Arguably the most popular and well known of all tarot spreads The Celtic Cross is included in nearly all tarot guides and appears heavily on social media sites even having its own hashtag #CelticCrossSpread.
But as with all things that achieve mainstream popularity misconceptions, myths and misuse surround this famous spread.
In this article we share our knowledge and provide practical tips so the modern tarot reader can easily incorporate this fascinating and complex spread into their Cartomancy practice.
How To Use The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread
The Celtic Cross Spread is an invaluable resource for the modern tarot reader and certainly one many readers will return to again and again. This spread works in the same way as other tarot spreads: shuffle your cards and place them down as the spread indicates.
However because it contains a large amount of cards (10 and sometimes more) it can feel intimidating for readers trying this spread for the first time. The high number of cards makes it more complex and time consuming to interpret.
Several of the cards interact with one another changing their guidance and not to mention the many different variations of this spread can make researching them a challenge.
We’ve compiled a list below of the most popular varieties of the Celtic Cross spread so that readers can learn to use it and access helpful information all in one place.
1. The Celtic Cross Spread For Divining The Future
One of the oldest methods for reading this spread is in the form of predicting the future. Though our modern day use of tarot has slightly moved away from being purely a predicting tool to one of introspection and self-development there are still many practitioners of this method.
Shuffle your cards and ask your future-seeking question. If you are unsure where to begin you can say “What does my future reveal?” as you place the cards down in the order shown in the spread.
- The Present: Who you are right now and the very recent actions you have taken. The choice or direction you are considering at this time.
- Challenge/Opportunity: A challenge that could block you or an opportunity that could help you. This card is sideways which means it is ambiguous whether the card is upright/reversed or positive/negative. This tends to be a situation that hangs in the balance and could go either way to help or hinder. It is often your own actions that will determine how this card plays out in your life.
- Your Subconscious: The self-limiting beliefs and insecurities that may affect you without your awareness of them.
- The Past: Past events which may still be relevant to you now. Either they still affect you or you learned something in overcoming these and may need to apply that lesson to this situation again.
- Your Conscious: The thoughts you have and the way they shape your actions and life choices.
- Your Future: What you can expect if you make no changes and proceed as you have been.
- Internal Influences: Your skills, natural talents, learned knowledge and experiences that can aid you at this time.
- External Influences: The physical resources, assets, people and other factors which can aid you now.
- Your Hopes and Fears: What you want and fear and how your desires and fears may impact your actions and choices.
- The Outcome: If you were to heed this advice and make the changes suggested this will be what you can expect to happen.
With this spread we must pay attention to how some of the cards interact with one another.
The Present And The Future: Cards 4 & 6
Take a look at these cards. Ask yourself if they progress or decline when read in chronological order. By that we mean does the past card have a lower number than the future card? Or are the themes a graduation from past to present?
If the past shows a card that is happy and positive and the future shows one of sadness and or suffering then this is a vital clue to make changes and heed the advice of the reading.
If the cards progress from past to present then this is confirmation that you are doing the right thing and don’t need to make any drastic changes.
The Future Vs The Outcome: Cards 6 & 10
Look at these cards and notice the difference. Card 6 represents what will happen if you don’t make any changes and card 10 shows the outcome if you do.
If card 10 is more positive than card 6 it shows that you have all the steps you need and now you just need to act on them and that doing so will manifest a very positive outcome for you.
If card 6 is more positive than card 10 this means you may be trying too hard to change your fate and could be sabotaging it.
Instead you should relax and not try to ask tarot anymore questions in this nature. Trust that fate will guide you when the time is right.
The Subconscious Vs The Conscious: Cards 3 & 5
Pay particular attention to the themes of these cards. You may find that they are very different. This can suggest our subconscious and conscious are not aligned and though we may consciously desire something our subconscious may be sabotaging this.
We must become aware of the insecurities and self-limiting beliefs we hold subconsciously so that we can heal them and they will longer affect our thoughts and actions.
2. The Celtic Cross Spread For Introspection
This spread highlights the different facets that make up our psyche or internal landscape. Seeing how these interact or conflict can be a really useful tool to understanding our emotions and thoughts on the topic or situation we are enquiring about.
Shuffle your cards and think about your situation as you place the cards down where the spread indicates.
- My Initial Response: These are your initial reactions or instincts surrounding this matter. They may be correct or the cards may be suggesting that acting on them is too rash.
- My Experiences: This card depicts the experiences you have had in the past that have lead you to think and act the way you do now.
- My Expectations: This card reveals your expectations of the situations and what you think could literally happen.
- My Oversights: This card shows where you may have a weakness or a certain perspective which might be clouding your judgment or it can mean vital information you are missing.
- My Head: This card is your logical thinking and your conscious thoughts.
- My Heart: This card reveals your emotions and how you feel about the situation.
- My Actions: This card shows the options you have and the actions you could take.
- My Surroundings: This reveals the outside world and factors which are outside of your control.
- My Hopes and Fears: This position shows your hopes and fears and how they might be influencing your actions.
- My Conclusion: This card is the amalgamation of all the advice in this reading into one card and shows the best conclusion you could come to.
3. The Celtic Cross Spread for A Life Overview
This spread uses the Celtic Cross format to reveal each aspect of our lives so we can see a big picture at once. It is important to look at how certain areas may be affecting other areas and heed the advice of those particular cards to establish a balance across our lives.
Shuffle your cards and lay out them out in the order shown in the spread. There is no need to ask a question because this spread reveals a snapshot of your life in its current/present state.
- The Body: This is your physical health and basic assets that revolve around caring for your physical body.
- The Mind: This is your current mental wellness and how you are generally feeling.
- The Heart: These are your emotions, relationships and loved ones.
- The Soul: This is your spiritual journey and the beliefs you hold.
- Hardships: This is what you are currently struggling with or trying to overcome.
- Hobbies and Interests: These are things you enjoy doing and how you spend your free time.
- Work/Finances: This is your work or responsibilities.
- Goals and Desires: These are your long term goals and plans.
- Community: This is your social circle and the people you see on a larger scale than your friends and loved ones.
- Purpose: This is what you live for and what gives you fulfillment in life.
The History Of The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread
It is in A.E. Waite’s guide to tarot that we first see the Celtic Cross Tarot Spread recorded. Introducing this spread he writes:
“I believe that it will serve all purposes.” - A.E. Waite. 1910. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot
So as it rises in popularity it is already considered to be versatile and adaptable which could explain why there are many different iterations of this spread surviving today.
The Creators Of The Celtic Cross Spread
It is theorized that though A.E. Waite was the first to write about the Celtic Cross the creator may have been a feminist occultist named Florence Farr.
Florence was a well-known socialite of the time and a member of Waite’s Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and later founded her own spiritual gathering The Sphere Group.
So Waite would certainly have been exposed to her methods of which reports do claim she would use ‘a cross-shaped tarot reading’. However the notes that we can find on Florence’s Celtic cross suggest slightly different layouts and methods.
It is important to remember that during this time women did not have the same access as men to write books so it was very common for men to submit work in their name that was actually written by women.
Because Tarot was taught verbally we have no way of understanding Tarot History with perfect accuracy. From this point onwards we see The Celtic Cross Tarot Spread rise into the mainstream zeitgeist and continue to exist as one of the most useful tarot spreads of all time.
The Inspiration Of The Celtic Cross Name
The name of The Celtic Cross spread is just as shrouded in mystery and surrounded with theories as its creation is. We have no clear documentation as to why the spread is named as such but its most obvious inspiration is from the symbol of the Celtic Cross itself.
It is believed that the cross shape of the spread was inspired by the aesthetics of Victorian Spiritualism which often blended Christianity with Celtic, Gaelic and Euro-Pagan/Roman symbolism.
Though we can see the influence of the cross clearly displayed within the spread very little information exists to explain the line of cards down the right hand side (cards 7 - 10) of the spread.
The Symbol Of The Celtic Cross
The Celtic Cross is most commonly recognized as an early Irish symbol combining The Holy Cross (a cross with a small circle in the center) and patterned with Celtic knots.
Celt knots are interlocking loops with no start or end. They often feature a figure-eight or infinity symbol which is thought to represent eternal life. There are many iterations and uses for the Celtic Cross but it is mainly seen as a symbol of spirituality and protection.
During the rise of Christianity in Britain it was common to see elements of paganism included within religious insignia as the nation adapted their religion over time.
The Celtic Cross For Modern Readers
The Celtic Cross spread was mainly used as a predictor of the future and later as a snapshot of every area of a person’s life. It has not changed much from its first recording and is still used in this way today.
However shifting trends have provided modern readers with new methods and even more techniques that continue to make this spread useful and relevant today.