Updated: Aug 2
A tarot spread is a type of layout or map, a predetermined format for pulling cards and then laying them down in a specific pattern or sequence. Spreads can be helpful in guiding one’s quest for insight or clarity around a specific situation. While you don’t have to use a spread when working with the cards for creative inspiration, working with a predetermined template often helps to build a framework to stimulate ideas.
Tarot spreads can range from a single card to laying out all 78 of them. A spread’s goal and/or purpose is entirely up to you and the outcome you are trying to determine. Before working with tarot spreads, I recommend thinking of a question(s) in your mind that you’d like answering, and then using a notebook or journal to jot down your immediate, intuitive thoughts about the answer(s) the cards are displaying.
In addition to gleaning inspiration for my fiction stories, I use the tarot every morning for self-reflection. My favorite spread for this purpose is a three-card layout in which the first card represents a “theme” for my day ahead, the second (middle) card represents a potential “obstacle” (or opportunity), and the third card represents a “blessing” to which I might look forward. As an example, below are three cards I pulled one day while writing another post, 13 Ways Writers Can Use the Tarot, along with the story I sensed from them.
Story Intuited from this Spread:
Theme – The Fool: Keeping an adventurous spirit can open my day to all sorts of possibilities.
Obstacle – Strength, reversed: However, weakness might get the best of me, if I’m not careful, so remaining vigilant and aware when my defenses are lowered is important.
Blessing – Three of Cups: Fellowship is a blessing, so get out of the house and stop being such a Hermit, Mandy.
Tarot spreads are designed in all numbers and layouts, from minimal to complex, and you are encouraged to design your own, if you choose. You can draw a single card for clarity around starting or finishing a story, one card as inspiration for a poem, or a card for daily insight into your writing practice. Whatever your desire, a spread can be as simple as one card. The following list includes a few examples of my favorite daily insight and writing spreads.
One-Card Spread Examples
Clarity on filling a plot hole
Daily draw for insight
Daily draw for writing inspiration
Energy around the day/task/project
Significator (a card that represents you; see [section/chapter])
Yes or No
Two-Card Spread Examples
A Character Conversation (can help with dialogue)
Subconscious Thoughts/Conscious Thoughts
Multiple Cards Spreads
Celtic Cross - This traditional spread is pictured above.
The Writer's Cross, my own version of the Celtic Cross from the storyteller's lens
Significators & Clarifiers
Sometimes when working with the tarot you might want to pull a specific card to represent you, the writer, a card that represents a specific character, or a card that embodies the energy with which you wish to work. These cards are known as significators. Some tarot spreads include a position specifically designated for a significator.
When choosing a significator to represent you or your character(s) in a spread or writing exercise, the card chosen reveals what could be informing choices and behaviors. On the other hand, it might also represent you or your character so that you can see yourself or them as an active participant in the spread. Significators can also be seen as anchors, helping to keep you and/or your character(s) centered or aligned.
When you need additional insight around what a card or a spread means, you can pull another card and lay it beside the original. These additionally selected cards are known as clarifiers, and they can help provide understanding and depth.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this post! If you'd like to learn more about the tarot and how to use the cards from a storyteller's perspective, I've stocked my shop, The Intuitive Storyteller Hub, with printable and fillable resources to help!
Prices subject to change without notice. All sales are final. No refunds.
The Writer's Cross
Are you struggling with a problem or situation with your WIP that you just can’t seem to solve?
Is your storyline getting out of hand and you need to figure out how to wrangle it in?
Could you benefit from a template for working through writing-related struggles?
The Writer’s Cross is a unique reimagining of the classic Celtic Cross tarot spread, designed from a storyteller’s perspective.
Find this printable and fillable workbook and more writing resources at on The Intuitive Storyteller Hub, where creative writers can access tools to help hone their craft.
Prices subject to change without notice. All sales are final. No refunds. For the best results, open and use this document on your computer. Please remember to save your work!
Learning to read tarot cards so you can use them in your storytelling can be as easy as 1-2-3. In my printable and fillable guided resource, Tarot 1-2-3: Learn to Read the Cards Intuitively in Three Easy Steps, not only do you get a copy of these reversals strategies, but you'll also receive my Tarot Quick Reference for Storytellers, which includes images and one-word meanings for each card, upright AND reversed, curated to resonate from a writer’s perspective.
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of literary, Southern Gothic, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative®, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, and she has worked as an instructional designer for nearly twenty years.
When she’s not writing fiction, Mandy enjoys the movies, theater, music, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, and binging The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to enhance creativity and foster wellness. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four sons, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.