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Effective Tarot Spreads

Written by Avery Woodbury

There are numerous effective tarot spreads that can bring illumination to a querent, or clarity seeker's life. Tarot is a complex and detailed craft that requires a significant time commitment to master. You can find a valuable series on mastering tarot here.

This guide will give you a variety of spreads with varying levels of purpose and difficulty. Use the images and steps to set up and dissect each reading.

Three Card Spread (Past, Present, Future)

Your first step up from just drawing a card! This spread is perfect for more concise answers. The flaw in this spread is it lacks context, elaboration, and detail.

Card 1: Place in the middle. This represents where you stand.

Card 2: Place to the left. This represents the past.

Card 3: What lies before you.

Consciousness and Competence

A four card spread that helps train the awareness of the querent. It focuses only on the present and doesn't engage outcomes.

Card 1: Place the card in the top left. This represents your "conscious incompetence" (what you are aware you don't understand).

Card 2: Place the card in the top right. This represents your "conscious competence" (what are aware you understand)

Card 3: Place in the bottom left. This represents your "unconscious incompetence" (what you are not aware you don't understand, your ignorance).

Card 4: Place in the bottom right. This represents your "unconscious competence" (what you have mastered, do not need to think about to perform or use).

The Compass

The compass takes in account the four ceremony items of magick ritual. These are wands, cups, swords, and disks. These items correlate to the four elements fire, water, air, and earth. This reading takes account of the querent's hopes, dreams, and plans in regards to all corners of their life.

Card 1: To Will: Place North. The fire in your soul that motivates the querent to achieve and seek victory and legacy.

Card 2: To Dare: Place West. The passion in your heart that inspires love, creativity, fertility, and emotion.

Card 3: To Know: Place South. The Intellect. The desire to discover, learn, and master.

Card 4: To Stay Silent: Place East. The labors and activates available and practical for the querent to maintain life.

Card 5: Go: Place in the middle.The action that should be taken by the querent. What direction to take.

Six Card Pyramid 

This spread covers the mind, heart, and what grounds the querent. This spread is conceptualized with one mind, two forces pulling at the heart, and three obligations or tasks grounding the querent. 

Card 1: Placed at the top. What is the querent thinking about or focusing on.

Card 2: Placed middle-left. One force pulling the querent.

Card 3: Placed middle-right, Other force pulling the queren.

Cards 4, 5, and 6: Bottom three in order from left to right. What grounds the querent. Includes responsibilities, obstacles , resources, or opportunities.  

Nine Card Box Spread 

A more sophisticated three card spread. The box uses the same past, present, and future as the three card spread but also includes the head space of and what grounds the querent. 

Cards 1-3: Head Space of the past (1), present (2), and future (3). Placed from left to right in order.

Cards 4-6: Where the querent stands in the past (4), present (5) and future (6).Placed from left to right in order.

Cards 7-9: Grounding forces of the past (7), present (8), and future (9). Placed form left to right in order.

Celtic Cross 

A popular and powerful spread.The Celtic cross identifies a lot of factors going on in the querents present situation and also points to the past and the present. The "cross" part identifies more with how the querent is handling life and what will come if they continue accordingly, while the "ladder" shows the steps one will take towards the final outcome after the cross reveals aspects of the self. This spread is great for querents seeking detailed answers.

Part 1

Card 1: Place in the middle of the cross. Represents where the querent currently stands. 

Card 2: "Crosses" card 1. Represents the environment and psychological factors the querent is dealing with.

Card 3: Place above cards 1/2. Represents the hopes and dreams of the querent.

Card 4: Place to the right of cards 1/2. Shows the far past. In tarot, time is relative. The far past can be years in the past, months, or a few weeks.

Card 5: Place bellow cards 1/2. Represents the recent past. Also relative, may refer to the past few days, weeks, or months.

Card 6: Place to the left of cards 1/2. Shows the path the querent is heading on if nothing changes.

Part 2

Card 7: Starts the ladder. Represents the actions the querent will take going forward after the reading.

Card 8: Place above card 7. Shows what obstacles and opportunities are on the way.

Card 9: Place above card 8. Shows what will fill the querents heart on the journey.

Card 10: Place above card 9. Shows the final outcome, or the conclusion, of the reading. 

 Secret of The High Priestess

The Priestess is the major arcana for the Moon. It represents what is hidden, unkown, dreams, intuition, and the subconscious. The Priestess lifts the veil for the those who are ready, as is revealed in this spread. The Secret of The High Priestess focuses on how the moon phases effect the querent going forward with the main conclusion being the next steps the querent can take. Card 9 is a bonus card that reveals a secret only of the card is a major arcana. If a minor, the Priestess remains silent. 

Cards 1 and 2: Place in the middle from left to right. Represents were the querent stands along with their thoughts, feelings, and dreams.

Card 3:Place in the middle of the top row. Represents the energies influencing the querent during the full moon.

Card 4: Place in the top left.Represents the energies influencing the querent during the waxing phases of the moon (from new to full).

Card 5: Place in the top right. Represents the energies influencing the querent during the waning phases of the moon (from full to new).

Card 6: Place below card 1 to the left. Represents the darker forces influencing the querent.

Card 7: Place below card 2 to the right. Represents the lighter forces influencing the querent.

Card 8: Place at the bottom of the spread. Represents the next steps the querent should make towards the truth:

Card 9: Place in the middle of cards 6 and 7. This card is the secret message from the High Priestess and should only be read if it's a major arcana. Secrets point to things you do not quite yet fully understand, know you need, or know need to happen. 

The Golden Dawn Destiny Spread 

Championed as one of the toughest spreads to learn. This spread was required to be mastered by members of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn, a mystic fraternity in Europe during the turn of the 19th century. Deep in detail, it shows the querent on their path towards their destiny. It fashions five different three card spreads into respected sections and connects them all.

Cards have the strongest influence on other cards in their similar placement, such as the center, left, or right. cards 5 and 12 are likely linked to the causes and outcomes of cards 2, 6, and 15. 

The Center

Card 1: Represents where the querent stands, or the primary force they are dealing with.

Cards 2 and 3: Represent what is beside and surrounding the querent in the present situation. May be the querent's own energy if the cards astrologically align to their natal chart.

The First Path (Top Right)

Card 8: Where the querent is heading.

Cards 12 and 4: Who and What will meet them there.

The Second Path (Top Left)

Card 9: The fork, or split in the road the querent runs into. This can also be the elaboration off of the first path.

Cards 5 and 13: Who and what will lead the querent deeper down the path or influence them to go elsewhere.

Environment and Psychological Factors (Bottom Left)

Card 10: Represents the thoughts and feelings of the querent.

Cards 6 and 14: Represent others ideas and major events.

Final Outcome and Destiny (Bottom Right)

Card 11: The fate of the querent. 

Cards 15 and 7: Things, actions, or people destined to be with you.


Regarding the Bottom of The Deck

Different readers use the bottom of the deck in different ways. It can be ignored, used as extra clarity if not enough information is in the spread or overlying theme, or used as the last card in certain spreads.How it is used is up to the reader.