Tarot is such a unique system for divining answers to our most pressing questions. Whether you use tarot for connecting with the Divine, your spirit guides, or your higher self, these 78 cards contain wisdom and imagery that pulls on our subconscious and illuminates answers we may not have seen before. Tarot can be used to shine a light on our current challenges, past and future relationships, and communicate with the Otherside.
While pulling a tarot card or two per question can give you all the answers you need, witches will sometimes use what’s called a tarot spread for more clarity. A tarot spread is the method that individual cards are laid out on the working surface such as a table. If you’re not new to divination with tarot, I’m sure you have seen the Celtic Cross tarot spread.
See also: 10-Card Celtic Cross
This spread is made up of 10 cards, each one holding a small key to a piece of the puzzle. When each card is read together, it becomes a story, a way to unlock the answers to our questions. This is a popular tarot spread! However, it is not always practical to pull out 10 different cards and arrange them in a specific way. Sometimes, your readings need more fluidity and leeway to change and tell their story.
What is the Nine Card Spread?
Also called The Portrait Spread or The Box Spread, this particular divination spread was developed for use with Lenormand cards. It consists of a three-by-three square of cards laid out on a surface. Even though it was originally used with Lenormand cards, it can be adapted for use with just about any divination card system.
The nine-card tarot spread looks simple on the surface. However, there are five different ways to read the cards with this spread! The different components include reading the center card, the corner cards, horizontal lines, vertical lines, and diagonal lines. Each component gives special context to the question at hand and not every component needs to be used in every reading.
The Center Card
In the number system, this is going to be card number five. This is the center card, the one in the middle of the box. This card can represent the central theme of the reading. In some cases, this will be a person. In many cases, this is a signifier of the person you are reading for (or yourself) or the situation at hand. Think of this card as the theme of your reading. So for example, if we were to pull Temperance for our central card, we would know that our theme revolves around balance.
The Corner Cards
These are cards one, three, seven, and nine. These cards give more context to the theme (the center card) and can be read in two different ways. You can read them clockwise around the box — so card one, three, nine, and seven — or you can read them as opposite pairs. This would be reading cards one and nine together, then reading cards three and seven together.
Again, these cards give context to the theme card. Going with the same example above with our central card, let’s say we pulled the Ace of Cups for card one, the Three of Swords for card three, The Tower for card seven, and the Five of Wands for card nine. If we read this clockwise, we might interpret it as a new love interest (Ace of Cups) might be making an appearance in our lives. This interest will shake our foundation and cause us to question everything we thought we knew (The Tower), possibly leading to heartbreak and betrayal (Three of Swords) The love interest might be abrasive and enjoy arguing, even if it’s just to hear their own voice (Five of Wands).
This same interpretation can be applied if you choose to read these cards in pairs. The Ace of Cups would pair with The Five of Wands, pointing to a new love interest that has a tendency to argue and speak over you. The Three of Swords and The Tower paired together point to a betrayal of trust shaking your foundation and leading to you questioning what you thought you knew.
To tie this back to the theme of the reading — remember, we pulled Temperance — this new love interest will test your balance in all areas of life, but one in particular. You will need to pay close attention to the balance in your love life, emotions, and relationships.
Next, you may want to read the cards horizontally. Based on the spread, you have three horizontal lines that can lend clarity to your reading. These lines represent your thoughts, your reality, and your subconscious mind.
The first line of cards represents your thoughts. These three cards are cards one, two, and three. Each card in this row pertains to your ideas, your dreams, and your passions. Essentially, this row shows you what you want out of life or the situation, depending on your reading.
The second line of cards represents your reality. These three cards are cards four, five, and six. Each card in this row pertains to your reality, your everyday lived life. This row will show you the current state of your life.
The third line of cards represents your subconcious mind. These three cards are cards seven, eight, and nine. Each card in this row pertains to thoughts, feelings, and baggage that you carry behind the scenes that may be affecting your current situation.
After reading the card horizontally, you may want to read them vertically as well. These vertical lines of cards represent your past, present, and future. Simple enough, right? Reading the cards vertically is ideal for figuring out a timeframe for the current situation. It is important to keep in mind that this spread may not span years into the future, so this is for more short-term predictions. It is also important to remember that not everything is set in stone. Sometimes the cards tell us of something not-so-great in the future as a warning for us to do what we can to avoid it.
The first line of cards represents the past. These are the cards in a vertical line on the left — cards one, four, and seven. This line represents you past and the events that have shaped you.
The second vertical line of cards represents the present situation. These are the cards in the middle — cards two, five, and eight. This line represents your current situation.
The third vertical line of cards represents the future. These are the cards on the right — cards three, six, and nine. This line of cards represents the future. These are events in your future that are waiting for you.
The last way you can read this spread is diagonally in both directions, from either top left to bottom right or top right to bottom left. Both of these directions can represent influences or possibilities in the current situation. You may choose to read top left to bottom right as something that is moving forward in your life. On the other hand, reading from the top right to bottom left might show you something that is being delayed or stopping all together.
This spread might seem like a lot, but remember, not every component needs to be used in every reading! Once you practice this spread enough, and become comfortable with card divination in general, you will be better equipped to let your intuition guide you to the components you need.
If you wanted to do a reading about a current love interest using this spread, it might look something like this. The central card would represent your current love interest. The corner cards would give you context surrounding this person’s openness to a relationship with you. The vertical cards might give you a peak at the person’s past relationships, their current status, and their future should you two decide to partner up.
More Tarot Spreads
Are you ready for more tarot spreads? You might enjoy these!
7-Card Horseshoe Tarot Spread
This spread is perfect for asking about specific problems. Remember that the precision of the answer will depend on the clarity of question being asked.
Tarot Ritual: 3-Card Love Spread
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, this simple Tarot ritual will give you insight into your romantic life. ❤️
Still learning tarot?
We have resources for you, too! If you don’t have a deck you can grab the copyright free Rider-Waite Smith deck below and check out our Whole Tarot course! Don’t forget, you have to be signed up to take the course so if you haven’t already, create an account!
Get a Tarot Deck
Here’s a free download with a complete set of cards to start reading Tarot. Below I’ve also included a smaller version for journaling or carrying around. The files consist of the 78 Tarot cards ready to print and cut out, in PDF format.
Still need to learn tarot?
Whether this is your first approach to the Tarot deck or you are rekindling an old flame, this video course will give you the tools to start performing readings and divinations with confidence. Learning the symbolism of each card is a unique experience of connection with the Divine and with your intuition. ✨