A Beginner’s Guide To Tarot Card Spreads

Rebecca WojnoByRebecca WojnoJul. 30, 2019
Beginner's guide for tarot card layouts
Tarot cards—those decks with beautiful illustrations printed on each card—likely originated in northern Italy during the late 14th or early 15th century. While they don’t tell the future, they can help deliver spiritual guidance and help a person connect to their inner self and find clarity on a given situation.

Decks can illuminate the past and present, and also lay out some of the directions they can take. Owner of holistic wellness company Soul'ed Out, Gaye Weintraub said:

Decks are best used as a tool of inner wisdom and guidance, as readings give a person insight to past, current and future events based on the person's current path at the time of the reading. The cards do not necessarily reveal what will happen, but instead, allow a person to gain an understanding of a situation and determine the best course of action based on what is known and what the cards show. 

Though there’s no right or wrong way to read tarot, it’s useful to know some of the basics. 

What’s In A Tarot Card Deck?

Tarot cards are a deck of 78 cards that provide spiritual guidance and promote self awareness and inner knowledge. Each card in the deck is significant on it’s own with each pack split into 2 types of cards: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. The 22 Major Arcana cards (the Magician, the High Priestess, the Hierophant, the Emperor, etc.) represent the spiritual forces at work that enable us to keep growing through life’s major challenges or opportunities. A few of the Major cards include:

  • Strength: our inner strength, resilience and discipline. This card shows a need to remain calm and not give up when facing challenges. 
  • High Priestess:pausing and reflecting before taking action
  • Temperance: balance and moderation
  • Moon: a lack of clarity or confusion regarding a situation
  • The Magician: the potential and bigger picture

The remaining 56 Minor Arcana cards represent the decisions and actions you carry out during your day-to-day that may or may not lead you toward your destiny. The Minor Arcana is then divided into 4 suits that all signify different aspects of our lives. For example:

  • Wands (fire): relate to passion, action, and energy
  • Pentacles (earth): symbolize our values, physical body, work, financial situation, and other practical matters
  • Cups (water): refers to relationships, love, and our emotions
  • Swords (air): are connected to truth, intelligence, and conflicts

Each minor suit has 14 cards: ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, plus 4 Court cards—Page, Knight, Queen, King. The court cards represent our current energy or the people in our lives.Each card has its own meaning, but relates to the other cards you draw within the spread. 

What are Tarot Card Spreads?

Spreads are the pattern readers lay your cards out in for the reading. Each pattern has its own meaning and specific energy and while there are hundreds of patterns, below are a few of the most popular options.

The True Love Spread

The True Love Spread

This arrangement gives insight into your emotional, spiritual, and physical connection with your partner. 

3-Card Past, Present, And Future

3-Card Past, Present, and Future

For those just starting out, this straightforward reading will tell you how your past actions have led to the present. The first 2 cards combine to give you an idea of what’s in store for the future.

The Celtic Cross layout

The Celtic Cross Layout

This setup is great for a complex situation because you can see several possible outcomes.

Birthday Spread

The Birthday Spread

A guide for answering questions like: what empowers you, which actions are required to reach your goals, your present emotional and spiritual state, etc.

Single Use Card

Single Use Card

For when you need help answering a yes or a no question, set the tone for the day, or gain clarity into a problem.

Finding Guidance In Tough Times

Finding Guidance Through Tough Times

Start by asking yourself: What choice got me here? (card 1), What needs to happen for me to reach the desired outcome? (card 2), How do I support the shift? (card 3). 

Fear Of Releasing

Fear of Releasing

Use this spread to ask yourself what you’re afraid of, what you can do to confront and release your fear, how to replace your fear, and how to move forward.

Stuck on a problem or just want some guidance on how to get your desired outcome? From love and marriage to career questions, emotional state, or a glimpse into future possibilities, tarot cards are a great channel to let your inner guide take over and present your past and current situation, while laying out some possible directions to take moving forward. Whether you’ve had readings before or are just now starting to experiment with tarot cards, it’s important to realize the cards do not mean your future is predetermined. Choose the deck that speaks the most to you, get familiar with the basics, and access your inner wisdom for insights into the spiritual and physical worlds.

Rebecca WojnoByRebecca WojnoMar. 25, 2019
Rebecca is a marketing content writer and copy editor. She spends her time reading, searching for good Mexican food, and watching "Suits" reruns.