Book Spreads: The Handmaid’s Tale

Decks Used: Refine & Play Tarot, Red Thread Oracle

The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985) is a dystopian novel set in a near-future New England, where the patriarchal and totalitarian Republic of Gilead has overthrown the U.S. Government.

Narrated by a woman known as Offred, a handmaid forcibly assigned to produce offspring for one of the republic’s Commanders, the story centers on her personal struggle to come to terms with the dissonance between what was and what is. Throughout the novel, Offred copes with that dissonance by imagining different scenarios – by turns, hopeful and fearful, resilient and resigned – for what may have happened to people she once knew, and for what may happen in her life moving forward.

The things I believe can’t all be true, though one of them must be. But I believe in all of them, all three versions of Luke, at one and the same time. This contradictory way of believing seems to me, right now, the only way I can believe anything. Whatever the truth is, I will be ready for it.

This also is a belief of mine. This also may be untrue.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (Ch. 18)

The continual telling and retelling of certain events – how they went or how they might have gone, how they are going or might go or will go – left me thinking about the way we make sense of the present through our understanding of the past. What we understood about the past while seeing it through our past eyes can be very different from what we understand when looking at it afresh with our present eyes. And so, it is through continual reassessment, and continual refinement of our personal narrative, that we come to terms with where we’ve been, where we are, and ultimately, where we are going.

The Spread

Spread Position Meanings:

1 – Then: A card to represent the situation as it existed then, before the change at issue.

2 – Now: A card to represent the situation as it exists now, after the change at issue.

3 & 4 – Fears & Hopes Then: The fears and hopes you held then, before the change at issue.

5 – Reality/Lesson: The reality of the situation then and/or the lesson to be learned from the change.

6 & 7 – Fears & Hopes Now: The fears and hopes you’re holding now, after the change at issue.

8 – Reality/Advice: The reality of the situation now and/or advice for how to move forward.

Oracle cards may be used as signifiers in place of cards 1 & 2 or as focus point(s) for the reading overall, as shown below.

“Then & Now” reading on the passing of my father after a long illness. Red Thread Oracle cards drawn as focal points.
Shadow cards (top & bottom of deck after spread cards were all pulled)

For more on Atwood’s novel:

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