The Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do spread is for issues of disharmony, feeling out-of-synch, needing a tune-up, or trying to orchestrate a complicated arrangement. Each note of the scale has a different meaning, according to the mnemonics of the famous song from The Sound of Music:
- Do is "a female deer," and the card for this note describes the totem for the reading.
- Re is a "drop of golden sun," referring to a guiding light.
- Mi is "a name I call myself" and stands as the significator.
- Fa is "a long, long way to run," referring to the undertaking at hand.
- So is "a needle pulling thread" and points to elements that need to be brought together.
- La is "a note to follow So" and therefore the result of the previous synthesis.
- Ti is "a drink with jam and bread," referring to what will sustain this undertaking.
- "And that brings us back to Do," which offers a sense of progression from the first to the last card.
Let's employ this spread for a music-related reading, using Tarot of Portmeirion major arcana cards to predict the success of the next Festival No. 6 held in Portmeirion, Wales. It's a highly ambitious undertaking, with dozens upon dozens of bands and artists, held in a very small space in a remote corner of Wales. A recipe for disaster? The festival will occur in the first week of September, and then we can return to our reading to see how accurate it turned out to be.
For the totem deer, Do, we draw The Hermit. This figure stands in a lofty alcove, right hand clutching his heavy cloak, right knee bent to take a step. Above his head, a large five-pointed starburst illuminates his way. Yet, with eyes closed, the Hermit appears to take guidance from an inner light. The Hermit is located above an archway to a piazza, near a fish pond. Interestingly, his back is to the pond, as if his journey has taken him out from the depths of the unconscious. Perhaps his eyes haven’t yet adjusted to the light of the intellect. In our Tarot spread, the Hermit faces away from the World, further emphasizing his retreat or isolation. In the context of Festival No. 6, the Hermit tells us that the totem deer is overly withdrawn and not fully conscious of worldly concerns.
The guiding light, Re, is The Lovers. They are depicted in a Classical-style ceiling mural beneath the archway of a Gate House. The figures are pagan deities, reminiscent of ancient zodiacal personages at play in the heavens. Acrobatically tumbling through the ethers, one figure atop a horse reaches out to join hands with another whose cape billows like a parachute. Though their fingers haven’t yet touched, their eyes are locked. The composition suggests a Yin/Yang balance and a clockwise cyclical flow. In terms of this spread, the Lovers suggest that the guiding light of Festival No. 6 is the spirit of connection, bonding, and affinity. The Lovers epitomize the quest for the Other that stretches us, at the risk of breaking our hearts. And so this festival seeks to stretch the village of Portmeirion as a venue, even at the risk of harming the intrinsic nature of the place.
The significator, Mi, is The World, suggesting that Festival No. 6 wishes to be a microcosm, bringing together artists from great distances into a world-class event. The World card depicts a statue of Hercules (representing Atlas) supporting the Earth. The World is located near Portmeirion's Hercules Hall, at the top of Hercules Steps. Interestingly, attached to the base of the statue are several engraved tablets, commemorating various splendid years. If one imagines time as a river, then the years flow around and around the Hercules statue like a whirlpool around a boulder. Hence, The World speaks of timeless contentment. In this Tarot spread, Hercules faces the lion of Strength, which seems uncannily appropriate. In general, the World card bespeaks accomplishment, wholeness, and contentment. Note also that Hercules has a lion skin on his shoulder, and the lion skin faces the Hermit. This illuminates a seemingly invulnerable retiring instinct that Festival No. 6 is overcoming.
The long way to run, Fa, is The High Priestess. She is a trompe l’oeil mermaid “sculpture” painted on sheet metal. She sports two tails, symbolizing duality. They curl up to suggest, along with her curved arms, a figure-eight/infinity shape. The infinity shape is echoed in the dramatic curls of her hair. Eyes closed, she cradles a large fish from whose mouth flows the water of the deep realm of the unconscious. The High Priestess, framed by an archway, meditatively sits atop a sphere in a stone pavilion near a tollgate. The High Priestess symbolizes the wisdom of the inner voice during contemplative silence. In the context of this spread, she indicates the long-term need for patience until things flow smoothly.
The needle pulling thread, So, is Strength. The card depicts a lion statue, regally lying under a hedgerow canopy behind a Gothic Pavilion. The lion is awake but restful, his jaw relaxed and his eyes simultaneously fixed and glazed, as if in the midst of mindful meditation. As the statue was a 90th birthday present to Portmeirion’s founder, it suggests strength through endurance, resilience, life-long learning, and legacy. As the lion faces The Moon, he indicates a need for controlling the tendency toward changeability. As the needle pulling thread, the lion calls upon Festival No. 6 organizers to synthesize the well-earned life lessons of the village's founder.
La, the note to follow So, is a black sheep limply dangling from a balcony. (It's intriguing that a source of wool follows a card about thread. Are there ways in which Festival No. 6 is putting the cart before the horse?) Formed of cut sheet metal, the ram is a silhouette of itself, its only dimensionality provided by its curled white horns. The darkness and flatness suggests an encounter with the shadow self. Suspension of will is explicit—the limpness symbolizes an end to struggle, a relinquishment, an acceptance. As a silhouette in profile, the sheep’s two eyes have become one, and that eye is wide open to experience nonduality. The Hanged Man is located on the side of the Toll House, just below a St. Peter statue. In this spread, the Hanged Man faces the High Priestess, crucially indicating a sacrifice.
The sustaining Ti is The Moon, whose shining form is frequently framed by archways and portals throughout Portmeirion. In this card, it shines over the phoenix gate at Unicorn cottage. As the moon glows with reflected light, it is a symbol of illusion. The phoenix represents the individual, needing to break free from illusion. The phoenix famously transforms itself by burning away the old and rising anew from the ashes. In this Tarot spread, the phoenix faces Justice, as if wishing to break free from authority, legalities, and administrative issues. So what sustains Festival No. 6 is the spirit of breaking away from former limitations and creating something wholly new, even if rules must be bent along the way.
And that brings us back to Do, the totem animal who progresses from a Hermit into a Justice. The card depicts the statue of a dispassionate angel wearing a long white robe. Her two hands unroll a ribbon-like scroll. She literally upholds the system of order. Balance is suggested by the positions of her hands: she raises the left end of the scroll almost above her head, while the right hand is fully extended downward. Justice stands on a pedestal in the middle of a colonnade. In this spread, she faces the ram, as if a higher power is accepting the sacrifice of something of value. In other words, the Hermit-like totem will give up some of its willful reclusiveness so as to propitiate the powers that be.
— Craig Conley is author of the acclaimed travel guide Puzzling Portmeirion, The Young Wizard's Hexopedia, the Tarot of Portmeirion, HarperCollins' One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, Pomegranate's One Letter Words Knowledge Cards Deck, and Weiser Books' Magic Words: A Dictionary. He is co-author of New Star Books' Franzlations: A Guide to the Imaginary Parables. He has published dozens of articles in such magazines as Verbatim, Pentacle, Mothering, and Magic. His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, Publishers Weekly, The Associated Press, and dozens of others.