Can I Change a Tarot Spread?

There are a lot of Tarot spreads out there. If you follow any Tarot-related hashtag on Instagram, you’ll quickly see how many truly amazing and helpful spreads there are out there. There is a spread for just about every need that there could be. But we are individuals, and while some spreads hit close to the mark, you might be wondering if you can change a tarot spread to resonate more definitely with you.

Some can be quite complex. I know that I am certainly no exception of this. If you’ve looked at some of my spreads for the #30DayTarotWritingChalleng, they get kind of intense when it comes to how many cards and where they go. Or, if you’re not a writer, but into more classic forms of Tarot-reading, such as older ways put forth by Papus or even A. E. Waite in his Pictoral Key to the Tarot, you’ll find long spreads that can involve 32 cards at times. I’ve even seen spreads that require the whole pack!

While there are some intense spreads that can make for a lot of cards to keep track of, likewise there are sometimes cards that just don’t seem necessary to your question or to the reading at all.

For all that the designer of the spread might have intended for each card to have a deep relevance, it doesn’t meant that the tarot reader using the spread necessarily can connect the dots of the spread-maker’s thought process. However, the spread-maker has put thought into the spread, and no-doubt does have a purpose for each card-placement.

So, can we change a tarot spread to make it our own?

The Simple Answer

The simple answer is Yes, we can. We don’t need to keep it just as someone else has created it.

Essentially, when you are using a spread, what needs to be clear in your head is the card positions and their meanings. While you’re shuffling, keeping your question and focus in mind, you need to also be aware of where the cards are going to go when you put them down and the influence those positions will have on your reading.

If you are altering a spread to fit your own personal needs, I have a few suggestions:

  1. Re-write the spread omitting the card position that is seemingly unnecessary.
    This is to avoid any confusion for you while you’re laying the cards out. If you, say, are looking at a picture of a spread you found on Instagram while you shuffle to keep the layout in mind, while also trying to remember that you’re going to remove one of the cards, while also trying to keep in mind the focus of your reading, you’re likely going to confuse yourself. Just save yourself the hassle and re-write the spread somewhere to avoid confusion
  2. Consider if you want to remove the card position altogether or replace it with a different meaning.
    Maybe you don’t actually want to get ride of the placement of the card, but just the meaning of the position. What are you going to replace it with? What do you feel would be a better meaning in that particular position.
    If you are going to do this, some things to consider are the actual physical location of the card and how it corresponded to the position meaning intended by the spread-maker. For example, if it’s the center card in a pyramid-spread, does the position-meaning correspond to the core of the reading?
    Ask yourself how ths card position affects the flow of the reading of the cards around it. In your standard three-card, past/present/future spread, the middle card acts as the bridge between the past and the future, creating the flow of the beginning/middle/end of a story. There is a necessity to the flow. Does the spread you’re altering rely on a flow between the cards?
    Finally, consider the weirdest possibility of card that could come up with that position, and whether or not your new position meaning will make sense with any card showing up there. For example, if you want the position to represent “will I succeed in my goal during this time?” then will it make sense for the Moon to show up in this position? Sure you can look at the definition of the Moon and the message behind it regarding your goal and success, but it won’t give you a yes or a no in this position.

The Complex Answer

The simple answer as to whether or not you can change a tarot spread, or course is yes, you can. However, that leaves room for a complex answer.

The complex answer is that the maker of a spread has put time and thought into the spread. If you are going to alter the spread, then you need to consider the above-mentioned things.

I challenge you to really consider the link of the each card in the spread, and spend time contemplating what the importance of the seemingly unrelated or irrelevant card position might be.

Image Credit and Link to original Source: Divination and Fortune Telling

For example, when I was learning Tarot, I thought that the 9th card position in the Celtic Cross spread, the Hopes/Fears position was superfluous. It was mostly there so that it could make up the ten cards. I thought that what you were afraid of or what you hoped to get in general had nothing to do with the reading. However, after a lot of consideration, reading, studying, and general maturation, I realized that it’s there to serve as any blocks that might be hindering you from getting to the end result. Likewise, it might be the driving force behind you that’s pushing you toward succeeding in your goals.

Considering that the Celtic Cross Spread is usually done as a general reading (well, not always, but it can be most readily done as a general reading), this is an important factor. If at the beginning of my Tarot-learning I had simply just disregarded the position then there would be a large insight that would be missed in my readings and my understanding.

All this to say that when you do come to a reading that seems like it’s complex for complexity’s sake, spend a moment and questions why it might be that way.

To Sum Up

Tarot is a highly personal practice. How we all read the cards is like how we learn—we’re all individuals with different experiences and different ways that our minds work. Therefore, we all will have different ways of learning. Thus, we have different ways of reading the cards. There is no right or wrong way so long as it’s authentic to what resonates with you.

If you don’t resonate with a spread, then don’t use the spread, or you can change a spread to make it your own. However, take the time to really contemplate and consider why it is that it doesn’t resonate with you if you’re planning on altering it, and spend time really working to alter it so that it can best serve you and the art of Tarot.

Remember to always be respectful. That is how communities and individuals evolve and grow.


  1. Hi Karma Star Tarot, your website is so insightful.
    I have a slightly bizarre question: can you change a tarot spread mid-reading? As an example, I decided to deviate from the traditional Celtic cross spread, and tried a 5 card advice spread. As I was laying out the cards, I intuitively felt like I needed or wanted to continue with a more in depth spread. So I decided to start placing the cards into the Celtic cross positions, now that I look back, it was a strange thing for me to do!! I suppose I should have re-shuffled and then proceeded, but I felt drawn to continue the reading with a CC and I was wondering if by doing that I had somehow ‘ruined’ the initial and overall message from the cards.

    Thank you 💫

    1. Oh absolutely! Tarot is all about the intuition and if you are feeling that pull then go with it. If, however, you were doing a read and decided mid way that you didn’t like the spread and decided to change all the positions of the cards, then I would recommend first asking yourself why you want to change it—and be really honest with yourself—then reshuffle and start again at another time. But from what you’ve described, intuition was telling you to use the Celtic Cross, so I say go for it.
      Hope that helps!
      Also—I’m so glad you like the site! Thank you for stopping by!

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