Skill Level: General (All)
Together, let’s walk through a tarot reading method instructed by S. L. MacGregor Mathers in The Tarot, Its Occult Signification, Use in Fortune-Telling, and Method of Play (1888). He describes this reading technique as “a very ancient mode of reading the tarot” that “will be found reliable.”
Shall we try it out for ourselves?
First, download the Reading Notes worksheet. You’ll be logging your card results on these pages (or copy the format into your tarot journal). I urge you to either use the worksheet or take really organized and structured notes on your reading here, because there are a lot of card pairs to unpack. =)
The Worksheet includes a final Review section for you to return to the reading later in time and give yourself feedback on whether your predictions came true or whether you may have misinterpreted some of the cards and how they actually came to fruition.
Alternative Reading Approach
In the video tutorial, we are reading the First Horseshoe as the Past, Second Horseshoe as the Present, and Third Horseshoe as the Future.
However, there is an alternative way to read these the three sets, and that’s noted in the above-linked Worksheet.
You can also opt to read the First Horseshoe as revealing of the Self, of the personality or character in question.
The Second Horseshoe reveals the environment, the plot points and situation the querent is in.
The Third Horseshoe can be read as the path forward, i.e., the future, or one’s spiritual path, or some combination of the two indications.
In the selected passages of Mathers’ instruction on the reading method, he doesn’t get into any details about what each of the three Horseshoes indicate. However, I inferred the trinity and Septenary correspondences contextually, based on the preceding content in his book.
Experiment: Read Exactly the Way Mathers Would Instruct
A fun way to take this reading method out on a test drive is with a Tarot de Marseille deck and, following the instructions in The Tarot, read with reversals.
If you’re not familiar with the Marseille system at all, that’s even better, because the most entertaining way to do this is to force yourself to work off the card meanings given in the Mathers text, which you can download as a supplemental handout.
The Tarot (1888)
In the above handout, I’ve rearranged the ordering of the card meanings. For the original order Mathers put the cards in, check out the subsequent download of The Tarot (1888). In the above PDF, I arranged it in the order that the majority of modern tarot readers are going to be used to seeing the cards. In a few places, I’ve also edited the text when the original phrasing by Mathers has become obsolete, so I included modern equivalents.