Houses of the Arcanum Spread

The idea for this spread came to me while watching a video about the houses in the Lenormand Grand Tableau spread. Considering how cards relate to each other in a reading is something I already do – eg. How does the Queen of Wands relate to the 3 of Swords in [x] position? How does the Chariot manifest in [x] position? How is a card strengthened/limited/neutralised by the situation in [x] position? – so this was an obvious next step!

My first thought was to lay them out in a circle, almost like a zodiac wheel (it helps that I’ve had mandalas on the brain recently too), but the progression through the Major Arcana isn’t a straight line – it loops back on itself, much like any journey. A lemniscate  supports this progression perfectly, and it’s a powerful symbol already present in the tarot tradition:


Illustrated with the Hanson-Roberts Tarot by Mary Hanson-Roberts; U.S. Games Inc, 1985 [clickie for biggie]

  • A : Above
  • B: Below
  • C: Centre
  • D: Diagonal

As I was laying the positions out, I noticed some interesting things with the numbers that got me very excited (because numbers!):

  • If you add up any of the cards A1-A5 to their opposite B10-B6 cards, you get 11 (the centre C).
  • If you add any of the cards D1-D10 to their diagonally opposite D21-D12 cards, you get 22.
  • And if you add up any of the cards A12-A16 to their opposite B21-B17 cards, you get 33.

11, 22, 33 – numerology master numbers aka the Triangle of Enlightenment!

The number 11 represents instinct, and is the most intuitive of all numbers. It is your connection to your subconscious, to gut feeling and knowledge without rationality… 11 is the dichotomy number, meaning it is both extremely conflicted and also a dynamic catalyst.
The Master number 22 holds more power than any other number. It is a pragmatic number, a doer, capable of spinning wild dreams into concrete reality… 22 represents lofty goals brought down to earth and made into something you can touch.
The 33 is the mover and shaker … used to its full potential means that there is no personal agenda, only a focus on humanitarian issues… number 33 represents full understanding before communication.


Take a look at the card pairings that total these numbers and try to see how they support (or hinder) each other in reflecting the qualities of their Master Numbers. The Magician is the catalyst that sets the Wheel of Fortune to moving (11); The Chariot brings Will up to speed with Desire, breaking the chains of the Devil (or vice versa? 22);  and it is implicit that there needs to be the transformation of Death in order to undergo the rebirth of Judgement (33). These pairings can be utilised to add another layer of interpretation to the spread.

My biggest frustration is that I wasn’t able to manipulate the cards so that 0, 11 and 21 overlapped at the centre and still keep the mathemagical outcome, so the awesome number nonsense won out.


So how do you use this spread?

(Bare in mind this is a bit of a work in progress. It took a month to wrangle my thoughts to this point and I’m sure the spread will evolve as I work with it *a little finesse here, a little finesse there*)

Shuffle the full deck as you normally would, then lay 22 cards out, following the path of the Major Houses as seen in the diagram: starting at the centre with 0 The Fool, moving clockwise in a circle to the centre where 11 Justice crosses The Fool, then continuing in an anti-clockwise circle until 21 The World stops just short of the centre.

Each position is a “House” of the Major Arcana, with the House Ruler determining how the card that falls in their domain is influenced eg.

House 3 is ruled by The Empress. Any card that falls in House 3 will be given a boost in creativity, fertility, nurturing etc. The sorrow of the 3 of Swords will be lessened by the comfort it receives; the 6 of Cups could indicate a pregnancy (twins?); the Moon might show a wishful fantasy of being an earthy stay-at-home mom.

It’s a little like the houses in astrology too, I guess, mixed with planetary dignities of rulership, exaltation, detriment and fall. I imagine Strength being exalted in House 14, the natural urge to find an internal balance of power being smoothed out by Temperance’s expertise in this area. The Magician’s natural go-go-go energy would be in fall in House 12, where he is forced to take a time-out with the Hanged Man. Like I said, work in progress!

The spread is really open to many kinds of readings. Some ideas of how you can assign positions to the Houses are:


Illustrated with the Hanson-Roberts Tarot by Mary Hanson-Roberts; U.S. Games Inc, 1985 [clickie for biggie]

Illustrated with the Hanson-Roberts Tarot by Mary Hanson-Roberts; U.S. Games Inc, 1985 [clickie for biggie]

Another idea is to form “mission statements” for each of the cards/Houses by building their keywords into sentences. This is an excellent way of examining and deepening your understanding of the Major Arcana, by really honing in on the encapsulated meaning of each card:

  • 0 Practising a Carefree & Spontaneous Approach to New Beginnings
  • 1 Taking Action Through the Concentrated Application of Power & Skill
  • 2 Understanding the Mysteries of Your Own Higher Power by Trusting Your Intuition
  • 3 Nurturing Your Natural Fertile Creativity With Feminine Energy
  • etc.

ETA: a long time ago I compiled a Comparative Tarot Spreadsheet – there are a lot of ideas here for spread positions!


Laying the Cards

Once you’ve decided the theme of your spread (by assigning meanings to each House), it’s time to shuffle and deal! Again, there are several options for how you choose to do this:

  • Use only the Major Arcana to focus on your own Fool’s journey through consciousness and what you’ve learned at each station along the way (the House in which the Fool falls indicates where you find yourself at this time)
  • Select your favourite cards (22 or more) to discover how to best apply their energies in your life
  • Alternately, select your least favourite – or problem area – cards to gain insight into why you resist them and how you can learn to work with their energies
  • Choose an element to work with by selecting the 14 Minors from that element’s Suit, plus 8 Majors that support it (you might have to get a little creative!)
  • Use the whole damn deck and have at her! Why not draw 2 cards for each House – positive and negative – or even three – past, present, future!


Reading THE Spread

The most important thing to remember when interpreting the cards is to keep referring back to the House Ruler each one falls under: the 4 of Pentacles in House 16 (The Tower) is going to be a very different expression of that card’s meaning than if it falls in House 4 (The Emperor).

  • If you are using the full deck, Major Arcana cards are going to pack an extra punch wherever they show up, possibly indicating pivotal points in your growth (Death in House 16 could mean a literal death resulting from an accident).
  • Court cards could be interpreted as how you personally express the energy of that House: the Queen of Pentacles in House 3 (The Empress) would be a real earthy mamma, while the Knight of Swords in House 17 (The Star) would be more prone to think before they act, and speak kindly when they do.
  • Remember the Master Numbers at the top there? Apply those same pairings to the cards in your reading (don’t worry about the influence of Houses in this exercise) to really stretch your intuition and self-knowledge!
  • A simpler version of this would be to examine the A cards with their B partners – they all work together too: Strength aids the Empress in being a firm, but gentle, governing force; the Devil keeps the Moon crayfish chained at the bottom of the lake of subconsciousness.

Like I said, it’s really very open to modification – don’t be afraid to come up with your own positions and reading methods to tailor this to your needs! This is a spread for learning and gaining insight, and learning is a very fluid process; much like the Fool’s Journey, it loops back on itself, constantly adapting to the insight being gained.

While I was working on this, Jack of Wands published their own 22 Card Tableau Spread (something’s in the air!) in which they introduce a counting method to reduce the number of cards to focus on when interpreting the reading. Please go take a look at this post, and the rest of their blog, which is filled with interesting and inspiring content!


I know mammoth spreads aren’t everyone’s cup of t(e)arot, but if you attempt this be sure to leave me a comment so I can see what amazing things you come up with!



3 thoughts on “Houses of the Arcanum Spread

  1. Jack of Wands says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I love the use of the lemniscate and the crossing of the Houses of the Fool and Justice. The application of planetary dignities is also quite clever; you could even extend it and use the astrological attributions of the cards themselves (e.g. the Seven of Swords, a Moon card, would be exalted in the House of the Hierophant, a Taurus card). Thank you for sharing this wonderful spread with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jayd22 says:

    This is fabulous!! I love the number thing that you have going on…. I am going to have to explore it in depth on my next free day… I will let you know what I find… it is intriguing, because I am not a fan of big spreads either, but this looks different…. far more interesting than the typical “love money work” thing!! well done


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