To conduct a tarot card reading, you must have an understanding of the most popular spreads. All tarot card readings start with a tarot card spread (or layout). These layouts aren’t random patterns, every position has a particular meaning. It examines a certain aspect of the question being asked. It’s the marriage between the placement and the meaning of the cards which allows the reader to interpret the information and insights the cards disclose.
There are hundreds of tarot card spreads to choose from: they range from a single card draw to a complicated layout which provides more detail about the question or purpose of the reading. Many experienced or professional readers even create their own personal designs, unique to them. Let’s discuss some of the most popular tarot card spreads that are used by tarot card readers so you can begin using them too.
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One card is selected from the tarot deck. It is intended to provide a quick snapshot of wisdom on a particular situation. It’s very helpful for when you’re looking to focus on only one aspect and you want clarity and a no-frills answer. The one-card layout - sometimes called a one-card draw - is also frequently used in succession. First, one card is examined, then another, and another; much like chapters in an unfolding story.
A spread that’s useful to provide a snapshot of wisdom on a particular situation. Ask it ‘either / or’ questions. Let one card represent one option and the second card refer to the alternate choice. It shows you what your options are when there’s a decision to be made. It can also be used for ‘yes or no’ questions, Also, use a two-card spread if you’re trying to determine the best timing for something to happen in your life.
An extremely popular spread, the three positions have the potential to refer to many different options. The past, present, and future is the most common; but not the only interpretation. It can be used to represent and clarify a problem and its influences, solutions, or adversaries. It can give a glimpse into last week, this week, and the following week - or last month, this month, and the next. There’s really no limit as to how this spread might be interpreted, but you must determine what the positions mean before the cards are placed in them.
A more detailed spread that has the potential to provide a lot of insight about someone’s health and well-being. Each of the five cards is attributed to one of the five elements: air, earth, water, fire, or spirit. Examination of the cards that fall within that element helps to understand what areas of a person’s life need focus. These positions could also vary by reading. They could represent mental, physical, emotional, temperament, and spirit. It can also provide insight over the next five days, or five weeks, or five months.
One of the most fashionable spreads ever used. There’s a lot of mythology wrapped around it, but the Celtic Cross is not particularly mystic or ancient. The different positions refer to different aspects of the questioner’s life: their current situation; assets and strengths; obstacles and challenges; as well as past and present influences. The spread will give you insight into what to focus on; how to approach a situation; what the questioner hopes will happen; and the potential outcome. You can see that it provides a lot of information, simply and concisely (which is probably why it’s used so frequently).
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There are as many different patterns and ways of interpreting the archetypal images of the tarot as there are tarot decks and readers who use them. The key to getting the most out of your reading is quite simple: you must choose someone with whom you connect. A person you like, and who uses their cards with confidence, compassion, and sincerity. If you’re a reader, find a deck with which speaks to you and a spread that is easy to use, yet provides you with a lot of insight.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong template for laying out the cards. The spreads we explored together here are by no means all of the layouts that are used by readers. Experimenting with some of the more popular tarot card spreads is the best way to learn how to get the most from the cards.
Hi! I’m Charla Stone and I learned astrology and mysticism way back in the 1970s. I've spent the last four decades using the stars, tarot, runes, crystals, totems, and more to bring light and guidance to others. I’m just an old hippie at heart who has traveled the world to learn of its cultures. I’ve been published online and in print—which still rather surprises me, as this isn’t something I do, it’s just who I am! When I’m not writing or doing readings, I’m spending time in my garden or the art studio, or with my beloved dogs.