There are far more tarot spreads than we have room to discuss here. In fact, there are entire books devoted just to tarot spreads. There's a spread for every occasion and for every possible question. However, if you're trying to perform a reading and you haven't yet found a spread you like for your question, the best thing to do is to design your own. There's no official listing of approved tarot spreads and no reason that you have to use a layout made up by someone else. Remember, a spread is just a layout of cards designed to give you more specific information about a particular question. No one knows better than you what information you need to answer your question, so no one is better qualified than you to design a spread for your reading.
When making your own spread, start by thinking about the question you're going to ask. In order for an answer to that question to be satisfactory, what information does it have to give you? What things do you have to know in order to feel like your question was fully and properly answered? Sit down and make a list of the basic points of information you need. Some of these may draw on features of other spreads, like having cards to represent the past, present, and future. Likewise, there are structural elements common to certain kinds of spreads. If you're doing a predictive reading, then you'll want to have at least one card for the future, representing the outcome of the situation. Romance and relationship readings are generally symmetrical, with the same number of cards for each partner. Decision-making readings will have at least one card per available option. And so on.
Once you have your list, take a minute to look through it and make sure it's not too bloated nor redundant. The goal here is to have just enough information. You don't want multiple cards that are going to tell you basically the same thing. Do some editing on your list and make sure you're happy with it.
Then, figure out how you want to lay out the cards. For example, if you have some cards related to one person’s thoughts and actions and some for another's, you'll probably want to group Person A's cards and Person B's cards separately. Likewise, if your spread includes a temporal progression, it's usually best to lay out those cards in order from left to right so that they're easier to follow. Find a layout that is aesthetically pleasing to you and that allows the information in your reading to flow freely. Then, the only thing left for you to do is read.
Excerpted from Tarot for Real Life, by Jack Chanek.
Jack Chanek is a Gardnerian Wiccan priest and the author of Qabalah for Wiccans and Tarot for Real Life. He has been reading tarot since he was eleven years old and has taught workshops on tarot, Qabalah, and Wicca around ...