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Decision-Making with Tarot: the Two Options Spread

February 26, 2016 10 Comments
Crossroads, from the Under the Roses Lenormand by Kendra Hurteau & Katrina Hill. Published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc.

Crossroads, from the Under the Roses Lenormand by Kendra Hurteau & Katrina Hill. Published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc.

In a past article, using the Lenormand Oracle, I discovered that my use of divination with my clients is to illuminate choices, options, and alternatives for them, which would then enable them—and empower them—to choose the best course of action, on their path of self-discovery.

And, just like Crossroads (the central card in that reading), my clients sometimes are faced with choosing the best course when they’re standing at the proverbial crossroads in life.

And, because of that, many years ago, I created a Tarot spread to illuminate the options that make up the crossroads. I call this spread the Two Options Spread.

I designed the spread to use when a client is faced with a situation that has (at least) a couple of options from which to choose.

My belief–and I stress this with all my clients–is that Tarot’s role is never to tell a person what to do—or to make choices and decisions for him or her. Tarot’s role is to provide information, and empower the client to make the decision as to whether or not to follow the guidance being given. It is always for the client’s consideration.

The Dynamics of the Two Options Spread

The spread is featured in the diagram to the right.

two options-card backs

It consists of 7 cards:

  • The first card is laid in the middle and represents the central issue, the factors that are fueling the need to make a choice.
  • The next three cards are laid in a column to the left of the first card, and represent possibilities the client might face choosing this particular option.
  • The remaining three cards are placed in a column to the right of the first card, representing the possibilities the client might experience choosing this option.

For me, this spread most often comes into play when clients ask me to explore options around moving. Usually, the client is faced with the choice to move away, or to remain where she is currently living.

The first card is important to note, as it highlights why the person is considering moving in the first place.

For me, when this question is being explored, more often than not, the client is also experiencing problems in her relationship with her partner, and that situation is fueling the idea of moving away.

For example, I can think of three clients right off the top of my head where this was the case. In one case, a woman had just gotten divorced, and was considering moving back to her home state; in another, a woman was considering moving—but if she did, she felt she wouldn’t be able to possibly get back together with her ex; and, in the third (and most recent), a woman and her boyfriend were on a “break,” and she considered moving away because she wasn’t sure if they would get back together.

The Two Options Spread in Action

I thought I would conduct a reading using this spread, so you can see it in action—and see how divination can be a helpful resource when you’re faced with a number of options.

two options-susyFor this reading, I’m working with a client, “Susy,” who has come to see me for insight and guidance about her situation. She is having issues in her relationship with “Eddie,” and is contemplating moving away to make a fresh start. She wants to know what the possibilities would be for her if she chose to move, and what they would be if she chose to stay.

I ask Susy if she wants the column on the left to represent “moving” or “staying.” Susy says to let it represent moving, which means the right column will be staying.

Using the Universal Waite Tarot deck, by A. E. Waite & Pamela Colman Smith, and colored by Mary Hanson-Roberts (which is published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc.), the cards I pulled for her are pictured above.

The Central Issue

The first card, which represents the central issue, is The Chariot. This is a Major Arcana card, which can indicate an important issue or event.

the chariot-universal waiteThe Chariot is coming up to tell Susy that she’s questioning the direction of her life. She’s concerned about where’s she going in her life. The Chariot is about moving (notice the word I used) forward, making progress, and advancement. So, The Chariot, being a card of travel, can also be a card of “moving on.”

As I look at the layout, I notice that the sphinxes on The Chariot are each facing the direction of the column closest to it; so, the black sphinx is facing the column on the left (the moving option), and the white sphinx is facing the right column (staying). This is highlighting that Susy is possibly being pulled in two different directions in regard to the options.

Being assigned the astrological sign Cancer, which is the sign of home and family, The Chariot can sometimes hint at a feud with family members; and this would fit, if Susy considers Eddie her “family,” since she is in a relationship with him, and they are having problems at the moment.

In terms of the decision-making process, The Chariot is telling Susy she’s in the “driver’s seat” here.

The First of the Two Options

Susy's moving option cards: 8 of Wands, 5 of Swords, and 4 of Swords.

Susy’s moving option cards: 8 of Wands, 5 of Swords, and 4 of Swords.

Turning my attention to the cards that highlight the option to move, 8 of Wands is a card of travel, like The Chariot, so the theme of movement is being repeated. This card can represent things moving quickly and a flurry of activity. A mode of travel associated with this card is by air, so the phrase “taking off” pops into my mind, which can suggest Susy is looking at the idea of moving as a way to just take off.

This card, for me, can mean a woman is looking to hear the words, “I love you,” or feel a sense from her partner that she is cared for and appreciated.

Since speed is a factor with 8 of Wands, it could be saying that, if Susy were to move, she would need to do it quickly, sooner rather than later.

5 of Swords is the “price of victory” card, which means that Susy could make the move a success, but that success will come at some cost to her. The men walking away on the card indicate forfeit, so there may be things she’ll have to forfeit—give up—in order to move. I also see that this forfeit may come as a result of moving quickly—perhaps too soon.

Connecting 5 of Swords to the relationship, it’s suggesting Susy is thinking about moving because she believes her situation with Eddie to be hopeless, or that she feels defeated in trying to make it work. This card can indicate bickering and arguing. The move may be a way of trying to stick it to Eddie (which I’m getting by looking at the man gloating on the card).

4 of Swords is a card that can represent a temporary pause. It comes up to indicate taking time to heal, recover, recoup, and recharge batteries. So, if Susy were to move, she would be doing so to heal and recover from her relationship with Eddie.

Another possibility is that the move will be just a “break,” and that at some point she might return.

Here, 4 of Swords might be asking Susy to “pray” about the situation (the figure being in the prayer position), or to sleep on it (figure also looks to be resting).

On the other hand, 4 of Swords might also suggest moving would be a way for her to put this issue to “rest” or to “bed.”

The Second of the Two Options

susy-staying option

Susy’s staying option cards: Ace of Pentacles, 10 of Cups, and 9 of Pentacles.

Looking to the cards that represent the option to stay, first up is Ace of Pentacles. This is a very promising card, as Aces indicate a new beginning, and this one indicates the potential for future growth. Something may be opening up for Susy (the opening of the garden wall at the bottom of the card), there may be an opportunity for her if she stays; it may be career-related, as Pentacles is the suit of money and career.

This card suggests there would be some “gift” or “reward” for her, if she chose to stay.

Next is 10 of Cups, which is another promising card. This is known as the “marriage and family card,” and can indicate getting your “happily ever after.” For Susy, she may have to consider her family, especially if they are all here. 10 of Cups is also a reunion card, so this could hint that Susy and Eddie could work things out and reunite, if she chooses to stay.

With 10 of Cups being a card of marriage, Ace of Pentacles can suggest an engagement ring.

The final card on this side is 9 of Pentaclesyet another very promising card. This is a card of material gain; so, the end result of Ace of Pentacles is here, with Susy possibly achieving a greater sense of independence and self-sufficiency, maybe even of a financial nature.

Ace of Pentacles and 9 of Pentacles can suggest a self-employment venture becoming very successful, if Susy considers staying in this area–especially if the work involves teaching and training of some kind (the woman training the falcon).

That greater sense of independence could also be the thing that makes her relationship with Eddie work.

This is something else coming to me: Ace of Pentacles can represent a “seed” being planted; as the last card, 9 of Pentacles can represent a time period of 9 months; and in between those cards is 10 of Cups, the marriage—and family—card.

If Susy were to stay, and things were to work out with Eddie, there may be another kind of “gain” Susy could possibly experience.

In Conclusion

And that’s how I work the Two Options Spread. At this point, Susy has the information of what she could possibly experience with each option.

In looking at each of them, my sense is that the option to move isn’t entirely thought out (2 of the 3 cards are Swords, the suit of mental activity), that it might be more of a reaction to the problems in her relationship with Eddie than a real desire to move on.

And the option to stay looks to hold some real promise for her; there may be more resources (2 of the 3 cards are Pentacles, the suit of material resources) available to her right where she is.

Bringing things back to The Chariot, where we started: Susy is in the driver’s seat here, and she gets to decide the direction she wants to move in–as well as the possible speed bumps she might find on the road ahead.

Are you at a crossroads and faced with a couple of options of your own to explore–and think Tarot could help? For more information about getting a personalized Tarot reading, please visit my Tarot Consultations page.

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About the Author:

I am passionate about dreams, Tarot, Reiki, personal growth & development, and self-improvement. I work with people, helping them understand the messages of their dreams, as well as read the Tarot professionally. All the work I do has the same common thread: to get people to become more self-aware, so they can improve themselves and live their best lives. My favorite quote is by Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living."

Comments (10)

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  1. maria says:

    Hi James
    I love the options spread, thank you for it.

    • James says:

      Hi, Maria,
      Thanks so much for checking out the article! I’m so happy to hear the spread resonates with you. If you read Tarot, and you decide to give it a try, circle back and let me know how it works for you–I would love to hear about it!

      • Maria says:

        Hi James
        Yes I use tarot a lot. I tried your options spread today in relation to a house I was thinking of buying. The central card was the Empress, which I took to mean the life I wanted in a new house. The spread to buy this house however contained the wheel of fortune and the moon, which was a concern.
        I went back to look at the house again and bumped into the current tenant, who just happened to be a girl I went to school with ( junior school) like 30 or more years ago! She told me she wanted to move anyway because the house was very damp and she had developed asthma while there!
        Needless to say…I have abandoned that plan. The Fool was on the other option , so I guess the search continues!
        Thanks for this. How can I get a reading from you?

        • James says:

          Hi, Maria,
          Wow, what a great use of the spread–and I love how the experience related to the cards! Thank you for sharing that!
          And thank you for your interest in getting a reading! You can e-mail me at and let me know what your schedule is typically like, so we can begin to make the arrangements.
          I look forward to hearing from you and being of service to you!

  2. dana wills says:

    Thanks for the useful information. Learning the Tarot card meanings alone isn’t going to make you an expert Tarot reader, but it is a good starting point.

    • James says:

      Hi, Dana,
      Thanks for checking out the post and sharing your thoughts.
      I agree with your point that learning the meanings of the cards alone won’t make you an expert. Speaking from my own personal experience, it takes time being with the cards, letting them inform you of interpretations that both coincide–and go beyond–their standard meanings. And then learning the art of reading them in patterns and combinations (spreads, like the one posted here), as well as reading the cards in context to the question being asked.
      I also agree that knowing the meanings of the cards is important in having that foundation–again, with the idea of having something to build on, and go beyond. I think that could be said with any metaphysical or esoteric study.
      Thanks again for checking out the post and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Kathleen Hyltoft says:

    Hello James
    Have you written a book with similar detailed spreads, I found your article interesting, would be interested in buying a book if you have one?

    • James says:

      Hi, Kathleen,
      Thanks so much for checking out the article! I’m happy to hear you found it interesting.
      I haven’t written a book detailing any spreads that I work with reading the cards. Right now, I’m enjoying sharing on the blog. 😀

  4. Alex pathfinder says:

    An amazing spread! I tried it and the central issues card just said it all. I don’t want to sound greedy, but can this spread be used for three choices too? Does someone really have a difficult enough dilemma that would require a three choice spread? Well, I do. I have three job offerings but each is completely different to the others in terms of significant aspects, such as scope of job, location, position etc. can a three choice spread be used in the same way?

    • James says:

      Hi, Alex,
      I’m glad you not only liked the spread, but that you also gave it a go! Awesome!
      You absolutely can use it for three options; I would change the look of the layout by placing the central issue card at the top, and then each column of options beneath that card.
      I hope that helps; circle back and let me know how it works, if you give it a go.
      Thanks so much for checking out the post, Alex, and for asking a great question!
      Best to you,

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