The Three Card Tarot Spread

three card tarot spread

A few people have asked me about a three card tarot spread that I sometimes use to get quick insights into a client’s question.

In my private practice I generally do a 12-card hybrid astrology / tarot spread that I developed years ago and which has evolved over time.

But for quickie sessions or to provide added insight into a question that needs a bit more clarity, I highly recommend a 3-card spread.  By this I simply mean laying down three cards and reading them from left to right (or left, right, center — in that order).

By the way, I didn’t invent this spread. There are numerous variations out there and many — like the comprehensive system developed by Robert M. Place and outlined in his book The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination — have proven themselves to be relevant.

There are a few ways to approach doing a three card spread, depending on the nature of the questions involved:

You can interpret them in a linear fashion — reading them in order from left to right — which is useful for past / present / future readings. I have found this to work well with relationship readings as well, where the first card represents the querent, the second represents the other person, and the third card represents the outcome.

But relationship readings can also be interpreted with the individuals on either side of the central card, which represents the relationship itself. It’s important to decide which approach you’re going to take before pulling cards and to be consistent.

Another approach is to read the cards as a story, with each card building on and integrating with the next. This is useful for “how to” questions, such as “what steps do I need to take in this situation?” or “how should I proceed in order to get the outcome I desire?”

There’s a difference too between reading cards “by the book” and reading them intuitively. I find that intuitive readings work best with three-card spreads, but tend to keep the traditional meanings in mind.

Here’s an example of a recent 3-card spread I did for a client who was recently divorced and hoping that her legal woes with her former husband are over as well:

These three cards come from the gorgeous Japaridze Tarot * by Nino Japaridze. The cards — Star, Five of Fire and Justice — were read as a story but in this case could just have easily been read as the client, her ex-husband and the outcome.

The Star is traditionally a card of hope and faith in the Universe and while my client has said that she “prays” things will get better, she’s frankly been dubious about that happening. And when you look at the imagery, you can see how that is reflected in the card. The woman is gazing up at the stars, but the sky is hazy, partially obscuring them from view.  And there are bats fluttering around the base of the card. telling us that there may be danger afoot.

The central card — Five of Fire — is this deck’s version of the Five of Wands. There’s not much we can say about these skeletons duking it out — in front of a blood red backdrop — other than what is already apparent: these two will probably be fighting until the end of their days (and then some).

The final card — Justice — ties in well with the theme of her question. She asked about a legal issue and if we are to take this card literally, we’d see it as confirmation that it’s a valid spread. But does it mean Justice prevails? Depending on whose side of the fence you’re on, I’d say it drives home the point that “justice” is not always fair. Particularly where there are assets, children and and the equitable distribution of property involved.

So looking at this spread what do you think? My sense was that the legal issues are no where near finished, even with the Justice card in the outcome. I felt that things were going to get “split down the middle” which may not be in anyone’s best interests. If it involves assets, it will seem unfair to the party who has more at stake financially, and if it involves a 50/50 custody agreement, it will seem unfair to the parent for whom the children have bonded more closely with and who would benefit from his or her ongoing presence.

I know a little more about this story than I’m at liberty to post here. But I can tell you that this assessment turned out to be right on. We can’t know about the ongoing battles (as seen in the central card) but can only hope that the two of them can work out a more equitable arrangement down the road and no longer see a need to duke things out.


In the coming weeks we’ll look at other examples using this and other tarot decks.




Japaridze Tarot set


The cards used for this article come from the Japaridze Tarot by Parisian surrealist Nino Japaridze.

Originally from Tbilisi, Georgia, Nino Japaridze is a prolific artist and painter as well as an author, lecturer and college professor.

Her work has been exhibited in galleries around the world.

This deck was published by U.S. Games.







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