When it comes to tarot readings, I’m a big fan of small spreads. Three cards is usually all I need to get a clear answer to my question, and the spread I use most often is simply Opportunity, Challenge, Resolution.
But I also love the following three-card spread I learned at a Motherpeace Tarot workshop with Vicki Noble many years ago. I think it’s especially useful for tarot beginners, who are just getting to know the different parts of the deck.
Major Cards, Number Cards, and People Cards
Divide your deck into three piles: Major cards, Number cards and People (Court) cards.
I think of the Majors as the big soul lessons of our lives. Some would call these the cards of fate. We don’t have control over the big forces in our lives, just like we don’t have control over the weather. We do, however, have control over the way we respond to these forces. (There are 22 Major cards.)
The Number cards represent moods, attitudes, and the areas of our life where the soul lessons are currently showing up. (There are 40 Number cards.)
The People cards are aspects of our personalities or a role we are playing. (There are 16 People cards.)
Once you’ve divided your deck into the three piles, shuffle each pile while keeping an open and receptive attitude.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the big force (or soul lesson) at work in my life right now? Pull a card from the Major pile.
- What area of my life is this showing up in? Pull a card from the Number pile.
- How am I relating to this force? Pull a card from the People pile.
Then get out your journal and jot down your first thoughts, reactions to the cards, and associations with them. Remember not to look the meanings of the cards up in the book until you’ve captured your own first thoughts. Write about how the questions and cards might relate to what’s going on in your life right now.
At the end, quickly sum up the reading by writing down three sentences, one for each card. You can follow this template:
The “big force” or soul lesson at work in my life right now is …
The area of my life where the big force is showing up is …
I am relating to this force by …
Here’s a sample reading and journal entry I just did for myself.
I pulled: The Canoe, the Guardian of Water, and the Seven of Fire.
I love how the paddler in the canoe and the blacksmith are bracketing the Guardian of Water, each turned toward her, while she looks directly into my eyes. I also notice that the two 7’s (Major #7, the Canoe, and the 7 of Fire) bracket the Guardian of Water.
What’s the big force at work in my life right now? The Canoe.
The Canoe (or the Chariot), Major #7, is my Soul Card, so this card has extra “oomph” for me. It means that the big force at work in my life right now is the same as the overriding theme of my life. It has to do with being focused on a goal and not allowing myself to be distracted from that goal (the paddler looks straight ahead), while navigating emotional depths (the sea), and acknowledging those who help and support me (the orcas, salmon, and eagle).
My current goals or projects — the ones on my mind this morning — include the retreats I host (especially the search for a new venue), the new tarot deck I’m working on, the book I’m writing, and my need for more exercise to offset the pain in my back from long hours at the drawing board. In each of these cases, I am midway through the journey. I’m in the phase that Brené Brown calls the “messy middle,” the part of the journey where you just want to give up and go home. I recognize this place; I’ve been here many times before. This is where I get to practice perseverance once again, and keep on going even though I feel like it’s too dark, too hard, and maybe not worth the cost. But I also know — since I’ve been here so many times before — that magic happens when you keep on showing up, when you keep on putting that paddle in the water. I don’t want to miss out on the magic.
What area of my life is this showing up in? Seven of Fire.
This card shows a woman in the act of creation. She has heated up metal until it is soft enough to be shaped by a hammer and can be transformed into a new shape. This card tells me that the specific area of my life where the big force of the Canoe (focus and persistence) is showing up, is in my creative projects.
The saying “Strike while the iron is hot!” often comes to mind with this card. It reminds me that the timing is right for each of the creative projects I mentioned above. I need to keep on keeping on, even if some days I feel like the iron bar that is heated up and beaten until it forms a new shape.
This is the card I chose a few days ago as a “Gaian Blessing” that I sent out on social media. The blessing reads: “May you dare to forge ahead with the courage to transform your life.”
How am I relating to this force? Guardian of Water.
My first thought is that I have a lot of compassion for myself and I am practicing good self-care, which is something I do not always do. I’m walking by the beach, taking long tub baths, napping, and drinking a lot of water. I’m accepting and loving myself just as I am (also not an easy thing to do!). I’m not shaming myself for not doing more or being farther along on the current projects.
To sum it all up:
- The “big force” or soul lesson at work in my life right now is staying the course through the messy middle.
- The area of my life where the big force is showing up is in my creative projects.
- I am relating to this force by having compassion for myself and by practicing self-care.
I am noticing that, while the reading is definitely telling me there’s lots of hard work on my plate right now and for the foreseeable future, it must be tempered by down time, time for relaxation and renewal. This is the visual message of the three cards, with the paddler and blacksmith both facing in toward the She Who Relaxes in the Water.
I hope you have found this spread and process helpful!
(This post is a glimpse into the kind of material we cover in my self-study course “Gaian Tarot for Tarot Beginners.”)