Tarot Spreads & Card Layouts
The Holistic Tarot beginner’s guide embraces all kinds of tarot spreads. Learning tarot through card reading seems to go back, way back, at least to the Pictorial Key to the Tarot published around 1911. In his book, A. E. Waite provided a ten card spread, a thirty-five card spread, and a forty-two card spread. Of these, the Celtic Cross Spread is undoubtedly the most popular today. All tarot readers seem to come across this spread fairly early on in their tarot journey, if not certainly later on. Many decks present at least one spread in their ‘little white booklets’, and the Celtic Cross is usually it. But there are, perhaps, more spreads today than ever previously available. Which one should you embrace as a tarot reader? Does the spread you select even matter?
When I first began learning tarot, I didn’t know books of tarot spreads existed. I thought tarot spreads were something that came with the guidebooks. Likewise, I also thought that some spreads were specifically designed for particular decks. A quick Google search allowed my collection of go-to spreads to expand and grow. At the same time, I also discovered a mixture of serious, funny, and just plain popular tarot spreads. My computer collection of tarot spreads quickly grew beyond a reasonable level. To make matters a little bit worse, my study group selected a book just on tarot spreads. With all these tarot spread options, I thought I’d share my favorite ten spreads. These selections are just personal favorites I have found helpful. Also, I’ve tried to share where you too can find them in popular books, these books may not be original sources. And, since I’ve already mentioned the Celtic Cross, it won’t be on this list even though I recommend it.
The Expanded Three Card Spread – Tarot For Your Self
This spread actually allows for some variance to a traditional three card reading. Ideally, you would begin with a three card spread, utilizing three piles for mind, body, and spirit. Then, for added context, you can add the bottom card from each of the piles to represent unconscious factors. If you’re like me and still want more information, then you can draw a random card from each pile to represent a conclusion or resolution. This will give you nine cards. Finally, combine all three piles, shuffle, and then draw one more card. This can be a card to clarify the whole spread, or a unifying them for the entire reading. I really like this spread due to its versatility and personalization.
The Tree of Life Spread – Ultimate Guide To The Tarot
This spread is exactly what it sounds like. Using the layout of the Tree of Life, each card represents an aspect of the Sephiroth. What I like about Liz Dean’s spread specifically, is that she allows for two different approaches to the same card layout. One approach is for divination, while the other is for spiritual insight. Personally, I’ve always preferred the spiritual insight approach. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing the other though either. In fact, I recommend at least trying both approaches to get a feel for which gives you more feedback initially. The Tree of Life is a complex part of occult philosophy, but this spread makes it so easy to get familiar with. If you’re studying Occult Tarot, this spread should be on your list.
The Triangle Layout – 1-2-3 Tarot
The triangle layout is a spread that keeps on giving. It’s similar to the expanded three card spread in that it builds on itself, but that’s where the similarities end. 1-2-3 Tarot is a book that utilizes tarot sentences to learn the cards and much of this layout works well within that structure. However, if you don’t have the book, you can still read with spread just fine. Lay the cards out in a pyramid pattern starting with one on the top. Work your way down on the right side, then across the bottom, and finally up the left side to the top. In all, you should have six cards. Then, you would read them in groups of three. Take each side of the triangle, and then finally, combine them for an overall theme. The spread is great for specific issues, or even just a general reading.
The Astrological Spread – Tarot Spreads
As one of my favorite tarot spread layouts, I do this spread at least once a year. The reason I chose Barbara Moore’s version is that she leaves out a center card. This spread specifically has one card for each astrological house. There’s a version where you can add the center card, but as a cross feature. I’ve enjoyed reading with both versions, seeing how cards mix within that cross card dynamic. But, overall, the astrological themes allow this reading to be as deep or simple as you need. There’s tons of areas to look into within the reading, and likewise, other cards provide deeper context. It’s a twelve card, maybe thirteen card spread, that really packs a lot of information into one reading. I try to do this spread as a year ahead or birthday reading.
The Work Cycle Reading – Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom
Often overlooked, I think this a spread worth having in any reader’s resources. The spread is close to the back of the book, perhaps lending to it being overlooked. This is a seemingly simple nine card spread. Two cards up top, one cross by the other, represent the inner and outer being and doing. The other seven cards are lined up in a row, and represent past experience, expectations, work, outcome, and result. Three of the middle cards represent work, allowing for fluidity in a reading. I really appreciate this spread for its accuracy. Unlike some other spreads, it’s highly adaptable to any question put to it. Likewise, there’s room to add rows, allowing for the reading to expand if necessary.
A. E. Waite’s Boaz & Jachin Spread – 365 Tarot Spreads
As a check in spread, I really like this layout. I’m a reader that loves astrology, the planets, and the Kabbalah. If you give me one of those, I’m pretty happy. This spread actually utilizes elemental energy along with the sun and moon influences. It’s a powerful, concise spread, and it utilizes the symbolism of Boaz and Jachin, who doesn’t love that? The six cards are deal out in ‘pillars’ or two columns of three cards each. The left column represents Jachin, and the fire, air, and sun influences. The right column represents Boaz, or the water, earth, and moon influences. To some, this might seem reversed. Feel free to switch the columns around to match the High Priestess card, just keep the correspondences aligned.
The Gestalt Tarot Spread – Heart of Tarot
This spread is one that I instantly incorporated into my tarot practice. Prior to this, I was using a simple seven card planetary based spread. The Gestalt spread though enhances and expands on this idea. There are twelve cards total, each representing a planet, traditional and ancient, and then an unknown factor. It’s a great spread, and I highly recommend looking into it for yourself. This spread can be used as a good general reading, a checking in spread, or even used for specific questions. The versatility of card positional meanings allows for you, the reader, to expand on the topics covered. Personally, I’ve used this spread both a general reading layout and a specific question layout. The results were good both times, and so, I recommend the spread for each.
The Picture The Pain Spread – Tarot For The Healing Heart
While I wanted to hate this book, the spread in it are quite powerful. I’m very skeptical of “healing dis-ease”, but I’m slowly being won over. One of the impactful moments of that was this picture the pain spread. There’s five cards, dealt out into a miniature cross design. The center card represents the pain of the past, while the cards around it represent, awareness, unconscious hopes or fears, the past, and a turning point. This spread is really great for shadow work, or just plain personal growth. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using to help others, but if you’re a psychologist totally prepared to help others, then this might be a thing to incorporate. The spread is simple but effective, and it changed much of how I approach the topic of healing past hurt.
The Daily Advice Reading – Tarot Prediction & Divination
Okay, so I’m not a fan of daily readings. This spread though, really is the best I’ve come across thus far. Others seem to really like it, and use it as a part of their tarot practice. The spread consists of five cards, with each card representing a part of your day in chronological order. Working with this spread is interesting, because you can definitely see parallels playing out. However, if you’re not into tarot divination, this spread can be difficult to adapt to your needs. What I’ve done, is try to keep the cards in mind as advice, or areas challenged by the day’s events. It’s not perfect, but it’s at least an attempt to work with daily draws and tarot readings.
The Court Card Consultation – Tall Dark Stranger
Usually, I hate relationship spreads. This is strange, because I love romance themed readings. The spreads though, well they usually fall flat to me personally. However, Corrine Kenner came up with a great spread. Both single people and those in a relationship can utilize this reading layout. Simply take the court cards, shuffle, and lay them out in a row of four. Each card represent one of the suits’ energy correspondences, and a personality strength you possess. Lay another row of four underneath, and this represents personality weaknesses. If you’re in a relationship, I see no reason why you could do a top row for yourself and a bottom row for your significant other. The possibilities are only limited by four possible rows, so enjoy!
Even More Spreads
Each of the books highlighted here really have a great assortment of tarot spread, some more than others though. I cannot stress enough how many tarot spreads I use that are not highlighted here. Card layouts are a versatile business, and I hope you’ve found something useful here. Each of these spreads touches on one area of the most common four asked. Hopefully, I can highlight each of these spreads with their own example post in the near future. Likewise, feel free to link to your favorite tarot spread in the comments. All I ask is that you please credit the original sources as much as possible. So go ahead, with the weekend coming up, why not try one of these spreads? If you get creative, why not even invent your own? I’ll be cover that topic soon!