The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread is one of the most well-known and widely used tarot spreads to this day. And even if you’re just starting out, you’ve probably heard of this spread.
However, being a 10-card spread, it’s also one of the hardest spreads to learn and it will take some time to fully understand it and get the deeper insights.
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.
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.
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.
Celtic Cross Tarot Spread Card Meanings
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 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
When you begin experimenting with the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread, notice which cards stand out to you in every reading. Not only does this help you interpret the reading, but it also helps you discern your own gifts as a reader.
Are you aware of color, for example? Can you sense a certain mood? Which cards offer the quickest path to interpretation?
The patterns below provide additional information the tarot reader can use to interpret the querent and their situation.
You can observe these patterns as a place to start or extend your natural tendencies.
How many Major Arcana cards are present in the reading? Generally speaking, Major Arcana cards represent large themes or lessons the querent must learn. Minor Arcana cards, by contrast, indicate choices the querent can consider.
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.
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.
Inversions can also indicate periods of self-reflection or inward focus rather than outward action.
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 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.
Numbers carry their own meaning, so pay attention if a number appears more than once!
Fives, for example, typically represent conflict or loss. Sixes are healing or evolving energy. Threes are typically constructive. Nines and Tens represent the approaching end of a cycle.
Keep track of these patterns and research the numerology when certain numbers appear! You can also connect numbered cards to 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, carries 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? Are there certain colors or symbols that appear repeatedly? Are the figures in cards facing each other or standing in the same way? Does the lemniscate, or infinity sign, appear more than once?
By noting these patterns, you learn the new connections between cards for each specific reading. You can also incorporate your understanding of the mood into your interpretation.
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. 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!