Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread

One of the first tarot spreads we learn as budding Tarot readers is the classic Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread. It can be found in nearly all Tarot deck companion books and is featured in a large number of other tarot books too. This is for good reason – it’s a nice simple spread that’s easy to remember and easy for any new tarot reader to learn and understand when used for themselves or for their friends and family.

It deals with any question, of any nature and gives a great deal of insight into where you’ve come from, where you are and where you’re heading. A simple Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread looks like this:


simple past, present, future tarot spread

Giving the Tarot Spread a Makeover

The simplicity of this spread allows for a fine makeover and with a few simple additions and adjustments, this classic has now become a serious contender in the General Tarot Readings genre, holding itself well against other, highly regarded tarot spreads.

The Four Elements

I’ve included the Four Elements to represent specific areas of your life. These are well known, and if you would like to read more about them and their link to tarot, see my blog post The Four Elements and the Tarot Aces.

By adding the Four Elements, the Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread has gone from a single card in each position, to four – allowing for a much more detailed look at your own situation, or that of your client’s.

How does the Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread work?

The traditional Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread works by putting the three cards side by side, as the title suggests. In giving this spread a makeover, I gave it a change-over too. The positions of the past, present and future now run downwards with the Four Elements running across.

This gives you the past, present and future for each area of your life that the Four Elements cover, including your work, your relationships, your problems and your money.

To help you get an idea of how this works, let’s take a look at the new Tarot Elements Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread:

tarot elements past, present, future tarot spread

So what else is new?

Advice from the Major Arcana

The Major Arcana have long been seen as the royal family of the tarot. They are often thought of as psychological archetypes, or phases in our journey through life. They are seen as the big players and powerful natural forces. Who better to advise us when the going gets tough!

The last row of cards on the bottom of the spread come directly from the Major Arcana, one card in each element to offer advice for the future. This is especially helpful if one or more of the future cards are less than favourable. The advice from the Major Arcana card can be helpful in averting the danger, or to help you make choices that may smooth the way.

The Soul Journey Tarot Spread shows perfectly how wonderful the messages from the Major Arcana can be and why we should pay particular attention to them.

Do I have to split the deck up then to do that?

Yes! In fact, you have to split the deck up completely to get the most out of this spread. Take your favourite tarot deck and separate the cards into the suits, Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. This leaves you with the Major Arcana which you need to put to one side until the end. Shuffle each suit separately and deal out one card in each position according to its element.

For example, deal one card in the Past position for Fire, one in the Present for Fire and one in the Future for Fire. This means you will have dealt three Wands, or fire cards, in the three Fire positions of the spread. Repeat this for the remaining suits. Finally, take your Major Arcana and deal out four cards, one in each elemental position beginning with Fire.

*The point of this is to keep the suits, their themes and their elements totally relevant to each other. Relationship cards in the element of relationships (Cups and water) etc. You can, if you prefer, just separate the Major Arcana from the deck and deal out the Minor Arcana just as they are, into the elemental positions. I would urge you to try my original method as it offers terrific clarity particularly when you can see the relevant suits together.

The benefits of having sixteen tarot cards instead of three

Ok, I know that sounds like a lot, but once you try this spread, you will be converted and won’t even notice that there’s sixteen cards at all! Each card has its own position and so helps to maintain a sense of order.

For those who like to free flow a little, you will find that by reading diagonally, you will see how past events in one area of your life have affected other areas too. This criss-crossing allows for a very detailed story to be told and allows for freedom to move amongst the cards for the reader while the whole spread remains contained.

The Stepping Stones to Success Tarot Reading Method works really well with this tarot spread too as well as being an excellent tarot reading method by itself. Go check it out!

A quick recap and summary of what to do

    1. Take your favourite tarot deck and separate the cards into their suits and the Major Arcana
    2. Shuffle each suit separately and deal out one card in each past, present and future position according to its element (Wands for Fire etc.)
    3. Shuffle the Major Arcana and deal out one card in each elemental position across the bottom of the spread

The following two instructions can be done in either order:

  1. Read all the cards in each past, present and future position beginning with the Past (reading across)
  2. Read all the cards in their elemental positions beginning with Fire (reading downwards)
  3. Read the Major Arcana cards at the end of the spread
  4. For extra information, and to really impress your clients, weave across the cards in all directions pulling all areas of their lives into your narrative

Well there it is, after an Extreme Makeover, the Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread, Tarot Elements style. I hope you give it a try – I’d also love to hear how you get on with it, so don’t hold back! See you in the comments?

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