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Tarot Spreads

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on April 1, 2010 | Comments (17)

Welcome to April! This month, we’ll move on to something fresh and new. Instead of looking at the cards, we’ll focus on how we use the cards. That’s a long way of saying: April is Spreads Month!

But just one last note about the Hierophant. Studying a card from various decks is a fun and interesting way to delve deeper into an archetype. My friend, Helen, did just that and her month-long study culminated in a fascinating meditation that she wrote about here.

I’ve always loved spreads at least as much as I love the cards themselves. From the very beginning of my tarot journey, I collected every spread I could and jumped for joy whenever I found a book with many spreads. One of my favorites was Trish MacGregor and Phyllis Vega’s Power Tarot: More Than 100 Spreads That Give Specific Answers to Your Most Important Questions.

I am not sure where I thought spreads came from, but I had this idea that you had to use a spread that had been published. Remember, this was back in early 1990s and I don’t know about you, but the internet was definitely not a part of my life the way it is now. In fact, when I went through my ATA certification in the mid-1990s, my mentor and I corresponded via snail mail. So, my world of spreads was fairly limited.

Then I met Rachel Pollack and my world exploded (in a good way). She was in the Twin Cities for an event and was taking readings. I booked one. Nervous and excited, I sat down. She asked what my question was. Then she took out a little piece of paper and began scribbling. “Okay,” she said, “I’ve created a spread based on the things you talked about pertaining to your question.”

She invented a spread right there on the spot! I didn’t know you could do that!

And that experience changed my life. I started creating spreads, both for general use and, as Rachel did for me, very specific to the question being explored.

So, to start off our month of spreads, what’s your spread story?

Reader Comments

Written By Helen
on April 1st, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

I love spreads too! I find when reading for an individual that sometimes a standard spread will suit, but more often than not designing one to meet their specific needs works the best. That way you can devise pds to address various areas of concern or aspects of the question.

I wrote an article way back in 2007 for the Tarot Guild of Australia’s Mag. called “Which Spread?” In which I raised the questions about standard spreads like the CC or Horseshoe etc, like will it meet the questioners needs? Will it help them reach the decisions they need to make? Is the focus of each card position relevant?

Then I did a step by step demo of how to design a spread for a fictional client on a subject we all get asked about, finding a resolution in a relationship. How to devise a foundation question from which all the positional definitions are created to help address the various aspects.

So as you can see I do love spreads, but having said that, it is sometimes nice just to lay cards out and read them as a story 🙂

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on April 1st, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

Hi Barb,

You know its funny you mentioned Power Tarot, it’s among my favorite books as well. 🙂 A couple years ago I was paging through the book and stumbled on the Grandmother’s Spread I immediately knew I was onto something with this one; but I was not happy with how the Spread was originally organized in Power Tarot, so I re-arranged the cards so you would have a tableau of 6 cards. Overt Energies over Hidden Energies in the Past. A 2nd Tableau Overt energies and Hidden Energies in the Present, and of 3 Cards Rising energies. Lastly we get a summation/outcome card.

This up and down Vs straight across organization of the spread really lends itself to story telling; its just a lot easier to see/imagine cross connecting energies between cards, and Tableaus; and thus between past and present; and I used this spread almost exclusively for about a year. It’s a great way to get an overview of the Q’s moment; but it lacks any cards that speak to guidance on the Question.

So now what I very often do is set aside the Present Moment Tableau, gather up and reshuffle the remaining cards and lay out a Manifestation Spread, also adapted from Power Tarot, as you may know the Manifestation spread lays out 4 cards, two speaks to your blessings in the Moment; two speak to how to use them. It’s a powerful combination of spreads; that can produce a very good reading for a Q.

Brightest Blessings, BB.

Written By Peter
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 5:29 am

Reading this post was like reading a parallel story of my own experience with Tarot spreads. In my 20-odd years of work with the tarot, I have loved collecting spreads. I actually transcribe the spread (info and diagram) and a reference to where I found it onto recipe cards. I keep the cards in a little box on my Tarot shelf. MacGregor and Vega’s book is also one of my favorites and has received several mentions in my own Tarot blog. I am particularly fond of their 20-card New Years Spread.
James Wells opened my eyes to the world of ‘on-the-spot’ spread creation. My partner booked a reading for me and James did the same thing in our session that you experienced with Rachel Pollack; he created a spread then and there. It was a very powerful experience and one I have worked at duplicating in my own Tarot work.
So, that’s my spread story, and I’m sticking to it 🙂

Written By Ty
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 6:27 am

The first spread I ever did was the Celtic Cross, because that’s what the LWB had it in it. I was intimidated but stuck with it, and began to find other spreads in books and online, and became very fond of the three card spreads.

Written By Barbara Moore
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 6:46 am

Ty, do you read the three card spreads without positional meanings or do you assign the positions meanings based on the question?

Written By Barbara Moore
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 6:47 am

Well, it’s a very good story! Thanks for sharing it 🙂

Written By Barbara Moore
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 6:52 am

BB, thanks for sharing these spreads. I’m looking forward to trying them out. I like the idea of combining spreads, to first get a sense of the situation. Then after that spread, to read for action steps.

Written By Barbara Moore
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 6:54 am

Helen, one of the things about tarot cards is that they are cards! Cards just beg to played with. Making up spreads, as well as just laying the cards and reading them, are all fun ways to play. We never seem to get tired of our toys, do we? How nice that they are practical as well as delightful!

Written By Mitchell
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 9:39 am

Help a guy out. When you say spreads. I assume you mean the shape the cards are laid out, a part of the question each card is assigned to answer, and the order they are laid out. Does the shape really matter or is it just fun?

Written By Barbara Moore
on April 2nd, 2010 @ 10:28 am

Hi Mitchell,

Yep, the shape the cards are laid out in, etc. Does the shape matter? Now that’s an excellent question and hopefully some other readers will chime in.

My opinion: Yes. I try to make the shape meaningful to the reading. In particular, I want cards that will relate specifically to other cards to be near each other in some way that makes sense. Colors and shapes play a role in my intuitive interpretation of the reading, so the the cards are laid out matters. Also, when the characters in the cards are facing toward or away from other cards, that effects my interpretation.

If others don’t reply here, I’ll add this question to Tuesday’s post.

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on April 4th, 2010 @ 8:41 am

Hi Barb, Hi Mitchell;
If I may reply without big footing the board.

I believe the shape of a spread is important for all the reasons Barb Mentioned, both because it can aid us in seeing patterns and relationships between cards; (Remember this is just why I reorganized the Grandmothers spread.) and because of our subconscious response to the cards. By way of example allow me to Introduce you to the Cup of Relationships spread.
..1..3..2 Click Here, to view the Spread.

1. Q’s Significator………. Justice Rx
2. P’s Significator………. Knave of Cups
3. Foundation……………. Knave of Pents
4. Recent Past…………… 3 of Pents Rx
5. Present Moment………… Queen of Pents
6. Bar………………….. Magus
7. Q’s View……………… Ace of Cups Rx
8. P’s View……………… 2 of Cups
9. Q’s Expectations………. 6 of Cups Rx Rx
10. P’s Expectations……… Queen of Cups
11. Outcome……………… Sun
………………I used the Lo Scarabeo Tarot.

So if we look at this spread, it takes the shape of a Large Wine Glass, and I think that plugs Us into the mind set we need for a relationship reading, the left hand (Feminine) side of the Spread speaks to the Querant (usually a woman) and the right hand (Masculine) side of the spread speaks to her Partner. We can and I often do pull down these cards and read them separately as a 3 card reading on each partner.

So her cards. Justice Rx, Ace of Cups Rx, 6 of Cups Rx; make us wonder. Does she feel her partner is cheating, why is she nostalgic for what has gone before (6 of Cups rx) What has broken her heart (Ace of Cups Rx)

While his, Knave of Cups, 2 of Cups, Queen of Cups; Don’t seem to bare hers out, he seems quite infatuated with her. As indicated by the 2 and the Queen. It is perhaps the Knave that tells most of what is going on here. She fell for her “Bad Boy, her Knave (Rouge) but now that he is returning her feelings, he is not so Bad after all, and she misses that Badness. – Now we understand her 6 of Cups better, in the Lo Scarabeo it shows a young lady, nude, holding an apple; she misses that sense of seduction he brought to her as their relationship began.

Its an old story, and the stories Tarot Tells us very often are; Pursue someone hoping they will change, and if they don’t your disappointed, but if they do… you may find your disappointed to … in this way the heart often sets itself up for failure. Better to pursue who you want from the get go; even if that seems less “Sexy.”

Enough Philosophizing.
The Pillar from the Base, to the Outcome speaks to where their energies come together, coil about one an other. Foundation Knave again, Recent Past 3 of Pents, One mentored the other in some way – she is the Queen so she likely was the Mentor. Bar. Magus as he comes into his own the relationship changes. Outcome Sun; I believe they will rediscover a renewed more equal partnership.

As you can see, this spread allows us to sort out the individual energies of the Q. and P from how they combine, and this is the most useful aspect of the spread to my mind. People can loose themselves in a relationship; and that can muddy the reading with the wrong spread.

BTW, just reading the bottom 3 cards is a good spread for a brand new relationship. Now it would be wrong of me to take credit for this spread. I found it years ago at the Tarot Guild of Australia Website, and with minor modifications have been using it ever since. You might notice the Sig is optional as depicted on this website. I feel its needed; but I also perfer to pull Sig’s from the deck, same as any other card Vs assigning them, when we Assign a Sig, we deprive our guides of an oppertunity to tell us something about that person, and I feel its best not to do that myself. BTW – This pull was a fictionalization, made by slightly rearranging the cards of an actual pull.

Nuff Said, Brightest Blessings, BB.

Written By Douglas Gibb
on April 4th, 2010 @ 9:20 am

This is one area of Tarot that I never got completley into. I only know a couple of spreads (embarrassed smile) and have never gotten around to expanding upon them.

I think the reason for this, to a large extent, is that I don’t really adhere to the spreads I’ve learned anyway.

Whenever I read, all the stuff I’ve picked up over the years acts to overrule the essential purpose of the spread I’m using. I think this all started to happen when I moved away from positional based spreads – which I guess is a kind of spread 😀

The Rachel Pollack story is inspiring. It’s that carefree approach to Tarot, or in this case, Tarot spreads, that I try to use in developing my own style.

Looking forward to the rest of the posts 🙂

Written By Julie Webster
on April 5th, 2010 @ 7:43 am

hi, I found your blog about different card spreads really interesting.
I found that when I started I was more comfortable sticking with the 3 card spread-I found I could practice more often and got my speed and confidence up-because for me it really was a matter of confidence- and allowing the cards to convey to me what they wanted to say.
Thanks for an interesting blog
Julie Webster

Written By Ty
on April 6th, 2010 @ 11:53 am


I always designate what each position will represent before I shuffle and lay down the cards. Otherwise, I’d be subject to wishful thinking! 😉


Written By Koneta
on April 12th, 2010 @ 8:44 am

I love spreads and I am always looking for new and insightful spreads to use. My favorite daily spread is a basic 3 card with, I think a very cool twist. It’s call The Bridge. I saw this on a chat board a while back, (I’m not sure of the author, or if this variation has been published).

1 3 2

1st position, Where I am.
2nd position, Where I’m headed.
3rd position, How to get there gracefully. (this card placed sideways to Bridge the other two cards)

I feel this is a very elegant spread to look at a lot of different situations. Whether affirming or being helpful if the spread is a bit troublesome, the Bridge card can give you great advice and insight to get where your going hopefully with grace and maybe a lesson learned in arriving there.

I hope this spread can inspire others.
Happy Tarot’ing!


  1. Consistency & Hobgoblins  on April 6th, 2010 @ 7:15 am

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