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Three-Card Readings

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on May 11, 2010 | Comments (10)

Robert M. Place is the creator of several decks, including the Alchemical Tarot and the Buddha Tarot as well as the author of The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination. He shared 2 techniques with the group. The first focused on energy flow within a three-card spread. The second was a large 21-card spread that built on the idea of the three-card spread, so it was, in essence, a seven-position spread with three cards in each position.

Looking at the energy flow within three cards being read together is incredibly helpful. It gives an added level of meaning and precision to an interpretation. Lay out three cards and look at the way that the main characters in the cards are facing. If, for example, they are looking to the right, the energy flows from left to right like a linear story. If two figures have their backs to each other, they are moving away from one another. If they are facing each other, they moving toward each other. If the two outside cards are both facing toward the center card and the center card is facing forward, the outside cards are both moving toward the same thing.

Writing it out makes it sound complicated, but it is not. In fact, it is surprisingly intuitive. Here is my reading from the workshop. We had to ask: What do I need to know about this technique that will help me?


The central figure in the first card is looking toward the center card showing a progression from the chaos of the 5 of Wands to the order of the 3 of Pentacles. The figure on the left in the center card is looking toward the Knight, showing a movement from creating something to having something of value to offer.

So I interpreted this reading as: When the cards present muddled energy and I cannot immediately sense/see the story in the cards (5 of Wands), I should slow down. By slowing down and consulting with the characters in the cards (3 of Pentacles) I will finally craft something of value to offer my querent (Knight of Pentacles).

This technique quickly found a place in my reading practice and has already become second nature. Let me know what you think.

Reader Comments

Written By Rose Vanden Eynden
on May 11th, 2010 @ 8:54 am

I have just recently intuitively started looking more at the positions of the figures in the cards and how they are facing each other in a throw or spread. This explanation of energy flow really makes sense to me! Thanks so much to Robert for the tip and to you for sharing it! 🙂

Written By Ty
on May 11th, 2010 @ 9:09 am

That’s amazing, yet seems so devastatingly simple at the same time! Sometimes I do see the cards as almost a story in a ‘comic book’ format, but this is a real eye-opener. And it’s just in time for the class I’ll be starting this weekend. Synchronicity, anyone?

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on May 11th, 2010 @ 9:53 am

Oh yes,
And looking at a spread like the
Grandmother’s Spread I have mentioned before ….

1 2 3 7 8 9
4 5 6 10 11 12 …

Patterns between cards above and below, speaking to overt and hidden influcences, or between cards occupying the same position in two seperate Tableau’s like say cards 1 and 7 can speak to resonances between past (card 1) and present (card 7) either in terms of Echos of the Past, or Evolution into the Present.

7 of Wands (1) 9 of Wand (7) Echoes.
Princess (1) Queen (7) Evolution.

I like what TY said about a comic book format, because I view my own style very much as that of a story teller and comic Analogy is perfect. and like a comic while a spread might have an expected flow, sometimes the art takes over and redirects our gaze. Once you get used to this, you get more of this sort of flow in the Celtic Cross than you might think.

Again, with the Princess Queen Pair; you might well find they speak to the same light shining in seperate windows. Looking forward to your reply. Blessings, BB.

Written By sharon
on May 11th, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

Thanks for that. just gives me a fresh perspective through which to consult the cards.. i like this one and see me using it.. Thanks again.. Blessings. S.

Written By helen
on May 11th, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

I drew three cards and I have one that just looks to the left, the centre is an ace and the last card looks out straight at me – I think I’ll show these on my blog and tell what I think – I used your question Babs -“What do I need to know about this technique that will help me?”

Just looking at the way the cards interact/look at each other is an interesting process and I certainly feel a new energy from reading this way.

Written By Mike Hernandez
on May 12th, 2010 @ 3:13 am

This is an increadibly cool technique and I use it now on practically all of my readings. I’ve found that this technique works on spreads containing any number of cards. I’ve seen great results when using this on my favorite spreads containing anywhere from 3 – 12 cards, and in various layouts, too. You’d be amazed at how you can see the flow in your cards and how it helps you weave the story together much more effectively.

I use reversed cards in my readings, and I can assure you that it still works wonders! You’ll begin to see just how a reversed card really impacts the cards around it. Again, incredible.

The only extra advice I have is to learn using this technique on three cards before you move on to larger spreads – you really want to make sure you have this technique down clearly in your mind.

Written By Barbara Moore
on May 12th, 2010 @ 8:30 am

Mike, thanks, and I also think people should keep in mind that I’ve only written a very short post on this. Bob explained it in more detail and I think there is even more in one of his books…but which one? I need to find that out, because this little taste has been so helpful that I want to know more.

Written By Barbara Moore
on May 12th, 2010 @ 8:31 am

That was a good post, Helen. Thanks for sharing (people should go take a look here.

Written By Joanne
on May 12th, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

I love this process. The book I have that talks about this is The Tarot History, Symbolism, and Divination. It is in a section called The Three-Card Message which begins on 273. No, I don’t have a photographic memory, I had this section tabbed so I can refer to it often. (I think this is the same thing you talked about in this blog.) Thanks!

Written By Helen
on May 12th, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

@ Babs you’ll find more about this spread in his book The Tarot – History, Symbolism and Divination.

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