I can’t remember when I posted this online to the articles section of the O.div. I’m guessing it was sometime in 2003 or 2004. If you are unfamiliar with the positions of the Celtic Cross spread, this site gives a breakdown.

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The CC (Celtic Cross) is probably one of the most famous yet reviled spreads in the tarot world. It is the spread most featured in the “little white books” and many a beginner has struggled through a CC only to give up in frustration which is why the CC draws heavy criticism from tarot users. Yet for all the criticisms levied against the CC I believe it is a powerful and useful spread that is worth the time you must put into it.

The CC is a rather consuming spread, best used for a “snapshot” if you will, of a certain point of time and space. Because it can cover and relate the inner and outer aspects of your life simultaneously, it is very good for meditation, general clarification and understanding the greater patterns and systems working in your life. Having said that, I would avoid the CC for quick clarification, a yes or no type answer. A three card spread is better for something that specific. Whenever I turn to CC for a specific issue, I want to know all aspects of that issue, and how it will relate to the greater dynamics of my life.

In my experience, the most fruitful approach to the CC is finding relationships between the cards and seeking any overlying themes, issues, dynamics etc. It’s like reading an astrological chart. It’s fine and well knowing where each planet is, but the real revelations lie within how the houses, signs and planets interact. In this way, the CC is not a good beginner’s spread if you don’t have a grasp on the basic meanings of the cards. You can’t synthesize if there’s nothing there to connect in the first place. But if you understand the cards well, I see no reason why you can’t start right reading away with the CC.

There are a few ways to seek relationships. The keyword here is CONTEXT.

Firstly, your cards have a historical context. I’m pretty methodical so I will look at each card’s history and bear it in mind during a reading. Unless it’s the first time a card appears, you, the deck and the card will have a history. Cards can tend to show up with other cards. Cards can come and stay around and then disappear for awhile only to show up again. Cards may tend to come up reversed, or in a particular position. What history does the card bring to the table and how does this affect the spread’s total meaning?

Cards also have a relationship in terms of position. I often find it helpful to look at more than one position at once to see if there are any correlations/contradictions. For example: How do the conscious and unconscious mind relate? Does the persona match the conscious goal? Does the unconscious mind have elements which foreshadow the outcome? Is there a theme running through the 3 cards of the horizontal axis of the cross? There are no set questions to ask. See what is in front of you and seek the relevant connections.

Finally, I look at a relational context. I’ll find patterns within the spread, whether it’s numerical (lots of 5s), visual (motifs, colours), or thematic (lots of women references, a lack of cups). Don’t be bound by seeking themes through suits or numbers though. If you feel Strength, Death and 9 of Pentacles have some type of relation, follow the feeling and then think about why you feel that way. I will often give the cards dynamic, anthropomorphized relationships: for example, one card may be giving birth to another, maybe there is some animosity between these two cards, etc. If I can, I’ll try to draw lines between the positions/cards in a notebook so I can actually see the connection. I end up with a lot of interesting patterns. I can also flip back to previous readings that might have a similar pattern and relate the two readings.

When finding connections becomes second nature, you will no longer have to write them all down and analyze them. You will be able to view the CC as a flow of energy between 10 different nodes. A spread is alive, it is kinetic, it has a weight. You will be able to feel the push and pull and tension between cards without even beginning to analyze the cards. Once you develop this skill, the CC becomes much more manageable.

A few more tips that may help:
– get to understand the positions very well. Keep them flexible.
– record your readings! It will help with finding temporal patterns and relationships. Also, you can always check back and see how the energies have played out in your life.
– set aside a lot of time for this spread. I usually take 30 min to 1 hour.
– force yourself to sum up the reading concisely in the end.