3-2-1 Tarot Spread

Sometimes all you need from a tarot spread is a quick snapshot of the situation and the direction it’s heading in. You may also want to be able to go back to your reading and glean some more information from it. What if you also want to apply some other techniques you couldn’t apply to other tarot spreads, like elemental dignities?

The 3-2-1 Tarot Spread will give you just that, and more, as I will show you…

Lay 3 cards out in a row – these are your ‘scene-setters’ and will tell you what is happening currently.
Lay 2 cards over the first 3 – these are showing you the direction your situation is heading in. What’s interesting about these two cards are that they are often the product of the two they overlap & are directly related to them, the next step in the development of your situation.
Finally lay the last card on top of the previous two, overlapping them also. This is your projected outcome for your situation and again is the product, or culmination of the previous two cards.

A 3-2-1 Tarot Reading

To show you how effective this little tarot spread is, I’ve done a reading with it for myself using the gorgeous Sun and Moon Tarot. I’ve been working behind the scenes recently to bring a new Tarot Card Meanings section and a Forum to the blog. Both of these sections will be intrinsically linked so it made sense to ask about them both, and the success of the project.

3 2 1 tarot spread with the sun and moon tarot deck
If we look at the top line first, we can see the 10 of Wands, the 10 of Pentacles and the Universe (the World). This makes lots of sense to me as I’ve devoted all of my time to this project and while I love seeing it come together, I’m also feeling the strain of it. It is nearing completion, for stage one and I’m really satisfied with it so far.
The second line is a product of the first, meaning the 4 of Wands is a product of the 10 of Wands and 10 of Pentacles. What a great product! We could say the 10 of Pentacles gave support and life to the 10 of Wands, resulting in our first stage of completion, the 4 of Wands. Those three cards also make an interesting combo if we read them in a triad.
The second card of the second line, the Ace of Pentacles, is a product of the 10 of Pentacles and the Universe. How fabulous! The 10 of Pentacles is the energy of this reading and is being very productive! Success and productivity all in one line – I couldn’t ask for more.
The final outcome, or the result of all the cards is the 4 of Pentacles. Not the best card in most decks, but in the Sun and Moon Tarot, a redrawing of the Thoth Tarot and blended with the Rider Waite-Smith, it represents power, of the foundation kind. Building a strong foundation by tapping into your personal power and using the power of the elements in creation.
With that in mind, and as the outcome card, the 4 of Pentacles is excellent. The Ace of Pentacles rooted the 4 of Wands and gave it form. Stage one now has a strong foundation. I’m happy and can look at the 10 of Wands with an easier eye now.

I’m also loving the repeating pattern of three circles found on the Universe, the 4 of Wands and the Ace of Pentacles – suggesting cycles and continuation and in a perfect grouping of 3:

Triplicity, expression, expansion of the idea, growth, first stages of completion.

Tarot Tip: Because the number of cards in this spread is a multiple of 3, you can use Elemental Dignities if you like. Or, if you prefer, you can just read in groups of two or three creating tarot card combinations to gain extra information.

FREE: download a PDF handout of the 3,2,1 Tarot Spread for free. Simply click the image below and save from your web browser.
3-2-1 Tarot Spread using the Sun and Moon Tarot

Featured Tarot Deck: the Sun and Moon Tarot by Vanessa Decort, published by US Games Inc. Available to both US and UK readers.

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28 thoughts on “3-2-1 Tarot Spread”

  1. I just did this one with my WS deck & I’m very happy with my reading, too! Nothing but wands & pentacles. I love how each “couple” on the line give birth to the cards on the next one & so on. My final card was Knight of Wands :D As always, great work, Kate! I can’t wait to incorporate this one into my playlist of spreads!
    Love, Stacy

  2. I’ve not tried this yet, but I conceptually love it, and the spread you’ve show illustrates it marvellously!

    • Hi Linette –
      Glad you like the 3-2-1 Tarot Spread – it’s one that’s never lets me down and has so much potential. It can be a quick spread but it can also get very in depth.
      Thanks for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements :)

  3. Hi Catherine,
    even though I didn´t show up or some time, I´m still reading your site ;-) !
    I know a quite similar spread from the oraclecards. But I never thought of using it with a tarotdeck. You´re reading is very inspiring – I will try it out soon.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Phine – lovely to see you again, I hope you are well.
      Thanks for your comment – do let me know how you get on with the spread for tarot, and of course if you apply elemental dignities to it.
      Warm wishes,

  4. I tried this spread. I love it!
    short and to the point
    I llike simple spreads that words and this ones great.
    tks for posting

    • Hi Lorraine,
      It’s a cutie, isn’t it?! Multi-layered, multi-talented and just awesome!
      Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements :)
      Warm wishes

  5. I love this spread! Simple, to the point, and especially the additional layer of having the layers of meaning on the cards from the first row funnel down to create the next rows. Very nice. Thank you!

    • Hi Dixie,
      Glad you love the 3-2-1 Tarot Spread! The sequential nature of the spread just follows the pattern of life and living, events give birth to the future ones and so on – makes sense to have a tarot spread do the same.
      Thanks for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements :)
      Warm wishes,

  6. For me this spread is one of the best to do. Very easy to do and very easy to read, it is perfect for a quick use and even for accurate reading because, in my opinion, choosing to much tarot card in a celtinc cross can drive tarot reader in the wrong way.

    • Hi Diana,
      I agree – a short snappy spread is great, especially one like this that can also give detailed information.
      Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements :)
      Warm wishes,

  7. well, thats pretty amazing and simple. I like simple spreads like this one. sometimes it is not about intuition and therefore I really love the guidance by simple letting the cards do “the work”.

    • Hey there,
      I think the scene setters give you the flavour of the reading, being a three card combo, it’s easy enough to translate. Moving sequentially allows the story to develop and narrows the combos until we’re left with one – simple, as you say.
      Thank you for a great comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements :)
      Warm wishes,

  8. This is intersting, but I’m a beginner so do you think you could maybe explain a bit or describe what the cards mean for your question? Like, what do you make of the two tens and the world; and how to you combine the two tens with the 4?

    • HI Dave,
      The first line are the scene setters, there here and now, if you will. So to have 3 cards showing completion – each ten and the World are all representative of the finalising or finishing of a project/job/thing. Combine them all together and we have completion of all stages of the work I’ve been doing on the blog.
      When we have a closing or a bringing to an end, by its very nature, we also have a beginning. So while the completion is there, it makes way for the next phase, namely the 4 of Wands and the Ace of Pentacles. In order for them to manifest, we needed to bring the first stage to a close. And what a closing it was. A nigh on perfect closing!
      In this spread, the two tens from the scene setters and the four from the next stage are sequential and not necessarily combined. You could, for extra info, but you’d do better to see how the two can produce the one. My cards worked out really nicely, but if you had a less than perfect card on the second row, you’d look to the previous two on the top row to see why.
      An easy way to combine them is to place them in a row making sure to keep their sequence. For example, 10 of Wands, 10 of Pentacles, 4 of Wands – then read that as a combo. Either blend their meanings or read them sequentially. Reading them sequentially will give us the interpretation that we gained while the cards were in the spread. Blending them is a finer art but I would still give a similar interpretation, that after much hard work and a nice payday, you begin work on the next phase, not taking a break or coming up for air. This pays dividends.
      Of course this type of work ethic, while admiral can be exhausting and we could be looking at a repeating pattern with the 10 of Wands returning in a later spread. This combo could indeed be showing the cards of a workaholic or obsessed (or driven?) worker.
      Does that help?

    • That’s good to hear!
      We have a brand new forum now where you can discuss your tarot reading experiences or ask questions – it would be great to see you in there.
      Ping me an email if you do join and I will upgrade you to the Rainbow Rooms.

  9. hey i thought this was an intense reading i went into it with the intention to learn a little bit about the current situation im in with my boyfriend and to see how we are and are going to make progress. i shuffled my cards spread them out and at random i pulled for the first 3 i got: justice, the high priestess, and strength. for the 2 overlapping i pulled the universe and the chariot and the last single card i pulled the ace of cups, i feel this reading has great significance.

    • Hi Stephanie,
      Your reading is pretty intense! A great outcome card in the Ace of Cups – did you feel the other cards reflected your situation?
      Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Tarot Elements :)

  10. I asked a question about a current love interest and wondering what is stopping him from moving forward towards a relationship. The first three cards that came up representing the present situation were the 7 of swords, the lovers and the devil. What do you interpret that to mean?

    • Hi Jen,
      It could mean that as much as the thought of connecting with you has appeal and on many levels he wants to (the Lovers), he is also a bit lazy (7 of Swords) and wonders if he really wants the commitment. He may also be involved with someone else (the Devil), or recently broke up from someone else but is in the aftermath period and just not in the right place mentally and energetically to get deeply involved with another.
      Hope that helps,

  11. Hi Catherine,
    I am a fairly new card reader, 6 months at 1-2 hours daily, and I love your site. Combined with Doug over at Taroteon, you two have been far more helpful than all of the books combined! Honestly. The only book I still use regularly is 78 Degrees of Wisdom.
    I just did the 3,2,1 spread and I felt like something was missing, my question wasn’t answered, it added more question. I will turn it upside down, inside out, and use elemental dignities to search deeper later. I always follow my instincts and I felt called to pull a card from the top and the bottom of the deck (the bottom of the deck has been calling a LOT lately) and after doing that I felt I had a complete picture of the situation.
    I would love your opinion on answering those “calls” and where to place the cards in this layout. My instinct was to add an inverted triad to the bottom and that the extra cards represent the unseen, unacknowledged emotions involved in the parties involved in the question.
    Any thoughts regarding this would be greatly appreciated.
    Warmest regards,
    PS: I would love to know what the Rainbow Rooms are all about!

    • Hi Yvonne,
      Whenever you feel called to pull an extra card, you should just follow it. Some say this is the Universe prompting you, others say it’s your Higher Self. Either way, it’s usually the right call. Adapting any spread even temporarily is totally fine and should be encouraged to obtain the fullest answer to the question. Adding an inverted triangle at the bottom of the spread is a great way to assess subconscious thought and unseen motives and actions. Just follow your heart and prompts and you will be fine. As for placing extra cards, just follow where you feel lead. A spread is only really a guide to help see the interaction between the cards and to give the reading direction.
      The Rainbow Rooms were part of a forum I had here for a time.

  12. Thank you so much Catherine, you confirmed everything I felt called to do. I appreciate your time and all of the information you provided; it is such a blessing!

    • Thanks, Patrice – I hope you like using it & find the clarity you seek.

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