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Tarot: The Celtic Cross Spread

Updated on December 10, 2014
theraggededge profile image

I'm a professional tarot reader with 17 years' experience. I run a resource-rich website and tarot reading service at tarot-study-info.

Celtic Cross using the Gilded Tarot.
Celtic Cross using the Gilded Tarot. | Source

A spread in tarot is a layout, or the pattern in which the reader places the cards down on the table. Each position in the spread has a meaning, and modifies the card placed upon it. The Celtic Cross is the mostly widely known and possibly the most commonly used tarot spread. It is a little complex for an absolute beginner reader, but it is well worth taking the time to learn and assimilate it, as it may prove to be the only spread you need, apart from the essential one, two and three-card readings.

The Celtic Cross was 'invented' by the famous occultist, AE Waite, creator of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. So it is a fairly modern device, although some practitioners will have you believe otherwise! It is thought that he based his famous tarot spread on a similar one used in Europe, although the origins of that one are lost in the mists of time.

I like to use a Celtic Cross as the 'anchor' for my readings for clients. It is ideal for clarifying situations and evoking additional questions. It's important to not use it indiscriminately, for example, if reading for yourself, it is completely pointless doing a Celtic Cross on a daily basis. It makes much more sense to limit its use to once a month or even less frequently. I have found over my many years of tarot reading that the information offered by a good, in-depth Celtic Cross can continue to unfold over 12 months or more.

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Before Laying Out the Cards

You probably have your own method of conducting your readings, and that's good. However, one thing I recommend before commencing is to explain to the client that this layout is ideal for interaction. I tell them I'm an intuitive reader, not a psychic or a charlatan who is looking for 'clues', and that they will get more from the reading if they participate. This breaks the ice and puts us both at ease. There is nothing worse than trying to read for someone who folds their arms in fear of 'giving something away'. I like my readings to be a two-way process.

Layout of the Celtic Cross spread using the Gilded Tarot, face down.
Layout of the Celtic Cross spread using the Gilded Tarot, face down. | Source

Celtic Cross - The First Two Cards

The first two cards in the Celtic Cross are the most important part. In fact, tarot author, Sandra A. Thomson has a book based entirely on the first two cards of the Celtic Cross, The Heart of the Tarot. She holds that they are all you need to produce an insightful and useful reading. The book is hard to get hold of these days so if you happen across a copy, grab it.

Position One - The Current Situation or Challenge

The first card illustrates the main situation that faces the seeker. It can be something they are aware of, or possibly something they are oblivious to but will make its presence known pretty soon. If you can't immediately pinpoint the challenge, briefly use the card meaning to describe the sort of situation that card many represent and ask the client if it means anything to them. Usually, the circumstances become clearer as you progress through the reading.

Position Two - Obstacles and Blocks

The second card is the challenge. It usually indicates the obstacles or blocks to the resolution of the problem... and bear in mind that there is generally a 'problem' or the client wouldn't be wanting a reading in the first place. Often, this card represents another person or another person's wishes.

For you, the reader, it is important to read these cards as a pair; almost as one card, if you like. Look at the images. Do they help or oppose? Is there a story there? Do they remind you of anything in your own life? Speak out, say what you see - remembering to be tactful and mindful of your client's sensibilities, of course.

As you can see, these two cards can immediately clarify the situation, hence the idea that this, sometimes, is all the person needs. They can visualize their circumstances, as if from an objective standpoint. It is worth asking them, what advice they would offer to someone in the same situation. The 'aha!' moments that question provokes are priceless.

Celtic Cross: Cards Three to Six

Card Three is the base or root of the current situation. It can represent influences from the immediate past right back to childhood. I generally look to this card as the reason for the reading.

Card Four is what is in the past or is in the present, but already receding. If there are negative cards in the reading, this is where I would prefer to see them!

Card Five illustrates what the client is moving towards, or what the client sees as an outcome. I have heard this position called the 'hopes and fears' or 'alternative outcome' card. In other words, it shows the 'Law of Attraction' in action. Often what the querent believes will happen *will* happen. It is useful to read this as a pair with Card 10.

Card Six is what is in the immediate future or is alreading moving into the present.
Look closely at cards four, one, two and six. They represent a timeline. There is a miniature past, present and future reading right there. Take your time to re-examine them and try to pick up the thread of the story.

The Celtic Cross - Short and Sweet

The Celtic Cross - Cards Seven to Ten

Card Seven is important. It shows what influences the querent brings to the situation. It can represent their emotions, actions and opinions. Look at this card with the card in the third position and you will get a better picture of where the client is coming from. The two cards, together, will often tell you more than the client is letting on.

Card Eight. The card in this position represents other people in the situation. Their influence, feelings and emotions. It could also represent a group or an institution. In other words, it is 'the other'. Look at this with Card 7 - see if there is a 'pushing against' going on. Two opposing forces, neither willing to concede their position. Don't forget that this can also be a helping position - the card may show someone who can help.

Card Nine is often considered to be guidance or an alternative 'hopes and fears'. I like to think of it as the wildcard... and don't assign it a meaning until I see what card turns up here. It can be the pivotal card and give the answer to the problem.

Card Ten is the outcome if everything stays the same. In other words, if the querent continues along the path without making a change. You can read this as a pair with Card Five; they will often portray the future with great accuracy.

Celtic Cross Tips

Some readers like to deal the cards face down and turn them over one by one. I find it far more useful to simply flip the cards down, face-up. I like to take a minute to absorb the overall flavor of the spread. You can get an immediate feel as to whether the reading is going to be 'up' or 'down'. In both cases, you must make sure that the reading and advice given leaves the client feeling uplifted, or at least more positive. I like to use the reading to get my client to take control and the cards are great at showing where they are letting things happen and where they can begin to make changes.

Explain to the client that the reading points towards actions, events and situations that could unfold over several months. Offer them the chance to get back to you regarding this reading. It will help you tremendously if you take the time to note down the cards. Later you can add a brief synopsis of the reading you gave, important points that the client raised and any questions arising.

Normally, a Celtic Cross takes me at least 45 minutes to go through. The remaining time is given over to one or two short readings to address questions that the client may have.
Warning: A tarot reading can help a client enormously or it can harm them quite badly. Always choose your words with care and observe your client's reactions, adjust your approach accordingly.

Got any questions?

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    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 4 years ago from New York, NY

      Raggededge, when I once had a reading (which was an accident, really, since the anti-Christmas company I formerly worked for hired a Tarot reader for its Xmas party), the guy drew a "Justice" card and told me I would prevail. I have yet to know it that holds true. Do Tarot readers sometimes keep what they see from their clients? Wanted to say too this is a well written and informative hub. Good day.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Hi Cynthggt, it's possible that he was not referring to what you think he was. You may well have prevailed in another situation and not even connected it with the reading. There is nothing negative in the Justice card - it tends to warn of legal entanglements but, as with every other card, it depends what other cards were drawn with it :)

      To answer your question, yes, sometimes Tarot readers do withold information, especially if they feel it would not benefit the client to become focused on something they probably couldn't do anything about. Having said this, there are often ways to prepare someone for a situation without being overly specific.

    • Niko Linni profile image

      Niko Linni 2 years ago from Long Beach, California

      This actually turned out to be more useful than some of the guides I've been reading online. Imagine that.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 2 years ago from Wales

      Glad to help, Niko :) Thanks for your comment.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 22 months ago

      The Celtic Cross is a very accurate spread and I really like it. Should I add that it's my favorite spread? It is... yet with the current rage,which is fortune telling by phone, it's hard to use it for a quick/too quick/hyper quick reading :)

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 22 months ago from Wales

      Ah... but you can use elements from it - such as cards 1 & 2 to show the issue or lay out the whole lot and just pick out the most significant ones. It is very accurate - these days I only ever use the CC or pairs or threes.

      So nice to connect with you again :-)

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 12 months ago from New Jersey


      I've seen you on the forums, but didn't know you were a Tarot reader. Although my first love is Astrology, I often read at parties and out of local metaphysical stores.

      I liked what you said about the beginning of the reading. I always ask if the person has had a reading before. I don't read for anyone who is under 16 unless they grew up in a home like mine where there's always readings and astrology chart updates going on. I don't consider it "fortune telling" or "divination" either. Astrology I look at like a personality profile, and a tarot reading tells you what's going on or what may happen, but I always tell them they have free will.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 12 months ago from Wales

      Yes, been studying tarot for 16 years :) My kids are completely comfortable with their mother whipping out her tarot cards at any time. I won't read for them though. Thanks for stopping by, Jean.

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