Strategies to approach the Celtic Cross


This is a continuation of the discussion starting here . I hope Talking Tarot is the right place for this?

So, the CC is a pretty complex spread although it's presented as a beginner's spread in most LWBs. How do you read it to get the most out of it? Do you have special strategies you go with?

I like to dissect it into it's different relations and then connecting them.

I also found it practicable to look at it as an open reading (taking into account gazes and movements that connect different cards) as opposed to the positional interpretations.


It took me not years but decades to hone my personal approach to the CC and several attempts to craft my own version that meets all of my expectations. I started with Eden Gray's version from her 1960 book The Tarot Revealed, which was largely revived by Anthony Louis in his book Tarot Beyond the Basics. (I found it interesting that some of his innovations are the same ones I arrived at independently some years earlier.)

As far as deconstructing the spread when reading, in the "cross" section (first six cards) I use Gray's clockwise timing flow from the bottom instead of Waite's "Sign of the Cross" model since it just makes more sense and mirrors the diurnal path of the Sun through the sky. Card #3 ("Beneath") is the established past/foundation of the matter (midnight); Card #4 ("Behind" or to the left) is the recent past (dawn); Card #5 ("Above") is the present (noon); and Card #6 ("Before" or to the right) is the near future (or sunset). Since I don't often use a Significator, I don't alter this sequence based on facing, and even if I do use one I don't alter it. I treat the recent past, present and near future as more of a continuum than as discrete "packets" of time since it can be tricky to tell where one leaves off and the next begins.

The first two cards (the literal "cross," covering and crossing, even though I seldom use a Significator now) I see as the "situation as it stands" and any "major motivators" (both challenges and opportunities) that together form the "heart of the matter." These are broadly situational and aren't part of the time-line.

I use an old approach that treats the "cross" section as being about the question or matter itself and its development, and the "staff" section" as related to the querent and his or her reaction to developments in the matter up through the "near-future" position, and ways the emerging reality can be carried forward to the outcome through the querent's interaction.

Because of this orientation, I place all of the psychological aspects of the reading in the "staff" section - subconscious in Position #7, which Gray called "fears" and I consider to show the querent's initial, automatic and frequently negative response (think "push-back") to the unfolding future, and conscious in Position #9, which Gray called "hopes" and I treat as both hopes and aspirations (a more active form of hope).

I also read the near future and outcome cards as a pair and examine how one leads to the other through the querent's "stewardship" as shown by Positions #7 through #9. Louis, who also sees the "crowning" card as the present, reads Cards #5, #6 and #10 as a set.

I'll have more to say later but I have to sign off for now.


Here is the more-or-less final version of the custom CC I'm currently using. I'm sure I will continue to tweak it.


  • P8B-CC & ED Update Sept 27.pdf
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To continue with the idea of "facing," I've just started using the facing of the Significator card as showing whether the querent is stuck in the recent past and can't let go (facing Card # 4) or more flexibly oriented toward the future (facing Card #6). If it's facing straight out, I see it as having a foot (and a stake) in both scenarios. I've also been experimenting with introducing reversal to see if the querent is really fixated in the distant past (head down) or living fully in the present (head up). The first approach seems reasonable, the second is still inconclusive.


Here is the more-or-less final version of the custom CC I'm currently using. I'm sure I will continue to tweak it.
I tried this version yesterday. The separation situation-querent really has something to it but I think it's more advanced than the usually used version, especially the cross/wheel itself.

The classical version is more easily split up in logical antagonists like conscious-subconscious, past-future etc. in my opinion.

ETA: thank you for the file! It goes directly to my spread library!

I wonder, in your version, is there a card you focus on in a special way?
In my interpretation for example, card nine usually hints at a possible solution while the subconscious card shows the root of all trouble...

The question goes to everybody else as well! [emoji1]


Actually, the classical version didn't address conscious-subconscious, that's a New Age accretion. I tend to find those elements buried in other parts of the reading. As far as focus cards, I look at the following singles, pairs and sets: Cards #1 and #2 as the "situational gateway;" Cards #6 and #7 as "transition" cards showing how well or poorly the emerging "near-future" settles into and squares with the querent's sense of Self; Cards #6 and #10 as the beginning and end of the querent's assimilation of the answer (with Cards #7, #8 and #9 as "way-points along the road"); Cards #7 and #9 as the major psychological motivators (fears/doubts and hopes/aspirations); Card #5 as the matter "coming to a head;" Card #3 as entrenched aspects of the matter; and Cards #4/#1/#2 and Card #8 as two ends of an "environmental" axis, one established and the other hypothetical.

If you look at the ED-friendly version of the spread at the end of the file I posted, you will see how it can be broken down into triplets, with only Card #10 standing apart as not being the focus of any triplet.


Don't use it ;)

Kidding... but not really... it's got some good bits, but it really is quite a convoluted and dare I say dated spread... if you're having issues with it, there are plenty of other spreads that'll work just as well :)


Don't use it ;)

Kidding... but not really... it's got some good bits, but it really is quite a convoluted and dare I say dated spread... if you're having issues with it, there are plenty of other spreads that'll work just as well :)

There's some truth to this. It's not very good at answering simple, single-pointed questions. I use it for general life-reading of a "situational awareness and developmental insight" nature. Its chief advantage (similar to the Lenormand GT) is its wealth of detail, which can be doubled if you include reversals. I'm a fan of big spreads for that very reason, but I'm more likely to use smaller spreads in public readings. For that purpose I whittled the CC down to my "Parsifal's Bow" environmental development spread, which is 7 cards and fits comfortably into a 20-minute session. (Find it in my Spreads Index if you're interested; it's basically a trimmed version of my ED-friendly CC model).

Charlie Brown

Cards #6 and #7 as "transition" cards showing how well or poorly the emerging "near-future" settles into and squares with the querent's sense of Self;

What a valuable observation. Thank you.


I'll take a stab at answering. The Celtic Cross I use is this one:

Card 1 and 2: The situation, and what crosses it.
Card 3: The root of the matter - what's the basis for it.
Card 4: The recent past
Card 5: The Querent's expectation
Card 6: Next steps
Card 7: Fear or what the Querent wants to avoid
Card 8: others' influence in the matter
Card 9: What the querent hopes - why does he want this
Card 10: Outcome.

I don't think this spread is good for general reading. It works best if there's a focus to it. A general reading will give you general answers that won't mean anything. At it's best, CC takes a snapshot of a particular situation in time. Done right, this spread gives out a ton of information. Mind you, most of what I learned and what I'll be sharing, I learned from lessons with a teacher. Books rarely go into this kind of depth.

First, you can lay the cards face down, and you read each card by itself in the order of the spread. Laying them all face-up will distract you, especially if you see card 10.

2nd, if the reader and querent have discussed what is to be asked, card 1 to 4 shouldn't be a surprise for the querent. These cards are there to basically mirror the situation as it stands now. If the querent doesn't agree to what these cards say, then the spread is wrong and needs to be struck down and started over. There's no point going further. Either the question was wrong, the querent didn't tell you the whole story, the reader got distracted when shuffling, etc.

Card 5 is the querent's expectation of the situation, which can be different than what they want. An example, this guy wants to ask this girl out, but he expects she'll say no.

Card 6 is self-explanatory.

Card 7 (fear) and Card 9 (hope) should be compatible. I've seen some CC spreads where one card was to represent either hope and fear, which is difficult to interpret. One card cannot represent both fear and hope, imo. It just can't. I prefer one card for each. Following the example of the guy asking the girl out, he could be afraid she's not in his league, and but he hopes to show off to his friends if he succeeds.

Card 8 is whoever has any influence, which you determine before you cast the spread. It could be what the girl herself thinks of the querent (is he even in her radar?). It could be one of his friends egging the querent on to make a fool of himself.

Card 10 is the outcome, for good or ill.

This is quite a bit of information already. But there's more!

Then we get into the smaller spreads contained inside the CC, which will add more meat to the reading. Over here, the aim is to compare cards within small sets of cards. A lot of it will be psychological.

Card 4 - 1/2 - 6: past - present - future

Card 3 - 1/2 - 5 : basis - present - expectation: often expectations are based on past experience. There's a history there that can't be wiped clean despite a desire to succeed or change.

Card 5 - 6 - 10: expectation - next step - outcome. Card 6 is a gateway, so to speak. Is it compatible with card 5?

Card 3 - 6 - 10: basis - expectation - outcome: similar to one above, but you look at any discordance between the reason for the situation and the next step.

Card 7 - 6 - 9: fear and hopes, versus next step. Are they compatible? Is there one card that contradicts the other?

By now, you should get some kind of conclusion of the situation and how you get to the outcome. But wait, there's still more information to be gleaned from this spread!

In this third pass, you look at the overall spread, and see what suits are there. Is there a dominance of one suit? Is one absent? Is there one number in particular that shows up in several times (3 or 4 cards of the same number is significant) Count the cards, what percentage to they represent based on 10 cards? For example, the major arcana represent 28% of the deck - so not unusual to see 2 cards out of 10 being major arcana. 3 or more could mean forces at work beyond the querent's control. For minor arcana - 3 cards or more of the same suit, or the same number, can be significant. You expect to see a balance overall. Any suit that's dominant is crowding out other suits.