This is for both customers and readers - customers so you can see some of my process, and readers because I know sometimes space is at a premium when you're working! People may imagine us in a room full of incense with a nice table that's not used for anything else and a crystal ball, and I don't like spoiling the illusion, but often we're sharing space with others and have our phone and computer (for chat readings!) at hand besides. A big spread is great for theatrics, but you seldom need one...I'll show you why!
The above spread is for a woman in a long distance relationship (who was so kind as to give me permission to post this!) She wants to know if she will be seeing her man soon. The deck is Lenormand, and the cards are laid out thus:
1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
The first vertical line, 1-4-7 (Ship Ring House) shows the past. It shows them travelling to visit each other, so we know the reading is on track. Traditional meanings for this combination also allude to business connections and contracts, and the client affirms that they do practical business-type favors for each other as well.
The next vertical line, 2-5-8, stands for the present. The cards are Letter, Cross and Mountains. The Cross often has to do with things that are fated, i.e., things that are just going to happen no matter what. Free will doesn't always reign supreme. But in this case it's good, it's a positive message. The Mountains at the bottom indicate that the problems are almost done, the client is more than halfway there.
The third vertical line 3-6-9, (Man, Sun, Bouquet) stands for the near future. The man in question has a sunny, optimistic nature, and is successful with things creative and artistic. This also indicates success for my client, since it's her reading. And the Man is in her near future. ;)
Now, the horizonal lines:
1, 2, 3 (Ship-Letter-Man) Message from a man regarding a journey
4, 5, 6 (Ring-Cross-Sun) This relationship cannot be broken. Luck and energy.
7, 8, 9 (House-Mountain-Bouquet) Shows no access to a house, but remember this is past-present-future...she hasn't seen him in awhile, but she will soon. Remember that the Mountain is only an obstacle that delays things for a bit and it's on the bottom, it's not "crushing" any cards. Besides that, the Sun melts the iciness of the Mountain. And Sun next to the Bouquet is DOUBLE LUCK.
Now, the diagonals:
1, 5, 9 (Ship-Cross-Bouquet) Current luck and satisfaction is destiny. There may always be some business about this couple (they're both very driven) and they might not be together all the time, but this relationship isn't going away.
7, 5, 3 (House-Cross-Man) The man's house is one's destination, i.e., she will be going to see him this time.
But wait, we're not done yet. The four corner cards summarize the reading:
Man on a journey, likes to travel, romantic, lovable, knightly, lucky journey. The client validates this and hopes for a lucky journey! Looks like it'll be her going to visit him this time (Man and House AFTER Ship) but a superbly lovely and enjoyable trip (Bouquet).
But wait, we haven't read the diamond! 2, 4, 6, 8, Letter-Ring-Sun-Mountain. Ring-Letter, a contract...this could be their business dealings or their relationship. Letter-Mountain, no message at the moment, but it's coming, take heart. Letter-Sun: positive message from a man...see? :) Ring-Sun, lucky connection, Ring-Mountain, stress in a relationship and Sun-Mountain, better times soon.
Now, knighting isn't usually done in a small spread like this, but if you want to try, just read the cards the way a knight moves on a chessboard: 2 spaces, turn, one space, OR 1 space, turn, two spaces. For example, the Man could knight to the Ring and the Mountain, so you read those combinations. Some blockages, but a strong bond...such is life.
Now look at the card on the bottom of the pile you didn't use in the spread...in this case it was the Book, a secret. Something unrevealed. So we're going to find it by getting the Quintessence of the spread...see those numbers in the upper corners? Add them up and reduce them like in numerology. In this case they reduced to 16, the Stars. And if you add 1+6, you get 7, the Snake. Stars + Snake indicates a new start for a woman. Of course this could be taken a couple of ways, but looking at the overall spread things are positive!
All in all, a mostly happy reading, things are on-track and normal for this relationship, no worries and those few cards said a lot. This can be adapted to Tarot (just reduce the numbers for the Quintessence to 21 or less and find the corresponding trump) and lots of other oracle decks! Just play it by ear and find what works for you. ;)