Spread overview

The 'Past, Present, Future' tarot spread is a succinct, yet powerful, divination tool that provides insights into the chronological progression of situations or personal journeys. This three-card layout is among the most popular spreads for beginners and seasoned readers alike due to its simplicity and the profound perspective it can offer on a querent's life path. The spread works on the principle that our past experiences shape the present and influence the future. By understanding the energy and lessons of these three temporal states, one can gain clarity on their current situation and make informed decisions moving forward.

This spread can be used for many types of inquiries, ranging from love and relationships to career and personal growth. It can reveal underlying patterns, highlight ongoing issues, and suggest possible outcomes based on the querent’s current trajectory. With just three cards, the spread can unpack complex life questions with surprising depth and relevance.

Adopting an introspective and meditative approach before shuffling and laying out the cards is essential to achieve the most accurate reading possible. The reader must focus on channeling the energy and intention of the querent while asking clear questions that resonate with the issue at hand. A well-executed three-card spread provides a snapshot of the querent's journey, encapsulating the past's influence, the present's reality, and the potential of the future.

Three card "Past, Present, Future" spread

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Ten of Cups tarot card


The Hanged Man tarot card


King of Cups tarot card


Ten of Cups tarot card

The Ten of Cups upright is a powerful symbol of emotional fulfillment, happiness, and family bliss. It suggests a harmonious home life, strong familial bonds, and a sense of contentment and gratitude. This card heralds a period of stability and joy, where love and support abound.

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The Hanged Man tarot card

The Hanged Man symbolizes a necessary pause, reflection, and sacrifice for personal growth. It highlights the power of surrender to gain wisdom and the need to reassess one's path from a new perspective.

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King of Cups tarot card

The upright King of Cups symbolizes mature emotional leadership, compassion, and diplomatic handling of situations. It represents a wise, understanding individual who balances emotion and intellect, often acting as a counselor or healer.

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The tarot card meanings provided here offer general insights and may not precisely reflect your personal question. Use this tool as a catalyst for self-discovery, understanding that the interpretation is subjective, and the true value lies in your own reflections.

What questions you can ask?

When approaching the 'Past, Present, Future' tarot spread, it is crucial to formulate questions that are open-ended and reflective. This type of questioning allows for deeper exploration and a more nuanced reading of the cards.

What can I learn from my past experiences? How is my history influencing my present? What themes from my past are still affecting me today?

In regards to the present: How am I currently navigating my circumstances? What energies are surrounding me right now? What challenges and opportunities are before me at this moment?

For the future: What is the likely outcome of my current path if I continue as I am? What can I do to reach the future I desire? What guidance or warnings do the cards offer for my forthcoming journey?

What questions better to avoid?

The 'Past, Present, Future' tarot spread may not be suitable for questions that require specific yes or no answers, as the cards intend to provide a narrative rather than a single point of resolution.

Avoid questions that remove agency or suggest predestination, such as: Is my future set in stone? Will I win the lottery? Are my current challenges a result of a curse or bad luck?

Steer clear of questions that invade another person’s privacy or agency, for instance: What is someone else thinking or feeling about me? How can I make a specific person act in a certain way?

Lastly, it's advisable not to ask about specific dates or times as tarot reading is more about trends and energies rather than predicting exact moments.

Spread step by step guide

  1. Center and ground yourself, focusing on the present moment to prepare for the reading.

  2. Have the querent shuffle the deck while concentrating on their question or the area of life they're inquiring about.

  3. Cut the deck with the left hand, symbolizing the subconscious mind, and restack the cards.

  4. Lay out the first card on the left representing the past and its influences or lessons.

  5. Place the second card in the center to reveal the present situation and current energies.

  6. Reveal the third card on the right to indicate the potential future and guidance moving forward.

  7. Interpret each card individually and consider their cumulative narrative.

  8. Clarify the reading by summarizing the interconnection between the past, present, and future cards.

Card positions in details

In the 'Past, Present, Future' tarot spread, the position of each card plays a pivotal role in its interpretation.

The first card symbolizes the Past. This card highlights previous experiences, lessons learned, and factors from the querent’s historical backdrop that influence their current circumstances.

For the Present, the second card reflects the querent's current situation. It sheds light on the immediate environment, challenges being faced, and the state of mind that dictates the querent’s actions.

The third card represents the Future. It speaks to the potential outcome of the present path the querent is on, giving insight into possible developments and suggesting ways the querent might navigate to achieve their desired outcomes.

Sample of reading

A client, Julia, approached me with concerns about her career trajectory. She felt stagnant and was unsure if she should seek new opportunities or improve her situation at her current job.

After shuffling the cards, she drew the following: The Eight of Cups for the Past, The Chariot for the Present, and The Sun for the Future.

I explained to Julia that the Eight of Cups indicated she had outgrown her current role and recognized the need to move on, seeking higher fulfillment.

The Chariot in her Present position signified that she possessed the willpower and determination to overcome her current obstacles. It pointed towards a period of struggle, but with a need for focus and self-discipline.

The Sun as her Future suggested that bright prospects and success were ahead, as long as she maintained her confidence and pursued her path with joy and positivity.

In summary, the spread suggested that although Julia's past experiences called for moving beyond her current comfort zone, the Present required her to take the reins firmly and drive herself towards the joyous outcome promised by The Sun.

Spread tips

  1. Stay neutral and open-minded throughout the reading, allowing the cards to speak without imposing personal bias.

  2. Encourage the querent to participate actively by reflecting on the cards drawn and their personal connections to the past, present, and future.

  3. Use intuitive insights to weave the story between the cards, rather than considering each in isolation.

  4. Be mindful of the querent's emotional responses and provide supportive insights to guide them through any revelations or challenges.

  5. Keep the reading focused on empowerment and growth. Offer actionable advice that the querent can apply to their situation.

Common mistakes

  1. Rushing the reading and not taking enough time to connect with the cards and the querent's energy.

  2. Providing overly deterministic interpretations that leave no room for the querent’s free will or potential to change circumstances.

  3. Ignoring the symbiotic relationship between the cards, which can lead to a disjointed or superficial reading.

  4. Failing to clarify the context of the questions, which can result in vague or irrelevant advice.

  5. Overlooking the emotional and psychological impact readings may have and not offering compassionate guidance.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Can the 'Future' card predict exact events or timeframes?

No, the 'Future' card suggests trends and potential outcomes rather than specific events or timing.

Is it possible to change the outcome represented by the 'Future' card?

Yes, the future is not fixed, and the card indicates what may happen based on the current trajectory. Actions taken in the present can change the outcome.

Can I use the 'Past, Present, Future' spread for questions about other people?

While you can, it's important to keep the focus on how their situation affects the querent, without invading the other person's privacy or agency.

How often can I do this spread about the same topic?

It's best to wait until there have been significant developments or a change in the querent's circumstances to avoid redundant readings.

Does it matter which tarot deck I use for this spread?

No, any tarot deck can be used for this spread, though one should choose a deck that resonates with them personally.

Are clarifying cards necessary in this spread?

Clarifying cards are not necessary but can be helpful in bringing additional insight or detail to a reading if the initial cards seem unclear.

Check other tarot spreads