if this industry is to gain any credibility.
I’m not really one who looks into the history of things. I don’t particularly care about when the Celtic Cross was born, but I did find the information presented extremely interesting. I can’t compare it to any form of accuracy since I haven’t delved into this in the past—however, I think this makes for a great starting off point.
The techniques to me are insanely interesting. It provided a very different view of the Celtic Cross, which I’d, for the most part, abandoned some years ago. However, considering these methods, I might take it up again after some practice.
This is not a book for the beginner. I recently read quite a few comments on a post in a Facebook Group that the Celtic Cross is not a spread for beginners. And I out-right laughed, out loud, startling my dogs. Aside from the fact that I started off on the Celtic Cross spread, every Tarot deck traditionally printed (that is, not self-published) comes with an instruction booklet (the Little White Book (LWB)) which contains instructions for how to use the Celtic Cross spread. It is simple, basic, and easy to use.
Well, that’s what I thought before I read this book. This book is not for the beginner by any means. This book is for those who feel they have milked all they can out of the Celtic Cross spread. This is for those who have used it and many other spreads, who know the meanings of the cards, and are willing to kick up their reading game a notch.
I do highly recommend this book to any people falling into his category. I think it’s essential if you want to go from party practitioner to in-depth reader. I think that it is great if you want to explore the intricacies of the cards, and use the Tarot as a therapeutic and/or coaching tool.
I went into this book just wanting to see how these authors present their information and if their other book, Tarosophy, is worth investing money in. I can say that I am extremely excited to purchase a hard copy of their book, and most likely a few of their other books.
***** 5 Stars *****