All things Celtic are big news, and whilst archaeologists have defined ideas of what constitutes Celtic art, for most people it is associated with swirling intricate geometrical shapes and highly stylized shapes. These designs are celebrated the world over and jewelers delight our eyes with exquisite pieces made in a Celtic style.
Throws with Celtic knot work adorn our sofas and the bravest amongst us sport complex Celtic tattoos. There are even some delightful Celtic tarot cards available, although the ancient Celts would not have used tarot cards themselves.
Then there is the best known tarot spread of all, the famous Celtic Cross. The spread was named after the distinctive crosses found in some Celtic areas, which combine a cross with a ring around the intersection of the two lines which comprise the cross itself. This shape is reflected in the pattern in which the cards are laid out for this spread.
The history of this spread is unclear; the first published reference to the Celtic Cross appears in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Waite in 1910, although Waite refers to it as ‘An Ancient Celtic Method of Divination’. It’s possible that Waite’s spread is based on earlier spreads which came from Europe and were laid out in a more general cross shape.
The spread became popular when it was used by the British occult group, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, of which Waite was a member. Over time the popularity of the Celtic Cross grew and it has continued largely unchanged. Well, that was nice and simple…or was it? It seems there could be another story regarding the development of the Celtic Cross spread.
Some Tarot historians suggest that it was another Golden Dawn initiate, Florence Farr, who was the first person to use this spread. However, (just to complicate things more) she seemed to have used a different method to interpret the spread to that used by Waite. She took a more magical approach which was based on the use of numerology and the elements.
That’s the theory, now for the practice. The Celtic Cross is the best known tarot card spread, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people finding it difficult to use. Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that they tend to use it to provide a general reading but this isn’t what it was designed for.
It is much more useful if you use it with a distinct question in mind or, at least a particular subject. You will need a total of ten cards but, unusually, you will read them in two separate steps; cards 1-6 and then cards 7-10.
The first card is placed vertically, this represents the influences that are part of your life now.
The second card is laid horizontally across the first card so the two cards form a cross. The second card stands for the immediate obstacles you face.
Card number three is placed vertically above cards 1 and 2. This shows the best that is likely to occur as the situation stands.
The fourth card is placed vertically and is positioned to the right of cards 1 and 2; it corresponds to events in the distant past that have led to the current situation.
The fifth card (and all the remaining cards) is vertical and it’s positioned below cards 1 and 2. It relates to the effect of more recent events.
Card number six is to the left of cards 1 and 2, this reveals a new influence that will play a part in the situation.
To the right of card 4, the remaining cards are placed in a column in ascending order. Card 7 is the lowest card, above that is card 8, above which is card 9, with card 10 at the top.
The seventh card represents your immediate feelings about the situation in which you are involved.
Card number eight considers what is happening around you. Including how your home life influences, or is influenced by, the events concerned. It also refers to the impact the issues involved have on your relationships.
The ninth card portrays what you feel about the situation at a more deeper level than the seventh card. These feelings are so deep you may not realize that you’re experiencing them at first.
The last card shows the probable final outcome of the situation as it stands.
This spread takes practice, but when you are used to using it, it makes for both a handy Tarot, Astrology and Life tool.