ver on Conjure Gnosis Balthazar recently posted a tarot spread based on The Sphinx Gate from The Neverending Story. I highly recommend you check it out.
Considering how important The Neverending Story is to my occult cosmology I can’t believe I had not thought of a tarot spread based on it, though I have worked out all the Majors as characters and events. (Seriously, I have 28 pages of notes on how it’s actually a mystical/occult text, I reread it ever year, and have an AURYN pocketwatch, based on the movie design, because that’s the only thing better about the movie.) Anyways Balthazar did a great job, with one fatal flaw…he used the dreaded movie!
I know I know, everyone born in the late 70s and 80s loves the movie, and as a standalone movie it’s pretty damn good…but if you read the book you realize how horrible the movie is. The movie only tells half the story, and worse still it tells the setting, it paints the picture for the real story which takes place after Bastian renames The Childlike Empress, after the movie ends. I’m digressing. Anyways, I like what Balthazar did, and the inclusion of Gmork and Falkor cards is a great idea, but I’m a book purest in this regard, and the Gates are different in the book than the movie, the movie removed one of them even, so I thought I would alter his spread to be in line with the book. Inspired by his work, I shifted the meaning of some of the cards, and added in the No-Key Gate, the hardest gate to pass through.
verything Atreyu did was for his a quest to stop the Nothingness, which leads him to the Southern Oracle. This spread is for when we’re on our own quests, when we have goals to reach. My few experiments have shown it is more insightful for quests regarding our inner self, than external world, but that could just have been me with my readings.
So think of your quest, and deal down the cards, 1-5, and then F and G. The F card is Falkor and the G card is Gmork, they’re extra cards and only one may be used in the spread.
Card 1: The Great Riddle Gate: What do I have to answer before proceeding on my quest?
The Great Riddle Gate is very abstract, that’s why the simplified it in the movie. The sphinxes stare at each other, sending out riddles, all the riddles of the universe. Anyone caught in the stare of the sphinxes is frozen to the spot, unable to move until they have solved every riddle in the universe. Obviously no one ever does, so they perish. Only if the sphinxes close their eyes can you pass.
So the first card asks “What do I have to answer before proceeding on my quest?” The sphinxes aren’t giving you all the riddles, but if they’re going to close your eyes you have to know the answer to this one. These often seems to be about motivation or preparation. Question why do you want this quest, are you ready for it?
Card 2: The Magic Mirror Gate: Who am I really?
“When you stand before it, you see yourself. But not as you would in an ordinary mirror. You don’t see your outward appearance; what you see is your real innermost nature. If you want to go through, you have to – in a manner of speaking – go into yourself…I’ve known travelers who considered themselves absolutely blameless to yelp with horror and run away at the sight of the monster grinning out of the mirror at them…What some saw was not so frightening, but it still cost everyone one of them an inner struggle.”
Who are you, really? The result is somewhat quest dependant too, so what is this quest showing you about your true self, what aspect is it highlighting. Is it something that terrifies you, makes you uncomfortable, surprises, disappoints, or delights you?
If this card is very negative, this is when you flip over the Falkor card. I will quote Balthazar directly here
“Falkor is Atreyu’s luck dragon and always believes in Atreyu because he knows his true potential – as such he represents what the Greeks called the Agatha Daimon (the good guardian angel). The Falkor card in the spread represents your ideal self, your highest potential – what you CAN become. This card should ALWAYS be interpreted its most empowering light. If the truth revealed by either gate is disheartening allow the Falkor card to balance your vision of yourself, so you can integrate the knowledge of your total being and thus grow stronger in your quest.”
(I would also point out that his assessment as Falkor as the Agathd Daimon is spot on. “From now on you’ll succeed in everything you attempt. Because I’m a luck dragon.” He is Atreyu, and Bastian’s Supernatural Assistant however you want to parse that. All the more telling because Atreyu meets his suspended over an Abyss, and has to get past Ygramul, the Many, who is quite clearly Choronzon.)
f on the other hand Card 2, the True Self is very positive, it is time to flip over Gmork.
“Gmork is the agent of the Nothing bent on destroying Fantasia (your dreams). The Gmork card shows you where you could potentially stumble in your quest, your weaknesses or your blind spot. It represents what the Greeks called the Caco, or Evil, Daimon – this is the shadow self. The parts which are hidden, denied or toxic. By bringing any positive revelation given by the gates into balance with the message of the Gmork card you can achieve greater balance and personal power.”
Gmork, as an agent of the Nothing, spreads hopelessness with him, but is in understanding his nature that Atreyu actually regains his hope. Read the Gmork card as negatively, that which interferes inside of you, what you overlook, what takes away your will, your hope, but understand that you need to recognize that to overcome it.
Falkor reminds us what is great about us when we feel lost and worthless. Gmork reminds us what is still unbalanced, misdirected, and negative inside of us.
Card 3: The No-Key Gate: What do you have to give up to complete the quest?
“The No-Key Gate is closed. Simple closed. And that’s that! There’s no handle and no doorknob and no keyhole. Nothing. My theory is that this single, hermetically closed door is made of Fantastican selenium. You may know that there is now way of destroying, bending, or dissolving Fantastican selenium. It’s absolutely indestructible. Fantastican selenium reacts to our will. It’s our will that makes it unyielding. But if someone succeeds in forgetting all purpose, in wanting nothing at all- to him the gate will open of its own accord.”
In order to pass through the No-Key Gate Atreyu had to forget everything, who he was, why he was on a quest, and even that he wanted to pass through the gate. It was only through his connection with Bastian that he was able to make that final journey. What do you have to give up to complete the quest? What is holding you back? It might be something negative, but it could even be something that seems positive, but doesn’t fit this situation. Atreyu remembered everything when he passed through the gate, so whatever you give up can be something reclaimed, but what has to be put aside for you to finish the quest?
Cards 4 and 5: The Southern Oracle: The secret to completing your quest, and the actions to take.
Here you meet Uyulala, the Voice of Silence, the Southern Oracle. The Oracle provides you with an answer, and it comes in two parts. The first is the fourth card, what is the secret to completing your quest, what do you have to do? The fifth card the concrete action to do now. The fifth card can also manifest as the next step in a smaller quest to finish to finish this greater one. Don’t be surprised though, no quest was ever completed just by knowing the path, the hard part is to walk it.
(For those comparing spreads I put Falkor and Gmork in different positions. I put Falkor beneath or before the Great Riddle Gate, because Atreyu encounters him before the gate in the web of Ygramul and it’s their interaction that gets him to the gates. Gmork on the other hand is found in the Spook City, which occurs after, so I thought I’d put them linearly.)
Also, if you’ve never read the book do yourself a favour and pick up a copy. It is on my list of books all occultists should read.