We all have a spread that we start off with when we learn the tarot. Some choose to keep a tarot diary specifically for spreads, which is their main reference whenever they have a question geared towards a very specific niche. It helps to have them glossed out by topic in the case that you're on the go and you need a quick when-and-how. Mine are added as I find them, but some people like to keep them in categories: Romance, Friendships, Careers, Financial, Education, Family, Decisions, etc. Sometimes it helps you stay organized unless you have a good memory, and you can recall generally where you left each spread. That's my case!

I love simply looking at the structure of spreads. Sometimes all you need is the correct positioning of cards to watch their story come alive. The spreads are very indicative of the style of the reader. While I tend to read my cards sequentially in a horizontal manner, I do know of a few readers that prefer to read with vertical columns. They claim it makes more sense to them. To me, having the cards side by side rather than one over the other helps me to get a panoramic scope of the situation. When placed horizontally, cards interact with one another directly. When placed vertically, the dialogue is cut up into scenes. I don't see interaction between the cards, just one leading to another without a link. Again, it depends on the style and preference of the tarot reader!

It isn't necessary to learn spreads by heart before using them. You learn by doing it. After using the same spread for a number of times, you will become familiar with the value of each position a card lands in. You will also learn how to string together the meanings of the cards according to the nearby cards as opposed to those that are furthest from the starting point. Before you know it, you will be reading narratives that correspond to your life, or the life of the sitter. In time you will most likely be designing your own spreads. Make sure to tailor them specifically to your needs, or the needs of the question. Sometimes it's okay to pull freely here and there, but other times you will need a structure for your reading. This is what tarot spreads are meant for!

The most popular spread is the one with three cards. The very first one sets the stage for the situation, then the following sets the mood. The final one states how it's going to go. It's simple and straightforward, which will provide the desired answer without giving you too much to think about. This spread isn't meant for meditation or groundbreaking epiphanies; it simply exists to point you in the direction you want to go — or warns you not to go. It's really very useful — I prefer it over a daily draw!

Past – Present – Future

Adding two more cards, you get five. These two cards will explain how you got from the initial situation to where you are now, and finally how you get to where you want to go. It adds some depth to the reading, and possibly some clues to achieving what you want. Usually I draw them after I draw the first three. Usually, I will cut the deck into three and turn each card over accordingly. If I want more cards, I pull them out from underneath each card. In the cases that I just want two, I pull one from under the past for No. 4, and one from under the future for No. 5. They're meant for clarity.

Past – What Happens from the Past to the Present – Present – What Happens from the Present to the Future – Future

Transformed! Now you get more details! The one that I learned from my friends Niki and Tori is a four card spread, as illustrated above. I used this one for the longest time when I was studying the tarot. This basic spread actually made me give up the three card spread! It goes as follows:

You now – Emotional – Mental – Future

It basically connects your emotions and mental state of mind from now to a week or so. It’s a quick reading, and as you string the cards together, you get the answer to your question. I’ve always loved how direct it is! It's also a good way to assess your progress, especially if you journal about your learning process actively. At least that's how I learned. Usually when you're starting out in tarot, you pick the spread that you're most comfortable with, and you go from there. Along the way you may adopt another spread or modify the one that you begin with to suit your needs. I eventually went from 4 cards to 21. That's a lot of cards!

The four card spread is based off the present as it moves towards the future. The past is disregarded although in many situations it helps the reader — sometimes the querent — to understand where it all comes from. Sometimes it helps to see what is going on to fully understand it. There is no rodeo or room to change things around.

Give it a shot, share your results!

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