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Tarot Reading: Simple Spreads for Beginners

Updated on October 9, 2011

When I bought my first Tarot deck, the only spread I had ever seen was the Celtic Cross. In fact, it was the only spread even mentioned in the little booklet that came with my cards. I was so intimidated by the idea of learning what every position meant in addition to learning the meaning of each card that I almost gave up before I even started!

Indeed, I pushed on and did my best to learn the Celtic Cross, even though I often had to look up the positions while doing a reading. Combine that with looking up the meaning of each and every card, and you’ve got a case of knowledge getting in the way of knowing. I was so stuck on doing everything right that I interfered with my own intuition.

Eventually, I was turned on to a more intuitive style of Tarot reading and learned some simpler spreads. I strongly believe that simplifying the process in the beginning helped me tap into my intuition and develop an intimate connection to my cards.

Here are a few spreads that I recommend for beginners:

One Card

The one-card spread is the simplest of all. Just lay out one card. Sometimes the least elaborate answer is the best answer!

Three Card

There are many variations of the three-card spread, but the most common is the first card representing the past, the second card representing the present, and the third card representing the future. Other three card spreads include head, heart, and soul, and body, mind, and spirit. Another great variation when you’re faced with making a decision is to lay out the middle card first, then one card to the left of it and one card to the right. The middle card speaks to the situation at hand, the left card is what you shouldn’t do, and the right card is what you should do.

Four Card

In the four-card spread I learned in my first Tarot class, all cards are equal in value. Simply ask spirit what you need to know right now about your situation and lay out four cards. It’s similar to the one-card spread but gives you more information so you can make better choices. Incidentally, this spread doesn’t need to be four cards – that’s just the way I learned it. You could make it two, three, or five, but the point is to keep it simple and only lay out the number of cards you’re comfortable with interpreting at one time.

Five Card

I use this spread most mornings for my daily reading. It’s simple but always gives me a wealth of information about how my day will go. Lay out five cards in a row. The first card represents the past. The second card represents the present. The third card tells of any hidden influences surrounding you. The fourth card gives advice pertaining to the question. The fifth card represents the likely outcome. In my experience, it only takes a few readings before the positions become second nature.

the waterfall spread

The Waterfall

Like the four-card, this spread has no positions and all cards have equal value. Just lay out the first card and say the first thing that comes to mind. If that one card answers the question to your satisfaction, you can stop. If not, put down another card on top of the first one and interpret it. If you get stuck and nothing comes to you when looking at a card, put down another one. Keep things moving quickly and keep going until you feel you've got your answer and/or spirit tells you to stop. This is my favorite style of reading and, in the beginning, was the most helpful spread in taking my intuition to another level, as I didn't even allow myself to look up the meanings of the cards. It was so liberating to ditch the books and say whatever came to me in the moment.


Sometimes you just want a yes or no answer. Most of the time it’s better to phrase your questions in a more open-ended way, which I’ll discuss in another Hub, but if you’re asking if you should bring your umbrella that day, wear a new outfit, or drink that third cup of coffee, a yes or no will suffice. Simply ask your question, plunk down a card, and look for an image that practically screams yes or no. The Sun? A definite yes. The Nine of Swords? That’s a no if I ever saw one, but you may have a different way of looking at it. It’s up to you to decide which cards are a yes, no, or maybe, which is actually a wonderful exercise in getting to know your deck and learning what each card means to you.

Another yes/no method is to ask your question, shuffle and lay out six cards in a row. If at least four of the cards are upright, the answer is yes. If at least four cards are reversed, it’s a no. A combination of three upright cards and three reversed cards is a maybe.


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    • Kelly Renee profile image

      Kelly Renee 6 years ago from Texas

      Hi Jean,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! That sounds like a really cool spread -- I'm going to try it today.