Layouts for your Tarot Card Readings

Collection of images demonstrating spreads for your Tarot card readings. Simple instructions are given for shuffling, cutting-the-deck, and positioning of the cards for each of the spreads.

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Celtic Cross Tarot Spread

A celtic cross

Phylameana lila Desy

The Celtic Cross is probably, hands down, the most common layout used for a Tarot card reading. Ten cards are drawn from the shuffled deck to form the Celtic Cross. The meanings of the card placements may vary slightly depending on the teaching source. Below is one interpretation of meanings of card placement.

  1. The first card is the signifier card, or in the absence of a signifier card, an optional card is used as a 'starting point" or "focus" of the reading.
  2. The second card is crisscrossed on top of the first card. This card placement represents possible conflicts or obstacles for the querent.
  3. The third card is placed directly below the first card. This card placement generally represents distant past or inherited traits of the querent.
  4. The fourth card is placed to the left of the first card. This card placement represents recent influences that are currently affecting the querent's life or situation.
  5. The fifth card is placed above the first card. This card placement indicates influences that are likely to occur in the near future which may or may not affect the querent's life or situation.
  6. The sixth card is placed to the right of the first card. This card placement represents fate or destiny. This is a stubborn placement or karmic influence that will surface in coming days, weeks, or months, not much wiggle room.
  7. The seventh card is the bottom card placed in a vertical row of 4 cards along the right side of the previous cards laid down. This card placement represents the querent's state of mind and emotions in this situation: balanced, erratic, stoic, anxious, or whatever.
  8. The eighth card is placed above the seventh card. This card placement is representative of outside influences, typically opinions of family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
  9. The ninth card is placed above the eighth card. This card placement represents the querent's hopes or fears.
  10. The tenth card is placed above the ninth card. This card placement represents the final outcome of the reading. It does not have the final say by any means; all the cards play a part in the full meaning of the reading. However, this card placement has a big say in the manner. A heavy-lifter, you might say.

The Cards: Voyager Tarot, James Wanless, 1984, Merrill-West Publishing

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Tree of Life Tarot Spread

A sample Tree of Life Tarot spread

Phylameana lila Desy

The Tree of Life Tarot Spread consists of ten cards; an eleventh signifier card can be optionally added, position it in the center of the spread directly beneath the top card. The spread resembles a weeping willow tree.

  • Tree Top: Spiritual Goal (position signifier card under this card if you like)
  • Left Side Branches: Top to Bottom (Choice, Cons, and Mental)
  • Right Side Branches: Top to Bottom (Choice, Pros, and Emotional)
  • Center Tree: Outcome/Knowledge
  • Tree Trunk: Top to Bottom (Heart, Personal View)
  • The base of the Tree: World View

How to Layout Your Cards:

First, you form the tree branches in three rows. Place your drawn cards from left to right. These card positions reflect opposing energies.

  • Position 1: Left—Choice
  • Position 2: Right—Choice
  • Position 3: Left—Cons
  • Position 4: Right—Pros
  • Position 5: Left—Mental Reflections
  • Position 6: Right—Emotional Reflections

Next, you form the tree trunk beginning with the base or tree roots and go upwards.

  • Position 7: World View
  • Position 8: Personal Opinion
  • Position 9: Heart

Place the final card at the top to complete your Tree of Life.

  • Position 10: Spiritual Influences

In reading the cards in your Tree of Life spread you divine answers to your inquiry based on the cards in the various positions.

  • What are your options? (1&2)
  • Consider the pros and cons. (3&4)
  • Explore your thoughts and feelings. (5&6)
  • What are your physical manifestations and worldly influences? (7)
  • How do you view your current position? (8)
  • Connect to your heart or inner knowing. (9)
  • Understanding spiritual goal or growth potential. (10)

The Cards: The cards depicted in this photo of the Tree of Life Tarot Card Spread are from the Italian Tarot Deck, Tarocco "Soproafino" Made in Milano, Italy exclusively for Cavallini & Co., San Francisco.

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Three Card Tarot Spread

A Three Card Tarot spread

Phylameana lila

The 3 Card Tarot Spread is an overview of the Past Present and Future of the querent. Three cards are drawn from a deck of cards that have been shuffled and cut twice. The cards are placed down on the table. The first card flipped over is the middle card, representing present influences. Secondly, the card on the left is turned over for review of past influences. Thirdly, the final card on the right is revealed to give a future outlook.

The Cards: The Rider Tarot Deck, Arthur Edward Waite

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Spiral Tarot Spread

Spiral Tarot Spread

This Spiral Tarot is a page taken from Sacred Geometry Oracle Deck. Not specific to Tarot but Francene Hart's Golden Spiral Spread can be used with Tarot decks.

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Gypsy Tarot Card Spread

photo (c) Phylameana lila Desy

Before starting this reading separate the major arcana from the minor arcana. The querent is handed the stack of 56 minor arcana cards to shuffle and draw 20 cards from. Remaining undrawn minor arcana cards are set aside.

The Tarot reader then combines the 22 major arcana cards with the 20 cards drawn by the querent. This completes the 42 cards needed for the Gypsy Tarot Spread.

The querent is then given these 42 cards and asked to reshuffle and make 6 piles of cards with 7 cards in each pile. They are placed face down from right to left in a row.

The Tarot reader then picks up the first pile and lays down the seven cards face up in a row. The second pile of cards forms the second row of 7 cards beneath the first row. The Tarot reader continues placing the piles into rows until there are six rows. The first row is at the top of the spread.

Choosing the Signifier Card

From among 42 cards that are now spread out the Tarot reader chooses one card as the signifier card to represent the querent. Typically, for a male querent, a card chosen would be The Fool, The Magician, or The Emperor, for a female querent a card chosen would be The Fool, The High Priestess, or The Empress. The chosen signifier card is placed near the top row of the spread. The querent is then handed the deck of remaining minor arcana from which one card is selected to replace the vacant position.

The Tarot Reader then reviews the card spread to get an overall feel for the layout. The cards are read from right to left beginning at the first row, continuing downwards until the final seventh card in the last row is read. Insights are gleaned from individual or cards or in groupings. Card placement meanings for the six rows are as given below.

  • Row 1: Past Influences
  • Row 2: Present Influences
  • Row 3: Outside Influences
  • Row 4: Immediate Influences
  • Row 5: Possibilities for the Future
  • Row 6: Future Results and Outcome

The Cards: The cards used in the Gypsy Tarot Spread pictured here is from the 1JJ Swiss Tarot Card Deck

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Tarot, Stuart R. Kaplan, 1978, ISBN 0913866113, U.S. Games Systems

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Pyramid Tarot Card Spread

Life Review reading Pyramid Tarot Card spread

Screenshot (Legacy of the Divine Tarot)

This pyramid Tarot spread consists of ten cards. This spread can be used for periodic life review readings. You might think of it as a "check-in" or yearly evaluation of your life journey and lessons learned. While shuffling the deck old the "intent" in your heart and mind that you are open to messages about your life path, current and ongoing. Place all the cards upright starting with the top card. For the top card, you can pre-choose a signifier card for this position OR select a random card drawn from the shuffled deck. Place the remaining rows of cards onto the table from left to right.

  • Top Card: Signifier or Representative of Current Life
  • Second Row: Two cards represent life lessons learned from parents, teachers, past experiences, etc.
  • Third Row: Three cards reflect current influences, beliefs, actions based on lessons learned thus far in life.
  • Fourth Row: The four foundation cards of the pyramid are indicators of how things are going (smoothly, rough, or otherwise) and offer glimpses into future life lessons.
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Double Triad Tarot Spread

Golden Cards on lace shawl in double triad tarot spread

Phylameana lila Desy

The Double Triad Tarot spread consists of seven cards. The center card is the signifier. The other six cards are positioned to form two triangles: an upright triangle (pyramid) and upside down triangle (inverted pyramid). These two triangles interlock forming a six-pointed star. Geometrically this star card layout with its seventh card in the center forms a merkaba.

The three cards that form the upright triangle reflect on the physical aspects of the querent's life. The three cards that form the upside down triangle reflect on the spiritual aspects of the querent's life.

The Cards: The cards shown here in the Merkaba Tarot Card Spread are from The Medieval Scarpini Tarot, Luigi Scapini, US Games Systems, Inc. 1985.

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Sacred Circle Tarot Card Spread

Mandala reading Sacred Circle Tarot spread

Phylameana lila Desy

Five cards are placed inside a circle for this Tarot reading. This sacred circle is intended to emulate a mandala or Native American medicine wheel. Draw from the deck and place your first card in the east position, moving in the counter-clockwise direction as place your cards in the South, West, and North positions. With each placement, you reflect on your various bodies noted below. The final card is intended to integrate your spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental bodies and offer wisdom and inner guidance.

  • East: Spiritual Body
  • South: Physical Body
  • West: Emotional Body
  • North: Mental Body
  • Center of Circle: Inner Guidance
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Your Citation
Desy, Phylameana lila. "Layouts for your Tarot Card Readings." Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, Desy, Phylameana lila. (2021, February 8). Layouts for your Tarot Card Readings. Retrieved from Desy, Phylameana lila. "Layouts for your Tarot Card Readings." Learn Religions. (accessed June 10, 2023).