Braiding the Future
a Wild Unknown Archetypes deck spread
I was having a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was first introduced to the work of Kim Krans, whose “Wild Unknown” decks include a tarot deck, and two oracle card decks of her own design. Her artwork was fresh and exciting, and very emotionally resonant. I was most impressed with her Wild Unknown Archetypes deck, which is 78 round cards that explore selves, places, tools and initiations. Drawing heavily off of her background in psychology and her study of different esoteric and shamanic practices, Krans has created a very powerful set of images that can be used for self-knowledge, divination, and other types of spirit-centered work. Released in 2019, the deck is one of the only sets of “oracle cards” that I use that is not a tarot deck. Because it is an original work of art, and its only similarity to a tarot deck is that it has the same number of cards, using this deck falls squarely within my personal ethics around reading tarot. Experimenting with this deck has been a pleasure and a revelation, and I’ve been excited to experiment with different divination spreads.
A word here about cards as a divination tool: like all divination, it is not about showing you THE future. It is about showing you A future. Anyone who tries to tell you that your fate is sealed and your future is inevitable has an agenda of some kind that requires your powerlessness for their benefit. During my time as a professional tarot reader I cannot tell you how many times I had clients who came to me having been victimized by unscrupulous “psychics” who told them that they were under a “dark cloud” or some kind of “generational curse” that required the “psychic” to “cleanse their aura.” If they didn’t, they were told, they were doomed to an unlucky life, where none of their cherished dreams would come true. The rap was so consistently predictable it was like there was some kind of script these folks all used. It was of course, a scam to upsell the client and try to convince them to turn a $50 reading into an unnecessary $250 “cleansing ceremony.” These types of readers were using their influence to tell people that their fate was sealed, and without the “help” of the reader, they were DOOMED. Of course it was all bullshit.
The truth is that you are on a path. And that path has a destination, a place that it is going based on the energy you’re applying, the things you’re doing, and the things and people surrounding you. But you are a creator in the Universe, and every thing that you do, every thought you think, all the energy you apply affects where that path is going. And if you apply that energy consistently and consciously in a different direction or in a new way, you will find that your path shifts. Different destinations are now in store for you. There are very few things in the world that are truly fated to the point where there is nothing you can do to alter them. People do have destinies, but they are usually co-created. I tell every client I work with that if you don’t like where you seem to be headed, you can change the energy you are applying to the situation, and end up somewhere different. You are not a prisoner to your fate. You are one of its architects.
Divination is therefore a powerful tool to help check in on where you’re headed, and use the information to do course corrections on your journey. If I am reading for a fairly self-aware person, there is nothing that should come up in a reading that isn’t already somewhere in the consciousness of the person I am reading for (we call them “querants” in the biz). Conversely, when querants are shallow in their outlook, or playing games to try and “stump the reader,” it’s usually the case that the cards will unearth the deeper truths, whether the querant likes it or not. It is my experience that the cards know what’s really going on, and are not afraid to reveal what they know. The revelation of some surprise event coming to the future of the querant doesn’t happen that frequently. It happens, but it is seen more frequently as a plot device in the movies than in real life. A lot of people are scared to get readings because they are scared to find out something they didn’t know and don’t want to know. But the truth is that readings are usually not as grand or dramatic as all that. Most often what a reading will do is reinforce the truths you already know, the only drama arising from the fact that maybe you were trying to avoid this truth for whatever reason.
There are all kinds of things that can be used for divination — bones, tea leaves, cards, sticks, runes, lines on your hand, books, just about anything that can be randomized can be used as a means of “telling your fortune” or “reading your future.” Different systems have different strengths and weaknesses. Cartomancy, which includes tarot, is a particularly rich tool because the cards come with images that resonate on a different level than our brains are used to operating. Most of us are verbal creatures — we communicate and think using words, whether spoken or written. Those channels of information are well-worn, and we can get stuck easily in patterns. We repeat phrases, tell ourselves narratives about ourself and our situations. And the stories we tell ourselves and the words we use to name things provide definitions of who we think we are and what our experiences are. But once you start using pictures to communicate ideas, that’s a whole different set of synapses. We process pictures differently than words. And so when we look at our problems and our future using that different processing frame, we sometimes see things that we missed before, get insights that we didn’t have before. Cartomancy, I tell clients, is a lot like comic books — I look at the pictures, they tell me a story, and the story is about you.
If you want to carry this metaphor forward, a spread is like a structured outline for the story that basically helps to generate a reliable and coherent narrative. Most writers know that certain forms of storytelling follow a certain format. If you’ve read any books on how to write a screenplay, you know there is a formula. Characters will be introduced in the first act, with a certain set up, and the rest of the screenplay will be spent resolving the issues raised in the setup. What comes when and how will follow from the type of screenplay you are writing. Comedies work differently from dramas. Television shows work differently from movies. In cartomancy, different spreads are designed to create different types of divination narratives. Some spreads are designed to provide short term insight on immediate problems. Others are designed to dive deep on love relationships or careers.
The following spread, designed for use with The Wild Unknown Archetypes deck, is called “Braiding the Future.” I created it as a tool to explore questions related to your life path, larger issues about what your deeper goals are and how best to approach them. It weaves together inner influences and outer influences to help discern what the best approach is to realizing the things that you want. It works well with the cards in the Archetypes deck, which also tend to focus on issues of how to realize one’s higher self and manifest dreams.
The spread uses 10 cards chosen at random after shuffling the deck. During the shuffle, one should consider what question you are looking for the answer to. Forming a good question is half the battle with cartomancy. While certainly cartomancy can answer yes or no questions, when the question you are asking only requires a one-word answer, it tends to limit the information you get. There are also certain spreads that work best for one type of question over another. Just like a rom-com will unfold differently from a documentary, it makes sense if a spread is designed to address issues of romance that you should not be asking a question about your job.
The Braiding the Future spread is a fairly general spread, one that works best when answering questions about your life goals. They can be long-term goals or short-term goals, but in general the spread looks out over about a six month to a year period. I highly recommend doing this spread as part of a New Year’s meditation or any time when you are taking a moment to reassess or refresh your goals as part of a retreat or a personal practice. That’s why I wanted to post it now, during the first week of the year, so that folks who are reflecting on such things can use this spread to assist them.
Lay the 10 cards you have selected out in the following pattern:
Each of the cards is in the position it is to answer a certain progression of questions. They are:
Where am I at right now? The card that is here is delivering an assessment of where you currently stand in relationship to the question, what energies may be in play. These can be energies that you are generating, or they can be circumstances that are around you at this time. In any event, this card offers insight as to what’s going on for your currently.
What do I want? This card offers a statement around something you are actively seeking. What is the thing that you say you want to manifest in your life, or the thing that you want to fix or rectify? This card will offer insight into what that thing really is, and can offer some information as to how that desire is showing up for you right now.
What do I really want/what is really driving my desires? There is what we say we want, and then there is often an underlying desire, a need or a want that we may or may not be acknowledging that is driving our desires. This card looks at things that are at work in your mind and heart that might be impacting why you want what you want, and why you want it right now.
What are the obstacles within? It should come as no surprise that often we are “our own worst enemy,” meaning that we often are applying energies that are actively sabotaging us in our quest for our goals. This card holds information about what things we might be adding to the situation that are hindering our ability to reach our goals.
What are the obstacles without? This one is pretty self-explanatory. If there is a person or a thing or a situation that is hindering your progress, this is the card that will help you figure out what that is, and how it’s impacting your journey. Sometimes this card will be something you immediately recognize, but sometimes you’ll find that the thing in your way is something you didn’t expect.
Where should I focus my mind? Most life coaches and self-help experts and even psychologists will tell you that your attitude towards a situation matters. How you’re thinking about your problem or your goal will have dramatic implications for whether you are able to do anything about it. This card is a good instructor on what your attitude should be towards the journey you are on. Are you stuck in unproductive thought patterns that are limiting what you can achieve? Are you focusing your mental energy on the right things that will help you get what you want? This card will help unlock that issue for you.
Where should I focus my actions? Now we’re getting somewhere! Most people who do divination are asking the same question at bottom, “what should I do?” This is the card that answers that question. The thing is, we are doing things all the time. Every moment we breathe we are doing things, even if it’s only sitting on the couch watching Netflix. The question is whether we are doing the right things. This card will supply information about whether you are doing the right things, and if not, what you might want to do instead.
Where will I find rest/peace? The path to reaching one’s goal is often called “the grind” in popular culture, but the thing is, you can’t grind away forever, because eventually the grind wears you down or chews you up. You will need to rest. You will need moments where you take a break, reassess, restore yourself so that you can continue on. This card gives you valuable information about that part of the process — insight as to what kind of rest you might need, when, and how to get the most benefit. It can even tell you if you’re not prioritizing this part of your process enough, and what you might need to do to fix that.
How will I transcend? All of us, in our own way, are trying to “level up” in our lives. That can take different forms for different people. It’s not always material success that we’re looking for. Sometimes we want better relationships. Sometimes it’s a richer spiritual practice, or a wider circle of friends. Sometimes it’s to be doing better in a sport or a creative practice or a hobby. If you’re using a divination tool to seek wisdom about something, you are looking for a way to make something better or bigger or more improved. You are looking to transcend your current circumstances. This card provides wisdom on where to get that extra bit of sauce that gets you over the obstacles, and to whatever “next level” you’re looking for. It might not be what you expect. This card often won’t make sense at first. This card will require some hard thought.
Where is all this going? A divination process that does not actually provide any information about where one might end up is going to feel very dissatisfying indeed. That is, in fact, what querants most want to know: Will I make it? Will I get what I want? Of course, the answer isn’t quite that simple. This card provides a summary of where, based on the energy the querant is currently applying, they will most likely end up, and what awaits for them at the end of their journey. If you don’t like this card, the seeds for changing what you’re doing are in all the prior cards. If this card seems like a place you don’t want to go, you might want to take a careful look at the other cards in the spread for insight as to what you might change to reach a better result.
My hope in creating this spread is that it will help folks who love the Archetypes deck and want more ways to enjoy its rich imagery.
Also, welcome to my new home on Substack!!! If you like my writing, sign up to get my posts in your inbox whenever they happen using the link below. So far I’m still building an audience, so everything right now is free, but I’m starting to think about what kind of exclusive content I can offer. Thanks for being here, I appreciate you.
Thanks for reading WItchful Thinking from Alythia! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.