Designing Your Own Three Card Reading

I always find it interesting to ask tarot readers their opinions on “spreads.” There are so many books that deal just with different sorts of tarot spreads. I do think that examining these books can be useful for creativity and giving us some options or tableaux that we can present our clients with to give them some choices that will spark their minds into honing in on what information they want to gather from their reading. At the same time, in my own practice I’ve never used books or pre-designed “spreads” other than the classic Celtic Cross, when someone wants a general overall read of a moment in time or their current situation.

I enjoy designing custom three-card spreads with individual positional meanings when I read for clients. It’s nice for me to be able to help a client transform a rather simple “yes/no” question into something multi-faceted that can provide more than a yes or no, and give deeper insights and suggestions.

As an example of this practice, I’ll choose a personal situation that I can ask the cards about. I have my first public reading event coming up this Saturday evening, so I can take this to the cards and see what resources I can draw upon to make the event a success, or what factors to be particularly aware of as I approach my event.

I decide to create a 3-card spread with these questions:

Card 1: What do I need to know or be aware of about this event?
Card 2: Advice/guidance
Card 3: Most likely outcome

The cards that come up are the following:


I like to approach the interpretation of these readings from two angles. The first one is by looking at the spread and cards holistically, looking at the images without too much regard right off the bat for each card’s individual question/meaning, but rather getting a first impression for how the cards interact and the energies that present themselves. I especially like to notice how the characters are interacting (or not), and the attitudes that are reflected in their body positioning. I lay the cards out from left to right 1 – 2 – 3, even though here they aren’t displayed in a line.

Here we see a man fighting hard at first to stay on top. He’s in a sort of defensive posture, and ready to prove himself to anyone that wants to knock him down. He wants to show that he’s “got what it takes” to stay on his feet amidst competition and possible conflict. Jumping across the second card (because with two figures it’s quite different than the others), I look at the contrast of this first card with the third, the confident and calm King of Swords. This king has clearly won his battles, and now rules with a firm hand, calm demeanor, and no-nonsense approach. The reason I specify no-nonsense is because his “airy” mental and intellectual “kingdom” doesn’t contain a lot of frivolous decoration or embellishments (think Queen of Pentacles, for example, and the lavish richness and abundance of the way that card is filled to the borders and spilling over, with details and colors). Here it’s as if the young man in the first card has in fact proven himself to be worthy of sitting on the throne. This king also represents clear thinking and straightforward speech, without deception or trickery. Then in the middle we see a meeting, the actual event itself, where two people come together for a common purpose on an emotional or “heart” or personal level, on equal footing, for an exchange.

Here you can see that we can already draw quite a bit of meaning and insights from the images themselves, without even getting into the specific context or frames of the positional meanings.

Moving then to the individual questions and positions, we can interpret the narrative on a second level. In the first card, the man in the 7 of Wands seems to be fighting hard, so what I need to know or be aware of is that I’ll most likely be trying to “prove myself” in this event, and also differentiate myself in order to rise above the competition. That makes sense to me because here in Rome I’m not aware of anyone who reads the tarot with my approach, and unfortunately there’s quite a strong climate of charlatan-like stench surrounding the practice of tarot. Therefore, I do feel a bit on my guard and defensive, because I don’t want to be lumped among the random “Madam Zelda” types who use tarot in a way that takes advantage of people.

In fact, this leads nicely into the advice/guidance of the second card, which is in fact my heart’s intention for this event. My biggest desire for this event is that I be able to connect with people on a meaningful level, even if the readings are short sessions of 20 minutes. I want people to be engaged in the process of looking at the images, and allow them to make contributions, participate in constructing their narrative, and feel that the reading process is an equal exchange of heart and information, and not a hierarchy of active reader “telling” the querent something while he or she passively sits back and listens. The advice here is to have a caring approach and meet people where they’re at.

The most likely outcome then, shows the King of Swords, the bringer of truth and no bullshit. That’s nice to see as the outcome because it shows that the event will be seen as a professional one and not something frivolous or ridiculous. Truth be told, he almost looks a bit “too” serious for me, as I do want people to enjoy their readings and feel lighthearted about the tarot, but this card here shows that my dedication to helping give tarot a “clean” image is likely to be one of the results of this first event.

I’ll follow up next week with actual details of how the event goes!

Your thoughts about these cards, and any further ideas or interpretations? Please share in the comments section!

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