The Beginner's Overview of The Tarot:

I. Introduction to the Tarot
II. The Major Arcana
III. The Minor Arcana
IV. How to Read Tarot Cards
V. Bonding with the Cards
VI. Tarot Spreads
VII. Tarot Reference Works


VI. Tarot Spreads:


1) Celtic Cross:
One of the most basic spreads is the Celtic Cross or the 10 Card Spread. The card layout is a 4 point celtic cross with a vertical line to its right side.

The card positions:

Card 1: Present Position:
Current atmosphere influencing the questioner. Stands for the questioner.

Card 2: Immediate Influence:
Shows the influences and obstacles that lay just ahead.

Card 3: Goal or Destiny:
Shows the ultimate goal or destiny of the questioner, as well as current ideals. It indicates what can be accomplished based on the existing circumstances.

Card 4: Distant Past:
Shows the events and influences which existed in the distant past that are the foundation of the present events. These influences are embodied within the questioner.

Card 5: Recent Past Events:
Indicates that which recently came into being.

Card 6: Future Influence:
Represents what will come into being in the near future.

Card 7: The Questioner:
Denotes the questioner in their present position or attitude. This card places the questioner in proper perspective.

Card 8: Environmental Factor:
Shows how the questioner influences other people, as well as how other people and factors affect him/her.

Card 9: Inner Emotions:
Shows the hopes, emotions, desires and fears of the questioner. This card may also reveal secrets and motives which the questioner keeps from others.

Card 10: Final Results:
Indicates the likely culmination and result, provided events and influences continue as indicated.


2) Horoscope Spread:
This spread uses the aspects of life and their houses as well as the signs that govern them. Also called the Zodiac Spread.

The card positions:

First House (Aries): Personality, outward appearances, interests and attitudes.

Second House (Taurus): Money matters, financial situation, material possessions.

Third House (Gemini): Communication, relationships with brothers and sisters, travel.

Fourth House (Cancer): Birth and death, home life, mother and father.

Fifth House (Leo): Love, children, creativity.

Sixth House (Virgo): Health, service.

Seventh House (Libra): Relationships, partnerships, contracts, and agreements.

Eighth House (Scorpio): Outside influences, death, inheritance.

Ninth House (Sagittarius): Search for truth, long journeys, dreams, spiritual growth.

Tenth House (Capricorn): Career, profession, ambitions.

Eleventh House (Aquarius): Friends, associations, hopes, fears.

Twelfth House (Pisces): Unconscious mind, self-undoing, limitations.


3) Yes/No Spread:
For the times when you need only a simple yes or no, all you have to do is shuffle your cards, and think of your question. Then count out the cards, stopping when you get to the thirteenth card. Turn that one face up. Repeat this until you have gone through the entire deck and have 6 face up cards. Count the number of cards that are in the upright positions. If four to six cards are upright, the answer is yes. If two to four cards are upright, the question is is leaning in your favor but is not a definite yes. If less that two cards are upright, the answer is no.


4) Trinity Spread:
This is called the Trinity Spread because it makes use of the number of life, 3. Use only the Major Arcana and the Court cards. Shuffle and lay the cards out from right to left as shown:

Allow the cards to fall upright or reversed as they come up. Vertically, the lines represent, from top to bottom, Future, Present, and Past. Horizontally, the columns stand for Emotions, Thoughts, and Actions from left to right. The tenth card at the very top stands for the Integration of the nine cards below it.

This category includes feelings, impulses, inspirations, and intuitions, as well as the things that manifest themselves in our dreams from deep inside our unconscious. Hopes and fears belong here too, as do urges and right-brain thinking. These cards give insight into the influences driving our emotions. If Court cards turn up, consider whether they represent aspects of yourself or of others with which you are involved.

Here are your rational, logical, analytical mental processes-the way we judge and assess, quantify, qualify, and justify. This is where our left-brain thinking is depicted, for most of us is the dominant driving force behind our decision making.

This category reveals how we translate our emotions and thoughts into something tangible.

This single card represents forces that could come into play and affect the picture revealed by the lower nine cards. it can reveal positive or negative energies. Remember that when negatives appear, they give us a chance to learn, change, and rectify.


5) Eliphas Levi Wheel:
Eliphas Levi didn't invent this spread, but it is based on his Tarot Wheel. To do this spread, compose a question. Take the Major Arcana only and shuffle. Draw five cards at random, one at a time, and lay them down like this:

Card 1: Present Situation:
Forces and influences immediately affecting the question. Consider people, thoughts and feelings, events and circumstances.

Card 2: Waning Influences:
Obstacles that have been overcome, aid that has come to an end, changes in emotion, energy, outlook, goals, and such.

Card 3: Hidden or Unconscious Influences:
What we repress or fail to recognize does not disappear, but finds other ways of expression. Here, we find the stuff that usually surfaces in dreams; yearnings, fears, desires, our deepest and darkest secrets. These are fragments floating in a sea of our unconscious, waiting to be reintegrated into our waking lives.

Card 4: Emerging Influences:
New factors looming on the horizon. Again, consider people, thoughts, feelings, events and circumstances.

Card 5: Synthesis:
What is needed to reconcile and unify the other four factors.

The Newman-Os Tarot Spread
Milk Dunkin' Good

The positions are fourfold, existing in two divisions of two:

Demeanour. This is the analytical basis for the reading's subject. It represents the conclusion to which most people would rationalise.

   Simulacra. The apparent, false reality of the reading subject. It is revealed by Jung's endopsych.

   Objectivity. The true, factual circumstance regarding the reading subject. It is revealed by Jung's ectopsych.

Anima Mundi. This is the mystical basis for the reading's subject. It represents an overarching truth grounded outside of intellectualism.

   Pattern. A uniting element which all aspects of the reading subject have in common.

   Bráhman. Where the pattern only united the reading subject's multifarious facets, Bráhman is the ultimate fundamental upon which all these are based.

The cards are positioned thus:

   1. First, simulacra is placed in the low position. It is the most vulgar state of understanding, a mask worn upon a farce.

   2. Second, objectivity is placed immediately about the simulacra, in the high position. This represents a "rising up" from a dissociation with reality.

   3. Thirdly, pattern is placed immediately to the left of the seam created by the separation of the low and high positions, in the secondary position. It represents an encompassing of the demeanour cards, they exist only within patterns which define their composition.

   4. Finally, Bráhman is placed opposition pattern, in the primary (or final) position. It represents a linear progression, both chronological and intellectual, from left to right; and a condensation of both demeanour and pattern. The completed arrangement is that of a cross, symbolising Christ.

Bráhman may be further explained by repeating this process, with simulacra representing an alternative misconception of its meaning.

The Branch spread

Invented by me

Most Tarot layouts are designed not to tell the future, but to give information on the present. The general excuse for this is that the future is an inexact, fluid thing, and making excessively clear predictions on it is likely to interfere with it in and of itself; a deck of cards can't generally account for choice. Even in the Celtic Cross, the cards representing the Future only apply if things continue to go about the way they're going now.

This is true, of course, but it is also overly simplistic. The future is a fluid, flexible thing, but it is still valid to reason about and perform divination against. This was much of the original intent of divination, after all. Knowing about now is all well and good, but knowing about later is a lot more fun.

The future is shaped by our choices. So why not invent a spread that reflects those choices?


Prepare your Tarot space however you ordinarily prepare for a reading; there's nothing special about this particular layout relative to any other Tarot layout. Perform whatever cleansing, protection, meditation, and/or naked candlelight yak rituals you prefer to perform.

My habit is to always pull a querent, and I deal it separately from the other cards: after the deck is shuffled, spread it out, and the person whom the reading is for- if present- should chose a card from the spread, preferably whichever one he or she feeels "drawn to". This is the querent for the reading; the remaining cards are gathered back up into the original deck order for dealing, although an additional shuffle can be done at this point. Like all fuzzy divination goo, do what feels right.

Place the Querent face-up in the middle of the table in whatever orientation it was drawn in. (If the card is reversed relative to the reader, so it is reversed. People can be blocked too.) Deal eight more cards as follows:

  1. Stacked on top of the Querent, a little offset so the index of the Querent can still be read
  2. To the left of card 1
  3. To the right of card 1
  4. To the right of card 3
  5. To the right of and half a cardlength above card 4
  6. To the right of and half a cardlength below card 4; immediately below card 5
  7. To the right of and half a cardlength above card 5
  8. To the right of and half a cardlength below card 6

The resulting shape should be similar to a sideways Y, resulting in the name "Branch spread". Time is considered to flow from left to right.

Position meanings

Like all Tarot spreads, each position has a meaning. Unlike most, these positions all refer to concrete events, situations, and options (with the exception of, as always, the Querent); this spread does not deal with "the flow of things" or "how things are perceived", unless that's what it winds up saying about the situation.

The Querent has its usual significance: it is a persona of the person for whom the reading is being performed. It describes the outlook and behavior of the person at the center of the reading, and should shape the entire reading significantly, as the filter on the experience of that person.

The remaining cards have the following significance, using the same numbering as the dealing order (which is not the same as left-to-right, since card 2 is dealt to the left of card 1):

  1. The current situation
  2. What lead to the current situation
  3. What you're (the querent is) doing right now because of the current situation
  4. What you (the querent) can't avoid because of what you've already done; immediate future
  5. One option in your (the querent's) future, part of a choice that will come after (sometimes as a result of) the future in card 4
  6. Another option, generally a clean dichotomy with card 5 (it's creepy how reliable that is)
  7. The outcome of making the decision in card 5
  8. The outcome of making the decision in card 6

This reading therefore predicts three futures: the very immediate (and usually obvious) future, and two outcomes based on possible decisions you can make.

Usage and interpretation

This reading is most obviously handy when there's a major decision coming up and you want hints on how the options might turn out, or for that matter what the options even are. It's often more useful when a person feels like there are no options, as it tends to highlight where alternatves may be found.

Cards 5 and 6 often form a clean dichotomy. When they don't, if it looks like there's a third option worth pursuing, it's often worth the trouble to invent a reading to see what options aren't encompassed in this particular reading.

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