Flame & Feather

of the Phoenix

Tarot spreads for beginners

I was listening to a podcast yesterday. It was said that the Celtic Cross was a great tarot spread for beginners. I beg to disagree. I think CC is terrible for newbies, I know I had a terrible time with it, and nearly gave up reading because of it.

When you’re armed only with a book of interpretations and some brand-new cards, you seldom know what to expect, let alone how to work them. There are 10 cards to work with in the Celtic Cross. It is difficult to tailor the card description to the definition of the position. I often, more often than not, had a positive-sounding card in a position of negativity, and vice versa. I just didn’t know what to make of that.

In order to get a decent reading, you need to weave a story through those 10 cards and 10 positions. The flow gets easier as you get experienced, but for the complete beginner, this is a difficult task. I recommend a smaller tarot spread until you get the hang of blending the meanings.

How about a simple 3-card spread? Past, present, future. Easy enough to get the idea from the tiny booklet of meanings. Can you spot a theme running through the three? Ah, now you’re reading the cards!

Here, move on to my favorite: the 5-card horseshoe. Arrange the 5 chosen cards from left to right in the arch of a horseshoe. The first represents the past, the basis of the matter under investigation here. Next is the present, how things stand right now. At the top of the horseshoe is something unexpected – literally. It’s a condition or situation that you haven’t taken into consideration about the question, possibly something you didn’t even know about. The fourth is an immediate outcome, with the fifth being the ultimate outcome of the whole thing.

Sometimes, it is difficult to get one’s mind around the concept of immediate future and outcome in a reading. For instance, in a reading about one’s job, you may get a card for the Immediate Future indicating that the current job may be lost. The Outcome however, may show a new job, or a change of residence to locate the new job, or perhaps going back to school. These are all changes that a job loss may effect in the Real World, and that you could see in the Tarot.

The main thing is to get a feel for the emotions embodied within the cards’ pictures, and to weave them into the story-line. Tarot is fascinating and varied. Done well, and they are a fantastic tool to get you to think about your life and future. Thinking is what I believe to be the purpose of all these “divinatory” arts: Think about what you’re doing, what’s happening, what the outcome could be. Never follow Tarot or anything else blindly. Life is too varied, and too blessed, to let some cards tell you what to do.

Categorized as Tools of Knowledge, Tarot


  1. I’m far from an experienced reader, but I spent a lot of time in the beginning just pulling a single daily card, and looking into it from every aspect I could think of.

    The Past / Present / Future three card spread was also a favorite.

    I haven’t tried the Horse Shoe … and think I will! (If I can get someone to bring my cards up here for me, I’m still living at my Dad’s house ). I like the sound of it, though I think that all of my cards will try to cluster into the “something unexpected” spot, the way life’s been running lately!

    Thanks for a great post, and I totally agree. The Celtic Cross confused the bugger out of me for the longest time!