Kimberly Tsan is a unique and eccentric gem in our tarot community. She brings playfulness, kindness, and quirk to the world of cartomancy. I’ve reviewed her Way of the Panda Tarot before here. She also created The Sparkly Lenormand, which I’ll be talking about in the near future. Her latest contribution is the Spread Machine Cards & Oracle, plus two optional expansion packs, Change and Quest. I’ll be covering all three card sets.
The deck itself is a limitless book of spreads to work with, spread patterns that you can narrow down through divination, through exercise of your intuition, or just by the randomized magic of synchronicity. The pastel rainbow color palette brings cheer and optimism.
In the above photo, you’ll see the eight categories that the deck is subdivided into: Seeker, Lightwork, Shadow work, Focus Areas, Success, Processing, Boundary, and Expansion.
One way I use this deck for designing spreads is to intentionally choose the categories, but then shuffle the cards from that category and pick one at random. So what specifically I want to read about from that category becomes a preliminary divination.
I shuffled the “Focus Areas” cards and asked the question: What do I need to focus on right now? Then I drew a card at random. I happened to choose “Finances, Money, Abundance.”
Then I picked up the Shadow Work pile, shuffled, focusing a second inquiry on aspects of shadow work, and drew a card, then one for Lightwork, and so on.
After the spread layout is done, I then proceed with a tarot reading, focusing on each of the prompts from the four categories, and pulling a card. Here I’m demonstrating with the RWS.
The next time I join a local tarot meet-up, I’m bringing this deck!
What’s particularly special about this spreads deck is the breadth of knowledge Tsan brings in curating the prompts. I read through all of them and found that she folds in a great deal of psychology. Doing readings for yourself with your trusty deck, tarot or oracle, plus the Spreads Machine is like therapy.
They’ll take tarot journaling to a new level. They’ll also help you get to know your deck better. You can do deck interviews with these cards.
What I also loved doing with this cards, as a fiction writer, is use this deck to help me with character development.
A great way to get more specific with your daily card draws is to integrate it with the Spread Machine deck. Here, for example, I started with the tarot card draw first, and pulled Key 18: The Necromancer (The Moon card). But how specifically will The Moon card play out? What is this energy pertaining to?
I pull a card at random from the Spread Machine deck for clarification. I got “Wellness, Health, Self-Care,” noting that my card draw, The Moon, is related to this particular focus area. Ahh!
Say I want to do a reading that will help inform what my current chart for success looks like. What does success mean to me at this juncture point and how do I achieve it? I’ll draw four cards from just the “Success” category, lay them out, and then do a four-card tarot reading.
This deck would be fantastic in a professional tarot reader’s toolkit. Say a client comes to you wanting a shadow work reading. You can design a spread, by divination or by intentionally selecting cards from the “shadow work” category, and then proceed with the reading. Likewise with the “lightwork” category and how the Spread Machine Cards augment your professional tarot practice.
Total tarot beginners or even just the tarot-curious are going to deepen their self-discovery process with this deck. For those who’d like a little more hand-holding in their learning and work with the tarot, the Spread Machine Cards would be perfect. Every deck comes with a comprehensive yet easy-to-read guidebook, so you are never left to fend for yourself. Plus, Tsan offers budget-friendly online tarot courses that you can pair this deck with, such as the Tarot Spread Machine Course.
If you aren’t quite sure what to ask the cards but just want to do a reading, then you can randomize the “Focus Areas” cards and choose a few at random. Then build a spread from the key focus areas you drew. Alternatively, I like to lay out all of them and scan the rows and columns of “Focus Area” cards, then choose what’s calling to me.
There’s fun and adventure in these cards, which can be keyed to party readings, but there’s also incredible, emotional depth. These arrows hit straight and true, no nonsense. Focus area cards like what you see above, Trauma, Healing, Deep Dive, put your favorite tarot deck to task to elicit clear self-reflective insights.
The Spread Machine cards also pair well with oracle decks. Let’s tinker with the Change Expansion Pack paired with Ethony’s Awakened Soul Oracle. Here I’m working with the second edition of the Awakened Soul, which by the way, is one of those decks that just reads so well for client readings. I’m not the only one saying it; I’ve chatted with other pro tarot readers and, unprompted, have said the same thing.
I start by pulling three cards from the Change pack at random. First card draw was from the “Call to Action” category, and specifically, needing to amplify a particular force or energy in my life. Then the second card, from the category “Flux,” is going to indicate energies in, well, flux. The specific direction that flux is leaning toward is Progress. And third, to truly bring about the change I’m seeking, there’s some shadow work to be done, specifically around the issue of Silence. So then I proceed with the oracle card reading.
I found Tsan’s Change Expansion Pack to pair perfectly with the Awakened Soul Oracle, right down to matching color palettes!
The Quest pack from the Expansion options is so fun. The premise feels very much like a role-playing game, weaving a story to be a metaphor for what’s happening in real life. When the pandemic is over and we throw in-person house parties again, the Quest deck would be amazing as a group game, a la tabletop RPGs.
The Quest pack inspires storytelling. In fiction writing, character development will make or break your novel. People will love or hate your book on the basis of character development. And these Spread Machine cards really help a writer to form well-rounded characters and narrative arcs.
You know who else will love this deck? Artists and illustrators. Use this deck with tarot to help you draft your illustrations. They’ll help you account for facets of composition work you might not have thought of.
There’s a really useful video (several, actually) on Kim Tsan’s channel that’ll help you get started with the Spread Machine Cards. Find her on YouTube as Fables Den.
While there are several other card spread design decks out there, what distinguishes one from the other is point of view and style. I love Tsan’s style and the direction she’s taken the concept of the card spread design deck. She has her finger on the pulse of trends in the tarot and spirituality communities, and she’s brought all of that into a beautifully produced, versatile deck.
Accommodating both the tarot beginner and the professional reader who cardslings for a living, the Spread Machine Cards will both deepen and broaden your work with tarot or oracle decks. Fine-tune your daily or weekly card draws. Use these cards as an oracle deck to help with goal-setting. This is invaluable in the toolkit of artists, illustrators, and writers.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received this deck from its creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.