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 Skills, reversed

    • Position Significance: you right now

    • Suit: Skills = possessions and the material body

    • 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; no long-range goals

  • Card #2 = V Connection

    • Position Significance: cross/what helps or hinders 

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Number: 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; being mirrored; our attachment style

  • Card #3 = XIII Collapse

    • Position Significance: below/basis of the situation, unconscious influences

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Number: 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

  • Card #4 = III Core Feminine

    • Position Significance: behind/past experiences

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Number: 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

  • Card #5 = 7 of Vitality

    • Position Significance: above/what you think you want

    • Suit: Vitality = creativity and will

    • Number: 7 = paused

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

    • Reversed Keyword: Scattered

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Energy becoming scattered; feeling criticized or targeted; overwhelm; backing down too often or too easily

  • Card #6 = 9 of Affinity 

    • Position Significance: before/future goals

    • Suit: Affinity = emotions and love

    • 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

  • Card #7 = 7 of Struggle, reversed

    • Position Significance: your own attitude

    • Suit: Struggle = 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)

  • Card #8 = 3 of Struggle

    • Position Significance: the environment, how others see you

    • Suit: Struggle = thinking and reason

    • Number: 3 = enhanced

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

    • Keyword: Courage

    • Reversed Card Meaning: Having the courage to continue to struggle toward healing; releasing deep sorrow and anger; admitting we are struggling

  • Card #9 = 4 of Vitality, reversed

    • Position Significance: hopes and fears

    • Suit: Vitality = creativity and will

    • 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: Creative energy is flowing; reward of effort; letting go of limitations; celebration

  • Card #10 = XIV Surrender, reversed

    • Position Significance: outcome

    • Suit: Major Arcana

    • Number: 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

So the story of this reading might be that right now I’m hesitant to have children, because I might not be up to the work (card #1), even though I know my partner wants children and his love and support will be there to help me (card #2). The basis of my hesitation is my secret fear that children will shake up my nice calm life (card #3), even though I have had lovely experiences of “trying on” motherhood with children in the past (card #4). I’m feeling very pressured to want children, and I’m exhausted by the implied criticism (card #5). I wish that I felt grateful and trusting when I reflect on having children (card #6) but believing this rosy picture would be self-deceptive and unfair to both my partner and me (card #7). My partner believes that I might be coming around to the idea, or at least that I’m willing to keep thinking about it (card #8) and I find myself hoping that I’m ready for children too (card #9). But in the end I am still resisting the idea, and I’m afraid of making a sacrifice that I will come to regret (card #10).

 

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, 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. 

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