Tarot Spreads

All About Tarot Spreads

Contents – Click here to jump to:

Techniques – using additional cards
Methods – how to shuffle and draw
Classic Spreads
Customize Spreads
Books I would recommend

What is a Tarot Spread

A Tarot spread is a method used to give a Tarot reading. A spread is a layout, or a pattern, of any number of cards, with prospected positions and at times they are formatted to resemble an object or a symbol. Such as the Celtic Cross and the Pentacle Spread:

The Pentacle Spread 

Pentacle Spread

Each position acts as a key to the overall story, regarding the Querent’s matter at hand. Each has a specific implication, that will influence the card’s interpretation and  thus, have a nuanced affect on the card’s meaning .  In other words, if we look at the Pentacle Spread above and say we drew the Empress card in the Fire position, it could be interpreted as:

  • the Querent “may have a desire or a passion to have children” or…
  • “may have a passion for nature”

However, if the Empress was drawn in the Air position, it could be interpreted instead as:

  • “they may be thinking about having children and…
  • ” this might be causing a conflict.”

See the difference as it lands in a alternate position?

Here’s another example:

Imagine the Empress card drawn in a ‘challenge’ position versus an ‘opportunity’ position. The interpretation would be quite different, wouldn’t it?

Freestyle Reading – No Spread

Tarot readers do not have to use a spread. Many, like myself, sometimes draw the cards freestyle allowing them speak for themselves, without being restricted to a positional designation. Reading with, or without a spread, is a personal preference. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times already – there is no right or wrong and there are no rules. You do what works for you in the Tarot.

Techniques – using additional cards

Significator Cards

A ‘significator card’ (S card) is a specific card a Tarot reader may choose to represent the Querent in the reading prior to drawing the cards. However, it could also represent the matter at hand,  circumstances, events, or another person in the Querent’s life.  Some readers will even have the Querent look through the deck and so that they can choose their own, which can be quite telling.

Significator cards can be used in any spread such as the Celtic Cross and even freestyle (spreadless) readings and some spreads will specifically call for an S card to be used. The S card can be place under a card (usually position ‘what’s crossing you’), can be placed at the top of the reading facing the reader or the Querent, or in the middle of the spread. Why use one you may ask. This card ties the Querent to the reading and allows the reader to focus on the Querent and see how the other cards relate to it.

This is not a card that is drawn randomly and typically Court Cards are chosen as an S cards however, any card can be used. The choice can be based on the Querent or the other person’s astrological sun sign, personality, gender and/or age.

See here to see a list of correspondences typically chosen from.

The archetypal cards in the Major Arcana can also be a great choice and there are many Minor Arcana cards that can be used as well, especially for issues, circumstances, or events.


  • The Emperor = a father inquiring about his children
  • The Hermit = a person who’s a wise loner.
  • Justice = a legal issue or an attorney.
  • Two of Cups =  a new relationship.
  • Nine of Swords = someone who is having a difficult time sleeping.

Not all Tarot readers use Significator cards; it’s simply a personal preference.

Note: you may want to choose a card from a different deck so it is not excluded from the deck you’re reading with unless you want to interpret how the other cards relate to it.

Quintessential Card

The ‘Quintessential Card’ is an additional card from the Major Arcana added at the end of a reading. This card is not drawn randomly. Instead it is calculated by adding the individual numbers of the cards in the spread/reading and the sum equals the corresponding Major card. It can represent advice, a message, or additional information.

Tarotists may differ on the following personal preferences when formulating the Quintessential number:

  • If the total sum equals 10 or higher, you need to decide if you want to reduce it to a single digit or not? If you do, this would limit the Quintessential Card to only the Magician through the Hermit. If not, this would allow you to use the full Major Arcana. Obviously any number 22/23 and over would be reduced.
  • When considering the Fool, and the Court Cards, what is their associated number?
    Some Tarotists consider the Fool to be zero and some the number 22.
    Some consider the Court cards as zero (0), some an extension of the sequence 11, 12 13, 14, and some 1, 2, 3, 4 respectively. While others use the Tree of Life corresponding numbers.

Base Card (aka the Shadow Card)

The ‘Base Card’, also known as the ‘Shadow Card’* is the card found at the bottom of the deck after you have finished shuffling. This card represents hidden factors or unknown aspect(s) of the ‘self’ (Querent); unconscious aspects. Note: if you are not familiar with what our shadow represents, I recommend reading about Carl Jung’s theory on Shadow here.

The Base Card can be looked at before the reading, after you have pulled the other cards or, it can be drawn/looked at after the reading.

*Note: This is not the same as the Shadow card associated with the ‘Personality & Soul Card’ calculated using your birthdate.

Bonus Card

Similar to the Quintissential Card, you can add a Tarot ‘Bonus Card’ at the end of a reading and read it the same manner; as advice, a message, or additional information.

Other Suggestions:

  • You can draw a card from an oracle deck or a Lenormand deck.
  • You can draw a Rune.

Clarifying Card

This is a card that some Tarotists may pull at the end of the reading, after all the other cards have been drawn and read. If the reading, or a particular card, needs further clarification you can draw one or two Clarifying cards. But try not to pull more than two. This could become a bad habit if you do. In addition, if you find yourself needing to constantly pull clarifying cards this may be a sign that you don’t have a full understanding of the card meanings just yet. Study a bit more, be patient with yourself, and try again.

Theme/Focus Card

This is a personal technique I have developed* when I or the Querent doesn’t have a specific question in mind or, when I’m looking for the universe to communicate a message. This is similar to the spread position, what is unknown. I’m allowing the universe to guide me in this reading.

This is a card that is drawn randomly and is turned over prior to the reading and can be drawn from the Tarot, an oracle deck, a Lenormand deck, or from Runes. This card, or Rune, will set the theme or focus for the reading therefore, should concentrate on this theme while you shuffle the cards just as you would with the Querent’s question.

*I am probably not the only Tarot reader who does this however, I have not seen it done or read it as of  yet.

Here’s an example from an April 6th, Instagram post :

img_2154-2From the Wisdom of Oracle deck,  I drew #14 ‘Truth Be Told’- The focus is : clarity, honesty, and staying true to yourself.

Tarot cards: Ace of Swords and Princess of Swords (from the Cosmic Tarot)

This weekend will be full of new ideas, new plans, clearing the air and clearing up cloudy thinking, and once again, being honest as well as seeking justice.

This is a time to cut through the bull and get right to what’s really going on. Be logical and try not to let your emotions get the best of you; think with your head vs your heart!

Methods – how to shuffle and draw


There are a few ways to shuffle and the method you choose may depend not only on your personal preference, but also the size of the cards, quality of the cardstock, as well as the size of your hands.

Click here for a great site with videos, demonstrating each of these methods from a professional dealer.

Overhand, Hindu, & Strip Shuffle

Any of these methods, would be great way to shuffle with a larger deck or, if you’re like me, and you have small hands.

Weave Shuffle aka Push Method (without the riffle)

This is also ideal for larger decks and smaller hands however, this could easily ruin the edges of the cards. It all depends on the cardstock and if it has any “slip”. It seems the more matte the deck is, the easier it is to rough up the edges. And, you probably shouldn’t riffle the cards.

Table Riffle Shuffle

This is a personal favorite of mine. But, once again, you have to be careful not to rip the edges. Also, I flip the cards over, so I don’t keep bending the cards in the same direction and I do not do the riffle.

Riffle Shuffle

I highly recommend against shuffling your cards this way.

Table Scramble* (this is what I call it)

Lay the cards out on the table, face down, and just scramble them around with your hands. When you feel ready, gather them together gently. This may not be a good idea if you do not use reversals, but you can always go through the deck and turn them upright.

*This method is not offered on the site.

Drawing the Card(s)

There a few methods to choose from to draw the cards after shuffling.

Fan (see pic below)

You simply fan out the deck and then raise your left hand and hover it over the cards, going back and forth. Continue until you get a feeling, or a tingling, that you want to pull a card. Many suggest using your left hand because it’s closest to your heart and therefore, more intuitive than your right hand.
Note: not all decks fan well.

Cut The Deck…

  • And pull off the top
  • And pull from the top, middle, and bottom (see Base Card above)
  • Cut the deck into piles (the number of spread positions) and pull off the top
  • And use one of the Querent’s Lifepath numbers and count from the top down


Okay, this is not actually by your choice, instead the universe is choosing for you. If a card falls, or jumps out, while your shuffling, do not ignore this card. Use it in your reading.


There are literally hundreds of Tarot Spreads. Spreads can be general or specific. They can represent one topic or be multi-topic.fan

Here is a list of types of spreads, shorter spreads, some classic spreads and how to customize a spread. I will continue to add and blog about more spreads.

The following are merely suggestions, opinions, and each spread can easily be modified.

Types of Spreads

  • Daily Spreads
  • Weekly Spreads
  • Monthly Spreads
  • Moon Spreads – New Moon or Full Moon
  • Relationship Spreads – Romantic, Platonic, & Family
  • Career Spreads
  • Revelation/Introspective Spreads
  • Decision Spreads
  • Destiny/Life Journey Spreads

And I’m sure there some I haven’t listed here.

Daily or One Topic Spreads:

One Card Spread

1 card spreads usually represent insight, energy, advice, or outcome.

A very popular spread is the Daily One Card Spread –insight or energy of the day.
This can also be used to for simpler questions.
Note: I would recommend avoiding using 1 card spreads for complex questions/topics.

card 1

Some One Card Spread Examples:

  • Situation
  • What to expect
  • What do you want/desire
  • What do you need to know
  • What’s the next step
  • Advice
  • Outcome


Two Card Spreads

2 Card Spreads usually represent the situation and advice.

2 card spread

Some Two Card Spread Examples:

You can create 42 ‘two card’ spreads combining of any of the One card spread examples.

Here are some others:

  • Choice A – Choice B
  • Yes – No
  • Today – Tomorrow
  • Conflict – Solution
  • Self – Family
  • Self – Friend(s)
  • Desire – Challenge/Obstacle
  • Action – Reaction
  • Past – Future
  • Present – Future
  • Work – Home
  • Love – Advice
  • Situation – Energy
  • Today AM – Today Pm
  • Week – Weekend

Variation Pattern

Place card 2 over card 1 – represents what is crossing card 1.
Card 1 can also be a Significator Card.

2 Crossed cards


  • S Card (You/Another Person/Situation) – Advice or Outcome
  • S Card (You/Another Person/Situation) – Energy

Multi-topic Spreads

Three Card Spreads

3  Cards Spreads are highly adaptable.

The number 3 is an extremely symbolic number because it is the first number to form a geometric figure, the triangle. It is also a sacred number in many religions, and is associated with good fortune.

3 card spread

Think of all the patterns of the number 3 – this lends to the long list of three card spreads.

  • Past, Present, Future
  • Birth, Life, Death
  • Beginning, Middle, End
  • The three Fates
  • Father, Son, Holy Spirit

You can take any of the Two card spread examples and add either ‘advice’ or ‘outcome’ and turn them into Three card spreads.

Here are some of the most popular 3 card spreads:

  • Past – Present – Future
  • Mind – Body – Spirit
  • Mind – Heart – Spirit
  • Mind – Heart – Advice or Outcome
  • Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow
  • Opportunity – Challenge – Advice or Outcome
  • Decision 1 – Decision 2 – Advice or Outcome
  • Greatest Strength – Greatest Weakness – Advice
  • Yes – No – Maybe

Variation Pattern

3 card alternative

Four Card Spreads

Another highly adaptable spread.
You can take any 3 card spread and add ‘Advice’ or ‘Outcome’ as the 4th card.

4 card spread

There are also many patterns of the number 4 – a square.

  • North, East, South, West
  • Earth, Air, Fire, Water
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn
  • Phases of the Moon

Variation Pattern

4 card spread variation

Here are some examples of 4 card spreads:

  • Challenge – Opportunity – Advice – Outcome
  • Situation – Positive Influence – Negative Influence – Advice
  • Week 1 – Week 2 – Week 3 – Week 4
  • Mind (Air) – Body (Earth) – Spirit (Fire) – Soul (Water)

Five Cards Spreads

My favorite 5 Card spread is the Elemental Spread
This is an excellent spread for general reading or when the Querent doesn’t have a question.

Elemental Spread names colors

Elemental Spread

  1. Matter at hand, or Lesson
  2. Fire – Where are you spiritually (passions, goals)
  3. Cup – Where are you emotionally
  4. Air – Where are you mentally
  5. Earth – Where are you physically or financially

There are many variations of this spread such as how each 2-5, affects the situation/problem in Card 1.
Note: You can separate the Majors (card 1) and the suits and draw from each to really zero in regarding that area in the Querent’s life.

More 5 Card Spreads

You can also take any four card spread and again add ‘Advice’ or ‘Outcome’ to turn it into a Five card spread.

Modified Celtic Cross

Another great 5 Card Spread is a modified version of the well-known
Celtic Cross Spread (see below).

simple cross spread
If you would like to use a Significator card, place beneath card 1.

  1. What crosses
  2. What crowns
  3. What is beneath
  4. What is behind
  5. What is before or Outcome 

*See the Celtic Cross below to see what each position means.

This is just one variation of a modified cross. There are many, and you can customize it based on your preferences.

Six Card Spreads

Another modified version of the Celtic Cross –
allowing for ‘Crossing card’ to lay over card 1.

6 card celtic

If you would like to use a Significator card, place beneath card 1.

  1. What covers
  2. What crosses
  3. What crowns
  4. What is beneath
  5. What is behind
  6. What is before or Outcome 

*See the Celtic Cross below to see what each position means.

This is just one variation of a modified cross. There are many, and you can customize it based on your preferences.

Pyramid Spread

The Pyramid Spread can also be used with ten cards

Pyramid spread

One of many variations:

  • Card 1 – Matter at hand
  • Card 2 & 3 – Unknown influences or lessons
  • Cards 4, 5, & 6 –  Advice


  • Card. 4, 5, & 6 – Past
  • Card 2 & 3 – Present
  • Card 1 – Future

Seven + Card Spreads

As stated, spreads can consist of any number of cards.

Some larger spreads are used as ‘Destiny Spreads’ such as, the  New Year’s Spread or Birthday Spread using 12 cards, one for each month; you can also place an additional card next to each month for ‘Advice’. This is a great way look deeper as issues and to find guidance.

There are so many spreads, it would be impossible to list them all here.

Classic Spreads

Celtic Cross Spread

Arguably the most popular Tarot spread

Waite, Crowley, and Eden Gray, each had their own renditions of this spread varying the numbers positions, as well as the position titles/intentions. Since then, Tarotists made their own modifications to suit their preferences, yet the cross pattern has remained in tact.

This is Waite’s Version (from his Pictorial Key to the Tarot) :

Celtic Cross Waiter Orderceltic cross

Underneath card 1. place the Significator card

  1. What covers – Heart of the matter or attitude/energy
  2. What crosses – Challenges/Obstacles (some see this as helping or hindering)
  3. What crowns – Aim/Ideal in the matter: goals/desires (aka Above you)
  4. What is beneath – Foundation/Root: underlying influence  (aka Below you)
  5. What is behind – Past Influences: past or just passing
  6. What is before – Near Future: influence evolving, coming into action
  7. Himself –  Querent’s energy, thoughts, attitudes moving forward
  8. His house – Environment: their surroundings (people, attitutudes, energies etc) outside the Querents’s control
  9. His hopes and fears -Hope and Fears
  10. What will come – Probable Outcome: should they stay on this path
    Note: does this card align with card 3?

Horseshoe Spread

Horseshoe spread

  1. Past
  2. Present
  3. Hidden Influences
  4. Obstacles
  5. Environment
  6. Action to Take
  7. Outcome

Tree of Life Spread

Tree of life spread

  1. Crown -highest ideal, goals, attainment
  2. Wisdom – creative power, potential
  3. Understanding – gestation
  4. Mercy/Gifts – what you hold dear, help
  5. Severity – challenges, adjusting
  6. Beauty – heart of the matter
  7. Victory – desires, feelings
  8. Splendor – intellect
  9. Foundation – the unconscious- what’s hidden
  10. Kingdom – environment or outcome

The Week Ahead Spread

Weekly Spread

Blank Card: S Card, Random Card (theme), Base Card, or Oracle Card (which I do often).

  1. Monday
  2. Tuesday
  3. Wednesday
  4. Thursday
  5. Friday
  6. Saturday
  7. Sunday

The Month Ahead Spread

Month Ahead Spread

Blank Card: S Card, Random Card (theme), Base Card, or Oracle Card (which I do often).

  1. Week 1
  2. Week 2
  3. Week 3
  4. Week 4

Customizing Spreads

Customizing Spreads

If you have a Querent who’s question involves more than one concern or focus or, if they asking more than one question, a great way to tackles each area/question is to customize a spread.


The Querent, your client, is starting a new business and their questions are:
“Will I get the loan I applied for? Should I let my best friend manage the store and will my business be successful?”

Customized Spread:

  1. What is the potential of you getting your loan?
  2. What are the challenges of your friend being the manager?
  3. What are the opportunities of your friend being the manager?
  4. What is the potential for success?
  5. Advice
  6. Possible Outcome

You can do this when you read for yourself and I find the 3-5 card spreads highly customizable.

Deck of 1000 Spreads


There is a deck and book set called Deck of 1000 Spreads by Tierney Sadler, and it’s great for anyone who likes to customize their own spreads, especially if you aren’t sure how to get started. They offer 65 cards; 59 printed and  6 blank. They are categorized and color coordinated in the following areas:

  • Green Cards: Topic, Theme, or Plot
  • Blue Cards: Influences, Story Elements, or Plot Twists
  • Orange Cards: Characters or People
  • Purple Cards: Timing
  • Red Cards: Outcome or Endings

In the book they guide you how to use the categories and how to devise your own spreads. They have a section on how to retool and revise classic spreads and another section on how to use classic spreads as a basis to create your own spreads, and of course, a section how to create original spreads.

I highly recommend this deck and book kit! You can find it here at Llewellyn’s site.

Customizing a Layout

You can use the above methods and in addition, choose a layout to match an object or a symbol like the Pentacles Spread, the Celtic Cross, and the Horseshoe. I’ve seen spreads shaped like a dog, when they read for their pet. Really when it comes to shapes, anything goes. Have fun with it! It adds to the creative experience in customizing a spread.

Books I would recommend:

Tarot Spreads – Barbara Moore
Learning Tarot Spread – Joan Bunning
Complete Book of Tarot Spread – Evelin Burger and Johannes Fiebig
Tarot: Get the Whole Story: Use, Create, & Interpret Tarot Spreads – James Ricklef

Note: I will be adding more spreads in separate posts and can be found under ‘Tarotory’ on the top menu and ‘Spread’ in the drop down menu.

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