Basic Readings – Let’s get Practical


After spending so many posts simply focusing on preparation to start your Tarot reading journey, I felt that it was overdue to actually talk about some simple spreads. Most decks, as I have previously mentioned, will have suggestions – usually the classic Past-Present-Future spread, the celtic cross, or the year ahead wheel spread.

I’m a big believer that anything worth doing is worth doing right, but is there a right way to do a Tarot spread? 

Personally I would say no. I have taken other spreads and adapted them to suit my reading style, and there’s no reason that you can’t do the same. What if you only have time to read a few cards but feel the need for guidance from your deck, and don’t want to use the basic past, present and future? Well, you can still use the idea of three cards laid out in a row, but there is nothing stopping us from changing what each spot represents. 

Alternative Three Card spreads

Looking around the internet I’ve come across a lot of ideas for alternatives for the basic three card draw, so I would like to talk about a few of my favorites.

Alternative 1: Tomorrow – Next Week – Next Month

I like this idea, as it addresses my main issue with the traditional three card spread. The ‘Past’ can literally be anything. From years in the past to minutes, and the future is the same. This simple change narrows the focus, and if you’re wanting a quick and simple reading this fits the bill much better.

Using this variation gives more context to the reading, and as a learning tool, can be repeated. This will allow for looking back as well as forwards, and if you keep a journal of your readings, you could revisit the previous one and see if any patterns have emerged. This would be beneficial if you’re somebody who would prefer not to read the cards on a daily basis.

Alternative 2: Situation – Obstacle – Lesson

The next variant that I like is focused more on my personal belief that everything we experience is an opportunity for growth.

Our first draw is intended to summarize the situation surrounding the reason for the reading. The middle card should represent the main obstacle in our path to overcoming it, and moving past it. Leaving the third and final card to advise on the potential lesson we can try to take away from the experience.

Alternative 3: What I think is going on – What is really happening – What should I do?

This version caught my attention as it was listed as ‘The Only spread you’ll ever need for ‘crazy brain’, which made me chuckle.

Looking at it, I became more intrigued by the idea and I feel that this could be a very useful beginners spread. Especially if you’re feeling rather lost, as it can help to give you something to anchor your thoughts around.

It’s easy to read too much into things when we’re isolated from the rest of the picture and can only see the small part relating to ourselves. What keeps me going back to the Tarot again and again, is that it has always allowed me an outlet to take my thoughts out of my head and lay them out, literally, on the table in front of me. This reading is one that I would use if I had little time, and felt particularly troubled by a situation that I was concerned I was reading too much into.

That being said it is important to note that the third card can be advising you to do nothing. Not every situation needs our involvement, and not every problem needs us to fix it. Sometimes the correct thing is to let things sort themselves, which is why I felt this was worth including in my suggestions for introductory readings.

Aces are a powerful omen for a fresh start

Single Card Reading

Now I’m sure that some of you are thinking, but Dan you said to start with single card readings and to ask questions with yes or no answers. To which I would say, don’t worry, I’m going to touch a bit more on the idea of a single card reading as well.

I’ve already expressed my views about doing a single card draw in the morning vs doing it in the evening. So instead, I’m going to elaborate more on the idea of a Yes/No reading.

There are several different methods that you can use for this. If you’re comfortable with using reversals, you can choose upright to be yes, and reversed to be no, and simply go from there. 

But what if you’re not yet at that stage, how do you decide what is a yes and what is a no?

Well, you can decide this for yourself. As long as there is as equal a chance to draw a yes, as there is a to get a no – like flipping a coin – you have an equal chance of either outcome. One of the easiest methods would be to split the deck into even and odd and assign a result to each, or you can do it based on suit. Usually you’d use Wands and Swords for yes, and Cups and Pentacles for no. The only issue with this is the Major Arcana; they do not have a suit so you could omit them entirely, keep drawing until you get a Minor Arcana card or consider them to be a ‘Maybe’. It all depends on what you’re asking about really.

Personally, when I do a single card reading for myself, I like to ask a question which can be answered easily with a yes or no, and draw an additional three cards should my draw be a Major Arcana card. The extra cards are what I call ‘clarification cards’. I look at them in turn and then as a pair with the original card to get a clearer picture. Very occasionally, I have felt the need to draw an additional set of clarification cards, taking my total to seven, but that would be better discussed in it’s own post.

Feeling stuck? Look for the Hanged man

Some other simple readings or tricks

While researching for my articles I came across an interesting way to get a quick and simple reading by simply cutting the deck at the place a specific Major Arcana card appears. As this idea intrigues me, I wanted to share some of the suggestions with my readers.

If you’re feeling like something is holding you back, you should search through the deck for The Hanged Man. The card behind him will help you to work out what is blocking you, and the card in front of him will offer you guidance as to how to overcome the obstacle.

For situations that aren’t quite going your way, look to the Wheel of Fortune and the cards either side of it in the deck. They will offer you guidance for how to improve things.

When seeking guidance about matters of the heart, find the Lovers card, this time the surrounding cards will offer advice for resolving the conflict or conflicts in your relationship.

And the last tip I’m going to leave you with today, is to make a note of any cards that come up continuously in your readings. If you keep seeing the same card over and over, pay extra attention to it’s meaning. This usually indicates that your cards are trying to send you a message; this is similar to keeping an eye on any cards that jump out at you while shuffling. However, not everyone who reads Tarot believes in ‘jumpers’ and it is up to you if you wish to pay attention to them. Drawing the same card over and over, is another way for the cards to pass on their message.

As always, thank you for joining me today, and I hope that you find the suggested spreads useful. Don’t be afraid to come up with your own variations, the experience of reading Tarot can be a very personal one.  

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