Tarot Spreads – The Problem and Solution Tree

Occasionally I'll post a Tarot spread that I use when reading for clients or for myself.  I find it useful to have a 'box of tricks' in the form of different spreads to help draw out information in different situations.

The Problem and Solution Tree

 Tarot spread - Problem and Solution Tree

This is a new spread that I've only been using the past few days. It's based on a quite commonly used planning tool for analysing a problem called a "Problem Tree" – solutions are then added to it which makes it a "Solution Tree". Whilst a Problem Tree seems a very practical way of getting a clear understanding of a problem that needs solving, it struck me that using the Tarot can be a good way of getting to grips with the nature of a problem that we can 'feel' but which we can't necessarily fully verbalise. Problem analysis is tricky – the Tarot may be able to give some intuitive short cuts.

Card positions are as follows:

  1. The fundamental problem to be solved
  2. A cause of the problem
  3. A cause of the problem
  4. A cause of the problem
  5. A cause of the problem
  6. An effect of the problem
  7. An effect of the problem
  8. An effect of the problem
  9. An effect of the problem
  10. A solution to deal with these causes
  11. A solution to deal with these causes
  12. A solution to deal with these effects
  13. A solution to deal with these effects
  14. A final solution to the problem as a whole

This is more repetitive than most of the spreads I use, but that's because it is specifically designed to deal with relatively complex problems which are likely to have multiple strands. It particularly suits broad issues like "Why do I feel so disengaged at the moment?" or "How can I be more fulfilled in my job?" or "How can I be happier in relationships?", rather than specific single issue questions. We may not be sure exactly what the problem is at first, just know that something isn't working, and this spread can help give some focus and insight.

To get the best out of the spread it should be read in a particular way, as follows:

Lay cards 1 to 9. First of all consider what the first card is telling you about the problem you are asking about – what lies at the heart of this problem, what is the concept, the very centre of the thing you are trying to resolve? Often the problem might not be exactly what you think it is – we do tend to confuse 'effects of a problem' with 'the problem'. E.g. Depression may not be the problem, grief may be the problem which is causing depression.

Next, consider cards 2 to 5. These are the underlying causes of your problem. Usually these will pair together – so that 2 and 3 will compliment each other, and 4 and 5 will sit together. I've seen them appear as 'too much of this, and not enough of this' or simply as a blend that more clearly indicates the exact cause.

Consider how these cards are indicating what is fuelling your problem, what is making it more pronounced, what is keeping it in place.

Next, look at cards 6 to 9. These show what impact this problem is having on your life, how it is manifesting. Again, these cards will probably pair to give you a more subtle, complex meaning. But they will also pair vertically with the causes – so the effect seen in card 6 is most directly related to the cause in card 2, and so on (although they will also cross-relate).

I think it's quite common to muddle cause and effect when it comes to problems. For instance, if you ask someone 'why aren't you more successful at X?' they will often tell you 'because I'm lazy'. Well, this spread may well reveal that 'laziness' is actually an effect, not a cause. If I saw 'Indolence' in position 6, and the Princess of Swords in position 2, that would suggest to me that when the querent is 'being lazy' they are actually just putting off activities that scare them. They don't need to push to work harder, they need to overcome their fear. If, however, the cards were reversed this would suggest that the querent was saying they were too scared to do something when in actual fact they couldn't currently be bothered to get on with it.

This confusion between cause and effect turns up all the time when I'm working with clients, and I think one of the strengths of this spread is to help sort out the two issues from each other.

After working through cards 1 to 9, lay out cards 10 to 13. Each of these cards is providing a solution to the cards beneath – 10 and 11 provide suggests for dealing with the causes, 12 and 13 with the effects. Both of these parts of a problem need attention – we need to deal with the effects so that we get some immediate benefit day to day, but obviously we must also deal with the underlying causes if we are to make any long term progress.

I would suggest spending some time engaging with these new cards – understanding how they do actually provide some solutions to the underlying issues – before laying the final card. The cards 10 to 13 are really laying the groundwork to the final solution that is provided by card 14, but I don't think card 14 can be understood until cards 10 to 13 are fully considered. Going to card 14 too early suggests that one is looking for a 'quick fix' rather than trying to really understand and solve the problem.

In my experience when card 14 is laid down it will tend to give a 'higher level' solution to the underlying problem. It will tend to give a more spiritual concept of a solution, a movement of self rather than a practical suggestion for what to do next. It is the lesson that needs to be fully learned and internalised before the problem is truly solved. Until it is learned then the problem is going to just keep turning up in different forms until we finally 'get it'.

As I said, it's important to really work with cards 10 to 13 before revealing card 14 if one is to benefit from it. Often the meaning of card 14 will be very difficult to understand if we are reading for ourselves (if for no other reason than if we fully 'got it' then the problem would already have been resolved), but the work on cards 10 to 13 will support our understanding of what is really going on.

This isn't an easy spread, but I think it's a really valuable way of getting to grips with difficult situations at the practical, psychological and spiritual level. It would be able to add other cards which are typical for problem solving (e.g. 'This supports you', 'This hinders you', 'This is an external/internal resource that you have'). If you work with this spread let me know how it turns out for you.

One Response to "Tarot Spreads – The Problem and Solution Tree"

  1. genevieve says:

    great spread! i've just finished it and it's really helped me a lot. thanks! 🙂

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