The Celtic cross tarot spread consists of 10 card positions representing different questions, and together they form the shape of—you guessed it—a cross, with a vertical row of four cards laid out to its right. Clarisse Monahan, an astrologer and tarot reader, says this spread allows you to go way deeper into a question than, say, a simple one- or three-card spread, in order to help find clarity and answers. And it goes way back.
The Celtic cross tarot spread is the oldest and most-classic of all the tarot spreads. "The first published reference to it was by Arthur Edward Waite, the co-creator of the popular Rider Waite Tarot Deck," Monahan says. "His book The Pictorial Key (1910) references the spread, intimating that it had been used for many years prior across the British Isles."
The OG tarot spread can feel overwhelming for some, especially new tarot readers, as it involves interpreting 10 tarot card meanings together in a reading. But Monahan notes that a structured tarot spread, like the Celtic cross, is actually helpful because it helps systematically frame the querent's (aka inquirer’s) question. For instance, if you pull the moon tarot card in a position that represents the person asking the question, it will take on a different meaning than if the same card shows up in the position that relates to their environment, which can make it easier to interpret.
Ready to give the Celtic cross tarot spread a try? Grab your deck and read on for a how-to, including an overview of each of the 10 card positions and their meanings.
How to do a Celtic cross tarot spread
1. Shuffle the cards while focusing on your question
For a Celtic cross tarot spread, Monahan suggests starting by shuffling the cards while thinking of the question you'd like to focus the tarot reading around. You can either keep the focus general or get into the nitty-gritty with a specific question. For example, Monahan says a general question could be "how do I bring more abundance into my life," and a specific question could be "am I going to get this job I'm interviewing for?"
2. Pull 10 cards and lay them out in a Celtic cross
Once you intuitively feel that you've shuffled the cards enough, Monahan recommends splitting the deck in three with your left hand. Then choose one of the three piles and pull ten cards from the top of that pile as you place each of them in the order of the Celtic cross tarot spread as outlined below.
Card 1: The querent
Positioned right in the middle of the Celtic cross tarot spread, the first card in the spread always represents the person asking the question, also known as the querent, Monahan says. So whatever card lands in this position, the meaning and interpretation will relate to the querent themselves.
Card 2: The block
The second card in the Celtic cross tarot spread is laid out horizontally across the first card. This card, Monahan says, represents the block that is preventing the querent from getting what they want.
Card 3: The root
The third card in the spread goes below the center cards and symbolizes what’s causing the block, the "root of the problem or the unconscious energy grounding it," Monahan says.
Card 4: The recent past
This card lives to the left of the center cards and represents things that have happened recently, Monahan says.
Card 5: Possibilities
Positioned above the center cards, Monahan says the fifth card in the Celtic cross tarot spread is all about the possibilities available to you now.
Card 6: Where you're headed
The sixth card, located to the right of the center cards, represents your future and where you're headed. Monahan says this card can also reveal the best and most efficient way to achieve your desired outcome.
Cards 7: How you view yourself right now
The sixth card position completes the cross shape in the Celtic cross tarot spread. Cards seven through 10, Monahan says, are read together and form a vertical line to the right of the cross, with the seventh card at the bottom and 10th at the top. Card seven, she adds, focuses on how you are viewing yourself, whether in a positive or negative light.
Card 8: Your environment
Positioned right above the seventh card, Monahan says this card represents your environment, which encompasses the people around you, such as friends and family, who are either helping or hindering the situation.
Card 9: Hopes and fears
The card in the ninth position of the Celtic cross tarot spread, just about the eigth card, reveals how the querent is feeling, their hopes and their fears around the situation. "It does not represent what actually will happen but more our outlook on it," Monahan says.
Card 10: The outcome
Placed above the ninth card, the final card of the Celtic cross tarot spread shows the "outcome." However, Monahan notes, "This is not a hard and fast prediction but more to show where the energy is heading." We all have free will, and the beauty of tarot, she adds, is that you can change your approach and energy in any given situation, and, in turn, achieve a different outcome.
3. Make the Celtic tarot cross spread your own
Once you've laid out all 10 of your cards, you can begin interpreting their meanings based on where they're positioned in the spread. Although going by the traditional structure and layout of the Celtic cross tarot spread is helpful, Monahan suggests trying out other variations to find one you resonate with. Don't be afraid to make it your own. "Play around with what each card represents until you find something that feels right," she says. "If you don't vibe with the traditional meaning of the card, give it your own take. Tarot is all about being creative and tapping into our intuitive flow.
4. Pay attention to patterns or repetition
As you're reading the cards, Monahan advises paying attention to patterns or repetition. For example, she says, repeated cards with the number seven can signify stress and challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve something. Or, if many pentacles cards come up in a spread, that could mean there is an emphasis on security and money.
5. Use your intuition
Aside from the traditional meanings of each card and the positions, your intuition is queen when it comes to deciphering a tarot spread's messages. For that reason, Monahan suggests using your inner wisdom to help you decide what cards to zone in on. "The most important card does not always have to be the outcome card, you may be really drawn to a card in another position," she says. "Trust what you are drawn to and then using the structure of each particular position; piece together the story the cards are trying to convey."
And lastly, give yourself time with a Celtic cross reading. Monahan says writing out your first impressions and then coming back to it later can be helpful.
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