Use tarot spreads or draw cards free-flow?

tarot spread

As with all questions about tarot techniques, the answer is always personal. It’s based on what makes you feel most confident doing a reading for yourself or your client. The same goes for whether it is best to use tarot spreads of draw tarot cards free-flow. To answer the question, I can only give you my preference because there are no definite answers in tarot. But before I give you my answer, I want to explain some essential terms.

What Is A Tarot Spread?

A tarot spread is a layout in which you arrange the cards. Each position depicts an aspect of the question you’re trying to answer. Look at it as a question that you divide into various sub-questions to approach the topic of your question from various directions and provide you with an in-depth answer. An example of a tarot spread is the Celtic Cross or the Past Present Future spread.

What Is Free-Flow Reading?

When you do a free-flow reading, ask your question and put one card on the table. While answering that question, you can dive into various topics related to the question. You let yourself be guided by the cards you draw. When you feel you have sufficient insight, you finish the reading, or when the cards no longer make sense.

Tarot Spreads or Free-flow?

Before you use tarot spreads in a reading, you need to take some time to prepare. It asks you to think about your question and divide it up into sub-areas that you want to take a look at. If you are reading about your financial situation, you may want to know what is blocking your income, how you can improve the situation, and maybe also how you are wasting money. With tarot spreads, you then draw cards and lay them out in a layout on the table where every position has its meaning.

When you come to the final card in the spread, your reading is done. While summarizing the reading in bullet points, try to come to an action step in the end. It fulfills our need to make things feasible. You can also journal about specific thoughts or ideas.

A free-flow reading lets you go with the flow of your thoughts, ideas, and questions. You draw a new card for every new question or aspect. This way you can start in some area and finish in the next. I try to keep my reading on the topic. Free-flow reading is much more accessible and has fewer rules. Your reading is finished when the cards no longer make sense. This moment can be challenging to point out, especially for beginning readers.

Why I Don’t Do Free-Flow Readings Anymore

While I used to do a lot of free-flow readings for my clients, I’ve created more structure in my readings. It helped me not to skip certain aspects in my sessions. On the other hand, the free-flow tarot reading is very suitable for, what I call, good conversations. Sessions like that are more like coaching sessions where I use the tarot as a tool, not a means. But, in those sessions, the focus is on the coaching and not on the reading of cards.

tarot spread

Use Specific Tarot Spreads To Answer Specific Questions

In my experience, tarot spreads works best when you keep your question or topic central. Why did you want to have a reading in the first place? Did it just come up at a whim, or are you hoping it will serve you somehow?

I’ve always disliked readings in which the querent only said: “Oh, just give me a general reading.” To be honest, it annoys me. I am not a circus attraction nor a fast-food place where you consume and walk on. I know many readers don’t mind these kinds of questions. I want to dig deep into a topic that you struggle with and play a role in your transformation.

This probably has to do because I’m an Enneagram 1 type (the Perfectionist). I stir and chew on topics until they are digestible and understand what’s going on. This way, it becomes easier to find out what is needed to improve.

I also feel that when you ask a general question, you also get a general answer. General readings are not getting you anywhere because, in the end, you want to know the best following action or know what you can expect.

It Is All About Responsibility

Another reason why I don’t like general questions is because I’ve noticed how clients are prone to take less responsibility for the outcome of a general reading than a particular one. In short, come to me when you struggle, and we’ll talk about it over a reading. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I’m a damn good coach to help you cut “the big thing in your life” into small pieces. My clients have often already struggled with the issue for a while before they came to me. After the reading, they had clarity and knew their next best step.

Friends And Family Are Not The Right Person To Help You

They have concluded that they need the input of someone who is not emotionally invested by the situation’s outcome. When you ask for advice from your friends or family, they often want you to be happy. Seeing you struggle triggers them, and they want to see you in a better state as soon as possible. They may sooner agree with you instead of confronting you with your habits and behavior. Since I am not emotionally connected to your outcome, I can take a more objective view.

Since I have a collection of more than a thousand spreads, I can always come up with a spread that fits. Sometimes I need to make minor adjustments, but I can use them right away most of the time. I always suggest a spread to my client to see if the spread answers all their sub-questions. This way, we can take out a position that may not be interesting.

Using Celtic Cross Tarot Spreads Or Not

I don’t think there’s a tarot reader around who hasn’t heard of the Celtic Cross spread. Please read this Celtic Cross article from Biddy Tarot if you’re unfamiliar with this spread in your personal readings. I feel it can be a thorough reading when you do it the way Bridget explains.


It is a shit-load of work, and not all positions are interesting when you ask specific questions. First, you have to interpret ten cards, which takes at least an hour if you want to do it well. But that’s not all. After that, you need to interpret the underlying mini-readings. While I feel these are super helpful, this takes way too much time. I want to be able to finish the card reading in one sitting. If it is different for you, please go for it, but it is too long for me.

Also, not all positions may fit your question. Depending on the topic of my card reading, I couldn’t care less about external influences, especially when it comes to matters of the soul or following my soul path. It’s my soul path, not theirs. And sometimes, I don’t want to invest any energy in an outcome when I’m unsure if the choice is an option. Reading on a future outcome would not give me any accurate information.

tarot spread

My Love For The One Card Reading

When I had just started reading tarot cards, I struggled my way through that damned Celtic Cross spread. I tried to solve every issue in my life with it, hoping I’d get an answer that could work for me. It didn’t. It always left me with a disappointing feeling of confusion.

My then mentor advised me to become really good at doing one-card readings and suck them for everything they’ve got. I study the card from all levels, for instance, how the answer would be from the mental level, emotional level, physical level, and soul level.

Performing an excellent one-card reading is an essential part of my upcoming book. Why would you focus on a ten-card reading if you can’t do an excellent one-card reading? It’s like expecting a team of six-year-old boys (you know, the unorganized bunch) winning the Soccer World Cup. First, you need to learn to play a damn good soccer game before you’re ready for the big stuff. I explain a method that helps you dive into a card from all angles in my book. It helped me broaden my interpretations.

The Answer To the Question

I perform better when preparing myself well for a tarot card reading. Doing a tarot reading for myself (or providing one for a client) is not the same as a fast-food drive-through where you order at window One and get your food at the next. A good reading needs preparation for the question you ask and the spread you use. I experience that I do better readings when I use a spread.

On the other hand, I also do a free-flow reading now and then (maybe one in fifteen) where I think about a question and quickly throw some cards on my desk. While that is a free-flow reading, it is more of a quickie — a drive-through tarot reading. It fills you for a short period before you’re hungry for more. Spending time with the cards and your thoughts and feelings provides you with much more than an answer. I see it as an act of self-love to take my readings seriously. By preparing for a card reading and intentionally choosing tarot spreads, you show yourself that you intend to find a serious answer. The quickie is less serious and much more in the moment.

Are you a tarot spreads reader, or are you a free-flow reader? Please share your thoughts with me and leave a comment below.


Jolanda Bolt
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