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Tarot: The Versatile Three Card Spread Can Shed Much Light on a Situation by Reframing Emphasis

There are many tarot card spreads available to use for reading Tarot cards with the Celtic Cross Spread amongst the most popular. Readers often move on quickly from a beginners three card basic spread which is the way most of us to learn how to read cards. However, the spread can also be very useful to give multiple perspectives on a situation or question for beginning and experienced readers alike.

There are a number of different ways that you can focus using a simple three-card spread as per the examples below. Note, that we can change the parameters of each card’s insights by framing our parameters according to the information sought. It is important to mentally frame these parameters before the reading and, if it is your method of operation, sharing these with a client or friend if you are doing a reading for someone else. By then carrying out a number of different spreads we can start to build-up a more complete answer to the question posed.

The Three-Card Spread

three card tarot spread
A three card tarot spread

It is good to spend some time framing your question to be as specific as possible. The broader the question the broader the answer. Some readers will undertake a brief mediation to help them frame a good form of the question. If we are reading for someone else we can often help them to reform the query that they have in mind to increase the accuracy of the cards response. So, here we go.

1. Focus on Your Question

2. Shuffle Your Cards and spread them with your left-hand in a fan like shape on the table

3. Pick one of the Cards with your left hand and put it on the table, this will the left side card in the spread and is related to the past aspects of the question you asked.

Keep in mind the past could be the day before or even the night before. It doesn’t mean years ago necessarily based on what you asked. We can however specifically specify a time frame mentally, or in written form, if we are wanting to gain insights over a certain time frame.

This card connects you to the present situation as portrayed by the middle card.

4. You will then pick another card and lay it on the right next to the first card, this will be your centre card. This represents the present situation and issues, matters and considerations surrounding it and will be the centre card in the spread.

5. Next Pick your third card and lay it to the right of the middle card. This is the future or outcome position to the question.

Keep in mind that the future could mean later that day and doesn’t necessarily mean a year from now although we can specify mentally the time frame that we are seeking insights for. Remember, the future has many potential outcomes, even within a small time frame, the further we gaze into the future the greater chance that things will head in a different direction.

We can also specify a particular timeline as mentioned above or use specific spreads to address different timelines which will be discussed in a future article.

The above can be summarised a general situation reading question.

General Situation
1.Past-Events or influences from the past that have affected the present but are now passing away
2. Present- The important events, issues, attitudes or influences around the question or current situation
3. Future- Future events and fresh influences about to come into play that will operate in the near future

So, now we have a general overview, we can start to drill down by seeking insights in to our decision making around the same question, deepening our understanding of the situation or issue, questions regarding relationship, or an upcoming event. The range of issues that we can address with the three-card spread is a long as our imagination turning it into a nice bite-size chunk of information to digest type of reading.

For each of the categories below we use the same 1, 2,3 spread but focus on the aspects as they are numbered. These are suggestions only and you can change the emphasis to suit the circumstances. Not a bad idea to write them down on piece of paper, or preferable your tarot reading journal, for extra clarity.

Questions Around Decision Making
1.Strengths
2.Weaknesses
3. Advice/help

1.Opportunities
2. Challenges
3.Outcome

Question Regarding an Understanding of a Situation or Issue
1.What will help you
2.What will hinder you
3.Your unrealised potential


1.Nature of problem
2. Cause
3.Solution

1.Situation
2.Obstacle
3.Advice


1.Situation
2.Action
3.Outcome


1.Context of situation
2.Where you need to focus
3.Outcome


1.What you can change
2.What you can’t change
3.What you are unaware of

Question Regarding Relationships
1.You
2.The other person
3.The relationship


1.What brings you together
2.What pulls you apart
3.What needs your attention

Question Regarding an Upcoming Event
1. Present – The important event, issue, attitude or influence around the question or current situation
2.Obstacles – Current obstacles, problems, conflicts and opposition that the questioner must deal with
3.Outcome -The eventual outcome of events shown by the other cards

And there you have it! Simple and to the point on one level, but as you can see the three-card spread can be adapted to get multiple insights from different angles on the same question. When you get to the point that this is easy for you, you can begin to explore move onto complex types of spreads although there is nothing to stop us exploring various spreads in parallel and, as we develop, keeping the three-card spread as a valuable part of our tarot toolkit

The Shamanic Gardeners TAROT TIP

If you are starting out on tarot reading there is a good exercise you can do daily to familiarise yourself with the cards and the idea of reading them. It is easy to do and will strengthen your abilities when it comes to reading cards in general. What you do is you shuffle your cards and pull one a day to see what your day will be like. Based on the card you pull you give yourself a reading with that card. Analyse what that card will mean to you that day. This is an excellent way to get familiar with the cards and their meanings. It also helps you develop your sense of intuition which is also very important for reading the Tarot Deck.

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