Alison Spokes

Faerie Tales from an Artist & Tarot Reader

What Are Tarot Spreads, and How Are They Used in Your Reading?

A Tarot spread is a map or method for how a Tarot reader physically lays out the cards on the table. Different positions have different meanings within a spread that are then explained by each card in its relative position. Therefore, the Ace of Cups in position 1 may be interpreted very differently than if it showed up in position 5. Tarot spreads vary in structure, complexity and purpose.  There are spreads for romance, spreads for dream interpretation, and spreads for how to understand your dog’s psychological needs. If you can think of it, there is a spread for that! If you were to search “Tarot Spreads” on Google right now, the results would be seemingly endless, and more are being created and shared every day.

The Celtic Cross

If you are a Tarot beginner, it’s almost certain you will encounter the Celtic Cross spread early in your training. It’s often the first spread a newbie reader learns. The meaning of the positions vary depending on who you ask, but the physical structure is always the same: 10 cards made up of a cross pattern on the left and a column on the right. Most readers ditch the Celtic Cross once they are comfortable with the cards and branch off into their own style of reading; however, some choose to stick with tradition. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 

As a Tarot reader, I certainly have my favorite go-to spreads that I love to work with, while I know others who never use spreads at all. It’s also not unheard of for a reader to interview you before your appointment to find out what your biggest concerns or objectives are, then custom design a spread just for you! This requires preparation time and some background knowledge about your specific situation in order to best serve you, so do not be put off if your reader asks you questions. If you believe the only question a Tarot reader can answer is “what’s in my future?”, you’ve been watching too many movies. Choosing the right Tarot spread, for those who choose to read with them, is integral to achieving a successful and useful reading for the one seeking answers and guidance …and that often requires getting to know a little bit about whomever is receiving the reading.

Why Your Reader Asks for a Backstory

Harmonious Relationship Spread

Although spreads can be as complex or intricate as the designer intends, I personally prefer spreads made of 6-8 cards. I find that this is the sweet spot for getting enough useful insight without suffering from information overload.

When a client comes to see me for a reading, I will ask them what brought them in or what is currently happening in their life that is causing the most confusion or worry. Most people are comfortable opening up, while others simply say they are here to treat themselves and are open to any message they hear from me and my deck of cards. I can work with either of those responses, as long as the client is being truly honest with me. Knowing why you are here for a reading helps me to know what I’m looking for while rummaging through the Rolodex of spreads stored in my brain so I can really get the answers you deserve and need to move forward. I always tell the people I read for, the more specific your question, the more specific your answer. Even more important than choosing the right spread is establishing an open and honest relationship between reader and sitter.

What to Expect From a Tarot Reading …And What Not To

If you want to see me demonstrate different tarot spreads, check out this playlist on my YouTube channel:

Still curious about Tarot Spreads and how they work? Here are a few I have collected on Pinterest that have caught my eye…


Author: Ali

Alison Spokes was born and raised in Houston, British Columbia and currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia as a self-taught digital fantasy artist and Tarot card reader. Visit her website:

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