Adrift at Sea: a tarot spread

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend who felt like she was sinking into a “sea of despond” (we *are* writers after all).

My first thought was, “Get that woman a PFD!”

And then I realized that I could do something to help. I could give her a personal flotation device — via the Tarot.

My goal was to create a spread that I could use for all those times I feel like I’m floating without a tether and without direction. In talking with my friend, I realized that I’m not the only one who feels out of touch with life sometimes. So off I went to make my very first spread. I started with a three-card PFD… but somehow the spread kept growing. And growing. Actually, kinda the same way my short stories grow into sprawling novel-esque type conglomerations… but that’s beside the point.

Adrift at Sea: a tarot spread

  • a. Wo/Man overboard! (querent)
  • b. Is that a fin? (hidden influences)
  • c. Granola energy (nearby influences)
  • d. Flare gun & whistles (tools at hand)
  • e. Fresh water (long-term support)
  • f. Weather conditions (environment)
  • g. Transoceanic cargo ship (likely means to solution)
  • h. Life line to the boat (advice)

I think it’s a fun spread — even when I’m really bummed it makes me smile. But more importantly, I’d love to hear if you use it, and what your thoughts are. Do you have any improvements? Would you add other cards, or combine some of these? Do you find the positions helpful, or do you readings ebb and flow?


Tarot Spread: Adrift at Sea
Posted 02-04-2011
Have you ever felt out of touch with reality, or like you’ve missed the boat? Perhaps fallen overboard and no one seems to notice you’re gone? Then this is the spread for you!

*** April 2013 Note:  I used to have this spread available as a download on my previous website; once I back-fill all my posts I’ll try to get this attachment back up for anyone interested.


Sample Reading

I waited to share this until I needed it myself. Below is my own spread from yesterday morning, using the Sun & Moon deck by Vanessa Decort.

If anyone has feedback on this, please jump in! I welcome all comments, from layout to addition/deletion of positions, etc. I’m concerned I don’t have the right opportunity for more negative or “antagonistic” cards, but as I play devil’s advocate in every area of my life, I tend to read both positive and negative aspects in every card. For better or worse.

a. Wo/Man overboard! (querent) // art-temperance

My issues always seem to boil down to problems with balance – in my work, my family life, my writing… and now spiritually. Too often I jump in with both feet first, and if it doesn’t click right away I head off in search of something that will. How often does that really happen in life? Hard work and perseverance… will these concepts ever sink in for me? I need to strike a healthy balance, figure out where all the pieces fit together in my life, and move forward from that point without causing more problems or hitches for myself along the way.

b. Is that a fin? (hidden influences) // 7 of cups

Too many choices… can’t decide, so let’s try them all! Proficiency comes only with practice and dedication, but I want answers to the world’s great secrets — and I want them now, dammit! I’m feeling pulled in too many directions, so I need to pick one and focus to excel. Unfortunately, that requires focus and hard work – and I can’t decide which area to focus on! *sigh*

c. Granola energy (nearby influences) // 9 of swords

Could this card simply be reflecting my recent insomnia and sleep troubles? Hmm. Not likely. What else is in my pocket? I like information. I like having choices. But the danger of having too many options, is never settling on one particular thing. My mind has been going at light-speed for the past six weeks, and perhaps it’s telling me to work with what I have before absorbing more. It’s time to take a breather and study the puzzle pieces by the light of day. A good night’s sleep would be nice, too.

d. Flare gun & whistles (tools at hand) // 8 of discs

This card typically represents hard work, learning, and attention to detail, but my gut tells me there’s something more to it here. Note that this is in direct opposition to the 7 of cups, but supported nicely by the next card (The Hierophant). My natural drive is to learn, learn, and then learn some more. I should take this as a warning to not give up, but rather draw on the patience of the 7 of discs that bolsters this hard working card, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

e. Fresh water (long-term support) // the Hierophant

I embrace this card as one of knowledge, learning, and understanding the world around me (both physical and non-). I adore the card in my Sun & Moon deck, which depicts a young man sitting under a tree (of Wisdom? in the Garden of Eden?) meditating on life. A commentator on Barbara Moore’s Practical Tarot blog some months back interpreted this figure as a life coach, which I just love. So in this position of long-term support and sustenance while I’m floating along, I recognize my need to continue this search for spiritual understanding. Nothing in my world has changed, only my perspective of it.

f. Weather conditions (environment) // 5 of swords

I do feel alone in this. I know I’m not. I met a good friend for lunch the other day and tried to explain what’s going on in my head these days. As the words “unorthodox” and “spiritual journey” and “Guides” and “energy” bubbled to the surface, I had just a taste of what lies ahead if I stay on this path. My friend is supportive and open-minded. I know others who encourage me, heart and soul. But there are countless more in the world who would like nothing more than to shut me up, stop the thoughts, move on with their own life. So yeah, it feels pretty stormy out there.

g. Transoceanic cargo ship (likely means to solution) // the tower

Revelation crackles in the air around me. Is it any coincidence that there are thunderclouds overhead in this reading, and lightning striking this tower of my life?

h. Life line to the boat (advice) // 8 of wands

This card traditionally brings speed, travel, and energy to a situation… But my card shows a young warrior woman defending herself against a barrage of arrows with a beam of rainbow. “Light energy” was the first thing to come to mind when I saw this card. Could this mean Reiki? I’ve never had a treatment, but I’ve never before been so aware of energy swirling around me in a tempest of information and enlightenment.

Card Counting (per Catherine Chapman of

Art-temperance ::: balance, persevere in puzzling out the problem
– Count 12 to 8 of discs ::: work hard and focus on the details; don’t be afraid of new knowledge
– Count 8 to 9 of swords ::: all this new info is keeping me up at night and obsessing
– Count 9 to 9 of swords ::: vicious cycle!
– so… let go of the worry ::: count 9 backwards to 9 of swords



One reply on “Adrift at Sea: a tarot spread”

  1. Bicyclist on

    Wow — I created this spread and did this reading just over two years ago. In hindsight, it presented much more accurate information than I ever could have imagined! It’s been a long, rocky two years, but I’m grateful to announce that I think I took the correct path.

    If I could’ve seen how rocky it was around the curve, I may’ve opted out… but I’m still alive and kicking, and happier.

    Such blessings I have.

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