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How to Read Tarot Spreads

How to Read Tarot Spreads

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More and more people turn to Tarot for answers in the here and now. A little insight here, a little insight there—and suddenly the road of life isn’t so challenging. Tarot provides that nudge to your intuition so you can make choices. And besides all that, it’s a fun way to gain insight about yourself, your loves, and your friends. In this guide, we will be looking at the three major spreads that you will be using for your readings.

What the Card Positions Mean

Remember these three factors inform the interpretation of all Tarot readings:

In a Tarot spread, you lay out the cards in a configuration. Each card has a meaning based on where it falls. You can know what area of life a card is speaking about by its position. The position also indicates whether the card is speaking to you about the past, present, or future. The position tells you a lot: whether the lesson is one you have mastered or one you need to learn, whether your wish will be granted, or whether something stands in the way.

You can learn more about what a Tarot card means by the cards next to it. When reading a spread, you may initially have two possible interpretations of a card. The cards around it can tell you which interpretation fits. Make notes about both interpretations and consider the nuances of each. Pay attention to the one that feels true or has the most energy. We call that the card interpretation that resonates—like the sound of a bell hanging in the air. This is your intuition talking to you.

If you hit a snag when interpreting a card, you can throw down another card, asking for further elaboration. Make your next question more specific: Is this about me, or is this about my mother/father/sister/brother? Is this about the past, present, or future? Is this about my money or my relationship?

Or you might want to use a new question and another spread. You can always ask a follow-up question.

The Three-Card Spread

In Tarot spreads, the Three-Card spread mirrors the essential spiritual energy of trinities in the universe:

How to Read Tarot Spreads: The Three-Card Spread

Three-Card spread.

Draw three cards right now from your Tarot deck. First, consider the possible meanings of each, according to the trinities we’ve just listed. Don’t worry too much about whether you know what the cards mean; feel the cards in relation to each concept. Next consider the underlying message or energy of the three cards together as they move to a point of clarity or completion.

The Three-Card spread is ideal for a daily reading, just to check in with the situation around you. Think of it as a quick fix, a head start, or a cosmic overview.

The Seven-Card Spread

The Seven-Card reading is based on the number 7 as the spiritual number. This reading adds more spiritual insight into a situation, or more inspiration. The cards are divided 2-3-2, with the first pair about past issues; the middle three about present conditions and developing events; the final two about the outcome.

How to Read Tarot Spreads: The Seven-Card spread

Seven-Card spread.

The Celtic Cross Spread

The Celtic Cross is a terrific spread to use to go deeper into a situation. Here’s a look at what the positions mean:

  1. Self. This is who you are (or your Querent). This is your essence, your core self.
  2. Opposing Forces. Readers often lay this card sideways, sometimes overlapping the Self card, because it signifies a force that is working against the Querent’s true nature or presenting a challenge in the Querent’s ability to express his or her true nature.
  3. Background/Foundation. This card indicates the origin of your question. It could be about your background—your family of origin, your childhood—something that’s shaped you. It reveals why you asked the question.
  4. Recent Past. This card points to events that have led up to this day. The influences of these events are fading from view, but they have created the present.
  5. Near Future. This card reveals events that are taking shape. This is what’s just on the horizon. This card reveals an event that has the potential to occur. It shows you that the event is attainable. If it’s a negative card—something you don’t want—you have the choice to avoid it, if you act on the advice shown in the spread.
  6. Higher Power. This card may represent your higher power by whatever name you wish to use: God, Allah, Buddha, Creator, Source, Goddess, the Divine. Or it may represent your highest and wisest self. It can represent aspects of both.
  7. Issues/Fears. This card points to your fears about the challenge ahead. It reveals your tendencies, which you can counteract if you turn to your allies and follow the advice of the Advice card.
  8. Allies and Supporters. These are your loved ones, your friends, the helpful people in your life. Or it could be others who have influence, negative or positive, on the situation. This card shows how your question affects those near you, and it shows who among your circle of family and friends will be your best ally. It doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a talent, a resource, or an organization.
  9. Advice. Here is your assignment. If you take the advice of this card, you can favorably influence the outcome. You can take the information in this card and use it to thwart your own worst tendencies, to face fears and worries presented by the Issues/Fears card (position 7). If you take the advice of this card, you can remove the obstacles revealed in the Opposing Forces card (position 2).
  10. Outcome. Here is how it all turns out. This card represents the long-term solution. This card and the Near Future card (position 5) indicate the timing of events. If you don’t want this outcome, look to the other cards for the choices presented to you. If you do want this outcome, look to the Advice card (position 9), Issues/Fears card (position 7), and Higher Power card (position 6) for ways to maximize your effort.

The Celtic Cross can be used to delve into just about any area of life. And if the spread brings up another question, you may use the Outcome card (position 10) as the Self card (position 1) in a subsequent reading, to get further illumination.

How to Read Tarot Spreads: The Celtic Cross spread

Tarot’s Celtic Cross spread uses 10 cards to tell the full story about your question.

With these three spreads you will be able to use your Tarot cards to the best effect. And if you need more in-depth information on what each card means, check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tarot, Second Edition. Have fun, and happy reading!

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tarot Spreads Illustrated by Arlene Tognetti and Carolyn Flynn