How to Read The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread

by Brigit on September 24, 2010 in Tarot Spreads

How to Read the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread

The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread is one of the most commonly used spreads by Tarot readers. But did you know it’s also one of the hardest Tarot spreads to interpret correctly?

And even though the Celtic Cross spread is in nearly every Tarot book and is used by Tarot beginners, many Tarot readers miss the deeper insights that are available in this complex spread.

Sure, you can read each Tarot card, one-by-one, in the Celtic Cross spread, but if you want to be the Tarot reader everyone raves about, you’ll need to master the dynamics between the cards and tell the story in your Tarot reading.

So today, I’m going to show you not just the layout and positions of the Celtic Cross, but I’m also going to show you exactly how to read the Celtic Cross by deep-diving into the most critical relationships between the cards in the Celtic Cross spread.

The Celtic Cross Layout

OK, let’s get to the basics. Here’s your standard Celtic Cross layout:

Celtic Cross Layout

Card 1: The present. This card represents what is happening to the querent at the present time. It also reflects the querent’s state of mind and how they may be perceiving the situation.

Card 2: The challenge. This card represents the immediate challenge or problem facing the querent. This is the one thing that, if resolved, would make life a lot easier. Even if you draw a ‘positive’ card in this position, consider it carefully as it will still represent a challenge.

Card 3: The past. This card represents the events that have lead up to the present situation and may provide some indication of how the challenge came about.

Card 4: The future. This card represents what is likely to occur within the next few weeks or even months. This is not the final outcome, simply the next step on the journey.

Card 5: Above. This card reflects the querent’s goal, aspiration or best outcome with regards to the situation. It is what the querent is working towards consciously as they attempt to resolve the issue.

Card 6: Below. This card reflects that which is within the subconscious realm of the querent and delves much deeper into the core foundation of the situation. It symbolises the underlying feelings and trends associated with the situation and can indicate what is truly driving the querent. This card may bring a surprise message to the querent, particularly if they are not deeply connected to their inner being (watch out for reversed cards here which are likely to indicate that this is an ‘unknown’ to the querent).

Card 7: Advice. The advice card takes into account all that is happening within the querent’s life and presents a recommendation for what approach can be taken to address the current challenges.

Card 8: External influences.  This card highlights the people, energies or events which will affect the outcome of the question and are beyond the querent’s control.

Card 9: Hopes and/or fears. This is perhaps one of the most difficult positions to interpret. Keep in mind that hopes and fears are closely intertwined, therefore that which we hope for may also be that which we fear, and so may fail to happen. Sometimes it is useful to draw a second card for clarification after the reading has been laid and to read the two together.

Card 10: Outcome. This card is representative of where the situation is headed and if/how the issue will be resolved. It assumes the outcome based on the querent continuing their current course of action. Of course, if the outcome card is not a desirable outcome, it is within the free will of the querent to make the necessary changes to their situation.

*Note: There are many different versions of the Celtic Cross, including differences in the order of the cards. The version above is the version that I work with and have the best results with. Nonetheless, experiment and choose what works best for you.

Mastering the Celtic Cross: Exploring the Dynamics Between the Tarot Cards

This is where things get interesting! Many Tarot readers first learn to read Tarot by interpreting each card. But it’s when we look at the dynamics between the Tarot cards and get into the story of the Tarot reading that the magic happens!

First, let’s imagine the Celtic Cross split into two main sections – the Circle/Cross section on the left (Cards 1 to 6) and the Staff section on the right (Cards 7 to 10).

The Circle/Cross shows what is going on in the querent’s life at the time of the reading. This section is made up of two crosses – a central one (Cards 1 and 2) nested within a larger cross (Cards 3 to 6). The smaller cross represents the heart of the matter – what is most central to the querent at the time of the reading.

The larger cross consists of two lines that overlay the smaller cross. The horizontal line (Cards 1, 3 and 4) shows time moving from the past on the left into the future on the right. The vertical line (Cards 1, 5 and 6) is the querent’s consciousness moving from unconscious on the bottom to conscious mind on the top.

Together these six cards give a snapshot of the inner and outer environment at the time of a reading.

The Staff section shows the relationship between the querent and the environment in which they operate, and can provide a better indication of what is happening in the broader context.

Second, start to look at the following Tarot card combinations to build the ‘story’:

  • Compare the Above and Below cards (Cards 5 and 6). Is there a synergy between the conscious and the subconscious levels? Is there alignment between what is driving the querent and what the querent aspires to? If there is alignment, great – it will be a lot easier to resolve the issue. If not, then assist the querent in understanding what is happening at the subconscious level and how this may be impacting their response to the issue.
  • Compare the Above and Outcome cards (Cards 5 and 10). Again, is there alignment between what the querent wants to happen and what will happen? Is the querent helping or hindering the situation? If you find that Cards 5 and 10 are opposing, then the querent will need to think carefully about how to create the outcomes they want. Look to the Advice card (Card 7) for more guidance.
  • Compare the Future and Outcomes cards (Cards 4 and 10). How are the events of the near future contributing or influencing the overall outcome? Will the querent need to manage these events in a particular way to create the right outcomes? Again, refer to the Advice card (Card 7) for more detail.
  • Compare the Below and Hopes/Fears cards (Cards 6 and 9). If you are finding it difficult to interpret the Hopes/Fears, have a look at what is happening at the subconscious level within the querent (Card 6). Is there something in their subconscious realm that is creating fear or hope? If you see reversed cards in these positions, then it is likely the querent is not yet aware of their subconscious drivers and how this is impacting them in the ‘real world’.
  • Compare the Advice and Outcome cards (Cards 7 and 10). The querent doesn’t like the outcome? Well, take a look at the Advice card to see what actions the querent can take to create a more positive outcome. Also take into consideration what events are likely to occur in the near future (Card 4) so that the querent can manage these effectively.

Then, bring it all together for deep and profound insight into the situation at hand.

Over to you… What other combinations do you look for in your Celtic Cross readings? What helps you most to interpret the Celtic Cross spread?

{ 115 comments… read them below or add one }

mandi February 23, 2013 at 1:50 am

hi bridget
my question is ,is it better to ask a question when doing a celtic cross spread or just see which cards come up
thanks mandi

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Brigit February 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I personally prefer to have a question in mind to help focus the reading. Otherwise it’s like turning up to the doctor and asking, “What’s wrong with me?” and wondering why he’s having to test and diagnose every part of you!

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mandi February 25, 2013 at 8:17 pm

thankyou bridget
for tour reply ,so the first card you would fit it to your question ,like if you asked a question about work and you pulled five of wands you would say something like .you hav power strugles at work ,then continue in a work theme for the whole spread .
thanks again .

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Brigit February 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Absolutely – well done!

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mandi February 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Thankyou Bridget
Ii love your site

Lynn May 14, 2013 at 1:06 am

I was just reading the Celtic Cross Spread which I usually use. I panicked for a moment because I read that you, Brigit, use your cards in a spread that I don’t exactly use when doing mine! Cards 3, 4, and 6 are in different positions from that of which you place your cards. You mentioned to use whatever works best for one’s self. My question is, how will I know that I have them in a correct spread or what gives the reader to know that it is in the right order? Does this question make any sense?? LOL

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Brigit May 14, 2013 at 1:54 am

Hi Lynn,

Have you seen my other post on the Celtic Cross – http://www.biddytarot.com/what-is-the-correct-version-of-the-celtic-cross/ ? It might help.

Experiment with the different versions that you come across and find what feels most comfortable for you. It will be right for you (but it doesn’t mean it’s the only, one right way to do a Celtic Cross!).

Brigit

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Sean May 31, 2013 at 2:00 am

I absolutely love this spread. Thanks for sharing. I wonder if there’s other cards we can make reference to Card no. 8.

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ScottP June 2, 2013 at 2:59 am

This was so helpful. I’d been doing the Celtic Cross for some time but was using the instruction guide included with my cards which wasnt very informative lol. Now I’ve gotten so much more insight on my problem!!!

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Brigit June 3, 2013 at 6:51 am

Great! Glad I could help.

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Tina June 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Hello there – I really don’t know much at all about tarot reading, but I’m going through a hard time right now and figured I would try out a Celtic Cross reading that I found on a random website. Not certain if these readings work if you are asking about someone else’s relationship, so – that is part one of my question. I recently broke up with someone and I asked about what would happen between my ex and his new gf. The three outcome cards were as follow: Death, 10 of pentacles and the High Priestess Card. I know the 10 of pents represents (or can represent) unions, fulfillment and marriage etc… so, I can’t figure out if the death card means their relationship with change into – 10 of pents or if it will end? Thoughts? Thank you in advance for any direction you can provide.

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Brigit June 25, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hi Tina,
I understand you’re probably very keen to know what’s happening for your ex and his new girlfriend, particularly as it might tell you whether you will reconcile or not. However, I would encourage you to bring the focus of your reading back to you. 1. You’re reading on two people without their permission, which can be unethical. 2. You’ll be bringing your energy to the reading and may not be getting the ‘full’ picture of what’s happening in this other relationship. Best to focus on what you can change and influence – perhaps what you can do to reconcile, or to move on.

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Tina June 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Also, I should mention the card that is labeled “root of the matter” is the three of swords. There are some good cards in the spread and oddly enough – the reading shows that they are going on a trip, which they are! Interesting.

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sonia sharma June 28, 2013 at 1:20 am

Hi Brigit,
can you please tell me what if I get’Five of Cups’ as card no. 5 called above in celistic cross,I am not able to understand its sense,as this no. card is a card of my goal or best outcome of the current situation,I pulled the cards for my emotional/love life…trying to see the situation n its future…in the card no. 10 I got ‘wheel of Fortune’ as outcome…can you please put some light over this ? Thanks..regards,sonia

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Brigit June 29, 2013 at 1:05 am

It’s hard to interpret without the full context of your question and your full reading. That said, 5 of Cups in the Above position – dealing with loss and regret quite publicly, perhaps sharing your feelings with others, looking for support, telling new partners what troubles you’ve been through in the past. Wheel of Fortune in the Outcome – I often interpret this as ‘undecided’ on behalf of the Universe. Also, expect the unexpected – spinning the wheel of fortune and not knowing where you might land.

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Shanna Spurlock June 29, 2013 at 6:47 am

I am in a transitional period, which is also being combined with an emotional roller-coaster. I’ve never really had a permanent place to call home and right now. I’m staying with friends. I am afraid I will never get on my feet and I’m not sure how to go about it (air force, army or college). To add to the stress, my ex is harassing me. I am having trust issues with everyone I know because of what happened with my ex and I just really need some guidance, and perhaps some reassurance of direction so that I may be able to get on my feet, be on my own and not have to depend on or take help from anyone else ever again. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing back from you.

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Brigit June 29, 2013 at 8:17 am

I don’t personally provide free Tarot readings, but you will find Tarot students who will here – http://www.biddytarot.com/free-tarot-readings/

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Robert September 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Thank you so much for this tutorial on the celtic cross! I am familiar with tarot and usually ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ but I see the usefulness of spreads for getting a comprehensive outlook on something. This post was very helpful and the other interpretations I found were less true to my readings. As a fledgling to spreads it is exciting to see the link between cards; in my current reading the card in the conscious (5) position was about letting go and clearing while the card regarding my immediate environment is about mourning, interesting how we create our realities! In your experience have you found that position 9 can relate to one’s higher self?

Thanks again,
Rob

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Jean September 28, 2013 at 1:25 am

Hi I was wondering if anyone could help with a reading I’ve done using the Celtic cross spread. the cards are as follows:

1. 2 of swords
2. page of cups
3. the sun
4. 9 of pentacles
5. the empress
6. 3 of wands
7. the lovers
8. the devil
9.the moon
10. 10 of cups

I asked about my relationship and how its going to progress. Things are going very well, but its the devil I’m worried about. I don’t think it represents my boyfriend as he’s a good person and I know he cares for me very much. Could it be that there are influences around us we need to be careful of?

I drew a couple more cards to try and expand on the outcome and they were both positive..the star and the ace of wands! any insights would be most welcome as I’m not sure how to interpret this one.

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Nicole February 12, 2014 at 8:10 am

A causal union where parties will become family-like.

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vijaya January 15, 2014 at 11:18 pm

There is a saying the often the devil is in ‘the detail’ of something such as a contract and is an external influence.

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La Blue Eyes February 6, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I did the spread, and my ‘External influences’ card was the 5 of swords. It was such a complex card that I had much trouble in deciphering it’s meaning. The card below it, ‘advice’ was the high priestess. Above the 5 of swords was the 8 of pentacles, my ‘hopes and fears’. Lastly the ‘outcome’ was the 10 of swords, which also confused me. I read that the cards surrounding the 5 of swords would help me determine it’s meaning, but I am still fairly new to this. If you could help in any way clarify this for me, I would greatly appreciate it.

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Brigit February 10, 2014 at 10:07 am

It depends on what the original question was, but with the Five of Swords as the external influences, I would say that there is someone around you who feels bad for what has been said and done and may be ready to apologise (or sheepishly move on).

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Angel Smile October 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I have found the 5 of swords to be indicative of gossip or negative outside influences.

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Deborah March 20, 2014 at 9:10 am

Why is it that I have looked in 3 books and 2 websites and all present a different Celtic layout pattern?

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Brigit March 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm

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