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Three Card Tarot Spreads

Three card tarot spreads are the most popular spreads and with good reason. They are easy and uncomplicated to interpret while still giving full and deep readings.

Often they are used as supplements to help understand more complicated spreads. For example, in a much larger spread a card might not be quite clear enough on what is happening. This card is then put to the side and a three card spread is pulled to help clarify that card’s meaning.

They are also very adaptable and once you have an understanding of the basic 3 card spreads you will find yourself making your own spreads and getting great results!

Three card spreads are the perfect spreads to start learning tarot.

You will hear about what they call ‘classic’ spreads – the Celtic Cross and the Tree of Life. Almost all the books that come with your deck of cards will have a version of one of these. They’re great spreads, don’t get me wrong. They’re just not easy spreads.

Once you’re comfortable with reading three card spreads, have a look at the more intricate ones. What you’re going to find though, is that the three card spreads may be all you want to use.

Card layouts for this spread are easy.

All the variations you will find mostly fit in the simple 1 2 3 layout.

Three card tarot spreads, showing layout

Each three card spread will have a different position meaning.

You can form the layout in a pyramid shape, put the cards at an angle, if you prefer, or a straight vertical or horizontal line, it really doesn’t matter. Three card spreads work because they’re simple, if a different layout intrigues you, go for it. I use the simple 1 2 3 layout.

Three card tarot spread instructions

First shuffle your cards. For most of the 3 card spreads you’ll be using uprights and reversals, so make sure you get those reversals in there!

As you shuffle think of your question, this will be your intention. Keep the card position meanings in mind as well.

You can cut the cards, or not, it’s up to you.

When you feel you’ve shuffled enough, lay out the cards in the 1, 2, 3 positions.

For this example I’m doing a reading on myself and we’re going to use the

Reach a Goal Spread

1. The Challenge (what is holding you back, what must you overcome)

2. How to Move Forward

3. Final Advice

Always consider what your question is and the position meanings to get your interpretation and get the guidance you are looking for. Not the answer you hope to get, but the one that will benefit you the most.

I did the reading on an actual goal that I’m trying to reach. The cards don’t always come up the way we would like them to as you can see! This actually turned out perfect as an example.

Reach a Goal Spread

1. The Challenge – King of Swords –

-A man.

There isn’t a man standing in my way (that I know of) so I look at the other meanings for the card.

-Many ideas, thoughts and designs.

Could it be that I have too many ideas, or should I think of more ideas? Remember, this position meaning is The Challenge – something that is holding me back or I have to overcome. Thinking on it, more ideas is what I need.

2. How to Move Forward – The Hermit (Reversed)

-Refusal to listen to wisdom. Being a perpetual Peter Pan.

Yikes! This is harsh. Obviously this means I need to listen to, and apply, what I have learned. Then buckle down and finish. (this probably means stop playing solitaire, too).

In truth, I’ve been putting it off because I’m a bit unsure of myself.

3. Final Advice – 5 of Pentacles

-Finish or become homeless.

Now, while I’m fairly certain I won’t become homeless if I don’t reach this goal, this is something I believe is important, at least for me.

My interpretation of this card, and its placement, can easily be – reach this goal or you will have regrets.

My interpretation of this reading – I need to come up with some more original ideas. I have the knowledge I need, but I’m putting it off due to uncertainty. If I don’t forge ahead and reach this goal I will have regrets. This is something that I really want.

Those are the feelings I got from this reading. I combined the position meanings, the card meanings and my impressions to come to this conclusion.

These particular cards could have a different interpretation for yourself depending on your question, this is what I felt they meant for me in this situation.

When you read for yourself you have the advantage of being able to dig into yourself, even when you don’t really want to. It lets you get to the heart of your questions.

I hope this gives you an idea of how three card tarot spreads work. While any spread will take some practice to learn, the three card spread is one of the easiest and a great place to start.

I’ve gathered a few three card spreads to get you started. Some are the most popular ones used. Others I’ve made myself, or adapted for my use. Enjoy!