The Shield & Sword spread (aka Celtic Cross) is generally best suited to examining outcomes where the Tree of Life spread is mostly geared to examining profiles. The Tetractys Spread is the one spread that is geared as liberally to either focus, yet is unfortunately the least understood and is almost never used by the vast majority of card readers. I would very much like to see this change because the Tetractys Spread is more than just a card spread. Coming to a fair degree of competence with this spread goes a long way towards establishing the so-called “Knowledge & Conversation” with one’s HGA (Holy Guardian Angel) or its exact equivalent. Magickal powers may come or go but the establishing of this working dialogue is something that never leaves you just when you might have needed it the most.
It’s best to begin by understanding the spread’s component parts: the monad (top row), the dyad (2nd row), the triad (third row) and the tetrad (final, fourth row). We can cast the spread in a variety of ways but these divisions always retain their unique identities. No one card can be identified as the “outcome card” in this spread but rather outcomes are assessed in lieu of all 10 cards acting together as one, the higher rows giving us additional feedback on the lower. This doesn’t mean we should avoid yes/no questions but rather expect that the tetractys speaks to us in its own way and it is up to us to learn that language well in order for our own accuracy to improve with practice. It has been said that it is impossible for the oracle to give us a false reading; rather our own limited interpretations get in our way. If we approach things this way we stand a much higher chance of coming away with a sense of satisfaction with the readings we embark upon.
The Four Elements (mundane plane):
Aristotle defined the elements in the following way:
- Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
- Air is primarily hot and secondarily wet (for air is like vapor, ἀτμὶς).
- Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
- Earth is primarily cold and secondarily dry.
Though chiefly a memorization devise, his definitions have stood the test of time and are still used by modern card readers today.
The following glyph demonstrates a qabbalistic slant on the four elements, flanked by the eight trigrams of ancient China:
One thing is apparent from this brief little discussion of elements thus far: there seems to be an unusually high degree of disagreement over such a basic thing as the four elements! No serious student of the occult should let this stand in their way but rather press on until you reach a place of relative peace of mind with your own understandings. Despite the appearance of a certain amount of discord, this is all cosmetic and minor compared against the bigger picture which actually demonstrates a surprising degree of agreement on a grander scale.
The Three Principles (planetary plane):
Salt (fixed, past), Quicksilver (mutable, present) and Sulphur (cardinal, future) constitute the three spiritual principles underscoring the four elements. Viewed as interactive forces, these amount to the Destroyer (salt), the Sustainer (quicksilver) and the Creator (sulphur) relating to our experience of time and change, of evolution and involution accordingly.
The Two Seeds (ethereal plane):
The two seeds defined here as Luna and Sol are in all respects equivalent to Yin and Yang respectively. Together, with Unus Mundus we have the Three Gunas: Tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic) on the Yin side; Rajas (passion, active confused) on the Yang side; together with Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious) uniting and completing them in the middle.
The One Fruit (world soul plane):
Called Unus Mundus here we have what is called in the East Taijitu, or the balance of Yin and Yang together. We can also express this principle as the Tridosha or the balance of Yin, Yang and Jen properties balanced together as one. In any case we have an exemplification of purest meta-mind both preceding and completing all things. We have altogether left the realm of the mundane at this stage of no-thing-ness, yet all things remain intact held together in perfect love and will.
Several noteworthy links on the tetractys spread: