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?

Similar Posts:

24 thoughts on “Past, Present, Future Tarot Spread”

  1. Excellent!!!! I LOVE spreads that separate the deck like that. I think it’s such a smart way to use the cards.
    Your spread, the Tarot Elements Past, Present, Future Spread, is brilliant. A grid is such a useful layout…so easy to see multiple relationships.
    Wow, Catherine…very, very exciting. Thank you for sharing it and I cannot wait to take it out for a test drive.

    • Hey Poppet – glad you like the spread. It’s very accurate and gives a great amount of detail – can’t wait to hear how you get on with it :)
      Thank you for such a wonderfully uplifting comment,

  2. Catherine –
    I love this spread – have used similar spreads in the past, and they work very well. I also have to say that the graphics are gorgeous! Very nice presentation!

    • Hi Bonnie,
      I’m also really pleased with the graphics, they came out so well. I’ll be using them in future spreads with some slight adaptations, need to keep things fresh :)
      As for the spread, I’ve been testing it out for a while now and have had brilliant results with it – glad you enjoyed the post – thank you for such a lovely comment!

  3. Brilliant! Not only do I love the graphics – I love the idea of splitting out the deck .. . . can’t wait to play with this one.

    • Hi Nancy,
      The splitting of the deck gives the best results, every single time. I have a deck permanently split for designing spreads and general tarot work and exercises so I always have one to hand. You can still use the Minors as a group, but by far the best results come about by splitting the deck and positioning them onto their elemental equivalents – gets right to the heart of the issues.
      Glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for a lovely comment :)

    • Catherine,
      I would definitely appreciate hearing more on why you feel this way. I find splitting the deck frustrating myself (but maybe that’s from when I was using only one deck and couldn’t leave it split), so would love to hear a gung ho argument for it… Blog post maybe?
      Now off to actually read this post…

    • Hi Megan – I would be more than happy to discuss the reasons and benefits of splitting the deck for this spread with you – come back to me when you’ve read the post and we’ll go over things, if you still feel you would like to :)

    • Finally read the post! I really like this adaptation and am going to go play with it now.
      I’m not really so concerned about this spread in particular, as I am interested in hearing the pros and cons, in generally, of using a split deck.

    • Thanks Helen – glad you enjoyed the post, I’d love to hear how you get on using the spread – thank you for your comment :)

  4. this is my first visit since your makeover . LOVE IT! i shall return tomorrow and read ….thank you! you do wonderful work!

    • Hi Mzzlee – thank you for a lovely comment and thank you for visiting my blog again – I’m looking forward to seeing you here and chatting with you! :)

  5. Good spread, I will try it, although I can’t help feeling that the results might be slightly more, umm…meaty …if you didn’t seperate the suits :)

    • Well they do say “don’t knock it until you try it.” I’ve road tested this spread for a while now and can definitely vouch for its meatiness. You can though, if you prefer, not split the deck, though it does defeat the object of zooming right in on the specifics of those areas of your life. Matching the suits to their elements is what gives this spread its meatiness, in my opinion :)

  6. Hi Catherine :) ,
    your style looks to be a very interesting variation of the simple PPF-spread.
    I will try it out soon!
    Thank your for sharing this spread.

    • Hi Phine – how lovely to see you here again! I’m glad you like the look of my new version of the PPF Spread and hope you share your experience with me – thank you for a lovely comment :)

  7. Hi Catherine,
    Well. You’ve done it again!!! Brilliant spread and will certainly take it out for a spin asap. Love your web-site – so professional, easy to use and what I would expect for a great teacher. How on earth do you find time to fit everything in Catherine? Everywhere I go on the net you are there!
    Love and light,

    • Hi Brian – thank you for such a great comment! I hope you like the spread when you take it out for a spin :) I’ve been using it for a while now with great sucess, though I spent quite a bit of time fine tuning it – I’m very pleased with how it developed and how so many other people are using it and praising it. Makes me very happy :: I’ve got a few more lined up to come out over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned because I think you’re really going to like them!

  8. I will definitely give this spread a try. You did a wonderful presentation with the article. I also hate the process of dividing the suits and trumps, BUT having one deck just for this type of spread, well that’s an idea.
    Love your blog,

  9. Hey Catherine,
    Just came back to tell you that I’ve been experimenting with this spread with my clients and am really liking, so are they btw. The only thing I find awkward is the Swords line being about problems, I’m thinking of playing with that association, if you don’t mind :).
    If you’d be willing, I’d love to see a sample riding with this ass I’m finding it difficult to read diagonally and weave through the thread as you suggest. I flearn best seeing a thing done so I figure that’s why I’m struggling there. Otherrwise, one of my fav spreads, I’m slowly replacing the Celtic cross with it!

  10. Hi there Catherine
    like always i come to your site having something that I want to look at and I see another brilliant post wow, I have a deck that I am going to split and leave split for the time being, the divine tarot by marchetti good choice i feel I think that this deck has a certain kick for me so I feel that this type of reading style would be good for this deck, mind you i don’t have any clients yet by this i mean that i am not a pro like you i have ben practicing a lot on my pals and family with good results so here’s to a good look at this.
    I like this kind of format funnily enough I do the past present desires and future with four lots like this and get brill results as you say you can zig zag and pull all sorts into the reading, never thought of the elements and majorss at the bottom sounds cool will let you know how i get on, ahhhhh well looking for some guinee pigs now hehe.

  11. Hi!
    I tried this method and is really interesting. After the analysis I did also the card counting like in the opening of the key spread. What do you think about doing the two together?

    • Hi Fred – Welcome to Tarot Elements! I’m a great supporter of Card Counting and would agree that you card count any spread – including the TE Past, Present & Future spread. What’s also handy with a grid layout is that you don’t need to put the cards out into a straight line as they’re nearly in one already. Did you continue counting from the end back onto the beginning too?
      Thank you for trying out the spread and for taking the time to comment – I’d love to know if the card counting made any differences to your original PPF reading, please share…!

Comments are closed.