The Celtic Cross Spread

The classic long tarot spread, known and used by almost every tarot reader, is called the Celtic Cross. This is a ten-card spread that can be adapted to almost any question or issue; it provides information about our past and future, what’s influencing us, our hopes and fears, and what the final outcome might be. Here is how it’s laid out:

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As an example, I might use this spread to explore whether my partner and I are ready to have children:

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  • Card #1 = 9 of Ability, reversed

    • Position Significance: present influence

    • Suit of Ability = embodiment, the physical world, the skills we develop to help

    • Number: 9 = fulfilled

    • Image: a figure with arms raised in a strength pose, with a light shining above; reversed = wellness energy is being blocked

    • Reversed Keyword: Stagnation

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Feeling stuck; questioning whether we’re enough; lack of discipline; inertia after working too hard; no long-range goals

    • Possible story: Right now (card #1 position: present influence) I’m hesitant to have children and make the personal and financial leap to start a family (Suit of Ability, number 9), because I might not be up to the work (card #1 meaning: questioning whether we're enough, inertia after working hard)...

  • Card #2 = V Connection

    • Position Significance: cross/what is blocking you 

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Stage 1 = developing our true self

    • Image: two figures leaning toward each other, with hands clasped together

    • Keyword: Connection

    • Card Meaning: Our need for love and acceptance; our essence connecting to other essences; our desire to be seen and heard; intensity of emotion; union and desire; being mirrored; our attachment style

    • Possible story: ...even though I know my partner wants children (card #2 position: what is blocking you) and is ready to grow our family (Major Arcana, stage 1), and I know my partner's love and support will be there to help me (card #2 meaning: intensity of emotion, union and desire).

  • Card #3 = XIII Collapse

    • Position Significance: crowns you/ideal goal, conscious desire

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Stage 2 = inhibiting our true self

    • Image: a figure with hands over their face, while a lightning strike collapses a house in the background

    • Keyword: Collapse

    • Card Meaning: Onset of meaninglessness, loss and upheaval; destruction of illusions; awareness of disconnection to our essence; loss of faith; dark night of the soul

    • Possible story: My ideal goal (card #3 position: conscious desire) is that something external will happen to eliminate this discussion (Major Arcana stage 2), or prevent us from even having children (card #3 meaning: loss and upheaval, destruction of illusions)...

  • Card #4 = III Core Feminine

    • Position Significance: beneath you/what you already have, the unconscious

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Stage 1 = developing our true self

    • Image: a figure with one hand on their heart and the other hand on their glowing belly

    • Keyword: Core Feminine

    • Card Meaning: Connection to the part of our essence that is nurturing, intuitive, empathic, sensual, collaborative, receptive, balanced

    • Possible story: even though I admit I've had lovely experiences of “trying on” motherhood (Major Arcana, stage 1) with children (card #4 meaning: nurturing/collaborative/balanced) in the past (card #4 position: what you have).

  • Card #5 = 7 of Vitality

    • Position Significance: behind you/old patterns

    • Suit of Vitality = creativity and spirit

    • Number: 7 = paused

    • Image: a figure in contemplation, with scattered thoughts darting around their head

    • Reversed Keyword: Scattered

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Our energy becoming scattered; feeling criticized or targeted; external pressures are overwhelming; backing down too often or too easily

    • Possible story: I’m feeling very pressured (card #5 position: old patterns) to want children, and I’m exhausted (Suit of Vitality, number 7) by the implied criticism (card #5 meaning: feeling criticized or targeted).

  • Card #6 = 9 of Affinity 

    • Position Significance: before you/new patterns you want to create

    • Suit of Affinity = emotions and connection

    • Number: 9 = fulfilled

    • Image: a figure with hands clasped at their heart

    • Keyword: Gratitude

    • Card Meaning: Being grateful for our relationships; contentment; trust in the future; wishes fulfilled; counting our blessings

    • Possible story: I wish (card #6 position: new patterns you want to create) that I felt grateful and trusting and fulfilled (Suit of Affinity, number 9) when I reflect on having children (card #6 meaning: being grateful, trust in the future)...

  • Card #7 = 7 of Inquiry, reversed

    • Position Significance: your own attitude

    • Suit of Inquiry = thinking and reason

    • Number: 7 = paused

    • Image: a figure with arms crossed and angry thoughts; reversed = resentful energy blocked 

    • Reversed Keyword: Self-Deception

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Lying to ourselves; being skeptical; keeping secrets; doubting our own abilities;  impostor syndrome (believing we're not as competent or deserving as others think we are)

    • Possible story: but if I believed this rosy picture (card #7 position: your own attitude) it would be self-deceptive (Suit of Inquiry, number 7) and unfair to both my partner and me (card #7 meaning: lying to ourselves, being skeptical).

  • Card #8 = 3 of Inquiry

    • Position Significance: the environment, how others see you

    • Suit of Inquiry = thinking and reason

    • Number: 3 = enhanced

    • Image: a figure entering a dark cave, holding a torch for light

    • Keyword: Courage

    • Card Meaning: Having the courage to observe and witness our patterns; releasing deep sorrow and anger; admitting we are struggling

    • Possible story: My partner believes (card #8 position: how others see you) that I might be coming around to the idea (Suit of Inquiry, number 3) or at least that I’m willing to keep thinking about it (card #8 meaning: having the courage to witness our patterns)...

  • Card #9 = 4 of Vitality, reversed

    • Position Significance: hopes or fears, what motivates you

    • Suit of Vitality = creativity and spirit

    • Number: 4 = fixed

    • Image: a figure with a hole in their chest, sitting on a box containing their fire 

    • Reversed Keyword: Expression

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Our creative energy is flowing; reward of our efforts; reflecting on our accomplishments; letting go of limitations; celebration

    • Possible story: ...and I find myself hoping (card #9 position: hopes or fears) that I’m ready and stable enough (Suit of Vitality, number 4) for children too (card #9 meaning: reward of efforts, letting go of limitations).

  • Card #10 = XIV Surrender, reversed

    • Position Significance: summary, conclusion

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Stage 3 = reconnecting with our true self

    • Image: a figure sinking into deep water

    • Reversed Keyword: Surrender

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Everything is upside down; needless sacrifice, martyr energy; suffering because we are unconscious of our motivations

    • Possible story: But in the end (card #10 position: conclusion) I am still resisting the idea, and I’m caught between the potential for joy (Major Arcana, stage 3), and the fear of making a sacrifice that I will come to regret (card #10 meaning: suffering because we're unconscious of our motivations).

Summary: "Right now I'm hesitant to have children and make the personal and financial leap to start a family, because I might not be up to the work... even though I know my partner wants children and is ready to grow our family, and I know my partner's love and support will be there to help me. My ideal goal is that something external will happen to eliminate this discussion, or prevent us from even having children, even though I admit I've had lovely experiences of "trying on" motherhood with children in the past. I'm feeling very pressured to want children, and I'm exhausted by the implied criticism.

"I wish that I felt grateful and trusting and fulfilled when I reflect on having children, but if I believed this rosy picture it would be self-deceptive and unfair to both my partner and me. My partner believes that I might be coming around to the idea, or at least that I'm willing to keep thinking about it, and I find myself hoping that I'm ready and stable enough for children too. But in the end I am still resisting the idea, and I'm caught between the potential for joy and the fear of making a sacrifice that I will come to regret."

~~~~~

In this example, there are several Major Arcana cards – indicating this is a major life issue for my partner and me. There are also several reversals – indicating that my energy around this issue is blocked and is calling for my extra attention. As a result of this reading, I might conclude that I need to continue exploring my feelings around starting a family, or talk to a friend or a therapist about it, and maybe open up a dialogue with my partner about the possibility of not having children at all – but above all, not to allow internal or external pressure to rush me into a decision right now. 

Tarot reading takes practice -- but there are no wrong stories. Your own interpretation of this reading might be very different, based on your own experiences, circumstances, and beliefs -- or even what's going on for you that day -- and that's okay! The idea is to open up to new possibilities or viewpoints, however that happens.