Understanding the Main Types of Tarot Spreads
September 14, 2020
Tarot spreads are the way a Tarot reader lays out the cards to reveal the context around your question or situation. Some of these spreads are really surrounded in mysteries and only experienced readers use them in practice. Yet, there are also many spreads that even a beginner could quickly become good at.
Each spread carries its own energies, and each card contributes to the Tarot reading as a whole. Cards in a layout interact with each other, and from these interactions you can interpret various situations. Since there are hundreds of Tarot spreads that exist right now, it is hard to explain them all in detail here. This guide will help you learn the main types of Tarot spreads, both simple ones and more advanced.
1. One-card yes no spread
The easiest spread is probably a one-card yes no Tarot spread. To perform a reading, all you need to do is draw a card and the answer to your question will be revealed to you. For yes/no questions, this is a quick and easy way to get spiritual guidance when you need it urgently. Some readers place half of the deck in a reverse position and treat those cards as a “no” answer, while upright cards mean “yes.” Others assign a meaning to each card in Tarot spreads and reveal the truth based on those meanings.
2. Three-card Tarot spreads
If you want to find the answer to your question quickly, but also have more context and interpretation of the issue at hand, a three-cards spread is a good choice. In a three-card spread, you select three cards from the deck and lay them on the table in a row. While you usually read cards from left to right, in such Tarot spreads, there are so many possibilities as to what your cards could reveal. For example, you can assign your cards to have the following meanings
For general spreads:
- Past – present – future
- Problem – cause – solution
- Situation – solution – result
- Thoughts – feelings – actions
For love spreads:
- You – your partner – your relationship
- What you feel – what your partner feels – what awaits your relationship
- What works well – what are the challenges – what you can do
For your life path:
- Mind – body – spirit
- Material world – emotional world – spiritual world
- What holds you back – what you are doing well – what you can do
- You – your life path – your true potential
For making an important decision:
- Choice 1 – Choice 2 – Choice 3
- Strengths – Challenges – Action
- Challenges – Opportunities – What you can do
And there are many other possible meanings. This is what makes a three-card spread so versatile. You can choose your own meanings to assign to the cards depending on the question or situation you are doing a reading for. It is also a pretty easy spread, especially if you are starting out with Tarot readings and need to practice.
3. The Cross Tarot spread
Increasing the number of cards in the spread, next is the Cross. For this layout, you need four cards laid out in the shape of a cross. This Tarot spread is useful when you are looking for advice and guidance on what you should do in a situation. If you had a reading before and something remained unclear, the Cross spread could also shed some light on that. When you are looking for advice, the four cards will tell you this:
- Your situation
- Challenges you should avoid
- Action you can take
- The outcome of your efforts
Once you have all four cards, your situation should become clearer and you should be able to see the opportunities that the universe has in store for you.
4. Star Guide Tarot spread
Another spread you can use for analyzing a current situation is the Star Guide. Before you start with this spread, you should have a clear idea of your present situation and the question you seek the answer to. Start by laying the first card in the middle, then a card on the left – right – left – right, with the last card in the middle again.
- The first card represents your current situation
- The second is the obstacles
- The third reveals what you need to change
- The fourth presents your strengths
- The fifth describes other challenges
- The sixth defines the outcome
5. True Love Tarot spread
Moving from more general into thematic Tarot spreads, this is the ultimate spread for relationship questions. When you want to find out how your relationship will develop, look no further than the True Love spread. You might be having problems or insecurities with your current partner, and this spread is a way for you to get more clarity and overcome those. You need six cards laid out in three rows: two in the top row, three in the middle, and one in the bottom row. The meanings are the following:
- You and the way you feel about your romantic relationship
- Your partner and his/her feelings, emotions, and expectations
- Things you and your partner have in common, something that creates a strong bond between you
- Strengths of your relationship
- Its weaknesses
- Things you should accomplish so that your love can truly flourish
Besides the more general spreads, it is nice to have Tarot spreads devoted to certain themes in your life. Just like this spread was about love relationships, the next can reveal insights into your career.
6. Career Path Tarot spread
Another theme spread in this list is the Career Path spread. When you are feeling stuck in the same career for many years and do not find enjoyment in your work anymore, or are looking to expand your opportunities, this spread could give advice and guidance. You will need six cards. Lay the cards in three rows, from bottom to top and from left to right, with three cards in the bottom row, two in the middle, and one on the top. Here is how to interpret the cards:
- Your reasons for choosing the career you are pursuing
- What drives and motivates you in your job
- Your responsibilities
- Your work progress and how you feel about it
- Possible rewards for your efforts, both financial and existential
- Outcome of your work and possible futures
Even when you are pretty satisfied with your job, there might be opportunities you are missing because you are not aware of them. Haven’t gotten a promotion in years? The spread could help you understand why. Looking for a career change? Then you will also find guidance in the cards.
7. Horseshoe Tarot spread
You will need seven cards for a horseshoe spread. From left to right, lay out the cards to resemble the shape of a horseshoe, with three cards framing the middle one on each side. Interpret the cards and the connections between them based on the following meanings of each card:
- The past
- The present
- Influences within yourself or your environment that remain hidden
- People around you and their feelings
- Things you can do to influence the situation
- The result
Although this spread uses seven cards, it is rather easy to perform, and the meanings of each position are clear and connected to other cards in the spread. You can lay the horseshoe spread with the open end up or down – this won’t change the way you interpret the cards. Apart from that, experienced Tarot readers can also change the meanings of the cards’ positions if they feel that these will be more suitable for the current situation.
8. Celtic Cross Tarot spread
Not the easiest, but definitely one of the most popular Tarot spreads is the Celtic Cross. It is very flexible when it comes to interpretation, but it reveals so much information about the situation and the context around that you cannot just pass by. You can break down your question or situation into many small elements, analyzing the issue from all possible sides. It is truly a great tool any Tarot reader should master.
For the Celtic Cross, you need 10 cards, each of which will signify an aspect relating to your situation, such as:
- You in the present, your state of mind, and what is happening around you.
- The obstacle in your path, the issue that needs to be resolved for you to move forward.
- Your past related to the present situation and the influences that shaped it.
- What your future looks like if you do not take any action to solve the problem.
- The state of your conscious mind, your wishes and goals.
- Your values, feelings, and beliefs related to the current situation, but also how those might influence your actions.
- The way you see yourself, your willpower, strengths, and opportunities.
- Influences around you that you do not have control over.
- Things you secretly hope for, but also things you secretly want to avoid. Since this card shows the double nature of your feelings, it might be the hardest to interpret in this spread.
- What the outcome of your situation will be based on all information given by the previous nine cards in the spread.
As you can see, the ten cards in the Celtic Cross give you so much to think about your situation and various contexts and influences surrounding it. It is one of the best Tarot spreads for when you are dealing with a complex question or issue, often related to your life path, spiritual journey, or important decisions in your relationship or career.
9. Zodiac Tarot spread
A fun spread to do which covers all areas of life is Zodiac Tarot spread. Before you can start with this spread, it is a good idea to catch up on the meaning of Zodiac signs, so you can understand the position of each card in the spread. You can lay Zodiac Tarot spreads at the end of the year, so you know what is waiting for you in the year ahead. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Then try it out! You will need 13 cards, and here are their meanings:
This card is about you and characteristics of your personality you show to others around you.
Here you will find things that are important to you, your values, feelings of security, and financial stability.
This card covers your relationships with others and your trips and adventures.
Your family life is revealed in this card.
Your performance in front of others, your hobbies and creative activities appear here.
This card speaks about your health, self-care, and well-being.
Here closest connections with others are revealed, such as romantic relationships, but also deep negative feelings.
With this card, learn about your spiritual transformation.
Here knowledge and long travels are revealed.
This card is the one that can tell you the most about your career.
Your friendships and interactions with others are revealed in this card.
All secrets and mysteries are waiting to be revealed here.
- The 13th card
Here you can choose a card from the deck that will play a role in the main lesson you will receive in the coming year
Some readers use the same deck for the 13th card, while others pull it from a different deck. What happens is that cards can repeat if you use two decks. If this has happened in your reading, pay close attention to which Zodiac sign the card repeats in, because this can carry additional information about your year. This 13th card can also change slightly the way you interpret some of the Zodiac cards surrounding it.
Now that you know about the main Tarot spreads, it is time to practice. The best place to start is with the basic three-card spread, so you can see how various cards interact with each other when interpreting a situation. Or, if you are looking for a quick yes/no answer, then a yes no Tarot spread is also a good option. Once you know your cards like the back of your hand, it will be easier to move on to more complicated spreads. In the meantime, turn to an experienced Tarot reader if you need advice about any problem in your life.