The Little 3-Card That Could

The traditional 3-card spread is used by everyone, and for good reason. It’s quick, malleable, and succinct – perfect for both quick answers to real questions and spur-of-the-moment curiosities. The most common way of seeing it is as Past – Present – Future. There are so many ways one can use this spread that you can really use it however you want, but I thought I’d show you today how I do my 3-card spreads for myself.


A little backstory to this example I’m going to use. Today I used the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, mostly because I haven’t used it in a couple of days and wanted to connect with it. (I like to “stay in touch” with my different decks by reading with them every now and then, some certainly more than others.) Originally, I had been asking what exactly I should write about today and I kept receiving V The Hierophant. Since that seemed pretty general and a little vague to me, I finally used it as a significator to get specifics. This is what came up.

Now, I know what you’re going to say first – that isn’t a 3-card spread. And you would be technically right in saying that. However, for me, 3 cards isn’t enough to get the kind of information that I’m usually looking for. I want extra details to test theories and hunches I have about certain cards. Reading tarot for me is much like solving a puzzle or a mystery, and the more clues I have the easier it is, and the more fun! Plus, what we get is still essentially a 3-card spread, represented by the top row. But with the addition of the next two rows, the main ideas get blown up into 3D, so to speak. Now we have more context to speak from and the little old 3-Card spread becomes more of a force to be reckoned with.


Queen of Pentacles – 6 of Wands – Knight of Wands

I feel like this very adequately describes my efforts lately to make my passions in all areas of life more practical, which have largely been successful so far (fingers still crossed). For instance, I’ve realized that I need more adventure and spontaneity in my life in order to satisfy the needs of my Venus in Sagittarius, and that these things are actually quite important to my happiness. So we have the Queen of Pentacles representing practicality and materialization, the 6 of Wands representing pride and success, and the Knight of Wands representing adventure and ambition.

XX Judgment – Queen of Swords – XIV Temperance

Ultimately, this has been something that I’ve been hearing the call for (XX Judgement) for a while now. Several months in fact. Judgment has come up many times for me in recent history, urging me to wake up and see things differently. Part of the “waking up” I had to do was connected to learning how to separate myself from my emotions a bit. I tend to get emotional about something (or someone) first and then think about it later, which is occasionally problematic as you might imagine. So the Queen of Swords here represents some of that healthy distancing and analytical speculation I’ve been practicing more lately. Lastly, XIV Temperance perfectly summarizes how I feel about myself lately – much more balanced. Whereas before I was only willing to listen to once side of myself, I’m trying harder now to listen to both sides and find compromise. It’s required honesty with myself, and I think that’s an important part of Judgment’s energy and function.

XVIII The Moon – 6 of Wands – 10 of Pentacles

This last row is interesting. The Moon contradicts the Queen of Pentacles and Judgement above, representing illusion and fear opposite the Queen’s sensibility and Judgement’s clarity. In this case, we have to read this last card as the origin of the others. If we’re peeling the reading back like an onion, the last row represents the innermost layer, the kernel and root of whatever situation is represented in the topmost row. What you can find there is ambiguous, and that’s alright. It’s all part of the process. Sometimes it’s just a third detail, other times something to wary about, and other times it can be advice about how to deal with or approach whatever issue is represented above. You can choose to see the entire last row as advice as I sometimes do (again, total freedom with this spread), and thereby get several tips of valuable insight.

To wrap this up now… The 5 of Wands represents my competitive side more often than not, and I believe that’s what it’s alluding to here as well. The Queen of Swords has helped me rationalize this part of me as well better, and in turn I’ve actually been more successful naturally. 10 of Pentacles deals with now having a more sturdy foundation and sense of pragmatism with which to springboard from.

Points of Resonance:

XX Judgment echoes strongly with the 5, 6, and Knight of Wands, as well as Temperance. We can see all these ideas coming from and being connected to the spiritual awakening represented by XX.

The Queen of Swords, being a little part Virgo, technically does resonate with the 10 of Pentacles, though this connection is certainly not as powerful as the previous one.

That’s about it here. Not too many bridges to be made in this reading, mostly I think because the reading was primarily about Judgment’s current influence in my life, and how it’s inspiring me to try new ventures – hence the Page of Wands on the bottom of the deck. Overall, a good reading for me that makes me feel like I’m doing at least something right.


As you can see, this version of the “3-Card” spread retains the versatility of the traditional spread, but instead advocates less for positioning and more for drawing intuitive connections. In this example there unfortunately were not as many connections as I would have liked, but more often than not there’s a reason for that – usually because whatever connections do exist are powerful enough on their own. Sometimes you get no connections at all, and that can be interpreted and incorporated into your understanding of the reading as well.

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