Grab your cards and throw some spreads with me!
Since we have been talking about how to start reading tarot spreads, I want to cover the types of questions to ask for your readings and how to phrase those questions for the best results along with how to get started with tarot spreads. And I want to help you get started with 3 card spreads and mastering the celtic cross tarot spread. When starting out with pulling cards, I often suggest starting off with daily 1 card pulls and moving up to 3 card spreads as you started to feel more comfortable with the cards. You can pull a simple card draw in the morning and then reflect on those cards at the end of the day to see how the cards played out over the course of the day. In your tarot journal, log all of your card pulls so you can keep track of any repeat cards.
To help you get started, I am going to go over some examples of popular 3 card spreads.
A simple spread would be a card for Mind, Body, Spirit so you can do a simple check in for the day in those areas.
The most popular 3 card spread has to be Past, Present, and Future. This seems like a simple spread, but I want to encourage you to dig deeper on even this simple card spread.
For the past position, I want you to look at this card as what experiences or events got you to the present moment. Start to use these past card positions to identify your behavioral patterns because you can start to see how all of our actions and decisions lead to where we are currently. Our present is the result of our past actions and decisions, and our future will be the result of the actions and decisions we make right now so use this knowledge to create change and learn from these lessons.
So, when you look at the present card position, you can start to make the connection of how you ended up here. This is important if you aren’t happy with your current situation because now you have a clue as to what behaviors may need to be altered, if you want to change your life circumstances. And it is important to understand that whatever you are doing now will lead to your future outcome. So, even this simple past, present, future spread can help you start to alter those behavioral patterns that are problematic and lead to undesirable situations.
NOW, if you are happy with where you are, apply that same logic. Identify what past actions led you here and then keep on that path, if you want to maintain it because in that circumstance you are obviously doing something right.
Now, one of my personal favorite 3 card spreads is Obstacle, Advice, and Outcome because that shows me the exact obstacle I need to overcome, and the cards are giving me insight on the type of action I need to take. They are also revealing the most likely outcome, if I take that advice.
So, with these simple spreads you can start to pull daily to get familiar with your cards, and how they speak to you. After you feel proficient with 3 card spreads, you can graduate to more complex spreads.
I want to talk about the importance of how you phrase the questions that you pose for your readings. This is perhaps more important than you first realize.
When forming questions for the cards, whether it be tarot or oracle, consider that yes or no questions place limitations on the responses and choices. It is best to ask more open-ended questions.
I am going to give you some options for framing more open-ended questions to help you see the difference in the phrasing
So instead of yes or no phrasing, you can word a question like this
"I am seeking insight about..."
"What life lessons are significant for me to learn in this situation?"
Or maybe ask
“What guidance and direction would help me navigate…”
Instead of asking “Will I get the job I am interviewing for next week?” you could rephrase that to "How can I have a better chance of securing the job on my interview next week?"
This way the cards could give you insight on what actions you could take to increase your odds of securing the job instead of a simple yes or no, which doesn’t help improve your odds.
The way I work with the cards is to get the most I can out of them as a self-improvement tool, not just as a predictive tool. The prediction aspect doesn’t help me grow. The insightfulness of the cards does however help with growth.
Asking an open-ended question, will give you a higher quality response with more insight.
For example, change the question from “Will I meet someone special soon,” which is a very common question, to “What has been blocking me in finding a new healthy relationship, and how can I release these blockages to clear the way for love?”
Do you see the difference in quality of the phrasing? This tweaking of the language invites deeper reflection and opportunity for improvement and change.
Tarot, in my opinion, is all about facilitating inner work whether that be psychological, emotional or spiritual. Why not use the tool to its full potential?
Receiving a simple yes or no response might be good for a quick passing question, but if you want to usher in significant change you need to be able to identify the patterns that are leading to the frustration you may be feeling regarding not moving forward on your goal.
And once those patterns are identified, you will need guidance on what actions to take to create change that will open up new avenues for you.
Always consider if your question is phrased in a way that helps you dig deeper into the root of the matter.
And you can always ask follow up questions or pull clarifiers, if your answer leads you to other questions. OR just throw a new spread on what you uncovered in that initial question.
I want to give you some more examples of types of questions you can ask in your readings since you may be ready to tackle some more meaningful questions.
You can ask:
“What message do I most need to hear today?”
“What do I need to focus on to get back on track?” or “How can I get unstuck?”
“What have I been neglecting?” or “What am I missing or not seeing?”
“What needs nurturing or healing at this time?” or you could phrase it a little differently and ask “What healing action should I take now?”
“How can I align with my purpose?”
“Where should I put my energy?” Or you could even ask “What energy will be prominent this week?”
Let’s turn to the celtic cross tarot spread. It is a 10 card spread that is often considered the most popular tarot spread. I love to throw this spread when a question comes up throughout my day, and I need a quick look at it. I have it memorized, and it takes only about 20 seconds to throw the cards for this one. It gives me a glance at all the main themes I would need to know about a situation quickly. I also throw this spread weekly for a quick look ahead for the week, and I do the same for my monthly reading.
1. The heart of the matter for situation you are asking about; this is basically the current state of mind
2. What crosses you/obstacles or immediate challenges that lie ahead that need to be overcome (could be the cause of trouble)
3. What crowns you/aspirations/ideals/objectives
4. Foundation/Root – what is beneath you, past experiences that anchor or hold down the present
5. What is behind you – past influences on the present situation
6. What is before you – what lies in your near future
7. Your attitude toward the current situation or energies you bring to this situation
8. External influences on matter at hand– social and environmental influences
9. Hopes and fears (internal conflicts affecting present situation)
10. Most likely final outcome to this situation
When laying out a Celtic Cross spread I shuffle the cards, lay all of the cards out face down, and then I turn all the cards over at once to see the cards all together. However, when you are just starting, if you want to turn over each card separately so you can read one card at a time, do so if it helps you focus. I personally like to see the combination of cards to feel the energy of the spread and how they work together.
After shuffling and pulling all your cards, you can turn the deck upside down to see which card is on the bottom. This is called back of the deck energy. It could be an important message or could be the root of what you were asking about. Some readers view this as a card that represents what is going on subconsciously for the client. This is especially the case with tarot decks. I don’t use this method with oracle cards. You may only feel the need to do this at times. You will know when. I get an urge that says “turn the deck over.” That means “don’t miss that message too.” Not all readers use this back of the deck card pull, so only go with it if it feels natural to you.
Now that I have covered the traditional layout of the celtic cross I will walk you through the adaptations I use to make this spread work for me. Some readers say they don’t regularly use the celtic cross because they feel it is too simplistic. I tweak this spread to make it more functional for myself so that I get more out of it.
For card position 2, which I described earlier as the crossing energy, many readers view this as any obstacles crossing you. I look at it as the energy surrounding me or available to me at that time, so I don’t classify that energy as negative. I leave it open to be any type of energy I can work with. For example, if I pull the magician in that position, I could view that as manifesting and creative energy I can tap into. If it is a negative card like the 5 of wands or 5 of swords, I would view that as an obstacle.
I change the hopes and fear card, which is card 9, to obstacle I am facing and a 2nd card pull for advice for dealing with that obstacle. When I read for myself, I already know my hopes and fears, and I find this doesn’t benefit me much in the moment. With my adaptation, I am pulling 11 cards since I am adding a card here.
And at times I will pull at 12th card if I ask to see the outcome of the situation if I successfully implement the advice and overcome the obstacle. The reason I pull that 12th card is because the outcome card already in the spread in position 10 is showing me the outcome if this situation continues as is. And I want to see the alternative outcome, if I take action based on the advice given in the spread. Then I am able to directly compare the 2 paths available to me, and I will have a choice to on which path I am striving for.
This actually brings me to an important point I want to make about outcomes in tarot spreads. They are not set in stone. The way I view tarot is that it is a tool to give us insight and basically a heads up of what COULD be coming down the path for us, so we can prepare how we want to react and respond. It is my perspective that the cards don’t guarantee what will happen in the future. The cards only show us what will likely happen given the energy now. So basically, I view the cards as showing us the trajectory of that energy, if we continue on the same path we are currently on.
So, nothing is set in stone or guaranteed. Which is a good thing, so you don’t have to panic if you pull the tower card. It is important to remember that we all have free will, so if you see cards in the reading that make you uncomfortable, remember that the cards are showing you the most likely outcome. BUT you still have control here. There may be actions you can take to shift that trajectory, if you want to shift in a new direction. Not every situation can be changed of course. Some things are just fated for us on our path, but there are situations we can move away from. Also, remember that other people in our life also have free will. As the people around you make decisions, your trajectory can shift too. Everything is always fluid.
So, let’s say you pull the Tower card. Think of it as a warning and a head’s up. You can be much more prepared about things, if you know ahead of time what is coming your way. This is the main reason I do readings for myself. I like to get the lay of the land. I like to see what is ahead for me for the week and the month. I even do year ahead spreads. And I look back at them afterwards, and much of the time it was very accurate, especially the year ahead spreads. And they have helped me to map out what was coming.
I recently read Benebell Wen’s book Holistic Tarot, and she gave a wonderful take on this. She said “If you were to enter a dark room with obstacles in the way, wouldn’t you want the option of having a flashlight to see the obstacles in front of you instead of ramming into them in the dark?” I thought that was a helpful way to view divination. So now that I have given a few adaptations that you can make to the celtic cross, do some readings with the traditional spread and start to envision if there are any tweaks you would make to the spread to make it more helpful for you. We all have different needs when working with the cards. You can tailor your readings to your own needs. It is totally up to you how you customize your spreads. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the cards. Get creative!
If you are still learning the card meanings, I have added tarot card cheat sheets on my Pinterest page under the Healing Thru Tarot account. These cheat sheets can help you with learning keywords for each card. Before long you will be pulling cards and making your own associations. I think it is important to understand that each reader has their own personal meaning for each card as they become more comfortable with the cards. What I mean by this is most readers know and use the traditional meanings but also have personal meanings that the cards can represent for them as well. For example, I see the devil card in a slightly different way than some readers. Due to my psychological work with inner critical voices and destructive self-criticism, I often see the devil card as a representation of that inner critic or gremlin that inundates us with negative self-talk and self-sabotaging concepts. So, when the devil card pops up for me that is the first meaning that pops into my mind as well as fear/doubt which I always think stems from that critic anyway.
Some readers may go straight to traditional meanings of vices, bondage, restriction, greed, addiction, sexuality, fear. etc. I have used the book Taming Your Gremlin with clients for about 15 years now in my psychological practice; so that immediate association of the devious inner gremlin or critic just pops into my mind’s eye. So, what I have to do is consider who I am reading for, what the question or situation is and then go through the list of possibilities that this card could represent. I’m also a Capricorn, and the devil represents the zodiac sign Capricorn so that is at the forefront of my mind as well. So, the card could be coming up for that reason.
Through this example, I hope you can see how the cards start to shift in meaning for people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. And really that is the beauty of tarot. If you get a reading from 2 or 3 different readers on the same question, you are still likely to get different takes on the responses. The outcome of the reading could be similar, but different cards could have come up for different readers because the reader has different associations for their cards.
Start to pay attention to what cards come up for you when you ask about certain situations and people, and you will notice that certain cards repeatedly come up to represent people, events and obstacles in your life. That is how you start to build personal associations with your cards.
My readings don’t always go by the book or by traditional meanings. Certain cards have become representative of family and friends and pets so when reading for myself I know what the cards are pointing to in my life. And that changes when I read for others. Journaling as you start to pull cards will help you track which cards are starting to come up for those types of situations. This may sound complicated, but it is something that comes with time. As you start to work with the cards, it happens naturally.
I know some people get really intimidated by tarot, especially when trying to learn all of the card meanings and the structure of the tarot system. In those situations when I see people feeling overwhelmed, I often suggest that the individual start with an oracle deck to get comfortable with the act of shuffling and pulling cards and getting a personal message for the day.
This helps take the fear out of learning to work with divination, if it is the size of the tarot system that feels daunting. With oracle decks, the pressure is off because you just pull a card or 2, and the meanings are easy to understand and are straight forward. I have noticed that starting with oracle cards eases some people into the process because before long they are getting such great messages with the oracle cards that they come back to the tarot hungry for more elaborate spreads. And by then they are very comfortable with pulling cards, and they are more likely to trust their readings.
So, I just wanted to suggest that option, if anyone out there is starting to feel intimated. But I urge you not to give up on learning the tarot. Take it slow if you must. It gets easier as you go.
Now that we have covered how to phrase your questions and how to get started on tarot spreads, I wanted to give you some suggestions on where to find even more spreads you can practice with. There are books that are devoted to just spreads. There is a book called 365 Tarot Spreads tarot by Sasha Graham that helps give you a wide range of spreads.
You can find great tarot questions and tarot prompts on Instagram, if you follow the hashtag #tarotchallenges where people post 31 days of questions/prompts for each month. These tarot challenges are great to help you connect with your cards by giving you unique questions you can ask your decks throughout the month.
Ethony Dawn publishes a custom spread for each new moon and full moon on her Instagram page. I always use her spreads each month. They are usually around 4-6 card positions and are themed according to the energy of each moon phase based on the zodiac sign the moon is in. You should be able to find her under Ethony or Tarot Goddess on Instagram. Above is one of the new moon spreads I drew based on Ethony’s prompts.
My favorite Instagram account to find custom tarot spreads is an account called owlandbonestarot. They post often, and I find their spreads to be very powerful. Also, I have a Pinterest board dedicated to tarot spreads, if you want to find some more spreads to try out. I’m under Healing Thru Tarot on Pinterest and Instagram.
Owlandbonestarot Instagram click here
Ethony Dawn Instagram account click here
Healing Thru Tarot Pinterest click here
Books and Decks shown in this blog or recommended are below: click on title to go to the product. Some of these are amazon affiliate links and it helps me out if you use these links. Thanks for your support.
Decks shown in photos in this deck: Light Seers Tarot, Dark Mansion Tarot, Way Home Tarot, Dame Darcy Mermaid Tarot (card backs), Magick and Mediums Oracle, Prisma Visions Tarot, Wild Unknown Tarot, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit, Everyday Witch, Pythia Botanica Oracle, Earthly Souls and Spirits Oracle
Podcast Episode 4 of Healing Thru Tarot on Anchor Click here
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