3 Card Tarot Spread

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If you are looking for a clear, simple and straight-forward answer from your Tarot cards on a particular question or topic, a three card Tarot spread is the way to go. Three card Tarot spreads have the added value of being ideal Tarot spreads for beginners.

A brief and to-the-point Tarot divination can sometimes pack just as powerful a punch and give just a good advice as a full Celtic Cross using 10 cards, or other bigger spreads. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that more is always better, when this isn’t always the case.

A quick and simple 3 card Tarot reading might be exactly what you need to cut through the clutter or the confusion surrounding a specific question or topic. A three card Tarot reading might be particularly useful in matters that are very heavily charged with emotion, such as questions about relationships.

Three card spreads are the ideal Tarot spreads for beginners as they offer an opportunity to start putting multiple card meanings together into one coherent message, without the overwhelm.

Three card Tarot spreads are useful for any type of question or topic. Three card Tarot spreads can also be tweaked and customised in any number of ways – only imagination as a Tarot reader sets any limits when it comes to the designations you can assign each of the three card positions in the spread.

Pros and cons of the 3 card Tarot spread

The pros are, perhaps, obvious. On the plus side, the three card spread give you the answer you are seeking, without any of the fluff. A three card reading is great if you are in a hurry, or if you are prone to overthinking or overcomplicating matters. Another positive is that the three card spread offers a convenient starting point if you are still relatively new to the Tarot. I still use three card spreads for many of the readings I do. I tend to start with a three card spread, with more cards added for texture and a more detailed view.

On the other hand, a three card spread inevitably results in a basic readin. It can seem overly simple, not providing you with depth and detail you are hoping for.

Should you use the entire Tarot deck when doing a 3 card Tarot reading?

Some Tarot readers chose to divide their deck into the Minor Arcana and the Major Arcana, and use only the Major Arcana cards when doing 3 card readings. This is not my recommendation, as I feel you are limiting the scope of the reading by removing cards.

Still, leaving the Minor Arcana cards out might be a good idea if you are are still finding your way around the Tarot cards and want to keep things simple when you first start doing readings.

Popular 3 card Tarot spreads

The three card Tarot spread is both the most basic and the most versatile. It can be tweaked and customised ad infinitum, offering endless scope for inventing your own spreads.

The three card Tarot spread has only three card positions. Let’s call them 1, 2 and 3. Usually, the cards will be placed in a linear row, one right after the other. Before turning the cards over, assign each card position a particular significance, for example, the future.

Here is a collection of some of the most popular tried and tested three card Tarot spreads.

Past, Present, Future

The Past, present, future Tarot reading is perhaps the most popular 3 card reading of them all.

Card number 1 is the past card, card number 2 is the present card and card number 3 is the future card.

Card number 1 tells you about past influences and card number 2 tells you about the present situation while card number 3 gives you information about the future.

Obstacle, Cause, Solution

This version of the three card spread is particularly useful when you are facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and can’t seem to find its solution.

Card one indicates the problem you are facing, the second card is the underling cause (which, most likely, you are not aware of), and the third and final card represents the solution (something or someone that may help you overcome the obstacle).

What worked, what didn’t work, the lesson

This three card Tarot spread is great for retroactively analysing your experiences and assimilating their lessons.

Here, card number 1 tells you what worked (which action or energy you brought to the situation that was constructive and compelling), card number 2 tells you what didn’t work (what actions, words or energies you brought to the situation that had a detrimental effect), and card number 3 reveals the core lesson that the situation had to teach you.

3 card love Tarot spreads

Some Tarot spreads lends themselves particularly well to answering questions about romance and relationships. Here are a few.

You, the other person, the relationship

This basic reading is great when you want to analyse the state of a relationship or determine whether the two people involved are seeing eye to eye.

The first card position represents you (or the querent) in the relationship. It is basically the relationship as seen from your point of view. The second card is the other person and how they view the relationship, and the final card is the relationship itself, as seen from an objective point of view.

What unites you, what divides you, what needs your attention

This 3 card spread is great when you want to uncover the root source of discord or disagreement in a relationship.

Card 1 tells you more about what unites you, where you have common ground, what you agree on. The second card tells you more about the discord that exists between you. The third card is an advice card, bringing up anything you need to know that might have been hidden from view or provide an unexpected solution.

What you want, what they want, where the relationship is headed

In this spread, the three cards give you an indication of the direction a relationship is headed in.

Card one represents what you want from the relationship, while card two represents their wands and desires – all being well, they are compatible with your own. The final card tells you about the overall direction the relationship is headed in.

3 card Tarot spreads to help you with decision making

Three card Tarot readings can be incredibly useful when you are faced with a dilemma or having to make a tough decision.

Option A, option b, what you need to know to make a decision

This reading is rather self explanatory. Card one tells you about what option A might entail or bring into your life, card two tells you the same about option B. Card three brings up something you might have overlooked, and which could help you make a decision.

Strengths, weaknesses, likely outcome

This reading is great when you are trying to determine whether to pursue a specific idea or path.

Card one reminds you of your strengths, card two of your weaknesses. Card three reveals the most likely outcome.

A variation of this spread assigns these card positions: Opportunities, challenges, outcome

Stop, start, continue

When you are unsure of whether to stop, start or continue a particular endeavour, you can gain a lot of clarity from this reading using just three cards.

Here, card one tells you about three different scenarios and helps you get clear on what will happen if you stop, start or continue the pursuit or path you have in mind.

3 card Tarot spreads for self-discovery

Three card Tarot spreads can be helpful guides when it comes to the spiritual journey and self-discovery. Here is an example for you to try.

Mind, body, spirit

Sometimes, our mind, body and spirit seem to be pulling us in three different directions. This is because we are multi-faceted creatures with sometimes conflicting interests, motivations, goals and desires.

In this three card Tarot spread, card one tells you about the needs, desires and aspirations of your mind. Card two tells you about the needs, wants and requirements that your body has, and the final card reveals what your spirit is hungry for.

An alternative version of this three card spread uses the card positions: Conscious, subconscious and superconscious.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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