How to Easily Read the 9-Card Tarot Spread and Celtic Cross

This article covers advanced tarot spreads and topics for tarot reading. We go over the Celtic Cross spread and 9 card tarot spread, and how to find groupings.

If you’re looking for how to choose a deck, see my article on that.

If you’re looking for the basics and how to get started, see my article on that.

This article will cover some more advanced spreads and topics for tarot reading than what I’ve previously covered.

The first spread I recommend learning after you’ve familiarized yourself with your deck and gotten some practice with basic spreads is the Celtic Cross.

This is probably the most famous spread in the history of tarot. It’s in pretty much every introductory book and pamphlet.

But this spread requires a lot from the reader, and so it isn’t the best for learning.

You don’t want to have to remember the order and purpose of all 10 card positions while struggling with basic readings.

This spread is one of the oldest and most flexible. It can be used for almost any type of reading or question.

Beware: it also has a lot of variation. I tend to think of the version in the Universal Waite deck pamphlet as the “official” version, but the many variations on it are all equally valid.

As I said in my beginner post: it’s important to make every spread your own. In fact, I just looked up the Waite version only to realize I changed the order at some point.

The reading method and spread style or variation that works best for you is always the correct version for you.

The “official” or “correct” versions might be nice to preserve from a historical perspective, but from a teaching perspective, I’d rather have you get the best results.

How to Read a Celtic Cross Spread

Celtic Cross Tarot

If you want a mnemonic device to remember the order I do, here’s how I remember.

You’ll make a cross: first upright, next across that card. Then 3, 4, 5, and 6 make a second cross: left to right, top to bottom.

Easy! You should now never forget the first six cards. The last four are just a pillar growing up from the ground.

Congratulations, you should now have memorized the order of the whole ten-card spread in less than a minute.

The purpose of each position can be learned fairly easily, too. The first four cards should look like the basic three-card past/present/future spread that we did before.

The crossed (2nd) card just adds some depth to this by giving the main current challenge.

Cards 5 and 6 are what they look like. The one hovering up above are the hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The one below represents being below the conscious, in other words, the subconscious.

I don’t really have a way to remember the last four, but you’ll learn those quickly with after a few readings.

Now, this is supposed to be an article on intermediate and advanced topics. So, let’s dig in a little deeper with reading.

Card Groupings

If you’ve been following along so far, you’ll notice I’ve grouped cards as the initial two-card cross, the first four cards as a past/present/future unit, the above and below as a unit, and the final four as a unit.

I really do think in these groupings to connect the cards.

As soon as you get comfortable with individual card readings and meanings, you’ll want to start to understand how groupings alter and affect readings. Look at these groupings together to develop a deeper narrative.

I recently did a reading in which the Four of Pentacles was above and the Ten of Pentacles was below. It was abundantly clear to me that this person had a lot of fears about financial security.

Subconsciously, his goals had noble intents: family safety and providing.

But these underlying fears had manifested as independent goals of control and obsessively saving money. I won’t go into the full details of the rest of the reading, but you should start to see how this grouping of cards let me get a clearer picture.

The advice card (7th) was a reversed Nine of Cups. Because I had seen this earlier story, I read this as a need to address the materialism leading to his inner unhappiness.

The subconscious desire was security for his family.

Did they have enough to be happy? Yes.

My advice was to try to let go of his fears. For now, they were financially okay. What was the point of working to death for the family if he never got to spend time with them?

The goals had misaligned with the original purpose.

How to Read a 9 Card Tarot Spread (Box Spread)

9 card tarot spread box spread

This is the 9-card tarot spread, also known as the box spread. It applies the same basic principles we’ve discussed in other spreads.

You will lay down a 3 x 3 box. The first column is past, the second present, and the third future. The top row represents goals and aspirations, the middle current feelings, and the bottom the subconscious.

Notice how similar this spread is to the Celtic Cross and the standard three-card spread. What’s so interesting about this one is to really dig into the connections and weight of each card.

The Central Card

There is one central card with the most importance. It sheds light on the core question or difficulty in the person’s life.

This primary card is the significator, describing the person for whom you are reading. It can also be the question’s core, defining the substance of the problem as well as its solution and consequence.

Once you’ve established the central card of the 9 card tarot spread, there are also a lot of ways to move through the spread. See what you’re drawn to in each reading. Maybe you narrate from the top left diagonally down to the bottom right.

Other times you might focus on moving across the middle row where the tops and bottoms just illuminate little changes in the reading.

Reading Across the 9 Card Spread

The easiest method is to read the 9-card spread horizontally. The first line is the path of aspirations, which means they are all about our thoughts, hopes, and desires. They symbolize our goals in life.

You can easily remember this meaning because the line is above the central card, in other words, our aspirations are above us. As you go across, you’ll find a theme emerging from the past, present, and future goals and hopes.

The second line symbolizes your reality. They consist of your everyday, conscious existence. This is the terrestrial plane and should be interpreted literally.

Reading this can provide you with specific information such as timing or a description of the persons involved.

The bottom row reflects the subconscious mind, the stream that is influencing your circumstances. You can remember this easily because it’s what’s beneath you – the foundations on which you stand.

Secret desires, intuition, and inner wisdom are all represented by this line. It’s critical to pay close attention to this row while learning how to interpret a 9-card tarot spread since it reveals personal issues and sentiments.

Tying it together

This spread leaves open a lot of flexibility for skill. The more experienced you are at reading, the more likely you’ll find this spread a rewarding method.

Remember to always come back to the central card to tie it all together. The reading shouldn’t be sporadic and disjointed. The past/present/future of your aspirations should all relate to the central card. The subconscious influences are the ones that actually affect the central problem.

If you’re just starting out, this one can be quite intimidating, but it’s well worth the effort to learn.

For my favorite non-standard tarot deck, Shores of Moon Luna Somnia, click here:

9 card tarot spread