How Positions Affect Meanings in Tarot

I thought I’d try this little exercise to help explain how interpretations of cards change depending on their position in a spread. So, I’m going to draw a random card and then place it in every position in the Celtic Cross. I’ve never tried this before so, hopefully I’ll learn something new about how positions affect meanings in tarot.

Before I grab a deck, let me outline the positions I assign to the Celtic Cross; not everyone uses the same ones. The Celtic Cross is the absolute best spread for flexibility and nuance that I know of.

Celtic Cross Positions:

  • One – the current focus/issue.
  • Two – what supports or opposes.
  • Three (at the bottom) – the root of the current situation.
  • Four (to the left of 1 & 2) – what is moving into the past.
  • Five (above) – the seeker’s desired goal or outcome.
  • Six (to the right) what is moving into the present.
  • Seven (bottom right) – the seeker’s current influence/energy.
  • Eight (next up) – other factors such as people and environment.
  • Nine (next up) – wild card/advice/what the seeker needs to know.
  • Ten (top) – likely outcome.

Now we need a question, or at least a situation if this is a general reading.

Maria is 30 years old and is concerned about her long-term relationship. She is wondering if it’s time she moved on, as she would like to make the relationship more permanent. She’s hoping for marriage, but her boyfriend doesn’t appear to be in a hurry. She’s decided to have a general reading, keeping her issue in mind.

Okay, let’s draw a card. I’m using my old Robin Wood deck as it happens to be the closest. I’ve drawn the Four of Wands. It shows a dancing couple; the girl in a green dress and the young man in a white shirt and red leggings. They are facing the viewer but look completely focussed on their dance and each other. They are on a raised flower-bedecked platform beneath a white canopy supported by four glowing, crystal-topped wands. In the background are green fields. The sky is clear and pale blue.

So, using just this one card, I’m going to interpret the card in all the various positions of the spread.

How Positions Affect Meanings in Tarot

Interpreting the Same Card in Every Position of the Celtic Cross

Position one, Maria’s current focus: The Four of Wands in this position hints at the possibility that Maria would like them make their relationship more formal and publicly acknowledged. Marriage, perhaps.

Position two, what supports or is opposing Maria’s ambition: The Four of Wands in this position would show us that the Four of Wands would be supportive of what she wants. It might also mean that some hard work is necessary to put the relationship on a more stable footing.

Position three, the root of the current situation. The Four of Wands in this base position indicates that the relationship had already been formally recognized or acknowledged in some way. Maybe they celebrated moving in together or have purchased/rented a home as a couple.

Position four, what is moving into the past. In this position the Four of Wands would show that the stability of the relationship is slipping away. That the feeling of permanence is shifting.

Position five, Maria’s desire for an outcome. The Four of Wands in this position would indicate that marriage and a stable life is what she really wants. Whether with her current partner or with another.

Position six, what is moving into the present (very near future). In position six, the Four of Wands shows us that Maria and her partner will be celebrating a new arrangement or marking an anniversary.

Position seven, Maria’s current influence and energy. Again the card in this position would confirm that stability and a formally recognized relationship is paramount to her. Her desire for marriage or a stable relationship drives her.

Position eight, other factors or people. The Four of Wands here would tell us that other people are hoping the same thing, that their expectations are for Maria and her partner to settle down on a permanent basis.

Position nine, wild card or advice. The Four of Wands at nine, would suggest that she hold on, as what she wants is coming, though she might have to work a bit harder for it. Or it might be emphasizing the fact that Maria is already in a strong and stable relationship and doesn’t need to look outside it for what she wants.

Position ten, likely outcome. Pretty self-explanatory. All well. Marriage or engagement on the horizon. Stability within the relationship. Something to celebrate.

As you can see, the meaning is modified and changed slightly by each position. The Four of Wands in position four is very different from the outcome.

I haven’t mentioned children in this example, because the Four of Wands is not about children. Although it wouldn’t exclude them, of course. Neither have I focussed on her partner, only on Maria, herself. I also haven’t added in the reader’s intuition or the seeker’s feedback during the reading. This is merely an exercise in understanding how spread positions affect meanings in tarot readings.

Why not give it a try? It’s quite an interesting exercise. All I can say is that I’m very glad that a Court Card didn’t show up 😀



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9 thoughts on “How Positions Affect Meanings in Tarot

  1. Apriyile

    Hi Tori I have a question is there a difference when designing a tarot spread in a shape vs laying the cards out in a line? and if so what is the difference?

    1. Troi Post author

      No, it doesn’t matter at all. Patterns are useful in helping you remember the position meaning, as in the 10-card Celtic Cross, but shorter spreads – just do them how you feel.

  2. George Silva

    Great explanation and your approach to the Celtic Cross is just like mine. I can tell I’m “also” happy no Court Cards appeared, they seem to haunt my readings but I manage to analyze them better now! Thanks Troi.

    1. Troi Post author

      Thank you, George. Oh those Courts, I love them really, but so hard to explain the basics with them. There are so many extra layers.


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