How to read the Tarot with the Celtic Cross method

How it works

In the Celtic Cross, every card has a precise meaning depending on its position, and therefore it must be read, without too much distortion, according to this.

For this Tarot reading method, you can use either just the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, or the entire Tarot deck. It is merely a matter of preference, and everyone can choose as they see fit.

The reader then shuffles the cards, hands the deck to the querent, and asks him/her to cut it.

After putting the deck back together, the reader starts to spread out the cards as shown in the following picture (I suggest laying down cards 1 to 6 face up from the start, while all the others are initially left face down).

How to read the Tarot with the Celtic Cross method

If the reader is immediately struck by some particular interpretations, they can already start explaining what they see. Otherwise they will continue by turning over the cards that are still face down, gradually choosing those in the position they deem the most appropriate.

Meaning of the cards depending on their position

  • Card 1 – The present. This represents the current situation, describes the starting point and how the querent feels about it.
  • Card 2 – The obstacle. Unfavorable influence. Anything that is an obstacle, acts as a brake, or has a negative influence on the situation. It also represents the querent’s doubts, and what is keeping him/her from his/her goals and from a better situation.
  • Card 3 – Destiny, fate. Possible solution, objectives. It represents the possible natural solution to the situation, where fate will tend to lead us unless we decide to intervene to undermine the outcome.
  • Card 4 – The Future. It generally indicates the changes and events that may occur in the querent’s life. It is not the final outcome, but could be what triggers it.
  • Card 5 – The base, the foundation of the querent’s question. What lies beneath the querent’s question, what he/she really wants to know. The significance of what he/she wants to know. The origin of the question.
  • Card 6 – The past (recent). The past experienced by the querent, in particular the past related to the consultation, or which led to the consultation. It can also represent the past that has an influence on the current situation card (card 1), and on the querent’s concerns.
  • Card 7 – The querent. This card further defines the position and role of the querent in the picture that is emerging. It can indicate his/her hopes, his/her state of mind.
  • Card 8 – The environment, the situation, external forces. This card represents the context in which the querent operates. These are the forces, the people, and the circumstances that have an effect on the situation and the querent, but also the forces, people, and circumstances on which the querent may have an impact.
  • Card 9 – Hopes, desires, and fears. This is the more intimate and personal side, with all its hopes and fears. This also includes emotions and feelings, which can play a huge role in the context of the reading and in the unfolding of the events that will lead to the final outcome.
  • Card 10 – The final outcome, the final answer. It represents the conclusion, the final solution to the question. It is the culmination of all the forces that have been highlighted by the other 9 cards. It is the future that has not yet been written.

Suggestions for use

Because it is so intuitive, because of its guided structure (each card has a precise shade of meaning according to its position), the number of cards used, its aesthetic attractiveness on the table, and last but not least because of its mysterious and intriguing name, this reading method is ideal for readers who are approaching the Tarot and progressing in their knowledge of the Tarot.

For the same reasons, it is the method that I recommend when you have to read the Tarot for that specific type of person who needs to understand how things work. This method gives them clear indications as to why you are telling them a particular thing. For example, you could explain to them that the leftmost card represents their past, and that is why you are telling them a particular thing, perhaps pointing out the symbols on the card that refer to what you are saying to them. This will satisfy their thirst to “understand how it works”.

Reasons why it is popular

The Celtic Cross method is perhaps the best-known and most widely used Tarot reading method, online and offline.

I have never thought about the reasons for this, and have always simply accepted the fact.

However, I have recently been asking myself what the reasons behind its huge success might be. In my opinion, the reasons are:

  • It uses ten cards, a very suitable number whether reading with the Major Arcana only or using the full Tarot deck. In fact, when using the full deck, it is highly likely that Major Arcana cards – easier to interpret, especially for novice card readers – will come out. Also when using only the Major Arcana, you get a generous amount of them, which allows great flexibility of interpretation and provides many cues, making sure that even those who are not so expert never get stuck in the reading due to lack of interpretations.
  • Each card has a precise position, to which a precise nuance and characterization of meaning is associated. Once again, this can be a help for the less experienced, who will always know the direction to take in interpreting the cards. Personally, I prefer readings with a freer structure. However, there is nothing stopping you from taking the position of the cards into consideration during the reading, but without giving it too much importance, and concentrating instead on other elements.
  • It is intuitive. On the left, you have the past, and on the right you have the future. The card rotated 90 degrees that covers the central card symbolizes opposition, an obstacle, etc. Again, this is highly intuitive so that even those who have never had a Tarot reading can relate to something that would otherwise be completely obscure. Therefore, one barrier is lifted, and it is much easier to make the querent feel at ease, and to explain to him or her why the cards indicate a certain thing.
  • It is aesthetically attractive. There is no denying that the cards look extremely nice laid out in this manner. If you combine the Celtic Cross layout with an attractive deck of cards and the right atmosphere, you are sure to fascinate the querent.

Further reading

If you are still not perfectly comfortable with the meaning of the Tarot cards, here is my summary guide to Tarot card meanings.

Rob Sánchez

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