A tarot spread is the pattern in which tarot cards are laid out for a reading. Each pattern has its own energy, and each card in the spread represents a distinct aspect of the whole reading. There are endless tarot spreads possible, and many readers create their own.
The tarot deck used for a reading is just as important as the spread that a reader or querent chooses for the reading. The right tarot spread is crucial for setting the reading on the right path.
Since it wouldn’t be possible to cover every potential tarot spread, here’s a list of some of the most common ones used.
The Three-Card Spread
The three-card spread is ideal for beginners. It’s the simplest of all tarot spreads and is typically used when addressing simpler questions.
For the three-card spread, lay three cards out in a horizontal line. When reading, start out on the left. That leftmost card symbolizes the past. It will help uncover any issues that may be affecting the querent’s situation. The center card symbolizes the present, and will help clarify what’s currently going on. The rightmost card symbolizes the future, and will reveal possible outcomes based on choices the querent makes.
The Five Card Spread
Five-card spreads offer a bit more information than three-card spreads, and are most useful in helping querents determine what they should do about specific situations. The spread can also reveal information about the outcome based on the querents’ decision on certain courses of action.
For this spread, the five cards are laid in a cross pattern. The leftmost card represents elements from the past that are affecting the present situation. The center card symbolizes the current situation. The rightmost card symbolizes future outcomes. The bottom card reveals information behind what led to the current situation, or what may have caused the current situation. The top card reveals possible outcomes should the querent follow a certain course of action.
The Celtic Cross Spread
Celtic cross spreads are the most popular tarot spreads. They use 10 cards in a cross and line pattern. To begin, cards one through six are laid in a cross pattern. Then the seventh through the tenth cards laid in a vertical line alongside. Card 7 is at the bottom of the line, and card 10 is at the top.
Here is a list of what each card in a Celtic cross spread represents.
Card one: the querent’s current situation.
Card two: the querent’s present troubles or obstacle.
Card three: the best outcome possible.
Card four: the source of your present situation.
Card five: the querent’s recent past
Card six: the querent near future.
Card seven: who the querent currently and generally is, and how the theme of your question relates to the querent.
Card eight: the querent’s present environment of friends, family, and situation related to the question.
Card nine: the querent’s hopes and fears related to your query. If a specific question wasn’t asked, card nine relates to generally to the querent’s current and general situation in life.
Card 10: the outcome related to the query, or how the querent’s current situation in life will play out.
Readers personalize and adapt this spread, so it has endless variations. In one variation, each card in the main cross is turned at a slight angle.
The Horseshoe Spread
A horseshoe tarot card spread uses seven cards. Three cards are laid on each side of a center card in a pattern that represents a horseshoe. This spread is counted from left to right.
Here is a list of what each card in a horseshoe spread represents.
Card one: the past.
Card two: the present.
Card three: hidden influences.
Card four: the querent.
Card five: the attitudes of people surrounding the querent.
Card six: decisions the querent should make.
Card seven: the outcome.
An Astrological Spread
Astrological tarot spreads use 12 cards, placing cards in a circular pattern in the positions of the numbers on a clock. The purpose of this layout is to provide a broad overview of the coming year. The first month would be the current month, but if the end of the month is near, the following month can serve as the first month. As a variation, a 13th card can be laid in the circle’s center to represent the overall tone of the upcoming year.
A tarot deck has 78 cards, so you can create six complete circle spreads, with a single card in the center of each. The more circles you set, the more information you’ll potentially receive.
Each card in an astrological spread symbolizes a house of astrology, as listed below.
Self: Appearances, first impressions, and identity.
Money: Financial values, income, material possessions, and work ethic.
The mind: Communication, thinking, and interests.
Home life: Family, self-care, and emotions.
Romance: Love, fertility, and drama.
Health: Fitness, work habits, and pets.
Relationships: Marriage, business partners, and sharing.
Merging: Sex, intimacy, inheritance, and joint ventures.
Personal philosophy: Dreams, education, and travel.
Career: Goals, reputation, and public image.
Groups: Friends, social connections, and hopes and wishes for the future.
Endings: Closure, healing, and the afterlife.
A Yes-or-No Spread
Since “yes” or “no” questions are restrained to just two possible answers, most tarot readers prefer not to use yes-or-no spreads. But the non-traditional eight-card “yes” or “no” tarot reading overcomes this restraint. It removes querents’ doubts and allows them to take action based on clear guidance from the cards. As it’s a non-traditional spread, not all readers may offer it.
Readers are usually familiar with many spreads, and as mentioned earlier, customize them to their own needs and preferences. Querents can request specific layouts, or request the reader’s guidance regarding which spread would be best for what information you’re hoping to take away from the reading. Be sure to ask your reader for details about a spread if it’s one you haven’t seen before. The answer may include a great story or two!