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July 20, 2016
by Tony Willis           

In order to make a reading using the tarot, a number of cards are set down in front of the diviner and their significances interpreted. The various configurations in which the cards are arranged for the purpose of making a reading are called spreads or layouts.

There are two types of spread: the narrative and the positional.

In a narrative spread, cards are usually laid out in a line, which can be straight or curved. Some narrative spreads have more than one line. A narrative spread is generally read from left to right, taking each card in regular order starting from the left. Where there is more than one line of cards, the reading proceeds line by line, always starting on the left, the same way text is read on a printed page.



Typically, in a positional spread, the cards are arranged in a pre-ordained pattern. Each placement in a spread of this type bears its own significance, and cards are interpreted by combining the meanings they inherently possess with those attached to the positions in which they fall.

One popular positional spread is called the Horoscope Spread. Twelve cards are set out in a roughly circular configuration so as to mimic an astrological chart known as a horoscope.


To an astrologer, a horoscope is a diagram by convention divided into twelve segments called houses. Each house refers to a specific area of life, usually designated thus:

First house: the inquirer; their temperament, immediate circumstances, natural abilities and physical stamina.

Second house: the inquirer’s monetary situation and earnings capacity.

Third house: short journeys; all communications, emails, phone calls, faxes, etc.; mental recreations.. The inquirer’s siblings.

Fourth house: the inquirer’s home, happiness and bodily comforts. The inquirer’s mother.

Fifth house: talent, physical recreation, speculation, gambling. Love affairs, pregnancy. Education, memory, intelligence. The inquirer’s children.

Sixth house: transient mental and physical ailments, debility, worries, quarrels, rivals, competitors, impediments to success.

Seventh house: marriage, partnerships, lawsuits. The inquirer’s spouse or business partner.

Eighth house: formidable obstacles to success. Troubles to spouse, splitting of partnerships or splits between friends. Legacies, money tied up in investments or property.

Ninth house: long journeys, foreign travel. Higher education. The inquirer’s belief system. Good luck or good fortune.

Tenth house: the inquirer’s profession or employment. Rank, status, honors. The inquirer’s father.

Eleventh house: desires and their fulfillment – or not depending on the symbol found here. The inquirer’s friends and social life.

Twelfth house: Sorrow, loss, hospitalization, fall from grace, renunciation and self-sacrifice. Self-defeating actions. Secret enemies.

A thirteenth card is placed in the center of the circle to represent a summary of all the trends, auspicious and inauspicious, at play in the inquirer’s life at the time of the reading.

The One Card Reading

Over the centuries, there have been cartomancers able to divine on the basis of drawing from the pack one card only. Reliance on a single card may sound a supremely uncomplicated and undemanding way to make a reading. In fact, it is a method that yields accurate results only in the hands of experienced diviners endowed with exceptional powers. In a single card reading, the implications of the symbol to be interpreted are a combination of the significances attributed to the first house of the horoscope spread plus those attributed to that spread’s central card. It is an assessment of the inquirer’s personality, on the basis of the well-known tenet “character is destiny”, and of the manifold external factors raying down on the personality and influencing it for good or ill, or what is commonly termed Fate. It takes a wise head to first access this data in an undistorted from and then to process it so that it can be conveyed in clear-cut, unequivocal and, most important of all, useful fashion to the inquirer.

Time Span

Before commencing a reading, it is best to select a time-scale. One can ask to be shown the trends, and the possible events connected with them, for the twelve months coming, or for six months, or two years, whatever seems most appropriate.

Timing when using the tarot is a notoriously hit-and-miss business. Setting a time limit at least fixes predictions with definite parameters. Other than that, the best that can be said, often, is that the event denoted by card number two will occur after the event denoted by card number one but before the event denoted by card number three.

  1. Apl Kont permalink

    You are so right Tony! One card reading is ONLY for Experienced and INTUITIVE (if I MAY add) diviners.

    • Certainly. In my experience, a good measure of intuition or clairvoyance is necessary when reading with just one card, more so than when reading spreads with a greater number of cards.

      Tony Willis

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