The Celtic Cross is one of the most versatile and universally applicable Tarot spreads you are likely to come across. No other spread helps you view all the different aspects of a situation in the querent’s life with quite the same level of accuracy and detail.
A full Celtic Cross Tarot spread uses ten card positions, each with a pre-assigned meaning. Each builds on the previous card by adding more information to the larger picture that is being slowly revealed as the reading unfolds.
The Celtic Cross Tarot spread places the querent and their experience of a particular question or situation at the heart of the reading. The Celtic Cross helps the querent see all of the different influences that are affecting their present situation, as well as it possible outcome. At the same time, the Celtic Cross Tarot spread also helps bring more self awareness to the querent, by reminding them of the power of their free will to affect and potentially change the current course of events shaping their lives.
So often in life, we forget to think about what drives, motives and inspires – instead of being aware of these things, we just hurdle along the highway of life, without questioning whether our motivations and goals are constructive or realistic. The Celtic Cross helps us gain a unique perspective and fully understand where we are coming from – so that we can begin to consciously decide and influence where we are going.
If done well, a Tarot reading using the Celtic Cross spread will leave the querent with a greater depth of understanding of their current situation and circumstances, as well as of all of the different factors and influences that are playing into creating their reality – both past, present and future.
Why the Celtic Cross spread works for every type of Tarot reading
The Celtic Cross spread is both versatile, detailed and comprehensive. This makes it uniquely adaptable and useful as the foundation for any specific question or topic, including love and relationships, money, business and career, self-development, spiritual path finding and healing.
The Celtic Cross is one of the oldest Tarot spreads. It typically uses ten card positions with set, assigned meanings. However, the number of cards used – and the pre-assigned positions – can easily be tweaked and adjusted to fit the requirements of any specific reading.
Imagine that you are doing a Tarot reading for a lint who is experiencing a creative draught and is wondering how to get through it. To give them the best reading possible, adapt the spread by, for example, swapping the traditional 7th and 9th card positions, ‘fears’ and ‘hopes,’ out for ‘blocks’ and ‘inspiration.’
Once you have become very familiar with the Celtic Cross Tarot spread and have memorised each of the ten traditionally used card positions, you are at complete liberty as a Tarot reader to think on your feet and change up any of the traditional positions as needed for specific Tarot readings.
The Celtic Cross Tarot spread is outcome based, and regardless of the reading’s specific focus or topic, it gives the querent an eagle’s eye perspective over their life, where they are currently at, where they are headed, and all of the different factors and energies that are influencing the long-term goals and outcome they are seeking.
How to lay a Celtic Cross Tarot spread
The standard Celtic Cross layout uses ten cards, each with a pre-assigned position.
The first and second Tarot cards form the centre of the spread layout. Place them in a cross formation, the second card on top of the first.
The third card is placed below the small cross formed by the 1st and 2nd Tarot cards. The fourth card is placed to the left of the central cross, and the fifth above it. The sixth card is placed on the right side of the cross.
Now you should have a small, central cross formation, surrounded by a larger cross.
The 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th cards are laid out in a vertical row next to the cross, with the 7th card at the bottom and the 10th at the top.
A note on reading reversals in the Celtic Cross Tarot spread
It is not just the position of each card in the Celtic Cross spread that matters – whether it appears upright or reversed is also significant.
Much can be said about reading card reversals (and not all Tarot readers do read reversals), but typically, when a card turns up reversed it tells you hat its energy is being highlighted. Inverted cards often point to areas where the energy is blocked and distorted, so reversals are worth watching out for, even if you belong to the school of readers who don’t interpret a reversed card much differently from one that is upright.
What each card represents in a Celtic Cross Tarot reading
1st card: The heart of the matter. General atmosphere.
The first card in the Celtic Cross Tarot spread represents the heart of the matter and sets the overall tone of the reading.
You will often find a Major Arcana archetypes appearing in this position, describing the major lesson, crisis or transformation that the querent is facing.
It is also not rare for aces to appear in the first card position. Let us say, for example, that you are doing a reading about a querent’s new job or business venture – the Ace of Pentacles appearing in the first position should come as no surprise.
If you read Tarot cards about the querent’s love life, a court card can often show up in the central position, indicating the love interest at the core of the matter.
2nd card: Opposing or influencing forces
The second card position indicates opposing or influencing energies and forces.
This card position is extremely useful, as it can reveal both influences from the subconscious realm that seem almost beyond the querent’s control or awareness, or external influences that may be either helping or hindering the situation.
3rd card: Foundation. The past root of the matter
The third card represents the foundation, or root, of the current situation. It tells the Tarot reader more about the motivations or events that have led up to the current situation, while also placing this into perspective for the querent.
Sometimes, the third card position can pinpoint events or situations that lie quite far back and may have slipped out of view of the quern’s conscious mind, relegated to the realm of subconscious influences. The third card position brings these hidden roots and deeper insights up from below the surface – up to where they can be viewed and assessed in the light of the present.
4th card: Behind you. Recent past
The four Tarot card indicates the recent past, typically events or a particular challenge that is still playing into the situation.
Sometimes, but not always, the fourth card reveals something which has not yet been resolved, finished or laid to rest.
5th card: Above you. Possible future events, shape of things to come
The fifth card indicates circumstances, plans and hope that are taking shape. None of them have yet manifested, but they exist in a state of potential, waiting to be taken action on and summoned into real, tangible existence.
6th card: Before you. Forces already set in motion that may manifest in the near future
The sixth card reveals some of the energetic trails that have already been laid out in front of the querent. These events and circumstances, although they have not yet manifested fully, are nevertheless in the process of taking shape and becoming solid.
If the circumstances revealed by the sixth card are desirable and positive, this card indicates that the querent is on the right path and is moving in the right direction.
If, on the other hand, the energy of the sixth card is negative or not what the querent wants, the sixth card is a clear indication that the querent should take quick action to change the course of events.
7th card: Feelings. Fear, apprehension
The seventh card signifies the querent’s fears, apprehension, or other powerful emotions that the querent may be experiencing.
As we move towards specific goals or desired outcomes, it is natural to feel fear, apprehension or resistance. The specific nature of the querent’s emotional challenges are revealed by the sixth Tarot card.
8th card: External influences. What others think about the matter
The 8th card represents the external energies and influences that are affecting the querent at present.
Some people are more susceptible to worrying about what the people around them may think than others, and this is going to be reflected by this card. If a powerful Major Arcana card – such as, for example, the Devil – comes up in this spot, it is a clear indication that the querent is holding back, chained by their fear of what others are going to think of them if they go all in on pursuing their goal.
9th card: Hopes. Aspirations, goals, dreams, desires
The ninth Tarot card is the positive counterpart to card number seven in the Celtic Cross spread. Here, the querent’s true hopes, dreams, goals, aspirations and desires are revealed.
10th card: Outcome. The resolution or final outcome you are moving towards
The final card indicates the ultimate outcome. Given that everything keeps flowing in the direction stake out by the other cards in the spread, this is the ultimate and most likely outcome.
Given that the outcome has not manifested yet, and given that the querent has free will and agency to change the course of the energy flowing through their lives – the outcome is never a given, never set in stone until it has actually manifested.
Short Celtic Cross
If for whatever reason you lack the time or impetus to lay a full ten-card Celtic Cross spread, there is a shorter one using only six Tarot cards.
Because it is less comprehensive than the full Celtic Cross Tarot spread, it makes sense that the shorter version works well in combination with other shorter spreads, or with intuitive advice cards. In other words, the shorter spread can work great for a more tailored fortunetelling experience.
How to lay a short Celtic Cross
As with the full-length version, the short Celtic Cross starts out with two cards placed in a cross formation in the middle – these are cards one and two in the spread.
The third card is placed under the central cross, the fourth to the left, the fifth above and the sixth to the right.
What each card represents in a short Celtic Cross Tarot spread
1st card: Past experience
The first card shows the past experienceS or the deeper root that has lead up to the situation or challenge that the querent is facing.
2nd card: The present
The second card signifies the querent’s current circumstances, point of view, emotional state, surroundings. Whatever information is going to be the most relevant and useful for the querent to know about their situation here and now is going to come up here.
3rd card: Near future
Here, the near future, and the trails that have already been laid out by the querent are revealed.
These circumstances, challenges or hopes have not yet manifested, but they are becoming more and more tangible as the querent keeps moving towards them.
4thc card: Your future environment
The card in the fifth spot points to the likely future environment or set or circumstances that the querent is going to find themselves in.
If the energy indicated here is positive, constructive and hoped for by the querent, it is a clear indication that they are moving in the right direction and are taking the right steps towards the existence they desire. If a negative energy is indicated, it is a sign that the querent should change their tac in the here-and-now in order to create a different outcome.
5th card: The best you can hope for
This is the best case scenario that the querent can hope for. Ideally, a positive and empowering archetype is going to appear in this spot.
6th card: The likely outcome
Finally, we have the most likely outcome card – assuming that everything in the querent’s life keeps moving in the direction that it is moving in right now. The ultimate outcome tells the querent whether they need to course correct, or accelerate on the path they are already on.