I’ve been reading tarot for clients for about five years. This was unpaid at first, gradually shifting over to making this a serious part of my living. Over that time, I’ve come to rely on just a few really great tarot spreads that I can turn to again and again for the huge range of questions I receive.
Sometimes, a particular question will need its own custom spread, and I’ll take the time to create something unique for that person (though sometimes, this will become a spread I write up and file away for future use – or share here on the blog!) Often, though, I find one of the following spreads does the job beautifully.
In my business, I offer just two kinds of tarot readings: a short one, and a long one. I set a timer for both of these, and it’s my time – and the skill and insight I impart in that time – that a client is paying for when they purchase a reading.
The short one is called ‘Where I’m At’ and it gives a snapshot of the querent’s situation, with insight into key factors they may not be considering, and positive, actionable advice for moving forwards.
The long one is called ‘Going Deeper’, and it’s in these readings that I’m able to get closer to the heart of what’s going on in the querent’s heart and mind. Insights can be unpicked still further, and a story created of how the querent can reframe their situation for positive outcomes, both in the short and longer term.
Tarot spreads for shorter readings
A simple three card spread
I’ll just lay out three cards in a row and tell the story that I see. I’ll usually start in the centre, explaining to the client that this represents the heart of the issue, their key challenge or a big theme in their life right now. The cards to the left and right of this add context, depth and guidance.
Sometimes I will draw a fourth card and place it beneath the central card. This card brings a final message to wrap up the reading, or a pro-active ‘to-do’.
Mini bridge spread
Five cards, forming a bridge. This is brilliant for people who are feeling stuck or those who feel they are at a turning point, as it allows us to see them on a progressive journey. The central card is the present moment, where they are right now. We then look backwards at the journey so far, lessons learned, energies being carried forwards. Then we look forwards to the next step (card 4), and beyond this, to a positive direction in which to head.
‘SWOT analysis’ spread
For questions about projects or ideas, I’ll often do a SWOT analysis reading, with four cards in a grid, representing the strengths and weaknesses of their idea, and the opportunities and threats surrounding it. It’s concise and really helpful!
Tarot spreads for longer readings:
This one is really helpful for people who feel lost or stuck. Here, we place the querent and their situation in the centre, then call on the wisdom of east, south, west and then north – and the corresponding elements of air, fire, water and earth – to discover the influences impacting on their life right now. It’s fascinating and really helpful to see which areas of the querent’s life feel strong and abundant, and where there is lack or fear. I’ll often draw a final card after reading these, for pro-active advice.
A longer version of the one above, this bridge spread again illustrates the querent’s situation as a mid-point on a journey. After examining the present moment in the centre, we can look backwards across the bridge and see the road travelled so far, then back in the present, we can peer over the edge of the bridge to the water below, where the subconscious influences sit, often seeing how the results of those past cards are playing out. Looking forwards, we can see next steps and a goal to aim for. And in the sky above, a guiding star with an important, but concise, message.
I play with this bridge spread all of the time – I think it’s my absolute favourite. You’ll find different versions again in my e-book, Little Red Tarot Spreads. I love how flexible this spread is. Using the metaphor of a bridge enables me to add in or adapt positions to suit the querent’s question. This is probably the spread I use the most in my professional practice.
When a querent has a specific goal in mind but isn’t sure how to approach it, or where I can see a querent describing a goal even if they’re not defining it (e.g., if it’s clear they’re searching for confidence, or acceptance, or to not care so much about something) I’ll often turn to this spread. I’ll usually consciously choose a card to represent the goal. I then lay a foundation of cards to represent the current situation, and in particular, the resources available to the querent. The next row shows challenges to be tackled, and advice for doing this. I then lay a card across the goal at the top, to provide additional information about the journey and a long-term approach that needs to be integrated.
The new year tarot spread
This is a long one, but it unfailing provides a really deep, supportive hug of a reading for a client who is in an especially difficult spot. As I hone my practice and develop as a professional reader, I do find myself moving away from really lengthy spreads like this, but it was fundamental in my first couple of years, and I do still find there are times when nothing else will do. The key here, I think, is not to get into the habit of working through each card one-by-one (a surefire way to lose an entire afternoon!), but to see the story as a complete whole and to move about the cards in the reading, weaving it together.
These aren’t the only spreads I use, but they’re the ones I turn to over and over. I’ll often adapt these spreads depending on the question – adding or swapping in positions that are pertinent to a specific query. Having a selection of spreads that I know inside out saves me a lot of time and energy when I sit down to client readings, and means that I can deliver really high-quality readings that focus right in on what the querent wants to know.