Most of you have seen or used a spread with four positions based on the four suits of the Minor Arcana. Usually it describes what is going on at four levels: body, mind, emotions and spirit, or some similar quaternity. I sometimes lay out four aces from one deck as position holders and then lay cards from a second shuffled deck on top of each ace. Sometimes a fifth card/position integrates the whole or offers advice.
But, there’s a much more interesting way of using the four aces that also offers far more information.
Four Aces Spread Instructions
• Determine the Spread Intent before you begin (see chart below).
• Shuffle your deck thoroughly, cut, restack and then turn cards over one at a time.
• When you get to the first ace, take the ace and the three cards that follow and place them on the table in a row (left to right). Continue turning over cards until you get to the next ace and the three cards following it. Place them on the table below the first set. Continue with the next two aces until you have four rows of cards on the table.
Exception: if one ace follows another without three cards in between, then the first ace will have less than three cards in its row. The meaning of the short row will depend on what you intuit it to mean in the circumstances. Sometimes it strengthens the card(s) that did turn up. If there are no cards it could indicate that area is not involved in the situation being discussed (consider whether it should be).
Spread Intent: The overall meaning of each row is determined by the ace that leads it. Decide on one of the following sets of meanings (or your own) before you begin:
The Order: The order in which each ace turns up is very important:
- 1st Ace: The Main Character. The primary focus of your attention and energies right now.
- 2nd Ace: The Complication. An area you have not been paying as much attention to but can interfere with what’s going on in the first row.
- 3rd Ace: The Sidekick/Guide. A secondary focus or emphasis. It may help you resolve tensions between 1 and 2, or suggest helpful actions.
- 4th Ace: The Upstart. Something new or “renewed” that will be assuming more importance, possibly as a result of your interactions in the other three areas.
Begin by considering just the four aces in terms of their order in the spread. For instance,
How are Love/Relationships the primary focus of your energies? How are issues around Money and Security interfering? How might focusing on Work and Creativity help? Will you soon need to think about Problem-solving to overcome a difficulty?
Then, read each row of three cards as a unit that describes what’s going on in that position. Ignore the Ace except as it sets that row’s meaning.
Special Cards: The Fool appearing in any row indicates that things are not like they seem; a trickster element is present. The highest Major Arcana in the spread trumps all. You can triumph best by paying special attention to the qualities and lessons of this card and its position.
The sample reading I did was quite extraordinary. My intent was a “Life Sphere” reading. The deck is Kat Black’s gorgeous Touchstone Tarot (catch Kat Black’s interview about this deck on Tarot Connection). Notice that an angel designates each ace.
The Aces were, in order: Wands, Coins, Swords, Cups. The order tells me: Work & Creativity is the primary focus. I’m not paying attention to money (darn it!). I have some Problem-solving to do. Love & Relationships are upcoming—maybe (see comments below). Here’s the spread with a very brief commentary:
Row 1: I am feeling challenged and hemmed in (9 of Wands) by decisions I need to make (Queen of Swords) about the work I love (Knight of Cups).
Row 2: No cards! (The Ace of Swords followed immediately after the Ace of Coins.)
Row 3: I can successfully triumph (World) over the most extreme difficulties (10 of Swords) by calmly applying my wisdom and experience (Hermit) and by letting go of something that is not going anywhere (10 of Swords again).
Row 4: No cards! (The Ace of Cups was the last card in the deck.)
Summary: My overall feeling is that, in order to focus on the work that is most fulfilling to me I need to defend my choices of creative work (despite their not bringing in money) and weed out whatever I can from my list of obligations. If it’s a problem that can’t be solved then I shouldn’t continue trying to do so. While relationships are not at the forefront right now, they will eventually become important again. With the Queen of Swords as my standard Significator and the Hermit as my Soul Card, I’ve got two indications that this is more important than it may seem and the whole issue rests on my own decisions and clarity of purpose. The World as the highest Major Arcana suggests that I can triumph by eliminating what is not part of my Hermit path. Now’s not the time to worry about money or love—although I should be aware that what I’m doing is not helping either.