The Celtic Cross spread, also sometimes known as the Grand Cross, the Mystic Cross, or the Cross/Staff spread, is one of the most commonly used spreads in tarot readings. The spread consists of a 10 card lay-out in the form of a Celtic Cross (equal armed cross in a circle) and a staff. It is not the easiest of spreads to master; one has to learn to be aware of specific card combinations and how the different positions of the lay-out interplay with each other. However, once you grow proficient at it, you will find that it will serve for an in-depth, well-detailed reading.
Even though the Celtic Cross spread is popular, you will find some variations among different tarot readers. These variations are generally found in the order the cards are placed or read, or in the interpretation of the card’s placement. This article describes one version of the Celtic Cross, but don’t be surprised if another article, or a book or person, uses a slightly different method. Likewise, don’t be afraid to change something if you feel you can personalize the spread for yourself, thereby making it more meaningful for your own use.
This card is not part of the actual reading, but believed by some to help direct the energies toward the reading’s goal by signifying the purpose of the reading. The significator card simply represents the seeker, or his situation. While some readers use a significator with the Celtic Cross spread, others omit it all together. The choice is yours.
If using a significator card, it should be chosen first when sitting down to do a reading. It can be done by having the seeker select a card blindly at random, or by the reader going through the deck and choosing a specific card that she feels represents the individual or the particular situation. Place the card face-up in the center of the table.
Once you have settled yourself for a reading, chosen your significator (if you are using one), your seeker has formulated a question, and the cards have been shuffled and cut, you are ready to lay out the cards. The cards should be placed as follows:
Position 1: On top of the significator, if you are using one, or in the center of the reading space.
Position 2: Horizontally placed on top of the card in position 1, crossing it.
Position 3: Below the card in position 1.
Position 4: To the left of the card in position 1.
Position 5: Above the card in position 1.
Position 6: To the right of the card in position 1
Position 7: To the lower right, farther than the card in position six.
Position 8: Above the card in position 7.
Position 9: Above the card in position 8.
Position 10: Above the card in position 9.
If you have the cards in the correct positions, you will be able to see on the left that you have the cross (positions 1 and 2), surrounded by four cards (positions 3, 4, 5, and 6) which represent the circle, next to four cards in a vertical row (positions 7, 8, 9, and 10), which represents the staff. You may choose to place all of the cards face-up from the beginning of the reading, or you can place them all face-down, and turn them over for interpretation one at a time. Again, the choice is yours. Do what feels right to you.
When you are shuffling the cards, or when you are laying out the spread, pay particular attention to cards that seem to “jump” or fall out of the deck. Usually, these cards have something specific to say regarding the issue at hand. They could indicate another person or another issue that is closely tied to the seekers situation, so much so that it is influencing the events at hand.
Put them aside for the moment, and examine them when interpreting the reading.
Just as each card holds its own meaning, each position holds its own meaning. To interpret the lay-out, the reader must consider the card in relation to its position, as well as cards in other positions. One common way to interpret each card in its position is the following:
Position 1, at the heart of the layout, the card in this position shows the seeker or the situation as it is in the present.
Position 2 shows what “crosses” the seeker. What are the current obstacles or oppositions that the seeker is dealing with? This card could also represent a secondary issue, or reinforce the present situation revealed in position 1.
Position 3 shows the root of the issues at hand– subconscious motives, or underlying influences that have brought the seeker to the current situation. It may also reveal hidden or unknown factors.
Position 4 shows the past– the events that have taken place, bringing the seeker to his current position. These issues may or may not be resolved, or may be something the seeker needs to let go of once and for all.
Position 5 reveals the seeker’s conscious mind– his attitudes, his motives, his feelings about the situation. The majority of the time, it is not the situation, but our perceptions of it that make the difference between happiness and misery.
Position 6 shows the near future, or the next major event regarding the issue. This can be an action (something the seeker will do, or that will be done to the seeker), inaction (new feelings or thoughts that may arise, or a passing an opportunity to do something), or an unexpected turn of events.
Position 7, the bottom card of the staff, reveals how the seeker views himself, or the internal resources (talents, abilities, strengths) that the seeker should tap into in order to deal with the situation.
Position 8 represents the external forces that the seeker has little control over. This can be how others view the seeker or the situation, or that which is surrounding the seeker.
Position 9 shows the seekers hopes and fears. What are the seekers expectations of the outcome? What does he want to happen, or what does he dread happening?
Position 10 reveals the ultimate outcome of the situation if the seeker continues on his current course. Remember, this possible future can be altered if the seeker does something to change his course. Go through the reading once, considering each card’s meaning in its respective position, and what it is telling you about the seeker or the issue at hand.
There are generally three different schools of thought on reversed, or upside-down, cards in a reading. One school of thought states that the reversed card indicates the opposite meaning of the card drawn. This appears logical to some people because the reverse of something is generally the opposite. Therefore, a card generally meaning love will indicate hatred if reversed, a card meaning failure will indicate success, and so forth.
Another school of thought says that if your cards are coming out reversed, you simply turned part of the deck in the shuffle. The logic behind this is that there are 78 cards in a standard tarot deck, each with a very detailed meaning. If the reading meant to show ill health, it would show a card specifically meaning ill health– not a good health card upside-down. People who follow this school of thought generally ignore that a card is reversed, or will turn the card right-side up and continue with the reading.
The third way of thinking on this situation is that reversed cards do not mean the opposite, but indicate the card shows those particular influences are of lesser importance, or are affecting the situation to a lesser extent. For example, a card indicating a financial gain reversed would simply mean it would not be a very significant sum. A card indicating a journey that shows up reversed would indicate the trip would have little to do with the matter at hand, and no impact on the outcome.
Since the reader is the one interpreting the cards, the reader must follow his own intuition on this point. What seems right, or more logical, to you? There are no hard-and-fast rules, and, as you can see, no clear-cut agreement, so it is best to simply go with the method that you feel makes the most sense.
Certain cards work together. After examining them individually, look at some of the key combinations and see how they relate to each other:
Positions 4, 1, and 6, show a sequence of events. How does each one affect the next? Positions 3, 5 and 9 show what is going on within the seeker on different levels. Are there any conflicts between subconscious motives and his train of conscious thought? Does he have unrealistic expectations, or unnecessary worries?
Positions 7 and 8 show the behavior and feelings of the seeker in comparison to that which is going on around him. Is his behavior productive? Counter-productive? Is there something he can change about himself or how he is handling the situation to counter-act that which he cannot control? Positions 6 and 10 show upcoming events and the final outcome. How do the upcoming events contribute to the outcome? Does the card in position 6 indicate something that should be avoided or embraced with consideration of the final outcome?
The Celtic Cross spread contains 10 cards in the layout (not counting a Significator, if one is being used), however you are not limited to those 10 cards. Occasionally, you may find yourself stuck in a reading. You may look at a card and be completely baffled by it. You have no clue of how it fits in with the other cards in the reading. Could it be a mistake? Are you missing the message? What are you going to tell the reader? Another possibility is that a card will show up revealing another situation or aspect of the issue and it indicates a monumental event that you want to know more about. When one of these things happens, try drawing a “clarifier.”
A clarifier is an additional card drawn in attempts to gain better insight or further understand a card in the spread. Its purpose is to clarify the meaning indicated by another card. Place the clarifier on top of, or next to, the card that is giving you trouble, and take it into consideration when interpreting the difficult card. Clarifiers can be drawn right off the top of the deck, or you can spread out the deck and draw a card you feel drawn to. The method is up to you. In many readings, you may never need a clarifier, however if the situation arises that you think one will help, don’t hesitate to draw two or three to help you make sense of a reading.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Think of a reading as telling a story. The story starts with the seeker’s current state (position 1), and what may be his biggest current problem (position 2). Next, go into what has propelled the seeker into that situation (positions 3 and 4). Examine how the seeker feels about the current situation (position 5). What is in store for the seeker next (position 6)? What will be going on inside of the seeker at this time (position 7), and what will be going on around him (position 8)? What are his main expectations or concerns (position 9). Finally, if things go unaltered, what will be the result (position 10).
WHAT YOU SHOULD NEVER DO WHEN GIVING A READING
When you are reading tarot cards for other people, there are some definite no-nos you should always keep in mind. First of all, never tell someone what they must do, or should not do. The tarot is a great tool to help you help others, but it is not intended to give you that kind of power over others. You have no right to try to control a person’s destiny, no matter how well meaning your intentions. You are simply there to interpret the cards and explain the possible meanings– ultimately, all decisions are up to the seeker.
Do not try to play the part of the Great Mystical Psychic. If a reader is sincerely coming to you for a reading, don’t try to boost your ego by giving enigmatic answers, or blow the reading out of proportion to put on a great performance. Explain the meaning of the cards as clearly as you can, and be willing to admit when you are stumped.
Finally, whatever you do, never tell a person that a situation is hopeless, or scare them about the outcome. Even if you think you see it, don’t tell someone that they or someone close to them is going to die, that he is going to lose his job and is heading for abject poverty, or that his wife is going to run away with his best friend. Of course, if you see something that warrants caution, warn the person. If you see illness, tell him it might be a good idea to get a check up. If you think there is an accident on the horizon, tell him it might be best interest if he postpones a trip or gets his car checked out. If you feel his job is in jeopardy, tell him the cards are indicating it would be a good time to seek other opportunities or be frugal at this time. If you see deception in romance, tell him he may need to be more attentive to any problems he suspects in the relationship.
Remember, the future is not set in stone. The cards are a great tool to help us decide our plan of action in order to obtain the desired result. They don’t rule us, or make things happen to us. Give an honest reading, and you can help a number of people with the Celtic Cross spread.