The Pentacle Spread for the Light and Shadow Tarot Deck

The Pentacle Spread was created by Mark Hannan, the poet of the Incantations in the Light & Shadow Tarot deck book published by Inner Traditions, 1996. The Pentacle Spread can be used with any tarot deck. Below find a full description of how to draw and read the Pentacle Spread.

How to do Pentacle Spread

Pentacle Spread for Light and Shadow Tarot Deck

Overview

The Pentacle Spread is drawn with eight tarot cards. The order is dependent on what type of pentacle is being used and the direction in which it is being drawn. This practice comes from the traditional process of casting a circle; widdershins (counter clockwise) or deosil (clockwise). You would draw a pentacle deosil when you are creating or preparing to act upon something and would use widdershins when wanting to undo something.

The Pentacle

The starting point is determined by what part of the self or situation you want to anchor the reading. For example, if the issue centers around a body issue, you would start at the top point, Earth/Body (North).

Determining the direction to draw the spread depends on the action contained in the question. If you are wanting to explore ways to diet successfully you would, “How can I stick to my diet”, you would draw the pentacle deosil. If the question is “How can I stop eating junk food so much” you would draw the pentacle widdershins because you are wanting to undo a behavior.

How to draw a pentacle

Drawing a Pentacle

Attribution of the Pentacle Points

The attribution of the pentacle points is somewhat varied depending on traditions. Earth centered practices normally put the earth and body at the top, in the north, while some hermetic traditions place spirit in that position.

This spread follows the earth centered (Celtic Wiccan) tradition except with regard to the two arms. In the traditional attribution Mind is on the left and Emotion is on the right. This is based on the perspective of where the body, represented by the pentacle, is facing – outward. Because the Pentacle Spread is a reading of one’s action of looking inward, of looking at oneself, I have switched the arms to reflect that shift in perspective – the Mind on the right and Emotion on the left. You are looking at yourself, not out from yourself.

Pentacle diagram with man

Person as Pentacle Diagram

Also, the corresponding directional attributions (north, south, east, and west) of the pentacle coincide with those used when casting a circle for ritual. In the Reclaiming tradition circles were sometimes cast with this incantation, a variation on Starhawk’s short form circle casting which she learned from Victor Anderson. These pentacle point attributions informed those used in this Pentacle Spread.

"By the Earth that is our body, By the Air that is our breath, By the Fire of our bright spirit, And by the Waters of our living womb, A circle is made. Here in the Center, As above, so below. Blessed be."

Therefore the points are attributed thusly:

  • Top = Body (earth, north)
  • Right = Mind (air, east)
  • Lower right = outer Energy, conscious (fire)
  • Lower left = inner Energy, unconscious (fire)
  • Left = Emotion (water)
  • Center = the situation / issue / question
The elements of the pentacle

Elements of the Pentacle

The Challenge or obstacle card (drawn 2nd) is laid over the Center-Issue card and the Outcome card (drawn last) is laid over the other two cards in the Center.

The Eight Card Process

  1. After quiet contemplation, state the issue. Draw the first card and place in the Center. This card will point to the aspect of the issue to consider.
  2. Now consider that aspect of the issue and form the question.
  3. The nature of the question will determine how you will drawn the Pentacle Spread, either widdershins (undoing) or deosil (doing).
  4. Draw the second card, the Challenge or obstacle.
  5. The combination of the first card (issue) and the Challenge card will determine the point from which you will start to draw the Pentacle Spread. Is it a body, mind, energy (conscious or unconscious) or emotional aspect of the issue and challenge that you want to explore? Start drawing the spread from that point and in the determined direction.
  6. With each card draw focus on the aspect of the card’s message that corresponds to the position of the card. For example, if you drew the 7 of Swords on the Body (physical) point consider how the aspects of the card’s meaning apply to the physical nature of the issue or challenge. If that same card were laid down on the Emotion point, you would consider the emotional aspect of the card’s meaning and how it applies to the question, issue and challenge.
  7. Lay the final card over the two cards already in place at the center.
  8. Review the Pentacle Spread as a whole and consider how the new understanding will influence future thinking and action with regard to the issue.
Pentacle spread for light and shadow tarot

A Completed Pentacle Spread

The Pentacle Spread provides you with an opportunity to fully explore the body, mind and spirit aspects of any given issue and challenge. It gives direction as to problem solving opportunities and actions through a focused review of the elemental qualities of the situation at hand.

Check out this short video of a sample Pentacle Spread: Video of 8 Card Pentacle Spread

I am very interested to hear your comments and experiences with this spread and would be grateful if you shared them here in the comments. Thank you.

© Mark Hannan, 1998-2012

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4 thoughts on “The Pentacle Spread for the Light and Shadow Tarot Deck

  1. I am trying out a new deck while trying out a new spread – maybe not the best combination! In spite of the steep learning curve, the reading turned out to be deeply informative of both.

    My impression of reading this spread for myself is that it was incredibly deep, and also incredibly honest. Part of it was working through and getting used to the Haindl imagery, which is quite dense, but very moving, forcing you to expand in many directions instead of getting caught up in clearly drawn pips.

    As I moved through the spread I could feel several things unlocking, a nearly physical release of pressure, both regarding my question and my understanding of the Haindl deck. Each new position added a new flavor and a new spin on unraveling fears and apprehensions, and I could feel the layers just shed off as the pentacle came to its conclusion. (although the instructions for the spread left me a little confused, having the numbers being steps instead of card positions took me a second, breaking apart the reading and using the first few cards to develop and refocus the question was a fantastic tool) I will have to try it again with a question that requires building instead. I definitely learned something about myself and gained valuable new perspectives on an issue that is currently troubling me. I am excited to find a friend who is comfortable with digesting the spread.

    It also had an incredibly calming affect. I feel as if I have been trying to meditate, read my Bible, read my tarot cards, learn more about astrology, etc. for weeks now, but no matter what a small sliver of anxiety continued to plague me and then grow back to its normal place after a short period of time. Everything was just distracting from my issues as opposed to dealing with them, I suppose. This spread may not have offered me perfectly concrete answers, but it was the first time I was legitimately able to breathe deeply and to slowly consider what was going on with my life in what feels like ages.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Sometimes doing things in a new with, with new tools, unlocks what seemed hidden in the shadows before. Let me know if I can assist in any way as you try the spread over time. I think you will find much more revealed as you come to know the deck and the spread. It is meant specifically to take one deeper into their understanding.
      Merry met, merry meet again.

  2. Ummm.. Not trying to be too critical, but your pentacle image… Is not the spirit supposed to be on top?
    Like I said, not trying to be overly critical. Other than that I like your site.
    Blessings.

    • Moon Wolf, thanks for your comment. Different traditions attribute positions in alternative ways and I chose this one as the most familiar to me and how I have worked for many years. The great thing about the Tarot is that you can adapt spreads to your own ways, the key is to be consistent over time with the ritual parts of a reading. Then it becomes your own. Merry met, merry meet again.

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