There are numerous different tarot card spreads, each designed to give the reader different information. Each reader has their favourites and certain spreads are more commonly used than others. Depending on whether the reading is general or in answer to a specific question, the reader will determine which spread will best suit the purpose and what the customer wants to get from the cards.
There are two sets of cards in a tarot deck, known as ‘arcanas’. The Minor Arcana has 56 cards in four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. Each suit has four court cards: King, Queen, Knight and Page. The Major Arcana has 22 cards, each with their own number, title and symbolic image and meaning. A card’s position in a spread (the time it is drawn and the way it is facing), affects the meaning it conveys. Also, the amount of different cards drawn affects the outcome of the reading; if more Minor Arcana cards are drawn, that means your destiny is in your hands. If more Major Arcana cards occur, this means that fate is in control of your future.
The three card spread is the most simple tarot spread. Three cards are spread out and they represent the past, present and future. This spread can be used for a general reading but works best when answering a specific question. For example, if you have a specific issue in your life, the three card spread will tell you how time will affect it. The first card tells you what effect the past had on the issue and how it came about. The second card explains the situation at present and what is standing in your way. The third card describes the future and how best to solve the problem and move on.
The Celtic Cross is probably the best known and most popular tarot card spread. The Celtic Cross is divided into two sections: the cross on the left and the staff on the right. The cross is made up of six cards and the staff is made up on four.
Two crosses make up the cross section: the central one, made up of two cards, and the larger one surrounding it, made up of four cards. The smaller cross represents what is most important to you at the time of the reading. The larger cross is made up of two lines that overlay the smaller one. The horizontal line represents time. The vertical line represents your conscious mind.
The staff sections of the cards represent your life in general, outside of the current issue. It helps you understand your life and the lessons it teaches you and others in it.
The Horseshoe Tarot spread is excellent for answering specific questions. There are seven cards in the spread, each with a different meaning. The first card in the spread represents the past and its influences on your question. The second card is the present and the situation at this moment in time. The third card symbolises the hidden influences, things you may not know are having an impact on your question. The fourth card represents any obstacles you may need to overcome and the fifth card shows any outside influences and the attitudes of other people. The sixth card represents the best course of action and the last card depicts the outcome. Although the cards are always laid out in a horseshoe pattern and the positions of the cards always have the same meaning, tarot card readers don’t always reveal the cards in the same order, as some prefer to gather the information surrounding the problem in different ways so they can get a clearer picture.
The Fan Spread is useful if you need a general life reading, when you don’t have a specific question or problem that needs addressing. There are 22 cards in the spread. The first card represents you, and this lies in the centre of the spread. This card is usually a Court Card of the Minor Arcana. Surrounding this card are the other 21 cards, in seven groups of three, spread out in a fan. Each group of cards represents a different aspect of your life. The first group explains your character, and what makes you as a person. The second group represents the relationships in your life and any emotional links that you have. Groups three and four represent your desires and what you expect to get out of life. The fifth group explains any factors that you may not expect to have an impact on your life. The penultimate card represents what will happen in the near future, and the final card represents what the distant future has in store for you.