When you’re just starting out with tarot it’s best to begin with easy and straightforward three-card spreads. Trying to do more advanced spreads while you’re still learning how to read tarot can be overwhelming. Later though, it might be fun to dive into something like the ten card Celtic Cross, the seven card Horseshoe or nine card Work Cycle spreads. Before then though, this guide should set you up for success with easy to master three-card reads.
This can impede your ability to even interpret the messages from the spread. Your first priority should be to master the meanings of the cards and learn how to read cards. Until then it’s best to keep it simple when it comes to spreads.
Keep in mind that knowing the cards’ meanings is not the same thing as knowing how to read cards. When you lay out a spread, you’re learning how to interpret cards. The interpretation is both together in a group, as well as individually.
This will take some practice before you fully understand how certain cards work together and what certain cards symbolize together. Which is why having only three cards to interpret will be simpler than having seven or ten cards. Spreads with more cards will come later as your knowledge and understanding advance.
Three-card spreads are a fantastic way to build a solid foundation in your tarot reading practice. As there is still so much information and insight that you can receive from them.
If you are brand new to tarot you might want to read our beginners guide to tarot before anything else. That will set you up nicely before you dive into these examples below.
What is a Three-Card Spread?
A three-card spread is a tarot reading which includes three cards drawn from the deck. As you draw them you lay them out horizontally, one after the other. The three separate cards are then interpreted from left to right individually, and then together as a group.
The placement or position of each card represents something different. This can for example be like “past, present, future” or “situation, challenge, advice”. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to three-card spreads. Later you can also get creative and make your own spreads!
To use an example, let’s say that you decide to do a “past, present, future” three-card spread. When you lay out the cards, the first card position will represent the past, the second card position represents the present and the last card will represent the future.
Once you have your cards laid out in their respective positions it’s best to start with the first card and read them in sequence from there. Once you interpret the meanings of each individual card, it’s time to try and connect them together.
Beginning your Reading
One thing I like to do before I start reading is to knock on the deck three times. I do this in order to clear the energy. Then I shuffle the deck anywhere from four-six times before cutting the deck and then pulling the cards.
Cutting the deck involves separating the deck into two halves and then putting them back together, one on top of the other. You may also wish to cleanse your deck with sage or do a short meditation to center yourself.
Some readers like to shuffle the deck and when a card falls out, they read that card in the spread. So if you’d prefer to do it this way, just start to shuffle the deck. Then when a card falls out, that will be your first card. Repeat this process until three cards fall out.
It will be important for you to find the best formula that works for you. Try some different ways and let your natural instincts guide you with this. Once you have your cards laid out, you can begin your interpretation process.
Performing the Reading
To start the interpretation process, begin by going through each card in its position. Correlate the meaning of the card with the position it’s in. For example, when you read the card in the “past” position, take the meaning of the card and see how it connects to the past.
Do this with each card and try to take your time with this. Rushing the process will put added unnecessary pressure on you. When you’re first starting out try to memorize the meanings of the cards of the Major Arcana and the four suits of the Minor Arcana, the Swords, Pentacles, Cups and Wands as best you can. But also know that it’s ok to still look up the meanings if you get stuck.
Eventually, you will memorize the meanings and you will also discover your own personal meanings of the cards. Be sure to look at the symbolism in each card including the literal symbols, as well as the number & astrological associations.
Once you have a pretty good idea of what each card position is representing, then try to see if you can tie them together in a story. How does the card in the past position relate to the other cards?
Remember to try and read from left to right. This helps you to really see the story that’s being told in the spread. Follow your intuition and instincts with the message, as this is how you will build your intuitive skills.
Once you have your message interpreted, write it down somewhere. Later you will use it as a reference to go back to and see how accurate you were. This is an important step in the learning process, as it tells you how right you are with your interpretations.
Now that you know how to read and interpret a three-card spread, let’s get into ten different spreads for you to try!
Three Card Spreads for Life Guidance
These simple and straightforward spreads will help to give you guidance and advice for particular situations in your life. They can highlight certain energies which are affecting your situation and how things may turn out because of this. Having this information can help you to make the best decisions for yourself moving forward. Allowing you to overcome life challenges.
Situation, Challenge, Advice
This spread is good for various different situations in your life where you feel as though you’re at a crossroads. If there’s something you’re having a hard time making a decision with, this spread can be an easy way to find a solution.
Desire, Obstacle, Solution
This spread is good for when you want to achieve a goal, but there is an obstacle standing in your way. If you feel like you can’t overcome an obstacle in order to get what you want, this spread can help you do this.
Tomorrow, Next Week, Next Month
This spread is good for when you want to know how something will work out for you if you pursue it. This spread is also helpful if you want to know how much something is going to affect you moving forward. From a simpler perspective, this spread can tell you what experiences you may have during this time frame. Feel free to switch out the current positions with any time frame you desire.
Past, Present, Future
This spread is good for when you want insight into the past, present and future of a situation in your life. It can tell you the energies that are still affecting you from the past, what is happening or available to you right now and what a potential future outcome will be based on this information.
Three Card Spreads for Love & Relationships
These insightful spreads can show you certain energies around a relationship in your life, and how it will affect its progress forward. These spreads can be used for relationships of all kinds including love, family, friendship and business partnerships. The purpose of these spreads is to assist you in navigating the situations and challenges that arise in relationships.
You, Your Partner, Current State of the Relationship
This spread is good for figuring out if you and the other person involved are on the same page. This can help you to know what needs to change or be implemented in your relationship moving forward. This spread is great if you’ve hit a roadblock with someone and can’t figure out how to move past it.
Your Feelings, Your Partner’s Feelings, How it Affects the Relationship
This spread is good for gaining a deeper understanding of how you and your partner each feels in the relationship. This gives you insight into how this can affect the growth of your relationship moving forward. The goal of this reading is to help you find a solution to any imbalances in your connection, so that you can form a deeper bond.
What I’m Giving, What They’re Giving, What We End Up With
This spread is good for figuring out the truth about the balance of give and take within your relationship. It can reveal to you how much effort is being made by each party, as well as how genuine that effort is. This can help you to create more balance moving forward.
Three Card Spreads for Money & Career
These goal-oriented spreads are meant to help you find the right path in your career that is aligned with you and your needs. They can be used for gaining insight into new business ideas, job opportunities, investment opportunities and how to develop this general area of your life.
Opportunity, Steps to Take, Outcome
This spread is great for a new job opportunity in order to see if the job is a good fit for you. It’s also good for new business ideas in order to see if they’re realistic and capable of yielding successful results.
Current Career Path, Where I Want To Go, How To Get There
This spread can give you insight into your current career direction and how it relates to where you ultimately want to end up. It’s great for making sure you’re on the right track and/or to figure out how to get on the right path.
Idea/Investment, Work Required, Likelihood for Success
This spread is good for finding out if a new investment opportunity or business idea is going to bring you success. It’ll tell you what work and effort need to be made and what kind of results will yield. This can tell you if an investment will be worth the effort, helping you to make the best financial decisions for yourself.
These spreads are a great place to start with your tarot reading practice. Once you become more confident in your skills, you can create your own three-card spreads and personalize them however you want. The possibilities are truly endless!