Different Tarot Positions

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Different Positions in Spreads

When you use tarot spreads it is also considered a kind of template. As each card is placed down, their individual meanings are being used in the creation of a story or timeline inside a full spread. It is almost as if you see each card as a piece of the greater story that is the spread. The precise definition and the significance of each card is better viewed inside its meaning and its position within such a  spread. 

Three Cards Spread

The most common tarot spread is the three cards, a past-present-future spread. The left is past influence, the middle card is the present influences or the current situation, and the right card is future influences or circumstances. You just need to decide on the question at hand to begin your reading. Your curiosity  about a rocky relationship with a loved one is a great example. If you pull three cards-- the first one being the Emperor reversed for past, the Five of Cups reversed for present, and lastly, the Seven of Swords upright for future it can give you some insight into the situation. 

When solely looking at the Emperor reversed, it symbolizes self-discipline, and a strong-willed nature, oftentimes with an inflexible attitude. The Emperor strives to care, serve, and respect the people around him just as he expects those around him to do the same. It is a reminder to be mindful of arrogance, and to allow yourself to be vulnerable sometimes.

The present card you pull in this three card spread example is,  Five of Cups reversed, which could indicate a denial of a loss that has come about. In this case, the card advises that introspection may be needed. Another interpretation of this position can be that we are ready to turn to what is left with a sense of deep appreciation. However, when the Emperor reversed card comes into play alongside it, it could indicate that your relationship consists of underlying animosity between you two, both not giving and receiving what you need. It could indicate a lack of vulnerability in your relationship and the need for both of you to open up and vocalize what you need so as to not end up at a loss because of lack of flexibility.  

The Eight of Swords upright, the third card in the spread, indicates that you may be trapped in a prison of your own making. Even if you feel as though there is nowhere to go from here all you must do is be more observant to discover alternatives to repair the situation. Nothing is set in stone and any decisions that you make can make a difference, all you need is a change of perspective.


As you can see, the sole meaning of each card is defined differently when viewing them in these positions alongside the other cards in the spread. Card meanings are all correlated with specific situations or times as identified by the card’s position.Nevertheless, just because you received such results, does it mean that the message is portrayed in its entirety, your knowledge of the situation beyond the cards also holds important insights. It is important to remember to incorporate your own knowledge on the matters behind the questions. It is crucial to employ the meaning of the card and its position to the overall narrative you are receiving from the full spread.

Ten Cards Spread

Another common spread is the 10 cards spread, also known as the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread. In this reading there is a layout in which each of the ten cards represents something else. Within this spread, there is a card that represents, the present, the challenge, the past, the future, above, below, advice, external influences, hopes and/or fears, and outcomes. 

The present card represents what is happening currently while the past card represents events that have led you to the present state. The card that is drawn in place of the challenge, symbolizes a pressing obstacle that if solved will bring you a sense of relief while the future card shows what is most likely going to happen in the foreseeable future. The above card represents a goal while the below card represents subconscious feelings related to the situation. The advice card takes into consideration current factors happening in your life and provides recommendations regarding the matters in question while the external influences card emphasizes the people that can affect the results. The Hopes/Fears card in this spread could possibly be the most difficult card to decipher since both fears and hopes are closely linked. Lastly, the outcome card is symbolic of where the state of something will lead to and how it will be sorted out. 

Attack Variations

Basic tarot spreads can also have different versions which can make understanding tarot even more complicated, but don’t worry, you don’t have to know all the different versions to successfully practice tarot. It is advised to start by familiarizing yourself with one deck at a time. 

The Celtic Cross is indeed a first-class case. With two cards in the middle and four that form a ring around them, multiple versions of this spread all create different meanings. One version has these cards presented as (beginning from the bottom, continuing clockwise) present situation, past influences, present influences, and future influences, while another version begins from reason for asking the question, past influences, present situation, and short-term outcome. If you thought matters couldn’t get more complex, some look at the bottom, then the top, then left, and right, while others go from bottom, left, top and right. Based on the cards, these can change the way you interpret a spread. 

Seeing which version of the same spread correlates most with you and how you feel is okay if you are just starting off reading tarot cards. However, it is key to be aware of which version is being used when you have someone else reading a spread for you. If you do not pay attention to such details, you may end up feeling more lost and cluttered than when you started the reading. 

New Designs and Interpretations 

As people get comfortable and confident with tarot card readings, many begin to create personal spreads. As you continue to conduct additional research you will find more spreads with different card positions through the countless websites and books available online. Such research will help you gain more knowledge on the cards and you’ll realize the various kinds of interpretations in each spread. This will help you when you conduct tarot readings for yourself and others.

Numerous Alternatives

Another problem one may encounter is the ambiguousness of the positions. For instance, the card “external influences” in Celtic Cross (in the “staff” portion, second up from the bottom) discusses how people feel about the situation, their behaviors, and their association with you. This card ultimately depicts the length that people will go to either be there for you and guide you when you need it most, or it will indicate peoples hostility towards you. But don’t be fooled, the position can also depict peoples reactions to your actions as well. If a card looks unsupportive, then it may mean that you’re not being very supportive of those around you or  they’ll be unsupportive of you due to your unwarranted behavior. 

To see how every position works with the others, look at the entirety of the spread. After each card is placed down, begin by understanding the meaning of each card, then what it means through its position. Then ultimately analyze what each card means from the perspective of the whole spread. 

Because the position meanings are so fluid and open to interpretation, it may take you some time to get used to. This may make tarot practices complex but it is also a blessing which can guide you to discover new connections different from what you’ve noticed thus far.

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