Please note that the instructions below describe only two possible approaches to Strings - the ones which work best for me. They might work well for you too. But you are welcome to adapt them to your own needs. And many more can be found in other people's writings.

Table of contents

1 >> The layout
2 >> When Strings are useful
3 >> How they work
A >> ... for questions about timelines, processes
>> example reading
B >> ... for what/why/how questions
>> example reading

1. The layout

The name of this spread, "String", is pretty self-explanatory. A certain number of cards (often 3 or 5) are arranged in one horizontal line, like this:

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2. When you might want to do a String reading

Strings can be used for nearly all concerns. But they are useful especially if:

You are a beginner, but already know the individual cards' meanings and have started practising the combination method.
You have a question regarding one issue.
You are looking for a concise, focused answer.
You asked a what/why/how question.
Your question concerns a timeline - chronologically consecutive stages of a process

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3. How String readings work

Depending on the type of question asked the positions in my Strings represent different things to me. And depending on the question, I would combine some cards but not others. This is why I divided the following instructions on how to read Strings by the type of question:

A - how to read timeline Strings in which the cards represent chronologically consecutive stages of processes, developments.
B - how to read what/why/how Strings in which the cards represent one in depth answer to what/why/how questions.

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A) Timelines - developments, processes

The following instructions will serve you well if you want to know about several and chronologically consecutive stages of a process, a development. If you don't want an answer in the form of several chronologically consecutive stages please look up how to read what/why/how Strings.

A.0 How many cards to use

A timeline String can have any number of cards. But the shorter a String is the fewer stages of the timeline it can display. If you work with the combination method a 3-card String will display only two stages of the process you're asking about - which (usually) defeats the purpose of the question. The longer the String gets the more stages it displays - but the more wishy-washy, saying-everything-and-nothing, the String tends to be. So for Strings representing timelines, I recommend using 5 cards. But this recommendation is not an absolute one. And the techniques I describe in the following paragraphs work for shorter and longer Strings as well.

A.1 The position's meanings

Generally speaking, in timeline Strings, the cards to the left represent early stages or phases of time, the ones in the middle the in-between stages, and the cards further to the right the later stages. If you want your String to represent past, present, and future, you might want to divide your String in thirds accordingly - but the thirds needn't be of equal lengths; phases you are more interested in can consist of more cards than others.

A.2 Interpret your String - combine cards' meanings

Since the card(s) to the very left represent the earliest stage of the process, it makes sense to start there and proceed sequentially rightwards by combining consecutive pairs of cards. There are different approaches for this.

a) Combine each card once only: This means combining cards 1+2 and cards 3+4. Each pair represents one stage of the process you've asked about. Because we're using an odd number of cards, 5, the last card has no neighbour to combine it with. So you have to interpret it by itself, in depth (see >> Single Card readings). This will almost automatically give the last card a certain emphasis (see >> the peak, below).

b) Combine each card with all its neighbours: Here, you combine cards 1+2, cards 2+3, cards 3+4, and cards 4+5. Again, each pair represents one stage of the process you've asked about. Compared to the method above, you get a few more stages for the same number of cards, and there is never a single card left over. However, because most cards are used for combinations two times, similar issues turn up repeatedly by default. Often this is a very productive thing, but sometimes it makes a reading seem repetitive.

A.3 Interpret your String: special positions

After the systematic interpretation of your timeline, combining from left to right, you can expand your interpretation by giving some cards special significance. What has worked particularly well for me is to pick a Pivot and/or Peak.

a)The Peak: The last card in the String can be interpreted as the potential peak of the process. If it is a positive card, this means that you might want to think about what you need to do to make sure (or at least more likely) that this really happens. If it is a negative card, you can brainstorm what you could do to prevent it from happening - or, if that's not possible or if it has already happened, how you could deal with this negative outcome productively.

a)The Pivot: A A card can be central to a String in the sense that it is positioned in the String's centre. But it can also be central in the sense that the topic this card addresses is pivotal to the process - that this topic plays a vital role for every stage of the process. This latter meaning of central - pivotal - is what might be interesting for your reading. But the two can coincide!
For one way to determine a Pivot is to presuppose that the card positioned in the centre also is pivotal. You then try to find an interpretation that justifies this assumption. This may sound forced, and it is - but, because it gets rid of some personal bias, it can still lead to astonishing insights.
The other way is through interpretative deduction. You conclude that one specific card is pivotal because you noticed during the interpretation of the string as a whole, that this card's topic is like a red thread connecting all the other cards, even the ones which are not neighbours. Here, the pivotal card might well turn out to be the one in the centre of the String. But it could be any of the other cards, too. It could coincide with the Peak, or even be the card to the very left.
I can't give you a definite recommendation which way of determining the Pivot is "better". But what usually works well for me is this: If, during the initial interpretation of the String, a certain card seems to stick out, or is of special significance to the querent, I try this card as Pivot first. If if this doesn't work, or if no card sticks out, I take a good look at the central card. However, sometimes all stages of a process, all topics that appear in a timeline, are equally significant, and there simply isn't a discernible Pivot at all. In this case, I don't force it.

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A.4 An example reading of a timeline String

Question: "What is the potential future development of my romantic relationship with X?"

Context: The querent's relationship so far has been going very well. There are no major conflicts at the moment, and all previous challenges have been overcome successfully and in a respectful manner, and to mutual satisfaction. So I curiously ask the querent why then they feel in need of the cards' help at all. The querent explains that despite everything going so well they would still like to identify potential hurdles in the relationship's future - so they are prepared, and will be able to again handle challenges successfully, and continue to be happy in the relationship.

Cards drawn: Tree, Stork, Scythe, Crossroads, Fish

Techniques used: I combine each card with all its neighbours and interpret the last card individually, too, as a Peak. Lastly, I discuss a potential Pivot with the querent.

Interpretation of the stages:

Stage 1 (Tree+Stork): It doesn't seem likely that anything new would happen quickly at first - the cards instead suggest that there will be a very slow transformation of the relationship's nature. Since this is the first, earliest, stage of the String there is the possibility that this transformation is already happening.

Stage 2 (Stork+Scythe): After a while a deep longing will arise to finally take stock, to finally tackle something - or, the slow (natural) process happening in stage 1 will very suddenly, possibly unexpectedly, come to a definitive end or will be cut off.

Stage 3 (Scythe+Crossroads): A very no muss, no fuss, peremptory, end of ambivalence, a cut of options, is likely to follow immediately after - no more ambivalence, no more hesitation. Put slightly differently: By cutting off other options there will be a (forced or self-determined but very definite) decision for one path. Since the querent's relationship had been going well so far it seems unlikely that this cut would take the form of a parting of ways, of a break-up, but I mention the possibility nevertheless.

Stage 4 (Crossroads+Fish): After the decision, the cut, of stage 3 there will follow a stage of much deliberation - and many new choices. For of course the decision for a very specific path will open up a whole universe of new paths and options.

Peak and Pivot:

The Peak: As Peak of the whole development, the querent interestingly can't warm up to the Fish. While they claim they feel a great yearning for abundance, wealth, and profit, they also insist that these keywords "just don't fit" their relationship - but neither do the Fish's other, more negative, keywords like greed or a "quantity is all" mentality. So for the time being we leave it at that and move on to the Pivot.

The Pivot: To determine the Pivot, I ask the querent if there was one card which stuck out to them specifically. The querent immediately says that even before I mentioned that Scythe+Crossroads might signify a break-up when they saw the Scythe they instantly came up with that association themselves - and that it awoke two contradictory feelings: fear, and relief. After quite some silence the querent continues that when they asked the cards about their relationship's future they thought they wanted the cards to point to its future flourishing. But when the Fish as Peak seemed to give them exactly that they felt a sense of wrongness, emotional pressure - and the wish to get away from it. The querent hesitatingly suggests that it's possible they are somehow aware but not willing to admit that the relationship is going to fail. Something, they concede, is missing, has always been missing, and deep down they know they won't ever get it from their partner. Now, from this perspective, stage 4 and the Fish as Peak make much more sense. For if the peremptory decision of Stage 3, the cutting away of all other options but one, really represents a break-up, this would definitely open up the huge range of new paths and options for the querent which Stage 4 seems to suggest. And the Fish as Peak confirm that only ending a relationship that never fulfilled them would enable the querent to finally seek the abundance and fulfilment they crave in places where they might actually find them. We both conclude that in this sense the whole reading is centred around the Scythe: the natural development of the relationship, the inner nature of the relationship as it is now (truly respectful, loving, but still lacking something very important on a deeper level), inevitably leads to its end. And, painful though its end might be, it is also this painful cut which will free the querent, and offer them the chance to go in search of the abundance they've longed for so long.

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B. How String readings work - to answer what/why/how questions

The following instructions will serve you well if you want to get a concise answer to a "what/ why/how" question. If you need your String to represent a timeline, please go back to timeline strings!

B.0 How many cards to use

What/why/how Strings could have any number of cards. Shorter Strings are more concise, their answers are more clear-cut, but the input they deliver is more narrow. Longer Strings yield more input, but they also tend to be a bit long-winded, more difficult (and time-consuming) to interpret. I usually pick 3 cards when my concern is pressing, but simple, and 5 cards when my concern is a bit more complex. So the techniques I describe in the following paragraphs work well for 3- and 5-card Strings. (If you are interested in reading longer or even numbered Strings, you'll need to adapt them or look for instructions elsewhere.)

B.1 The positions' meanings

I read what/why/how Strings from the central card outwards. This is because the central card represents the reading's core answer to me. The surrounding cards I thus read in the light of this core answer; as its facets, circumscriptions. For more detailed descriptions, just read on!

B.2 Interpret your String - combine cards' meanings

Once you have laid out your String, you can begin to read it. I suggest you do this in the following order and by applying the following techniques:

1. The Core:
As a start of the reading, and to set its tone, interpret the central card as the core answer by itself (see >> Single Card readings).



2. The Shell: For a more specific description of the core answer, to narrow it down, combine the centre card both with its left and with its right neighbour. Do this by keeping the core card as the combinations' topic and using both neighbouring cards as its modifiers.

mod.a) topic

mod.a) topic

After I have interpreted the central card as the Core of the answer to my question and looked at this Core from two specific angles by using its neighbours as its modifiers there are two more ways I might put more depth into my reading. Note that the first one works for 5-card Strings only. The second works both for 5- and for 3-card Strings.

3. The Foundations: This works for 5-card strings only. Combine the two cards to the left, and then the two cards to the right of the Core, and interpret both pairs as Foundations of the Core. They tell you why the issues the core card addresses are so relevant, they tell you what's behind it all. Again, combine from the centre outwards, using the two cards closer to the centre as the topics, and the cards further out to the sides as their modifiers



4. The Ripples: Imagine that the central card is a pebble that you throw into a pond. The cards to its left and right then become ripples in the water: the inner two form the ripple closest to the impact, the outer two (of a 5-card String) form a ripple further away. Combine the two cards forming the inner ripple, and then the two cards of the outer ripple, *) and interpret each pair as potential positive or negative consequences, or positive or negative motivations, for the core card's issues. Note that because our ripples in the pond are circular, you might use either card in each combination as topic or modifier (or even both), depending on which order yields more productive associations.

( (()) ) inner

ripple ( (()) ) ripple

5. The Conclusion: At the end of my readings I like to sum up the most important issues that came up during the reading, and then come back to the Core once more to discuss what concrete steps it might be suggesting that the querent take next.

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B.4 An example reading of a what/why/how String

New! An example reading for a 3-card String can now be found on my blog. Read on below for the demonstration of a 5-card String reading.

Question: "What do I need to do to be more content in my romantic relationship with X?"

Context: For nearly three years the querent was extraordinarily happy in their relationship. But in the past couple of years they grew increasingly discontent. Since they can't put their finger on what it is that is causing the discontentment, since there is no specific conflict which they think is the root of the problem, they are at a loss what to do to change the situation for the better. So they want the cards to give them some inspiration.

Cards drawn: Tree, Stork, Scythe, Crossroads, Fish

Techniques used: I interpret the central card as the Core of the answer, by itself, and then its immediate neighbours as its Modifiers. In addition, I interpret the two cards to the left and right of the Core as its Foundations, and the two inner and outer cards each as the Ripples - the consequences/in-order-tos. As a conclusion, I sum up the reading and once more discuss the Core card and the advice it might be giving with the querent.


1. The Core (Scythe): The Scythe in this specific case is very ambiguous as Core answer. I mention to the querent that the card might be suggesting that there is no contentment to be found in the relationship; that the relationship might have to be ended and contentment looked for in other places. But the Scythe could also suggest something less drastic. Right now, the Scythe may suggest, the relationship is too messy, too full with lose ends, for the querent to see things clearly. In order to even begin to regain the contentment in their relationship the querent needs to make a serious effort to declutter, to tidy up. The querent needs to harvest that which is ripe, and cut away foul or useless stuff - they need to tidy up messy areas. The querent needs to get rid of chaos and put things in order so they can take stock and find out where the lack of contentment comes from - and whether it is permanent or can be resolved.

2. The Shell (Scythe+Stork and Scythe+Crossroads): What is especially important for the querent to cut/clean up/finally tackle is that they need to finally make the last step of a long transformation they have been going through - or, interrupt a viscous cycle, stop doing the same things again and again and expecting different outcomes (Scythe+Stork). The querent needs to stop keeping all opportunities open, stop treading water - they need to finally decide to take one direction (Scythe+Crossroads).

3. The Foundations (Stork+Tree, Crossroads+Fish): One reason why decluttering/cutting away unproductive stuff has become an issue at all is because of a profound transformation of what is healthy for querent and/or their relationship (Stork+Tree). Some of what used to be good and fitting in the relationship's beginning isn't healthy anymore at the current stage of their development (the querent's, and/or the relationship's) - but the querent and their partner never cleared out the obsolete; they are still living it! Another reason why decluttering has become so essential for the relationship's thriving is that over the years there were too many alternatives, too many options, left open; too many hard decisions regarding things relevant to the relationship were postponed and then never made (Crossroads+Fish). Both the querent and their partner never got themselves to clearly choose one, mutual, direction. And because so many decisions are now still left to be made, so many options have been left open, that the querent and their partner don't know how to pull on the same string anymore - there is no clearly defined string to pull on! All that which has been left open, undecided, is now hindering them to work towards a shared and clearly defined future.

4. The Ripples (Stork-Crossroad, Fish-Tree): The querent needs to declutter their relationship, cut off unproductive, obsolete, parts of it, in order to be free to follow the path they truly need to take, that corresponds with their true nature (Stork-Crossroads). The querent also needs to declutter their relationship because only cutting away the dead stuff could enable them to fully thrive again (Fish+Tree).

Conclusion: The querent agrees that a lot of what has made them discontent is the lack of shared goals, the lack of a mutually agreed upon and shared direction. Although they have been a couple for nearly five years and living together for three the querent still feels that the two of them are living two separate lives. Important decisions, for example whether and when to start a family, were postponed indefinitely, and both the querent and their partner have repeatedly toyed with taking job offers that would require them to resettle - never taking actual steps toward that option but never precluding it, either; thus putting a constant question mark over the relationship's future.
At this point I ask the querent to come back to the Core card, the Scythe, once more, and see which advice for acting can be taken from it. The querent immediately says that the Scythe seems to be telling them to act now, quickly, to stop trying to delay necessary conversations and decisions only because they might lead to something uncomfortable or painful. Protracting it further could only cause more discontentment, the querent says, maybe to a point where it would be too late. Right now, they say, they feel that it's not too late - yet. At this point a reckoning could still lead the two of them to redefine the relationship and flourish again. But even if a reckoning revealed that the relationship had no shared grounds to stand on anymore, this revelation would be a good, albeit painful, discovery, too. The querent decides that the first step they could take is to discuss this reading with their partner and find out where exactly their partner stands on the issues it brought up.

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*) This is a very popular technique for combining cards' meanings. It is officially called mirroring and can be applied in Tableaus, too!