The Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread : 5 Ways

The Past, Present, Future tarot spread (or PPF spread) is incredibly popular within the tarot reading community. One of the first that most readers learn to use, this spread has a simple formula that delivers clear advice.

Most tarot enthusiasts will have heard about this spread and maybe even tried it a few times. However they may not know that there are many different variations and ways to use this spread.

We’ve collected our favorites below and hope that with the correct information you’ll feel empowered to give them a try and maybe even find your new go-to spread.

How To Use The Past Present Future Tarot Spread

Using this spread in practice is similar to using any tarot spread: a tarot reader shuffles their cards and asks one question at a time. As they do, they pull a card and place it face down where directed in the spread.

Once all the positions are taken with a card the reader turns each card over and studies them one by one. They then look at their spread as a whole to spot any similarities between cards, suits, numbers and themes.

The fascinating thing about this spread is that the differences don’t emerge from the positions of the cards but the questions and HOW the cards themselves are interpreted.

Time in The Past, Present, Future Spread

There are many different methods for using this spread and many different ways the cards can be interpreted. To understand the variations we first need to fully understand what exactly the PPF spread is and isn’t.

The basic format is past, present and future. But what does this actually mean? The original spread breaks down our lives into a simple 3-card formula.

  • Past: Card one begins with describing our past. This includes the actions and mistakes we made, what we learned and how this applies to the present situation.
  • Present: The second card focuses on our present moment in time. What we think and feel right now, the life we are currently experiencing and the choices, opportunities and adversities we are facing right now.
  • Future: The third card centers around our hopes and dreams for the future but also our anxieties. The first key variation in this spread is how exactly a tarot reader interprets time in their tarot readings.

Nuance In The Past, Present and Future Spread

This spread can be used to divine the future, with the third card being the future likely to manifest. But it can also be used as a literal timeline of events. In this variation the future card suggests the result our actions in the present could have.

This is a small but important difference. As one method could cause the reader to passively wait for their future and the other empowers the reader to action to affect their future.

How The PPF Spread Differs From Other 3-card Spreads

New tarot readers often ask how this spread is different from other 3-card tarot spreads. Despite the many variations they can generally be summarized by including a linear timeline or focusing on events in a chronological order.

1. Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread

Past Present Future tarot spread

The classic spread that guides us to view or past, present and future as a direct line and reveals our fate. In this spread we do not ask a question for each card but instead place the cards where indicated and see how they relate to our lives.

Time can be subjective, for example the past card may indicate recent or very old events. The indication will be what the attributes within the card. The same goes with the future, it is an unknown point in time as it hasn’t happened yet and could change.

  1. Past
  2. Present
  3. Future

2. Idea, Action And Consequence PPF Tarot Spread

This spread doesn’t divine the future in the classic way but instead shows us the results our actions can have have on our future. It gives practical guidance of how we can take the lessons of our past, apply them to our actions and decisions in the present to receive the best or desired outcome.

With this spread we ask one central question and the 3 cards will answer it in unison. For example “What should I do about (situation)?”

  1. My idea, inspiration or project/goal
  2. My choices or actions
  3. The consequence of my idea + my action

3. Trauma, Response And Healing PPF Tarot Spread

This spread allows us to understand the trauma of our past and seek healthy methods to heal from it. Tarot is a wonderful tool for introspection but should never be used to replace expert or medical advice.

Think of your situation as you ask each question and place a card as indicated below.

  1. How do the lasting effects of my trauma manifest in my life?
  2. How do I respond to my trauma being triggered and what purpose does this serve/what can it teach me?
  3. What healing options have I been presented with?

4. Situation, Obstacle, Solution PPF Tarot Spread

This spread uses the linear formula of the PPF spread to unblock our path. It gives us clear advice to overcome the adversities we are currently facing.

Think about your obstacle as you shuffle your cards and place them in the positions indicated.

  1. This card reveals my current situation or my lifestyle in general.
  2. This card highlights my obstacle, the cause of or how it presents itself in my life.
  3. This card reveals the best solution and exactly how I should tackle my obstacle.

5. Stop, Start, Continue PPF Tarot Spread

This no-nonsense spread provides guidance on what we should leave in the past, start in the present and continue into the future. This is great for forming healthier habits or for self-development questions.

  1. A bad habit I should stop is?
  2. An action I should start now is?
  3. A skill I should continue learning is?

The History Of The Past, Present & Future Tarot Spread

Due to its simplicity this spread has been adapted throughout history to fit many different belief systems. In our modern times it has even appeared on screen several times as its fortune telling layout makes for a great plot device Beginning as a future divining spread it was the first of its kind.

This spread popularized tarot as a future-telling tool and was a large part of tarot’s surviving reputation to this day. Before the PPF spread’s rise in popularity tarot cards were mainly used a playing cards and for parlor games.

Its easy adaption means it is highly likely that there is a spread for almost every type of tarot reader. With tarot history we must remember that it is was a skill that was taught verbally and passed down through families in informal settings.

This makes its history and creation hard to trace accurately. We can see the written recordings of this spread included in almost every tarot guidebook but the actual creator of this spread is unfortunately lost to time.