Whether it’s for your birthday or New Year’s Eve, twelve-card spreads are typical for a year-ahead outlook, and for good reason. One card per month focuses the reading into manageable chunks, and can even help with planning for the year ahead.
I also use a twelve-card spread for my year-ahead readings, but I give mine an astrological twist: Instead of assigning each card to a month in the year ahead, I assign it to a particular astrological house. This admittedly makes it a little more complicated to interpret—but also can provide much deeper insight.
Basics of an astro-tarot reading
Each house in the astrological chart relates to a specific area of life. If you already know what your natal chart looks like, you may already have some familiarity with the houses. (Astrological house systems are widely variable, and for my purposes here I stick to whole house.)
When I used this spread at the start of 2020, my reading confused me deeply. At the time I had no idea there was a pandemic on the way, and couldn’t foresee any of the wild events the year had in store—not just for me, but for everyone. Now that we’re on the other side of the year, the cards’ meanings are much more clear. I’ll walk through them here!
Just to be clear, by the way—you may not know what cards mean at first when you lay them down. This is part of the reading! Talk through the visuals, look to the other cards for clues, and use your intuition to see what patterns feel connected to you—and then look for things that “rhyme” with that in your life. With practice these connections become stronger and so will your interpretations.
2020 Hindsight: A walkthrough of the reading
I was so confused by my 2020 reading that I pulled more cards in a second reading to try and understand it better, which didn’t help; I simply didn’t have the imagination yet to foresee a year of such profound change and devastation. (I pulled the cards in January.) What I needed was time, and experience.
Page of wands in the first house. The first house represents the self, the attitude with which one approaches life. The Page indicates a new phase of life. I went into 2020 with a lot of openness and few expectations of how it would proceed. I was a part-time student, taking prerequisite classes for a graduate program I wasn’t sure I would end up applying to.
Eight of swords in the second house. The second house represents values, possessions, self-worth. Eight of swords here manifested itself as excessive worrying about money and finances. I struggled to define myself beyond the dollar amount I was bringing in. This fretting was mostly unproductive.
The Devil in the third house. The third house can relate to siblings, the media, your immediate neighborhood or environs, and short trips (like errands). This ended up being one of multiple cards in this spread that had more of a global message than a personal one for just me. Misinformation and distrust reigned. Local businesses struggled to stay ahead of debts, many closing. Going out for short errands became a whole ordeal, and people who were “just trying to keep things normal” with maskless gatherings were deadly wrong. Rachel Pollack writes: “The Devil’s power rests in the illusion that nothing else exists.” It honestly felt like we were living in hell. Social anxiety reached new heights for me.
Five of swords in the fourth house. The fourth house relates to your ancestry or heritage, your home base, and your emotional foundation. Personally I began to see myself more clearly as a product of white supremacist culture. Not a great feeling! But an important realization in order to move forward honestly. This card is in a square aspect to the Page of wands, and one of the questions I struggled with was whether becoming a counselor as a white woman was only perpetuating a system that had already fixed “counselor = white woman” as the status quo, thus marginalizing people of color in the mental health space.
Ten of cups in the fifth house. The fifth house relates to your “creations” (like children, but also works of art), romance, and general fun. The Astrological Thesaurus says, “The fifth house does not ask you to abandon life’s battles, but to elevate them to inner levels where you can find inner satisfaction and pleasure from meeting and conquering them.” Creative pursuits weren’t just fulfilling this year; they felt essential. I didn’t produce an unusual amount of art, but I did get into making bread and really enjoyed that, and generally put a lot of energy into making my small apartment a cozy spot to shelter in place with my spouse. The fifth house also relates to luck, and I regularly felt lucky that we were able to find ways to kick back and laugh together in the midst of such a rough year.
The Tower in the sixth house. The sixth house relates to health, hygiene, and daily routines; it’s often related to employment as well. Needless to say, everything about our daily lives and health was reframed around the demands of the pandemic. We saw massive disruption to day-to-day living, and widespread loss of life.
Two of pentacles in the seventh house. The seventh house relates to partnerships: your spouse, and also your business partners; basically anyone with whom you have a one-to-one relationship. The Two here resulted in fluid working energy with my spouse; since 2020 was impervious to any kind of long- or even medium-term planning, we found we had to be adaptable and not hang on too tightly to ideas about how things were supposed to go. It felt chaotic but between us was a positive kind of energy nonetheless.
Ten of wands in the eighth house. The Astrological Thesaurus says, “The eighth house asks us to understand some deep motivations within our psyches, like needs for controlling another’s feelings through demands on their material or psychological resources, the value to you of mutually sharing in another’s emotion or trust, variations in personal demands designed to gain subconscious control, and personal needs for being and sharing with another.” I was as emotionally overwhelmed as anyone this past year, but didn’t feel I deserved to unload anything because I felt something like survivor’s guilt; so many other people had it far worse. The feelings of unworthiness were a continued theme from the second house (note that the cards oppose one another).
Death in the ninth house. The ninth house relates to international travel, high education, and other means of expanding one’s personal horizons. Death here made this journey a deeply internal one. The idea of applying to grad school died this year. Travel was completely out of the question. Personal expansion and development took on a much more internalized angle once I realized I couldn’t count on those external things to do it for me. “Ego death” probably too strong a word for it but I did some depth work with a psychologist that I think helped recalibrate some things.
Seven of cups in the tenth house. The tenth house relates to your “legacy,” your most public self and your reputation. If I became known for anything, it was not knowing what I wanted to achieve; it seemed like there were many options on the table, all half-baked, and I wasn’t sure how to move forward. Some of them were just illusions to begin with.
The Fool in the eleventh house. The eleventh house relates to organizations, groups, and society as a collective. Part of this relates to tarot circle, a group that took off this year in spite of having zero plan for how to run it (not to mention having to move to online meetings within a couple months of getting off the ground). This card also had some global meaning: 2020 was a year of massive protests, where civic participation became much more mainstream and people were much more likely to jump in.
Queen of swords in the twelfth house. The twelfth house relates to your subconscious self, your shadow side, the aspects of your personality that you aren’t completely awake to. This is an aspect of my personality that I got in much clearer communication with this year; she emerged from a place of deep shame and fear, where her power was greatly reduced and energy scrambled. This process was catalyzed by the Death influence in the 9th house, which sits at a square aspect to this position.
Strength was my overall card for the year, and it turned out to be a forged-in-fire sort of strengthening situation! 2020 had the effect of stripping away a lot of hubris and seeing things for what they truly are, and this included how I viewed myself and my role in the world. Strength asks that you honor the essential qualities of yourself and recognize the power that you have.
This was a complex reading for a tricky year, and I’m not surprised it took me the full year to put all the pieces together. And this walkthrough just shows a basic around-the-wheel way of reading the cards; the fact that cards are in aspect to each other adds even more depth to the reading, something I may expand on in later posts. I’ve used the same layout for 2021 and will see what I learn!