The Fifteen-card or ‘Thoth’ Tarot spread seems to have been devised by the publisher of some early editions of the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. The advantage of the spread is that cards are read in sets of three, so the elemental dignities of the Tarot can be applied.
The number 15 is the Grand Number of the Pentagram as 5 multiplied by the trinity, and the Mystic Number of the Pentagram as the sum of all the numbers between one and five:
Σ (1–5) = 15
The three centre cards (see diagram below) represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree. If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.
The Fifteen-card spread has six cards (centre and lower left) that represent the questioner. This can produce surprising insights. It is often not realised quite how much the question and its likely outcome is determined by the spiritual, mental and emotional state of the questioner.
Thoth Tarot Spread Example
Here is an example of the cards on the top right and the top left in agreement.
The cards Adjustment VIII and The Priestess II mirror each other; they are both feminine figures, represented by Libra and the Moon respectively. The Five of Disks mirrors the Prince of Disks; the Ten of Wands mirrors the Nine of Wands. Since the two sets of cards are clearly in agreement, there is a flow or natural development of the future, reading from right to left.
Traditionally, the cards on either side are used to evaluate the meaning of the centre card. The elemental qualities of classical hermeticism are used.
Fire and Water contrary ∴ Wands and Cups inimical
Fire and Air complementary ∴ Wands and Swords mutual
Fire and Earth complementary ∴ Wands and Disks mutual
Water and Air complementary ∴ Cups and Swords mutual
Water and Earth complementary ∴ Cups and Disks mutual
Air and Earth contrary ∴ Swords and Disks inimical
If (for example) a card of Wands has a Wand on either side, it is greatly strengthened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Cup on either side, it is greatly weakened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Sword or Disk card on either side, it is moderately strengthened by those cards, according to their nature.
If a card of Wands has a Cup (inimical) on one side, and a Sword (mutual) on the other side, it is said that the ‘Sword takes the Cup to the Wand’ and the Wand is moderately strengthened according to the nature of the two cards on either side. But if the Wand has on one side a Sword and on the other side a Disk, it is said that the two cards on the outside cancel or neutralise each other, since Swords and Disks are opposite in nature. In that case the two cards on either side have little or no effect on the Wand in the centre.
Trump cards, as a rule, greatly outweigh the small cards; their operation is on a different plane and in a reading they tend to represent spiritual forces or destiny. One must be careful, therefore, when there is a mixture of trumps and small cards. The trump cards correspond to zodiacal, planetary and elemental forces. Fortune X (for example) corresponds to Jupiter, and so if this card appeared with The Hermit IX, which corresponds to Virgo, the effect would be similar to that of Jupiter in Virgo in an astrological chart. The Tower XVI corresponds to Mars and so if this card appeared with The Empress IV, the trump for Venus, the action would be similar to Mars aspecting Venus in an astrological chart.
Thoth Tarot and Outer Planets
The three elemental trumps can be problematical. The Fool 0 (for example) is the primary element of Air. What if this card appears with The Devil XV, corresponding to Capricorn, a cardinal Earth sign? Air and Earth are inimical, yet the trumps are more than elemental; they are composite glyphs that mirror the paths of the Tree of Life. Two trump cards will not simply ‘cancel out’.
Fortunately the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, can be assigned to the elemental trumps. The effect of The Devil XV and The Fool 0 together can be taken as similar to that of Uranus in Capricorn.
In any reading one should look first to see if there is a predominance of any element or type. Many Wands in a reading, for example, would indicate much energy and activity. A majority of court cards would indicate that many persons were involved in the question, or there is much social activity. A large number of trumps in a reading indicate forces of destiny or karma involved with the question.
© Oliver St. John 2012, 2019
Each of the 12 Thoth Tarot zodiacal trumps are fully explained here, with key Qabalistic references.