The Celtic Cross spread is one of the most famous in tarot. What it is and how to do a Celtic Cross tarot reading.
Co-authored by James Kerti
The Celtic Cross spread is popular, but it can also be one of the most complex to interpret. (We recommend that beginners start with 3-card spreads.)
But the Celtic Cross spread is famous for a reason: it offers a deep wealth of insights involving external forces and your own internal thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
The Celtic Cross spread is versatile. Use it for a general reading or to go into depth on a specific topic.
Celtic Cross spread layout
For a Celtic Cross, you pull 10 tarot cards.
You lay them out as shown in the image below.
As you can see in the image, there are two sections to a Celtic Cross:
1. The cross itself, which consists of the first six cards
2. The vertical column of the remaining four cards on the right side of the layout (sometimes called the pillar or staff)
The cross focuses on the specifics of the situation you’re asking about.
The column offers supporting information about other factors that may be contributing to the situation.
Interpreting each card in a Celtic Cross tarot reading
Here’s how to interpret each of the Celtic Cross cards individually:
1. Present This card offers broad insight on the topic at hand and your current state of mind as it relates to the situation
2. Challenge This card represents the obstacle or problem you’re facing when it comes to the situation
3. The Past This card gives perspective on how past events have shaped the current situation
4. The FutureThis card offers a prediction of the upcoming weeks or months as the situation progresses
5. Above This card represents your conscious beliefs, desires and focus as it pertains to the situation
6. Below This card gives some helpful insight into your subconscious beliefs, drives and fears that are influencing things
7. Your Influence This card can help clarify things that are under your control which can impact the outcome
8. External Influence This card shows outside factors, such as other people, who may be affecting things. You may have limited (or zero) control over these factors, at least not directly, but it may be helpful to know about them, regardless.
9. Hopes and Fears This card may show understanding about your underlying desires and fears for how this situation may unfold
10. Outcome This card represents the most likely outcome for the situation, given how things are currently. This isn’t necessarily set in stone; you may be able to influence or change that outcome if you want to.
How the cards interact in a Celtic Cross
When interpreting the Celtic Cross spread, it can help to study the dynamics between certain cards. Here are the important combinations you’ll want to look at and consider:
Above and Below cards
These cards represent your conscious and subconscious influences. It can be helpful to compare them and see where they’re in alignment.
If there seems to be a marked difference between the two—or if they’re even in opposition—it may explain resistance or difficult emotions you’re encountering. A misalignment here can lead to you feeling conflicted or out of balance.
To take that a step further, you may ask yourself how each of them are driving your actions and behaviors, especially as they relate to the situation you’re asking about.
Is it your subconscious or your conscious mind that is holding the steering wheel?
Above and Outcome cards
This is a crucial place to look for alignment, especially when the Outcome is something that you’re hoping for. When that’s the case and the Above card carries a positive energy, you can feel encouraged that you’re on the right track and showing up in a good way.
If you’re seeing an Outcome that isn’t what you want, the Above card is an important place to look for more information, because this card represents your conscious energy that is driving you. It may carry insight about things you can work on when it comes to your belief and mindset.
Below and Hopes and Fears cards
Does the Hopes and Fears card seem to be something significant in this particular spread?
If so, consider that hopes and fears can be generated more from the subconscious mind than the conscious one. Looking to the Below card for an explanation is a wise place to turn.
It might show you where to do some mental and emotional deep diving (possibly with some professional support).
Your Influence and Outcome
This combination can tell you a lot about your control over the situation.
You may think of it as “What to focus on.”
If the Outcome isn’t one that you’re looking for, the Your Influence card can give you a central point to focus your effort if you want to change your future direction.
Challenge and Your Influence (or External Influence)
The Challenge card is an important one because it illustrates the main thing standing in the way.
While the other cards can also offer insight into it, looking at the two Influence cards can support you in understanding how best to handle the primary challenge.
Are you new to tarot? Start here learning about how to read cards by yourself, and learn about the tarot cards in our section for each of the Major and Minor arcana cards!
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