Three Card Tarot Spread

If you’re a beginner to Tarot–or if you’re a more experienced reader who just wants to brush up on your skills–the three card spread is a great way to get some practice. It’s the simplest of readings, and allows you to do a basic reading in just three steps. You can use this quick method to do readings for friends and family as you brush up on your skills, or you can use it for any Querent who needs an answer in a hurry. The three cards represent the past, the present and the future.

Three Card Tarot Spread

3 Card Spread
Use just three cards for a simple reading. Patti Wigington

Card 1: The Past

The concept of the past sounds like an obvious one, but often there are subtleties involved. While this can include the Querent’s past, it can also include events or the feelings of others that have had an impact or influence on the current situation. Does it necessarily mean things that took place long ago? Maybe... or it could be a conversation that took place last week.

In the spread in the photo, the past is represented by the Hermit, which is the ninth card in the Major Arcana. When the Hermit appears in a reading, know that you have a chance to receive wisdom from the Divine, or from the spirit world. The Hermit reminds us that our goals can be attained, but the journey is not always smooth or easy. Perhaps our Querent has been forced to struggle through hardships on his journey.

Why is the past important in a reading? It's significant because your past experiences color the person you are now, and inform the individual you will later become. While it doesn't necessarily have to bring you down–because the past isn't always bad–it's crucial to recognize that the influences of days gone by will always have a bearing your on your here and now.

Card 2: The Present

The center card symbolizes the present–the things that are happening right now around you. Because this spread contains only three cards, many things can be read into this card that might normally be seen in several cards in other spreads. For instance, it can relate to how others view the situation, external influences, hidden obstacles, and that sort of thing. In this layout, we see a reversed Five of Wands. This indicates that there is some discord going on at present, and it will take time to work through it and get it all fixed.


More Spreads to Try

Tarot Reader
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Card 3: The Future

Our last card represents the final outcome. It could be a long-term goal or an immediate resolution, depending on the question and the situation that the Querent is facing. Our third card in this layout is the Ten of Cups, which shows that long-term relationships will flourish and grow. In some cases, it refers to a fresh start in your home; this could be a new home, or just a brand new beginning of some sort. Notice the imagery in the card; a couple and their happy children stand looking at their home while a rainbow of cups lingers overhead. It’s all about happiness, dreams coming true, and long-term joy.

Although the card in the future doesn't necessarily have to be something that's etched in stone, generally, if you see a card signifying something you don't like, change what you're doing right now, and you can change your long-term outcome.

Want to step up your Tarot game a little bit? Try branching out and using one of these other spreads to hone your skills:

  • 5 Cards–The Pentagram Spread: Within the pentagram, each of the five points has a meaning. They symbolize the four classical elements—Earth, Air, Fire and Water—as well as Spirit, which is sometimes referred to as the fifth element. Each of these aspects is incorporated into this Tarot card layout.
  • 7 Cards–The Horseshoe Spread: Although it utilizes seven different cards, this is actually a fairly basic spread. Each card is positioned in a way that connects to different aspects of the problem or situation at hand.
  • 10 Cards–The Celtic Cross: This is one of the most detailed and complex spreads used. It's a good one to use when you have a specific question that needs to be answered, because it takes you, step by step, through all the different aspects of the situation.
  • 21 Cards–The Romany Spread: The Romany Tarot spread is a simple one, and yet it reveals a surprising amount of information. This is a good spread to use if you are just looking for a general overview of a situation, or if you have several different interconnected issues that you're trying to resolve.
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Wigington, Patti. "Three Card Tarot Spread." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Wigington, Patti. (2023, April 5). Three Card Tarot Spread. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Three Card Tarot Spread." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).