“What makes it so hard is that before we can start the journey, we first have to step over the chasm our own fear and keep our heart open.”
My tarot practice is cyclical, and the way I use the cards tends to change with the seasons. Most months, I ask for a single card at the new moon to serve as a guide, teacher or companion to help me make meaning of the journey I’m on in that lunation. This has been a particularly impactful contemplative practice for me, and most of the time I don’t feel called to do more with my cards than that.
But there are certain moments during the turning of the year where I feel drawn to dig a little more deeply. Where my monthly luna card serves as a contemplative anchor, these seasonal spreads give me a sense of the longer-term journey I’m on. Every year, every moon, every day is a pilgrimage, and tarot helps me make sense of what I’m seeking.
“You have to begin searching the land, the internal land, the internal territory. Now you hold torches into the caves of your own psyche, looking for the part of yourself that has the ability to live without habitual direction. Even though you are feeling dry and barren, now you go on a journey. Even though it’s a rough ride, even though it’s painful, now it is the journey itself that has the juice that you have been seeking. It is the journey itself that is fertile. For whatever it is you are seeking is also seeking you.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
I created this Solstice Portal Spread (below) right before the June solstice, as the light was preparing to wane here in the northern hemisphere. It was a challenging moment in the middle of what’s been a very challenging year for me. Grappling with a bleak mental landscape, I was in need of a spread that could give me something to hold onto as I plunged head-first into a painful (but necessary) journey.
So I asked for the portal/doorway/threshold that I was being asked to cross. I asked for help from the aspects of myself I didn’t know how to access. I asked what I was missing, what I had forgotten, and how to face myself with as much courage as I could muster.
I pulled the cards, and it took me days to reflect on where they were pointing me. I set the center card out on my altar and allowed it to be a subtle reminder of the threshold I agreed to cross.
I revisited this spread a number of times between the solstice and the equinox, and each time it showed me something new. Looking back now, I can see my journey reflected back at me with new eyes. This spread didn’t change me, but it gave me a context for understanding the ways in which I was changing.
“The journey to become a pilgrim means becoming a stranger in the service of transformation.”
Christine Valters Paintner
The struggle hasn’t gone away. My summer solstice portal brought me a fresh diagnosis for something I’ve been unwittingly living with my whole life (ADHD), and I’m still navigating what that means for me. I’ve been reluctant to share much about this journey because it all still feels pretty tender & new. My confidence and self-understanding is shaken, and I’m learning how to trust myself again.
But I’m still here. I feel like a damn mess most days, but I’m trying to remember that it’s the mess that makes me human. There’s no sense in trying to hide away from it, of putting a filter on it, of pretending it isn’t there.
So, with all of that said: If you tarot, I invite you to take some time with this solstice spread. Make it your own. Do a deep-dive, or let it be a slow burn. Set the journal on the shelf and forget about it afterward, or build an altar to the portal you’re walking through.
You can’t do it wrong, and you can’t fuck it up. Promise.
Before I share the spread itself, I’ll leave you with a few questions that came to me in the days after first doing it myself last June:
What if we don’t have to be anyone but who we are to be worthy of being known?
What if there is no roadmap we have to follow to make that happen?
What if our hearts are the only guides we need?
Until next time,
Solstice Portal Spread
by Sara Holodnick
This spread might seem a little fiddly to set-up, but it doesn’t have to be. Let it be simple if that’s what you need. Choose your own path based on how involved you want to be. And once you’ve shuffled and prepared your deck/self/space the way you do, begin.
Center 🖤 card: Start here. Draw until you receive a major arcana card.
Cards P - K: Draw for the specific court card (or their equivalent in your deck) for each of these positions. You can do this one of three ways:
Separate your court cards from your deck and organize them into mini-stacks (a stack of Pages, Knights, etc…).
Draw cards from your deck until you receive the kind of card you’re looking for. When I did this spread, I would draw cards until I received a Page, then until I received a Knight, etc…
Pull out your court cards and look at them, face-up. Choose one of each based on your own intuitive knowing.
We’re interpreting these cards as aspects of self. No matter our age in years, we can draw on the wisdom of each of these aspects of ourselves at any time. A specific aspect of your inner child (Page), inner adolescent (Knight), inner mature/middle-aged one (Queen), and inner elder (King) are here to guide, companion and teach you this season.
Cards 1-8: Alternate pulling a card from the bottom (B) of the deck (odd numbers) and the top (T) of the deck (even numbers).
I’ve oriented this spread to start in the east with the rising Sun, and laying the cards out clockwise in each direction.
🖤 Central card - Major/Theme: What portal of awakening is opening for me now?
P - K - Court/Guides. Which aspect of my ___ self is my best guide as I enter and navigate this territory?
1 - 8: Making the unconscious conscious.
What core truth have I been overlooking? (B)
What am I learning that will help me remember? (T)
What deep desire have I hidden so well I’ve forgotten where to find it? (B)
What fear am I facing that will help me rekindle it? (T)
What blessing do I keep mistaking for a curse/problem? (B)
What am I healing that will help me recognize it? (T)
What essential resource have I forgotten I have access to? (B)
What new growth will help me make use of it? (T)
Sara! I cannot wait to do this spread, thank you.
I felt this in my soul:
"This spread didn’t change me, but it gave me a context for understanding the ways in which I was changing."
Your words always feel like they were written directly to me. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD 3 years ago (mere months before the entire world changed) and wow what an interesting shift that was. I'm continually learning and growing, so many ups and downs but also, so much more understanding.
Be gentle with yourself, I love your soul.