Cartomancy 101.6 – A Simple Spread

A hundred years ago, most spreads used by card fortune-tellers involved either complicated layouts or a large number of cards. For beginners, however, a simple spread is best to practice on. The illustration below is of just such a spread.

simple spread 1
Laying the Spread

Shuffle and cut the deck. Then deal off cards one at time, laying them out from left to right. Place the first card in the position marked 1 in the illustration. Leave a gap and then lay the next five cards in positions 2 to 6.

This is a general spread. It can be used to answer the basic question, “What can the cards tell me of my future?” It can be used equally well to answer more specific questions such as, “What do the cards have to say about my career prospects?” For now we will use it to answer the first type of question – “What of my future in general?”

Interpreting the Spread
Let us imagine that the inquirer is an unattached young woman. She asks for a reading of her future prospects and after the cards have been shuffled, cut and laid out, the spread contains the following cards.

Jack Clubs – 10 Hearts, 9 Hearts, 5 Spades, 4 Clubs, 8 Diamonds

The first card stands separate from the rest because it tends to represent the inquirer’s thoughts or feelings at the time of the reading. A court card will tell us something about the inquirer’s personality. It is no matter in this case that the card is a Jack and the inquirer female; the card will still indicate her personality. It may represent only her personality at this time in her life; she may as a rule be reserved, shy and not notably sociable (a Swords-type temperament), but for the time-being, the Clubs’ side of her nature will be very much to the fore. For the purposes of this example, I will assume that she is naturally of a Clubs’ disposition. She is therefore described as reliable, good with words and in possession of an inquiring mind.

Immediately after the Jack of Clubs comes the 10 of Hearts, signifying great affection. This is followed by the 9 of Hearts, often described as the Wish Card. Since it is next to the 10 of Hearts, we may assume that the inquirer’s wish concerns romance. There may have been a failed love affair in the not too distant past, because the 10 of Hearts can also intimate previous problems. Look back at the list of meanings and you will find the 10 of Hearts having as one of its significances “good fortune after difficulty”.

The 5 of Spades speaks of reversals and anxiety but also of eventual success for the affair. This prediction is echoed by the final two cards. The 4 of Clubs points to a setback while the 8 of Diamonds promises an upturn in the inquirer’s fortunes. In order to find out what form the setback will take, it is possible to draw another card from the pack and lay it on the 4 of Clubs. The card can be drawn from anywhere in the deck or dealt off from the top of the pack. Place the extra card on top of the card whose meaning it is going to clarify so that the suit sign and card number of the original card remain visible, in much the way cards are laid on top of one another in the course of a game of patience (solitaire, for American readers).

We will imagine that the card drawn is the 5 of Hearts. This indicates that the inquirer will encounter opposition to her new liaison from within her circle of friends. The opposition may well be the result of jealousy, as that is also one of the meanings of the 5 of Hearts. Fortunately, the 8 of Diamonds forecasts a change for the better, so that either the jealousy will die away or her friends will come round to her way of thinking and recognize the match as a good one for her.


The layout of this spread is straightforward enough. However, much can be learnt by its use concerning an inquirer’s future trends. Take note of the order of the cards and their relationships to one another. In the example reading above, the 9 of Hearts coming next to the 10 of Hearts revealed the nature of the inquirer’s wish. With time, the novice reader learns to pick up clues from the way the cards are disposed in a layout. But one cannot acquire this skill unless one practices the art of cartomancy assiduously, accepting that, as a beginner, one is bound to go wrong from time to time. Resolve not to be put off by your mistakes but to learn from them – for a lesson can always be extracted from any error.

The reading above focuses on one aspect of the inquirer’s life, but that is to be expected from a spread composed of relatively few cards. There are layouts that reveal the coming trends of several areas of interest – career, love, domestic arrangements, finances and so forth. We will learn those spreads once we have mastered the simpler kind.

About auntietarot
Born in Britain just before the outbreak of the second world war, I was taught basic tarot skills by my maternal grandmother. In the sixties, I joined a Golden Dawn-type esoteric school, passing through the curriculum and becoming an instructor in ritual etiquette and the making and consecration of talismans. At the beginning of the eighties, I left the school to plow my own furrow in areas such as tarot and astrology. Since my retirement I have spent time researching the occult history of the tarot and the various ways the tarot has been used for divination in the past.

One Response to Cartomancy 101.6 – A Simple Spread

  1. Pingback: Lenormand: Reading about Fence-Related Visit | Jase on Cards

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