Tarot Spread Tutorial : 3 Card Spread

This is a very basic but time-tested spread, the 3 Card Draw. This is an excellent spread for beginners to use for practice and when beginning to read for themselves or others. To view the spread more easily, click on the graphics for a larger view. At the end of each tutorial you will be given a practical assignment - a card layout for interpretation. You can practice on your own, or join in the Discussion devoted to this particular spread in my BellaOnline Tarot forum.

3 Card Spread


PRIMARY USES To help you understand and clarify available options before taking action to solve a problem or pursue a goal (focus).


3 Card Spread

What the Spread Reveals

This is a very simple yet useful spread, that can have a wide range of meanings assigned to each of the three positions. Two of these are presented here for your consideration. They include the top row of titles, which introduces a problem or decision focused approach, "Context - Focus - Outcome" and the bottom titles which introduce a timeline approach, of "Past - Present - Future."

To begin this spread, shuffle the cards carefully, spread them out in a long line in front of you, then allow your Higher Self to draw three cards from the deck. Each step should be done carefully and with calm focus.

Problem Solving or Decision Making Approach

This spread will help you to learn to apply the tarot to figure out how to approach a problem or decision. This is easiest when you let your ego and conscious mind relax, and allow your Higher Self to speak to you through the cards you draw.

Left Card: The Context - This card reflects a general overview of the Querant's present situation.

Center Card: The Focus - This card reflects a new set of circumstances that are about to act upon the Querant, the forces that drive these may be positive or negative depending on the card and whether it is upright or inverse. This card is the general problem or the decision to be made.

Right Card: The Outcome - This card reflects the effect of the second focus card. It shows the outcome that comes with the new circumstances; the results of the problem solving and/or decision-making.

Timeline Approach

This spread will help you to learn to apply the tarot to help you to explore the forces that are influencing the Querant, by looking at the past, present and future energy around them.

Left Card: The Past - This card shows the Querant's past experiences, the ones that cast a light on the current situation.

Center Card: The Present - This card reveals what the Querant is feeling and experiencing at the moment.

Right Card: The Future - Thi card predicts the result of the course of action that the Querant will take, based on the first two cards.

Case In Point

To illustrate how this spread works, consider the following question:

"Should I buy land this summer?" You draw the three cards and end up with the following layout:

Left - The Moon
Center - King of Coins
Right - Justice

To weave the meaning of these three cards together, you need to read the energies of each in turn, then blend these together to give a picture of the whole to come up with an answer.

Moon Card - The Past or The Context: - Confusion, muddles and misunderstandings have complicated this decision for some time. This has weighed heavily on the Querant, and has clouded their judgement about obtaining this goal or making this decision. It is almost impossible to differentiate between appearance and reality - only gut-instinct, intuition or steadfast faith can help to weather the crisis. The Moon urges the Querant to rely on his or her instincts and inner knowing, rather than on rational assessments, when seeking the answer to this question.

King of Coins - The Present or The Focus: - This card indicates a gregarious, sociable and verbally skillful man, able to negotiate smartly - someone who will assist the Querant to achieve their goal of buying land. Negotiations will be successful if someone acts as a mediator. This could be a close relative or friend who has contacts in real estate, or a reliable mortgage broker who can work the best deal in acquiring the purchase. This card also signifies an improvement in the Querant's financial security and success in business and their profession.

Justice - The Future or The Outcome: - This card signals the resulting energies of the trio of cards. A positive development in matters of law, business or finance by acting fairly and correctly. On a practical level, this card represents justice and fair treatment of the Querant, not only in legal matters but in any sphere where judgements are to be made or disputes resolved. Things will work out in the Querant's favor - they will buy the land and reap great benefit from it. This card also signals the need for equilibrium between opposing forces in the Querant's life, material and spiritual, physical and mental, rational and intuitive.

Practice Exercise

To help you practice performing the 3 card spread, I offer two study cases below, baed on the same spread. In the illustration, you can see three face up Tarot cards. These three cards are from the Thoth Tarot Deck by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris 1997 (U.S. Games, Ltd. All rights reserved), with the following configuration:

1. Left Card: - Ace of Wands (Past or Context)
2. Center Card: - The Chariot (Present or Focus)
3. Right Card: - The Magician (Future or Outcome)

PRACTICE A. Olivia wants to know if she will get a good job when she is finished her degree in new media and communications (she finishes in three months). Do a Timeline Analysis for her.

PRACTICE B. Jack wants to explore how his business coaching company will fare over the next year. He has worked hard at promoting it for the past three years. He and his wife are expecting their first child as well. Do a Problem-Solving/Decision-Making Analysis for him.

If you would like to have an interactive experience with this exercise CLICK HERE to join the Forum Discussion devoted to this particular 3 Card Spread Exercise. If you prefer to work in private on your own, by all means, do whatever is comfortable for you.

3 Card Spread
Thoth Tarot Deck by Aleister Crowley & Lady Frieda Harris
1997 (U.S. Games, Ltd. All rights reserved.)
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