Reading Three Card Spreads – Introduction

This class is part of the Rock Reading the Tarot Series© of classes and is a ‘Fast and Easy’ level class.

This Three Card Tarot Reading skills class introductory class is for beginners or more advanced readers and it is focused on reading three card spreads. This tarot reading lesson will not focus on creating 3 card spreads, that is a subject for another class. This class will not include how to open a reading, as that is also a topic for another class.  Here we will quickly dive right into reading patterns in three card spreads. If you do not know what I’m talking about when I say ‘three card spread’, then this class is not for you as this class will be over your head. That said, even advanced readers will likely learn a thing or two about reading three card spreads from this class.

One of the simplest and most powerful readings that we can do is the three-card reading.  Once we have learned this technique, it can be used to build many different types of spreads which can address different types of issues.  

The method we are going to learn in this class is one taught years ago by Bob Place.  Though he is better known as an astrology wizard, he also can read Tarot cards with the best of us.

VIDEO: Telling Time with Tarot Cards using the 4 Aces.
Get the book Telling Time with Tarot Cards: Tarot Timing Techniques by Cathleen Carr


Now, let’s get started…

To get the most out of this class it is important that you think of Tarot cards as hieroglyphs.  A hieroglyph is a type of writing that uses pictures or images. These hieroglyphic images can be used by our higher mind / intuition to create sentences and communicate with the conscious mind. Every complete sentence needs a subject and predicate.  It helps if it also has an object. This gives the thought a beginning, middle and end. For this class we will address the 3 card spread as a sentence. Apply this basic sentence structure to a three card spread and you have one card for each part of your ‘sentence’. Thus, a three card spread can give us a story complete with a beginning, middle and end.

Take three cards and look at the cards as one picture. Look at the flow of energy in the picture, and interpret it as you would a story in a picture book. It is essential to notice in what direction the characters are facing. Consider if a character is looking or walking away or toward another character or environment.  Consider if the characters are facing left, right, center / directly out or upward. Is the body turned one way while the face is turned another? Is the character pointing at another card? Is the figure pointing at both sides?  For this portion of interpretation the center card is the most important card to scrutinize. Create one sentence to ground your story. Thereafter expand it into a more detailed story by recognizing patterns.

The three card spread as a sentence has six possible approaches to interpretation.  These approaches reveal themselves as six basic patterns that might emerge and which you can use to create the details of your story. Use these patterns as clues to the flow of the action, attitude, or direction of interest related to the question. The six patterns are:

  1. Linear Pattern:  This story can be read from left to right or right to left.  A clue is that two of the characters will tend to be facing in the same direction, left or right.  The end card, from whichever side you have started, might be facing toward or away from the other two.
  2. Rejection Pattern:  Two figures are back to back. This suggests the central figure is moving away from one side and all that that symbolizes, and toward the other.
  3. The Central Origin Pattern:  Is the central figure looking directly at you with the cards on either side facing away from it? This might indicate that the action starts in the center and moves out to both sides, or if only one of the side cards faces away, to one side and not the other.
  4. The Central Destination:  When the end figures are facing the middle, the action may start on both sides and converge in the center.  The center might be looking at you or its direction might be flowing upward to celestial realms.
  5. The Central Problem:  This is revealed by the center card appearing to block the action or disperse the energy.  For example, the Eight of Swords might be a mental block, the Five of Pentacles might mean a financial impediment,  the Seven of Swords or Eight of Cups might be a dispersal of energy or an abandonment.
  6. The Central Teacher: The central figure, the one in the middle, might be functioning as an instructor or guide or leader while the two flanking cards represent the possibilities.  Notice if the middle card is directed toward or away from the other two.

These patterns can be merged, if multiple patterns present themselves.  This means that the layout of the spread may be interpreted as fitting more than one pattern.  Just use your intuition to determine which interpretation – or combination of interpretations- feels right.

If you are confused by a card just use another card to clarify it.  Pull, or shuffle and let the clarifying card present itself however you prefer, and read it in combination with the foundation card in question.  Just place the card above on on top of that card. Up to three cards can be used to clarify any particular card or for an expanded message. More cards than that just start to take the reading in another direction and muddy the waters with too much information.  Seldom when reading for one person does a reader have to pull lots of cards for clarifications. It is better to deeply scrutinize fewer cards than overwhelm your intuition with more themes.


You might notice that many YouTube Tarot Readers make skillful use of three card combinations.  Reading three cards at one time in a cluster is one of the best skills to develop. Becoming comfortable with and mastering this reading technique will make readings easier, flow more interestingly and reveal tons of information.  It is after all the details that makes readings rock and impresses clients.

FYI… The companion class related to this one is the 9 Card Box spread which uses 2 sets of 3 cards to clarify 3 foundation cards.


Other related Three Card Tarot reading classes in the Rock Reading the Tarot Series include:

  • Creating 3 Card Spreads
  • Collections of  3 Card Spreads (love/money/work/life/spirituality, etc.)
  • Reading Elemental Dignities
  • Reading Triads


Reference: A Gnostic Book of Saints, Robert M. Place


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