Once the cards are laid out, their meanings are interpreted based on their positions and their neighboring cards. Let's look at the Celtic Cross spread:
Here is an approach for reading the Celtic Cross spread according to Tarot reader and teacher Joan Bunning [Source: Learn Tarot]. At the right, you can see how this tarot reader and teacher interprets some of the Major Arcana cards.
- Begin by looking at the Circle/Cross section. The cards in this position represent what is happening in your life at the time of the reading.
- Next, look at the first six cards in pairs. These cards paint a picture of your immediate situation. The cards in position 1 (the central issue) and position 2 (the secondary issue that can either be opposing or reinforcing) will identify the central theme of the reading. The cards in position 3 (the root cause that can be an unconscious influence or deeper meaning) and position 5 (your attitudes and beliefs, a conscious influence, your goal or an alternate future) represent things that are going on within you at different levels. And, the cards in position 4 (your past, a receding influence or something that has been resolved) and position 6 (the future or an approaching influence or unresolved factor) represent how people and events are flowing through your life.
- Next, look at the Staff section of the spread, again considering cards in pairs. Looking at the cards in position 7 (as you are, as you could be, as you present yourself and as you see yourself) and position 8 (your outside environment, someone else's point of view and you as others see you) tells you about your relationship with your environment.
- Finally, look at the card in position 10 (the outcome-overall, your inner state, your actions or effects) to see the projected outcome.
Joan Bunning suggests to then ask yourself how you feel about the projected outcome. What does it say to you?
- Go back and review the cards that led up to that outcome, and see if there is a card that stands out as they key to that outcome. Then, look back at card 5 to see if the projected outcome is also shown as an alternate outcome there. Look at the card representing the near future in position 6 to see if it supports or contributes to the projected outcome. Finally, look at the card in position 9 (guidance, key factors, hopes and fears or overlooked factors) to see there is any relevance there.
Because Tarot cards each have one picture that faces in one direction, it is possible that cards will be facing the opposite direction when dealt. According to most sources, this doesn't change the meaning of the card, but simply weakens the impact of the meaning.