Someone wise once said, "you can't learn how to read the tarot in one lifetime." Tarot reading is a complex, personal and often misunderstood practice, so it makes sense that learning it isn't a straightforward pursuit.
Many of our customers at Dragonspace are new to the world of tarot and are interested in learning the basics. We've written some previous blog posts about tarot, such as Introduction to Tarot and Oracle and Five Misconceptions About Tarot. These will give you some insight into what tarot reading is all about, and also what it isn't all about.
Once you understand the basic concept of tarot reading and the structure of the traditional deck, you'll probably want to start experimenting with some popular spreads. Spreads are the arrangement of tarot cards into a particular sequence. Each card's positioning in the sequence will relate to an element of the situation you want insight into, leading to a likely outcome or answer.
Below, we've laid four common tarot spreads to help you get started.
This is the simplest 'spread' of all, and is a good way of familiarising yourself with the individual cards. Simply draw a single card intuitively from the deck, preferably at the beginning of your day. This card will help inform your action, direction and focus for the day. You might choose to place the card on your desk, in your pocket, or at your altar if you have one. You could even keep a running journal of the cards you pull recording their meanings and how they end up informing your day.
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
This three-card spread works when you or your querent (the person you're reading for) has a particular situation they want clarity or guidance on. Three cards are drawn from the deck and laid down in a straight line.
Card 1 - relates to the past events or actions that have led to your current situation.
Card 2 - relates to the present situation.
Card 3 - relates to the possible future outcomes of the situation.
The symbols and archetypes that crop up in the past and present cards may help you to better understand the situation and how you have arrived at it, which will inform your future direction. This is the practical way in which tarot can be used to influence your future, without getting into the murky realms of outright fortune-telling.
This 'simple cross' four-card spread can be used for a number of situations, but is effective when a specific decision needs to be made - e.g. a job offer or a big move.
Card 1 - relates to the opportunities and chances available to you at this moment - can also be seen as the "pros" card
Card 2 - relates to the question at hand.
Card 3 - relates to the potential challenges and obstacles that you might need to face - can also be seen as the "cons" card.
Card 4 - relates to the the answer to the question.
Like most tarot spreads, this isn't designed to give a definitive 'yes or no' answer, but will help you to dig deeper into the situation and examine all angles.
This spread might look complicated, but is a popular spread that you'll probably end up favouring once you get familiar with it. This is a spread to use when you're dealing with a complex challenge or decision in your (or the querent's) life, which you need to examine in depth.
Note: while the general layout of the Celtic Cross spread is universal, different tarot readers might favour a slightly different arrangement or approach. This one outlined here is one of the common arrangements, but is not the only one. You'll come to find the arrangement and interpretations you're comfortable with once you're more familiar with the spread.
Card 1 - relates to the querent herself or himself.
Card 2 - relates to the situation or challenge the querent is facing.
Card 3 - relates to the future possibilities and potential outcome based on the querent's innermost thoughts and feelings - note, this is different than the 'most likely outcome' signified by Card 10. Card 3 relates to what the querent believes might happen, which can be different to what will likely actually happen.
Card 4 - relates to the distant past and deep-rooted circumstances that have laid the foundation for the situation.
Card 5 - relates to the immediate future events that will take place very soon.
Card 6 - relates to the immediate past circumstances that have influenced the situation, which are starting to recede.
Card 7 - relates to internal influences - the emotions, thoughts and opinions inside the querent's mind that are affecting the situation.
Card 8 - relates to external influences and environment - this may be family, job, community or otherwise.
Card 9 - relates to the querent's overall hopes and fears in life - these are often larger and more universal than the present situation, but will be of influence.
Card 10 - represents the most likely outcome of the situation based on the current course of action.
Card number 3 and card number 10 should be considered together once the full reading has taken place. Card number 3 represents the outcome the querent is expecting and personally projecting onto the future - whether that's positive or negative. Card number 10 represents the most likely actual outcome based on the whole picture. Sometimes these two cards will be harmony, and sometimes they will be in conflict. This will determine whether the querent's expectations align with their current course of action, and whether they need to stick with their current path or deviate from it.
These are a few of the most common tarot spreads, though there are many others out there - you might even end up inventing your own spread that works best for you. Tarot is all about intuition and personal experience, and its an exciting path to be on. Let us know in the comments if you favour a particular spread, or if there are other tarot topics you'd like us to cover in the blog!