The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread is one of the most well-known and widely used tarot spreads to this day. This layout is so well known that even tarot beginners must have probably heard of this spread.
Steeped in symbolic tradition, this ten-card spread presents a vibrant tapestry of insight and wisdom, intertwining layers of meaning into a complex, yet profoundly illuminating narrative.
This legendary, ten-card spread is like the Swiss army knife of tarot spreads, covering all the different aspects of life.
But once you’re able to read a Celtic Cross Tarot Spread, it can not only give a wealth of information about a specific issue but it also lends well when you don’t have a particular question to ask.
So let’s dive into this famous spread! In this article, we’re going to explore not just the position of the cards, but also how the cards interact and some patterns to reveal a deeper meaning.
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CELTIC CROSS TAROT SPREAD OVERVIEW
The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread is already being used for over a century. In 1911, Arthur Edward Waite, co-creator of the well-known Rider-Waite tarot deck, published his version of the famous tarot spread.
Before then, it is thought to have developed in Europe, based on the stone pillars topped with crosses found in Ireland. Because of its association with both Christianity and pagan ritual, the shape has spiritual meaning.
Therefore, the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread often offers wisdom that guides spiritual development, even if the lessons are frustrating to hear at the moment.
Now, imagine this: you’re standing at the crossroads of your hopes and fears, and there’s this magical spread that can give you a 360-degree view of the situation. Intriguing, isn’t it? That’s what the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread is all about!
So, tarot readers, put on your adventure caps! We’re about to dissect this fascinating spread, one card at a time. And hey, don’t forget the outcome card – that’s the grand finale of this intriguing tarot journey! We’re not just looking at card positions here, but we’re also exploring how they chat and gossip with each other, revealing hidden patterns and stories.
The general shape is divided into two sections:
- The Cross: This consists of the first six cards arranged in a cross shape. These cards represent a current issue, how it came to be, and where it may lead.
- The Pillar: This includes four cards placed from bottom to top beside the cross. These cards provide additional information that influences the situation. They can help the querent understand the situation and their control over it even better.
READ THE CELTIC CROSS LIKE A PRO: EASY GUIDE
Now that you understand the fundamentals of the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread, it’s time to explore a standard Celtic Cross layout.
The number of the cards shows the order they are pulled and placed into the arrangement below.
It’s important to note that tarot cards #3-6 are sometimes pulled and placed in a different order.
That’s okay! This is one of the adjustments you might make as you develop your personal tastes as a tarot reader. Just experiment and choose what works best for you.
- Position/present: This card reveals the theme or issue of the reading. Sometimes, especially if this card is a court card or Major Arcana figure, this card can represent the querent’s unique position within the current situation.
- Challenge: This card crosses the querent’s central position. It shows a key obstacle to the goals or desires of the querent.
- Below / Subconscious: Have you heard the phrase, “As above, so below”? In the tarot, this refers to the idea that whatever is going on in our subconscious realm will be reflected in the conscious realm.
This card, placed beneath the Position and Challenge cards, reveals the shadow side of the querent. What subconscious aspect is most influencing their current behavior?
- Behind / Past: Placed to the left of the Position/Challenge cards, this card shows recent past events that are influencing the present situation.
- Above: What are the querent’s conscious drives? What are they actively trying to manifest in the world? This card represents the greatest potential within the current situation. Depending on the card, this could serve the querent or not.
- Before / Near Future: Placed to the right of the Position/Challenge cards, this card reveals events that like before the querent. In other words, they will happen in the near future. At the time of the reading, these events are already coming into being.
- Power: This is the first card of the pillar structure. It also represents the querent, specifically the power they have over the situation. They can own this power to influence events. For this reason, this position is often seen as an advice card.
- House: The house refers to external influences or perceptions outside of the querent’s control. This could come from family, friends, or work peers. The house can also reflect obstacles or supports that cannot be changed, like relevant health concerns or societal ills.
- Hopes and/or Fears: This card does double duty since what we hope for often contains what we fear. Look to this card to learn the most about how the querent’s outlook is influencing the future.
- Outcome: While this is the most probable outcome given all of the factors, it is also not fate. It is simply what is most likely to happen if nothing about the situation changes. The querent does have some control over this, however.
CELTIC CROSS TAROT SPREAD: CARD INTERACTIONS
To truly master the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread, readers must learn to make connections between the different card positions. This is where deeper understanding can be introduced to the reading.
The four interactions below are key places to begin as you learn how to translate the information from the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread into concrete pieces of advice!
ABOVE (#5) + OUTCOME (#10)
Are the cards in these two positions aligned? This may be the most important interaction to understand in the entire spread.
If the cards align, then what the querent is consciously manifesting is contributing directly to the likely outcome. This is excellent when the outcome is desirable!
If the outcome is not desirable, look to the Above card to see the energy generated by the querent.
When the Above card reflects negative potential, a discussion about how the querent’s choices could be manifesting an undesirable reality may be required.
When the Above card shows positive potential, look elsewhere in the tarot spread to see what might be contributing to the disconnect.
ABOVE (#5) + BELOW (#3)
How are subconscious energies driving conscious action? This is an especially useful question if the Above energy is not desirable for the querent.
How might their shadow selves create a situation where self-sabotage or lack of self-awareness dominate?
CHALLENGE (#2) + POWER (#7) OR HOUSE (#8)
If the Challenge is unclear or troubling, examine the cards that provide insight into what the querent can and cannot control.
The Power card can offer suggestions for meeting the challenge. The House, however, represents what the querent must accept.
While it may contribute to the conflict, it cannot be changed. Real peace can come from this acknowledgment.
BELOW (#3) + HOPE/FEAR (#9)
How is the subconscious influencing the querent’s hopes or fears? This is an especially useful combination if the Hope/Fear card is unclear.
Because our hopes and fears can influence our behaviors, helping the querent understand their Below card can have the greatest impact on their mental outlook.
CELTIC CROSS TAROT SPREAD PATTERNS
Picture yourself as an intrepid tarot detective, about to unravel the mysteries of the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread. Just like a detective, you’ll want to keep an eye out for clues in every reading. Which cards twinkle with extra sparkle, demanding your attention? Not only will these illuminating cards help you piece together the intricate puzzle of the reading, but they’ll also give you a sneak peek into your own superpowers as a tarot sleuth!
Ever noticed how colors play hide and seek in the tarot cards? Or how the cards sometimes seem to hum with a certain mood, like a wordless song? Maybe there are those special cards that always seem to have a shortcut to the interpretation. These are your trusty sidekicks on this adventure, ready to help you reveal the patterns concealed in the spread.
Cracking the Celtic Cross code is not just about understanding the cards individually; it’s about spotting these secret patterns. Think of them as a bonus level in your tarot game, taking you deeper into the narrative of the querent’s life.
The Major Arcana cards hold the keys to the castle in your Celtic Cross Tarot Spread. Think of them as the pivotal characters in the epic saga of the querent’s life. These cards don’t just pop up randomly; they take center stage to signal significant life themes or lessons that demand the querent’s attention.
Each Major Arcana card carries a profound spiritual and psychological archetype, which can represent everything from a major life event to a deep-seated internal transformation. They can reflect monumental shifts in perception, turning points, or influential people or circumstances impacting the querent’s journey. It’s like spotting a landmark in an unfamiliar city; you know you’re about to enter an important phase in your journey.
In contrast, the Minor Arcana cards bring to the table the nitty-gritty details of daily life. They represent the choices, actions, and reactions that make up the tapestry of our everyday existence. They’re like the threads weaving the colorful pattern of the querent’s life story.
Counting the number of Major Arcana cards in the reading isn’t just tarot numerology; it gives a pulse to the intensity of the reading. The more Major Arcana cards present, the more powerful and transformative the energies at play. This is a telltale sign that the querent is at a significant crossroads in their life journey, with momentous decisions to make or colossal lessons to learn.
How many court cards appear? Many readers will interpret these as actual people in the querent’s life, though they can also represent the querent when they appear in certain positions (like #1, #7, and #10).
When a court card appears in the Outcome position, the querent usually has considerable control over the situation. Look to the other cards to learn the nature of that power.
Each court card, be it the Page, Knight, Queen, or King, encapsulates distinct facets of human nature and stages of development. Their appearances in your spread are, therefore, not merely random occurrences but valuable clues that can shed light on various characters or personality traits involved in the querent’s situation.
These courtly figures can take on multiple roles within the reading. In many instances, tarot readers interpret them as actual people in the querent’s life. They could symbolize a friend, a family member, a coworker, or anyone whose influence is pertinent to the situation at hand.
However, these cards aren’t solely external indicators. They can also represent different aspects of the querent themselves, mirroring their behavior, attitude, or potential. When these cards appear in certain positions, particularly in the #1 (Position/present), #7 (Power), or #10 (Outcome) slots, it’s often a sign that the querent is embodying the characteristics of the court card in question.
An appearance of a court card in the Outcome position can be especially insightful. This usually suggests that the querent has significant sway over the situation.
In this context, the nature of the court card – its suit and rank – can offer guidance on the kind of attitude or approach that might be beneficial for the querent. For example, a King might suggest a need for leadership or decision-making, while a Page might point to learning or open-mindedness.
How many cards in the reading are inverted, or upside-down? Not every tarot reader considers reversals, but they can add detail to the spread.
Many inverted cards may indicate that the querent is unaware of aspects of the conflict or of their inner drives, especially when these are present in the Below or Hopes/Fears position.
Reversed cards can also be indicative of internal processes or periods of introspection. Rather than signaling a call for outward action, they might represent a phase of self-reflection, introspection, or healing. This inward focus can be especially pertinent when considering the querent’s next steps or assessing the factors that contribute to their current situation.
In the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread, understanding reversals can thus provide a more holistic view of the querent’s circumstances. They shed light on the less apparent aspects of their life, offering a more profound exploration of their inner landscape and the subtler dynamics at play.
Which suits are most present or absent? This information can give you insight into the prevailing mood or energy.
For example, an abundance of Cups would likely mean this is a time of overwhelming emotional processing or feelings-driven decision-making.
An absence of Pentacles could mean a lack of stability, poor follow-through, or distance from reality.
In addition to Cups and Pentacles, Wands bring new creative energy and Swords are typically hard processes that bring truth to light and transform the querent’s perspective or ability.
As you become better acquainted with the tarot, you will also learn the elemental associations of the Major Arcana. The High Priestess and the Hanged Man, for instance, are both cards ruled by water, so they would amplify the power of Cups in a reading.
Every number from one to ten (and beyond, for court cards and Major Arcana) encapsulates its unique essence. For instance, Fives tend to be ambassadors of conflict, unrest, or loss. They bring with them an air of tension, but also the potential for change and growth. Sixes, on the other hand, radiate with the warmth of healing or evolving energy, echoing harmony, balance, and a sense of reconciliation.
Threes, typically constructive, symbolize creation, growth, and the power of the collective, mirroring the concept of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ As we move towards Nines and Tens, we see them as heralds of an approaching end of a cycle, reflecting completion, fulfillment, and sometimes, the hint of a new dawn.
When you spot a recurring number in your Celtic Cross Tarot Spread, it’s like getting a tap on the shoulder from the universe, urging you to pay attention. Research the numerology behind these numbers and explore the hidden meanings they offer.
Another delightful trick up the tarot’s sleeve is the connection between numbered cards and the sequence of the Major Arcana.
For example, an Eight card would be connected to Strength, the eighth Major Arcana card. All Eights, like Strength, carry connotations of perseverance, endurance, or resilience.
If you want to learn more about tarot and numerology, check out my article about how numerology can boost your tarot skills.
Generally speaking, what other patterns stand out to you? Do certain colors or symbols echo across multiple cards? Maybe there’s a recurring motif of water, symbolizing emotions, or an abundance of red hinting at passion or conflict. These repeating patterns can create a thematic undertone to your reading, accentuating specific aspects of the querent’s situation.
The direction and posture of figures within the cards can also be illuminating. Are they facing each other, suggesting interaction or confrontation? Or are they positioned similarly, hinting at common attitudes or parallel paths?
And don’t miss out on the significant symbols like the lemniscate, or infinity sign. Appearing more than once? It could be highlighting themes of continuity, balance, or infinite potential.
These elements of imagery are your intuitive guideposts. By tuning into them, you can weave together the scattered pieces of the reading into a cohesive narrative, lending depth and context to your interpretations. And as you blend these visuals with your understanding of the mood of the spread, you’ll unlock a uniquely personal, profoundly insightful reading every time.
OPTIONAL: USING A SIGNIFICATOR
Arthur Edward Waite was known to pull a card before the reading to represent the querent.
This card is known as the significator. When the tarot reading is performed, the first card is placed directly on top of this significator.
Some feel the significator is redundant because the first card of the Celtic Cross tarot spread already represents the querent’s position or issue.
However, if you do wish to ground yourself in a specific card, you can do this in a number of ways:
- Use a card you are drawn to. If you are experienced, you may have already developed a connection to a card. If not, explore the symbols and imagery of the cards to find one that feels relevant to your mood or attitude.
- Use a court card. Each of the suits represent an astrological sign: Wands are Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), Cups are Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), Swords are Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius), and Pentacles are Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn). Therefore, if you are an Aries woman, the Queen of Wands would be an appropriate choice!
- Use a card that represents your question or goal. This requires deeper knowledge. If you are wondering about the fate of your relationship, for example, you might choose a card like the Two or Ten of Cups. Pentacles cards would be better suited for questions about career or material concerns.
If you haven’t used a significator, give it a try! It can be a great way to initiate a conversation with the querent. However, you aren’t an inferior tarot reader if you decide it’s not for you.
FINAL REFLECTIONS ON THE CELTIC CROSS TAROT SPREAD
I know how tempting it can be, especially when you’re first starting out, to scrap a Celtic Cross Tarot Spread that doesn’t immediately “make sense.” Sometimes it can also feel disheartening to receive cards that have unfavorable meanings.
Rather than dismissing a tarot reading, I encourage you to journal about it. Record your reflections and your questions, for example with these printable tarot spreads.
As you grow as a tarot reader, you will then be able to reflect on your larger journey and track how your understanding of the cards evolved.
In some cases, however, an unclear outcome could warrant another reading. In that case, some recommend taking the Outcome card as the new significator and completing another Celtic Cross Tarot Spread to learn more about it. Others will draw one more clarifying card for insight.
Whatever you choose, embrace the process. Be open to your mistakes. It’s the only way to learn!