tarot spreads 101
p.s. find more spreads on the blog!
Let's talk basics
Cards can be pulled and interpreted individually, but commonly they are read in spreads. A spread is an arrangement of cards, usually pulled at random, and each card represents a question that querent asked the deck. In some cases, a card can be a signifier, which means it represents the querent (the person the reading is for).
To better understand the structure of a Tarot deck, consider checking out this page before reading on. When a major arcana card appears in a spread, this is a sign that a major life event is currently happening or is going to soon. Major life events could be things like finding a soulmate, a personal transformation, or the end of a chapter.
Minor arcana cards represent what is happening in your life at that time. These cards can give us insight into our present situation and help us decide which actions to take. Each suit in the minor arcana represents an aspect of life:
Cups - emotions, intuitions, relationships
Pentacles - career, material items, finances
Swords - intellect, communication
Wands - creativity, passion, motivation
The court cards represent personalities, stages of life, or even specific people:
Pages - potential, children, teenagers
Knights - action, young adults especially young men
Queens - satisfaction, adult women, mothers
Kings - stability, adult men, fathers
How to read a spread
It helps if you know the meanings of the cards, but don’t feel as if you have to have the cards memorized to read successfully. Trust your intuition! I am going to walk you through how I learned to interpret spreads.
Imagery: What do you see on the cards? Look for symbols, colors, what the people are doing, their facial expressions
Reversals: Are any of the cards reversed? It is totally up to you if you want to interpret reversed cards. Do what feels right to you.
Suits: What suits did you pull? Check to see if any suit is over or underrepresented.
Major vs minor arcana: one or more major arcana cards imply that your question is related to a major life change or shift
Your feelings: Check in with yourself. How do you feel? There are some cards that put a huge smile on my face, and there are some that make my heart drop. Pay attention to how you react to the cards; emotionally, mentally, and physically.
The big picture: What story is the spread telling? See if any of the people are facing each other or facing away. How does Card A relate to Card B?
What’s the take-away message? Try to form one, cohesive message the cards are telling you.
Umm, could I get an example?
Usually readings are more in-depth than this, but here's a crude example to demonstrate how it works! This is a reading for a woman who is thinking about going back to school. As a signifier, I chose the Queen of Swords, who is an intelligent and courageous woman. I asked three questions (1) what is her purpose, (2) how will going back to school benefit her, and (3) what advice she needs moving forward. So let's take a look at the cards I drew for her:
All upright cards
A good representation of all suits
No major arcana
All generally positive cards
1. 4 of wands: home, marriage, family
2. 10 of cups: emotional fulfillment
3. 8 of pentacles: hard work
Take away message:
Consider going into a field that involves family or marriage, such as counseling, social work, or even wedding planning. This journey will bring much emotional fulfillment and satisfaction. Whatever path you choose, work hard and persist.
What if I can’t interpret the spread?
That’s okay! Not every spread is going to resonate with you right away. I have done spreads where I have no idea what the cards are trying to tell me. Take a picture or make some notes, and come back to it later. I have also found that if I don’t ask clear questions, I have trouble interpreting. Try to have clear, straightforward questions. If you are a newbie and can’t interpret a large spread, try practicing with smaller spreads first.
Where can I find ideas for spreads?
I have had great luck finding spreads on Pinterest (The Black Cat Tarot is on Pinterest!). I also have this blog post covering some simple spreads that are great for beginners or experienced readers looking for something new. But if you can’t find one you like, why not create your own? If you are a new reader, it may seem intimidating to create a spread. I recommend looking at other examples first and practicing with simple spreads to get comfortable.
Any other tips?
Keep a Tarot journal. Write down the questions you asked, the cards you drew, and your interpretation. I find that I always have a great reading when I journal! It makes me much more introspective and thoughtful
Read for your pet or fictional characters when you want to practice
Do not continuously pull cards to get the answers you want. Remember that a reading is not a death sentence and you have the power to create the life you want, regardless of what the cards say
Trust your intuition! Try to read without the booklet or online resources of the card meanings. Most of the time, you will be able to correctly interpret the cards without having to look up the meanings
Get in the mood. Light candles, meditate to clear your mind, or grab your favorite crystals... whatever gets you in the right mindset to read