Carrie Paris’s “Open the Symbol, Ignite the Spirit” Spread

Good afternoon, friends! Today’s reading uses the “Open the Symbol, Ignite the Spirit” spread from the inestimable Carrie Paris ( It’s a wonderful five-card spread that delves into elemental motivations that surround us at the present moment and bring wisdom from alchemical structures and symbols. Here is the layout from Carrie’s web site:

carries layout

I then took it and put it into a pentagram and distributed the elements in a way that made sense to me. Take a look:

cards both


And then I shuffled up and laid out the cards, using The Light and Shadow Tarot by Brian Williams and Michael Goepferd. I didn’t have a question in mind; I just went with Carrie’s direction of opening the elements, with the intention of Starting with Fire in the bottom left, I laid out the pentacle in the following order (basically opening the Pentacle): Fire, Air, Earth, Spirit, and Water. Let’s look at what came up.

Under Fire (what is burning for you), the card is the Three of Wands. This is a card of balancing the energies that have been generated so far and sent off into the world, and waiting to see what comes back. It’s also a card of growth and energy. The sun rules this card, as does Aries, so there’s a ton of power and potential here. Wands are all about fire, about creation and passion and generation. In the element of Fire, the Fire House of the spread, it adds fuel to the engine of what we’ve sent out and gives it an extra layer of oomph. It’s very important to keep those fires going even though we don’t have validation (yet) that what we’ve sent out will successfully reach its target and then safely come back to us–in the same way that you can’t send something out on its way and then keep calling it back to you because you’re insecure and you really really want to make sure it’s ok, you can’t call this energy back now that it’s out there. You have to let it go, and keep the fires of your passion burning brightly on faith. Luckily, your faith is strong.

Under Air (that which wants to be given voice), we have the first of three knights in this reading, the Prince of Pentacles. This is such an earthy card you can practically smell the buffalo. While the Prince has wings to help him rise above any earthly problems (which is a useful gift to have in the House of Air here), he doesn’t really need them. He holds pentacles lightly in each hand, signifying control over the suit without being controlled by it, and he wears horns like the buffalo, which symbolizes a unity with the deeply rooted force at the source of this card as well as an ancestral force for forward movement and connection with the land.  He is powerfully in control of the thoughts he is channeling, and he can use the immense power of the buffalo to drive his thoughts and ideas in any direction he chooses. As a knight he’s a seeker, a searcher for truth and understanding in the world of Air, and he uses his slow, careful, methodical powers to sort and sift through everything that floats through his airy perch here, and uses it to feed the other energies of the larger Pentacle.

Under Earth (the plan that wants to be realized), we have the second of the knights in the reading, the reversed Prince of Cups. When upright, this card is sweet and dreamy, the water-bearer and the one who carries the mystery forward from the heart into the wider world. He is the one who believes without question. But now in this reading he is reversed, and all his mysteries are pouring out into the Earth House itself at the right foot of the Pentacle. He is not in his element here, and his vision is clouded by earthly concerns. His heart has been broken, perhaps, and it’s causing him to see through his “grief goggles” rather than seeing what’s really there. This foundation of the larger Pentacle is shaky, but it may not be a bad thing. It could be that, just as a mermaid struggles on land to adjust to her new legs when she’s been used to having a powerful tail, the Prince of Cups is struggling to bring his heart into alignment with earthy reality rather than living in a beautiful fantasy that is utterly unrelated to anything real. The water seeps into the soil of the Earth House, and we hope that it will bring refreshment and growth to whatever seeds are there, to give rootedness to the Prince’s emotional dreams that he so wants to make real.

Under Spirit (that which is calling your spirit to action), we have the third knight in the reading, the Prince of Wands. This Prince is easily the most fabulous of the deck–check out his feathered headdress that rivals the splendor of the lion’s mane and the sun’s rays! Everything about him screams “THE PARTY DON’T START ‘TIL I WALK IN.” He holds the potential of all creation in his hand, and has the beginnings of an understanding of exactly what he can do with it. He has not yet achieved mastery, but he’s got control of the lion which is a great start. In the Spirit House, he brings fire to the soul-spark: he serves as an ignition switch (or a detonator, depending on what’s going on in your life at the moment). He will light the fire of your soul, and bring light to that which is darkest. He brings hope, which is the greatest igniter of all. The lion is a regal reminder of the sacredness of Spirit, the royalty we always are–as long as we can remember that and act accordingly.

Under Water (that which wants to be understood in your heart), we have Death. When someone we love dies, we don’t understand. When things in the world that we love and care about break, fall apart, or otherwise devolve into chaos, we don’t understand. When Russian soldiers get drunk and think it’d be hilarious to fire an immensely powerful missile into an airliner carrying 300 men, women, and children on board, we don’t understand. We don’t understand when men kill their partners, when priests molest children, when generals overthrow legally installed governments, when governments sell other governments billions of dollars worth of guns and then act surprised when those guns are used to massacre non-combatants; but most of all, we don’t understand why people we love have to die. What is Death? What is the cosmic end that is the gateway to the Great Beginning? Does it hurt? Do we wake up from it? What happens? And perhaps most of all: are the people we love who have died ok? Or are they gone, blinked away into nothing? What is all this lunacy of love and loss; what is the point of what we put ourselves through? These are the questions that haunt our hearts and yearn to be answered.

Or maybe that’s just me. ❤

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