The most difficult part of Tarot Reading is getting to know the cards, as each have a variety of meanings and interpretations. This is what makes spreads such as the Celtic Cross such a pleasure, as this structured and clear layout helps you to clearly understand what meaning to assign to each card.
This ten card spread is one of the oldest and most well-known spreads around, and to this day is taught as one of the fundamental layouts to learn in Tarot. In the beginning, doing this spread can feel intimidating, but over time, it gets easier and easier and the power of the Celtic Cross is clearly conveyed to the reader and the client.
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Celtic Cross Spread
The Celtic Cross is split into two sections: the “Circle” and the “Staff”. The “Circle” section is comprised of six cards on the left (your more intuitive) side, and the “Staff” section is comprised of 4 cards on the right (your masculine) side. Hence, the Feminine and the Masculine work together in unison, which is an important principle of the Tarot Cards. Bringing together these Polarities is mirrored in the journey of the Major Arcana form the Fool to the World.
The Circle section shows the querent’s (you or the person getting the reading) journey from their subconscious to their conscious, on their own personal hero’s quest. It shows the influences of the past on the present, and what is currently blocking or challenging you, and what you most hope for.
The Staff section talks about the more external journey, events or situations that are outside to your more inner world. This section talks a lot about where you are going, your own hopes and dreams, and about your fears.
Preparation for Celtic Cross:
- Make sure you have a special table or surface to do your reading. Perhaps you can have a scarf or lovely material laid out to put your cards on.
- Pick your deck. Some people have multiple decks for different readings. The Rider Waite Deck is the easiest to use and the most accessible.
- Meditate on your question – read the tips further down to make sure you are framing your questions clearly and with intention – this is the most important part of the reading!
- Ask for guidance, if you need it, from your higher self, your angels or the Gods or Goddesses you believe in.
- Let go of your own preconceived expectations or judgement. Try not to project anything onto your reading and remain as objective as possible.
- Shuffle the cards however you like, then cut them into three decks. Pick the one that calls to you, or let your client pick the one that they feel drawn to.
- Either fan the cards out and pick them out one by one or simply choose from the top. Lay them all face down in the beginning, as you will turn them over one by one.
Interpreting the Spread, Card by Card
Card Number One: The Present or Central Issue
This card represents the main “meat” of the situation – the central issue that needs to resolve. It represents whatever is happening in “present time” which also shows how you are receiving ort looking at the particular situation at the moment. Of course, this also represents the situation for your client, if the reading is not for you.
Card Number Two: The Challenge / What is crossing you
This card represents the issue or the challenge to the present in relation to the first card. It shows what is blocking progress, what is hindering the present situation, If this card is a more positive card, try and interpret it in a more negative manner.
Card Number Three: What lies below you / The distant past
This card shows what has influenced the present situation in the very distant past; and can show perhaps how the difficulties came about. It can show the very foundation of the reading, what could be a big hindrance or a main cause of the problem.
Card Number Four: What lies behind you / The recent past
This card show what has happened very recently in the past which also has had an influence on the present situation or issue. It can be very useful to read this card in conjunction with the Third card as they are often closely linked together or show a flow of events which led to the situation, for better or for worse.
Card Number Five: Your Goals / What lies above you – possibilities
This card often represents our goals, or what we really wants to happen from the situation. It can contribute to the final outcome, but is not the sole representation of the eventual result of the reading, It rather represents what you or your client can do to influence the issue in a more positive manner. If there is a difficult card here, perhaps it’s something you or your client are working hard on so that you can work through the challenge, or what you need to work through.
Card Number Six: The near future / What lies before you
This card shows what can unfold over the next couple of months or weeks, and, like card number five, is also an important contributor to the outcome, but not the final outcome itself. It will show immediate future influences for better or for worse.
Card Number Seven: Yourself
This card represents you, yourself and how you are acting or behaving in the current situation. This card can shed light on how you are being perceived and how you are behaving. It can help you or your client become more conscious of your attitude towards the situation.
Card Number Eight: Your Environment
This card shows the environment in which you or your client are in, or better or worse. It can represent family members, the work environment or other people around you, and how they might be influencing you. Sometimes, it can show who else might be steering the situation or having a big influence on it, and who may have a helping hand in making the final decision or outcome.
Card Number Nine: Hopes & Fears
This card represents the querent’s hopes and fears. Generally speaking, a negative card can represent the fears, and a more positive card cam represent hopes. This card is closely linked to card number eight in terms of what external influences shape the outcome, the people and the environment, your own expectations and beliefs. This card is a bit like the Law of Attraction -what you put out there is what you get back!
Card Number Ten: The Outcome
This card is the final and potentially the most feared and anticipated card in the Celtic Cross Reading – it shows the long term potential outcome as opposed to card six, which shows a more short term outcome.
It’s important to convey to the querent to remember yourself that Tarot can simply guide us, like a wise sage, and this final card only represents the potential outcome if the querent continues on the path they are on and doesn’t make any drastic changes.
This final card should also be read in line with cards five and six as contributors to the potential outcome.
Top Tips for understanding the Celtic Cross reading :
- Treat the reading like a storytelling session, with a beginning, middle and end. This will lend a lovely flow to the reading overall and make things that much easier for you, the reader.
- Get your questions very clear. This cannot be emphasized enough – if you have a vague questions such as : Will I ever find happiness” without being specific, then you may struggle to pull a good answer from the reading. The Universe only gives clarity when we set our intentions clearly. Examples of good questions are:
- “What can I specifically do to improve my chances of a healthy relationship” rather than “Will I ever find the right man”
- “Should I pursue a career in Tarot” rather than “Will I ever find my dream job”
- “Is it worth investing money into this property” rather than “Will I ever move”
- Make time to clear your space, your mind and your energy by meditating for a few minutes before the reading so that you are not bringing any expectations, beliefs and prejudices in.
- Read the cards one by one, according to their placement, but always look back and forward, connecting the last card to the next one, and the next one, threading them together intuitively
- Stick very clearly to the placement meanings as it is easy to get off track and be pulled into random interpretations of the cards or into yours or your client’s beliefs and expectations.
An Example of a Reading:
Sally has asked if she should pursue the relationship with John, their relationship has been tumultuous and stormy, and although they have split up multiple times, she feels deeply drawn to him. This is a good example of a common situation, with a very real situation, and not a hypothetical one.
Card Number One: The Present or Central Issue – the Two of Swords
The swords represent the mind, and the number two represents decision or choices. This card shows a women with her arms crossed and her eyes blindfolded, with the ocean behind her. This means that she is literally in “two minds”, yet won’t remove her blindfold enough to make a decisions. She is deliberately not deciding, and she has closed her heart’s guidance off by her crossed arms. Sally is clearly not wanting to make this decision.
Card Number Two: The Challenge / What is crossing you – The Two of Cups
Representing the challenge, this card needs to be interpreted negatively. Another two shows that this decision making is extremely difficult for her, as cups represent emotions, and so this card shows that making a decision from her heart is the problem, is the obstacle in her way. the Two of cups means Love, sharing, give and take, which outlines that she is torn because she wants to have a partnership so much.
Card Number Three: What lies below you / The distant past – The Devil
This card talks about the distant past and the foundation of the entire reading. The Devil card is a classic card of addiction and codependence, which means that this relationship may have been founded on these unhealthy things. Perhaps there’s been a hint of codependent behavior in the past. Which has laid a shaky foundation, or perhaps John might be an addict of some kind.
Card Number Four: What lies behind you / The recent past – the Three of Swords
This card show what has happened very recently in the past, which has influenced the present. The Three of swords depicts a heart pierced by three swords, swords being words or the mind. John has clearly hurt Sally by his words and may have even broken her heart very recently. Linking this card to the Devil Card – the distant past, is very helpful and outline that it has been John’s unhealthy addictions which has led him to hurt Sally.
Card Number Five: Your Goals / What lies above you – possibilities – The Queen of Wands
This card shows what Sally really wants, what she wants to work on to better the situation. The Queen of Wands is a feminine energy which is strong, passionate and powerful, and shows that Sally wants to work on becoming more fierce, more assertive and step into her Feminine Power.
Card Number Six: The near future / What lies before you – the Page of Cups
This card shows what can unfold over the next couple of months or weeks. The Page can represent new beginnings (sometimes, a child) and cups talks about feelings This card could show the potential for feelings developing in a new relationship. Whether it is with John, we don’t know yet until the final Outcome card is studied.
Card Number Seven: Yourself – The Empress
This card talks about Sally’s attitude and behavior in the situation. Even though she is feeling torn (two of sword sand two of cups), she is still the Queen and Empress of her own world, and she should be advised that she is a passionate, attractive and sensual women as shown by the Empress. She has much love to give, and will be attractive to the opposite sex no matter what she might think of herself.
Card Number Eight: Your Environment – The Five of Pentacles
This card shows what outside influences are in play. Pentacles is a suit that talks about money and resources, and five is a number that is somewhat negative, hinting at chaos and change. Sally’s environment shows that she is perhaps financially stuck with John, he perhaps owes a great deal of money which is a big external influence on the situation.
Card Number Nine: Hopes & Fears – Death
Because this is a more negative or challenging card, we san safely work with Fears here. Death is a card that sometimes does really represent Death, but most of the time it talks about transformation and endings, and fear of endings. Sally is clearly very afraid of change, afraid to let go and surrender the relationship, even though this card shows the sun rising in the distance, which promises new life.
Card Number Ten: The Outcome – The Ace of Cups
This is the most important card when it comes to the outcome of the reading. It can be linked to cards five and six. The Ace represents new beginnings, and cups represent relationships and feelings, It is interesting to note that the Page of Cups, card number six, also speaks of new feelings and emotions developing. Once can now safely assume that Sally will likely fall in love with someone new, and that she should not be afraid of death that she should embrace her Queen of Wands power and her Empress’s attitude of abundance.
Pros and Cons of a Celtic Cross Tarot:
- Over time, this reading becomes easier and easier to read, and gathers much more power.
- This reading has a lovely structure which will help you stay within the lines, enabling you to interpret the cards better.
- This reading gives a beautifully in depth insight into a situation, more so than a short three or two card reading.
- This can be a difficult reading the first few times, as there are many cards to work through.
- This reading can be time consuming if you are in a rush
- You may get bored with the strict structure of this reading and might need to be more creative.