Three card Tarot spreads are some of the most popular and commonly used by Tarot readers everywhere, and with good reason. Not only are three card spreads among the best Tarot spreads for beginners who are only just starting to learn the craft, they are also endlessly versatile and adaptable.
Three card Tarot spreads can be used in readings on any topic, or about any question, from self discovery to relationships.
The three card spread is as simple and as versatile as a three-chord melody. Three cords ensures that the melody doesn’t get lost, and it is the with the Tarot – with three card Tarot spreads, the message always stands out loud and clear.
The pros of using only three cards from the Tarot deck
Three card Tarot spreads have the advantage over bigger spreads (such as the Celtic Cross) in being short, sweet and to the point. While it is true that a Tarot reading using a three card spread is going to result in a rather basic reading, this can also be a great strength, when you want to cut through the clutter and get right down to the bones of the message.
The three card Tarot spread is one of the best and easiest to learn Tarot spreads for beginners. With only three card positions to remember, it is easy to see how.
The cons of using only three cards
The cons of using only three cards from the deck can be summed up in a sentence: You are going to get a shorter reading. If you want a longer, more verbose reading, use more cards. You can always start with a simple three card reading, then add more cards intuitively.
The infinite versatility of the three-card Tarot reading
Three card Tarot spreads are endlessly versatile, malleable and adaptable.
Because you have the ability to assign the three card positions any meanings you like (and which are fitting for the Tarot reading you are doing), there is no limit or restriction on the types of questions or topics you might be able to shed light on using a three card spread. In other words, three card Tarot spreads make it easy to develop your own spreads.
How to lay a three card Tarot spread
Laying a three card Tarot spread is simple. Start by shuffling the Tarot deck, then draw and place three Tarot cards in a horizontal or vertical line in front of you. Typically, you are going to be reading the cards left to right, as when reading the text in a book.
Three card Tarot spreads: Top picks
The three card Tarot spread offers endless variations and possibilities. You can easily come up with your own, or take elements from spreads you see here, but change one or more card position out with something you think is more suitable for the specific question you are asking the cards.
All three card Tarot spreads share the same layout. The only thing that changes is what the cards represent.
Here is a rundown of some of the most popular, tried and tested three card spreads.
Past, present, future
Probably the most popular of all three card Tarot spreads is the past, present, future three card spread. It can be used when you want to take a closer look at one of the threads running through your life – this could be anything from a specific relationship, a life area, a job, a spiritual path, etc.
First up is the past card, which tells you something about the past aspects of the question you have asked. Typically, the card that comes up in the first position is going to tell you something about the influence that a previous event or circumstance is still exerting over the present. Let us say, for example, that you have asked about your current romantic relationship and that the Three of Swords Tarot card has come up. This indicates that past heartbreak is influencing your current relationship negatively, perhaps by making you mistrustful.
The second card is the present card and indicates your current situation as it relates to this particular issue. Sticking with the same example of the relationship reading, let us say that the Two of Cups appears. This indicates that the current relationship is nurturing, healthy and filed with potential.
The third and final card is the future card. It signifies most likely outcome. Let us say that the Major Arcana Hermit card comes up. In this case, the Hermit is a sign that the mistrust you are carrying over from the past is causing you to freeze your current partner out.
Problem, cause, solution
In this version of the Three card Tarot spread, the three Tarot cards help you identify a problem, its cause and its solution.
The first card describes the core and nature of the problem you (the querent) is facing. If a Major Arcana card appears in this position, it indicates that the problem is ongoing and seemingly insurmountable – it might even have become a bit of a theme in your life.
The second card indicates the cause of the problem. Most likely, this card is going to be the most useful advice card in this reading, as it pinpoints exactly what and where you need to change something.
The third and final card offers a potential solution to the problem. This might be something unexpected that you had not thought of before.
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Option A, B or C
This version of the three card Tarot spread is particularly useful when you have multiple options in front of you and are unsure of which one to choose or act on. You can add or subtract more Tarot cards according to how many options or possible paths are on the table.
Card number one signifies option A.
Card number two signifies option B.
And card number three signifies option C.
Mind, body, spirit
This variation over the three card Tarot spread is focused on health and alignment. Sometimes it can feel like the different parts of ourselves need or require different things, and in this reading, the Tarot cards helps you gain clarity on what you need on every level of existence. When the various aspects of who we are are successfully joined, we experience harmony.
Card one tells you about the needs/wants/state of your body.
The second card tells you about your mind.
The third card tells you about your spirit, your innermost being, and what you need on a higher level.
Conscious, subconscious, superconscious
Similar to the mind, body, spirit spread, this 3 card Tarot spread helps you become aware of what is going on on different levels.
Card one tells you about your conscious mind.
Card two tells you about your subconscious/unconscious mind.
Card three tells you about your subconscious/higher mind.
You, the other person, the relationship
Three card Tarot spreads can work wonderfully in relationship readings. Here is an example of this.
Card one represents you (the querent).
Card two represents the other person in the relationship.
Card three reflects the objective reality of the relationship.
Goal, strengths, weaknesses
Three card Tarot spreads can be used to evaluate the plans you are making and the goals you are setting. Here is an example of a 3 card Tarot spread used for personal development and planning.
Card one represents the goal, the desire, the hoped-for outcome.
Card two represents your (the querent’s) strengths.
Card three represents your (the querent’s) weaknesses.
Dilemma, if you go this way, if you go the other way
Three card Tarot spreads can be extremely useful for problem-solving.
Here, card one describes the dilemma being faced.
Card two represents one approach or direct you could take.
Card three represents another approach or direction you might take.
Don’t stop there
These are just a fraction of the examples of three card Tarot readings I could have given you.
In other words, there are many more varieties and riffs on the three card Tarot spread out there. And there are many more that you can invent as and when they are needed. You can keep inventing more spreads by assigning the three card positions in the spread any meaning you want. Always use the card positions that are going to bring the most relevance to the Tarot reading you are doing.