When you hear the word ‘spread,’ what do you think of? Butter, a bed, or something else? Tarot spreads are sets or patterns of cards laid in a tarot deck during a session reading. A spread is formed after the cards are shuffled and cut in a deck. Each pattern has its own meaning and there can be a lot of combinations of 78 cards.
Since there are too many possible tarot spreads, I’ve decided to focus on my favorites. Choosing the right tarot spread is the start of unfolding new truths. Here are some of the common major tarot card spreads to consider when reading for yourself or others.
3 Card Tarot Spreads
If you are new to this world of divination and you want to practice your tarot reading skills, then the 3 card spread is one of the most suitable for you. It is perfect for beginners because of its simple format. Actually, this is still advisable to use even if you are an experienced reader and you simply want to enhance your skills. Why? With only three cards, it’s really hard to get this one wrong.
By just using three cards, you can do basic reading and give immediate answers to your family and friends. You can get clearer and more precise answers to what appear to be complex. This tarot spread also gives room for discussion between the seeker and the cards as they use only a few cards as compared to bigger spreads. Lastly, it avoids unnecessary distraction and just let you focus on your true question.
Although we call this the “three-card spread” there are actually many ways to read it. In this article, I’m going to focus on four ways to read the 3 card tarot spread: balanced, foundation, crossed, and linear (BFCL.)
You can create this layout by forming a pyramid using the three cards. Each of the cards, just like each side, is important. Here are a few ways that you can look at each card:
- Mind, Body, Spirit
- Physical State, Emotional State, Spiritual State
- Subconscious, Conscious, Super Conscious
- Option 1, Option 2, Option 3
- What I think, What I feel, What I do
The foundation layout allows you to get an answer through the third card based on the first two cards. It is as the result of something that has a specific basis or a ‘root.’ When I use this spread I simply make a pyramid with two cards on bottom and one on top. The top card is the situation at hand/result. The root cards below tell me what is going on behind the scenes.
This layout is all about seeing the situation, obstacles, and needed action. The first card acts as the situation while on top of it is the second card that acts as the problem. You can also see it as a barrier from attaining whatever goals you have. Then, the third card that is distant from the first two cards serves as the solution, outcome, or advice. Here are a few ways you can dig in deeper with a crossed tarot spread:
- Situation, Obstacle, Advice
- Aspiration, Obstacle, How to Overcome
- Opportunities, Challenges, Outcome
- Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis
The linear layout, from the word itself, is where the three cards are positioned horizontally. Out of the four ways to read the 3 card spread, this is the most common and the following spreads are used:
- Past, Present, Future
- You, Your Path, Your Potential
- You, Relationship, Partner
- Situation, Action, Outcome
- Idea, Process, Aspiration
The first card helps you reveal factors or issues that are connected to the situation. The second card helps you understand the current situation. The third card reveals any possibilities for the future. This pattern is usually used to answer questions in a simpler method. If you want to examine a situation in greater detail, you’ll probably want to go with a spread that uses five cards or more.
Basic Five Card Tarot Spreads
This type of spread uses only five cards. It is a popular layout in a card reading because using more cards gives room for deeper answers, possible predictions, and more information than a three-card spread. At the same time, these readings are not too long and hard to read since they do not need too many cards.
Furthermore, the five-card spreads are usually used by tarot readers in their reading for the reason that they are versatile and can be used in many situations. Because it is less complicated and very easy to use, just like the 3-card spread, it can be experimented and applied in different scenarios, depending on the querent’s wish.
Five Card Simple Spread
You can use a five card spread when you want to seek answers fast, assist you when deciding on something, or serve as a guide in times of change. A five-card tarot spread can also help you identify the next move you might need to make.
In this spread, the five cards create a cross shape. The first card represents the current problem or the perceived situation of the person requesting the reading. The second card is what the possible hidden details of the problem entail or what probably caused the problem in the past.
The combination of the first and second card, which is the present and the past, is the future aspect. The third card appears to be a possible future outcome should the inquirer take a certain course of action. The fourth card is actually all the possible outcomes.
Lastly, the fifth and last card is the overall view of the whole situation, the final prediction, and advice.
Celtic Cross Spread
Another famous tarot spread is the Celtic Cross Spread. Though it may look complicated at first, it is also easy to use though it is not recommended for beginners. It uses 10 cards and a circle and line layout. There are now many variations with this spread since tarot readers have made many changes and personalization.
In addition, it can give you more insights and elaborate answers if you have a particular question. Not to mention, it can also be used when you do not have a specific question that you want to be answered. What is more, it is very helpful to analyze a certain situation in a more in-depth analysis since you are able to identify all possible factors to the bigger picture.
However, be reminded that it could be a bit complicated to deal with and you might not find it super easy to work your way around it especially if you are a beginner since it uses more cards compared to the three-card and five-card spreads. Of course, practice makes perfect. If you’re bored with simpler tarot spreads, get acquainted with the Celtic Cross.
Celtic Cross Positions
Here is a common variation or position of the Celtic Cross Spread. I’ll try to break down each part and what each card holds for:
1. Present situation – It refers to the current situation or phase of the seeker. It also reveals what is happening or the state of mind of the querent.
2. Challenge – The present problem the seeker facing at the moment.
3. Past – An event in the past that has caused the present situation.
4. Recent past – This refers to the possible events in the recent past that contributed or led to the current situation.
5. Future – This refers to the future that is yet to come in the inquirer’s life.
6. Outcome – The possible result if the situation remains the same.
7. Thoughts and feelings – This card is all about the seeker’s internal reaction to the situation. This will reveal how they perceive the whole situation. It is also something that the querent can control.
8. External factors – This involves the outside forces such as people and events that are beyond the seeker’s control.
9. Hope and fears – This one is relatively hard to analyze. Just remember that there are almost always related to each other, what one hopes might be one fears. It is better to get a second card to seek more clarity and avoid confusion.
10. Final outcome – This is the final outcome of all how the cards are related to each other. In this card, the seeker gets a picture of where the situation will be heading to and what is the possible result. It is, however, still dependent upon the querent on their free will and how they choose to deal with the present situation.
The Horseshoe Spread is another winner. One can easily recognize this pattern since it resembles literally the shape of a horseshoe. Despite the fact that it uses seven cards, do not be intimidated since it is still considered an easy spread to work on. The cards are positioned in a manner that are related to the different aspects of the situation or problem at hand. On both sides of the center card, there are three cards placed and formed like a horseshoe. The manner of reading starts from left to right.
This particular kind of spread is used when you want to get answers and clarification from a particular aspect in your life such as love or career. It can also provide the reader with an immediate answer or answers to very easy problems or concerns. Below is an example variant of this spread:
The first card represents the past. It refers to the situations or events that contributed to or caused what’s going on right now. The second card represents the present situation where the reader is. The third card represents other factors that contribute to the situation. The fourth card represents the querent’s hopes and fears. It tells the positive and negative outlook of the inquirer. The fifth card represents the perception of other people towards the seeker. The sixth card represents the advice to the inquirer, and finally, the seventh card represents the final outcome of the situation.
The Astrological Spread is rather more complicated than most spreads used by tarot readers. Because of its complexity, it is more suitable for people who have at least basic knowledge of astrology and zodiac, and for those who really want to explore it with much enthusiasm and interest. It also has many variations and a difficult one to analyze so its familiarity is not so common to many readers. Despite its difficulty, it is still a spread that can offer you an interesting play.
This specific type of spread usually utilizes a total of twelve cards laid in a circular position. Its design is to offer a representation of all the zodiac signs for all the next 12 months, starting from Aries up to Pisces. The first month serves as the present month, or it could be the following month if the current month is near to an end. Note that there is an option where there can be the 13th card to be placed in the center of the circle to represent the final outcome, theme, mood, or lesson of the whole year.
Having a total of 78 cards in a deck, you can make the circular form six times, with six center cards. By getting chances of creating circles more, it gives you a chance to get more information during the reading.
The following is the list of cards and the representation of each astrological zodiac sign, in order:
- Aries – The Individual – how the person behaves and thinks in a situation
- Taurus – Financial Situation – money, practical matters, possessions
- Gemini – Communication – all kinds in daily activities
- Cancer – Home – emotional and physical home concerning family members
- Leo – Pleasure – Romance, love, art, holidays, creativity, self-expression
- Virgo – Work and Health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects (although work here does not refer to one’s true purpose)
- Libra – Relationships – all types including friendship, romance, and business-related partnerships
- Scorpio – Emotional Issue/Specific Objective – birth, death, sex, inheritance, other people’s money
- Sagittarius – Beliefs – changes, hope, education, dreams, long-distance travel
- Capricorn – Career /Work – ambitions, drive, talent, reputation (also refers to one’s true calling)
- Aquarius – Friends and Social Groups – present or future hopes
- Pisces – Vulnerability – burden, hidden desires, restrictions, dangers, subconscious, fears
- Final Outcome (optional) – This last card reveals the main outcome of the whole situation, although the term is kind of ambiguous since the tarot reading can only reveal six months.
Yes-or-No Tarot Spreads
This is the simplest spread of all the kinds out there since it gives you a direct and straightforward answer of a simple “yes”, “no” or “maybe” to your question. This is recommended if you want to get a quick answer without further factors or aspects. You can get another card from the Court of Pile once you are done interpreting your card. You’ll find that I’ve already given general ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers for each tarot card in the deck at the bottom of my blog articles.
Of course, this kind of reading isn’t for everyone. Most tarot readers are simply not found of this type because they are restricted to only two answers. Even if it is asking a simple yes or no, maybe they feel the need of getting deep or exploring the answer more. It is easy to get a Yes or No, but sooner or later, we are driven by our own free will, follow our own judgment, and that Yes or No can easily change in an instant.
Yes/No questions seem to serve as a hindrance from exploring the heights and depths of tarot reading. The world of tarot is more appreciated because of its complexities that are wonderful and mesmerizing at the same time. The journey of discovery and finding out what is more beyond the surface, the influences and energies that both surround and affect the situations, and the possible course of directions that you want to choose are just some of the aspects that make tarot reading interesting. Therefore, without these explorations, a Yes/No can still be unsatisfactory.
Indeed, there are many types of tarot spreads that yet to be given attention and waiting to be discovered. It is not only interesting and fun to work with them but also they can give you helpful answers in the path of your self-discovery and inner strength. You may be surprised with new perspectives that you have not considered before.