Breaking Down the Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is one of the most famous tarot spreads.  Many readers use it…yet many more are intimidated by it.

The Celtic Cross can give a wealth of information about a particular situation but it also lends well to general outlooks or closing spreads, which is why I think it’s particularly brilliant.

This series is intended to help take the fear out of it – and help you discover tips ‘n tweaks so that you can get the hang of it once and for all.  Stay tuned as I continue to add tutorials to this series once a month.

The Recent Past position

To the left of the mini-cross is the “recent past” position.  This indicates what is leaving the situation or recent events that are now beginning to fade.

That doesn’t mean that these events, good or bad, no longer have an impact.  Although they may be receding into the background, the imprint lingers but unlike the card at the bottom (the past) it’s not as strong.

In other words: this shows what’s leaving but also what you might be taking away from the situation. What are you bringing forward – or leaving behind?

Let’s look at an example.  Using the cards from the previous lesson on the Past position, we have the Two of Swords crossed by Strength and the Tower in the Past position.  If we put the Three of Swords reversed in the Recent Past, this would show a person who has gone through a major upheaval, perhaps a divorce, and has recently begun the healing process.  The healing  may be slow going but they are becoming stronger day by day. They might even look back and realize that this divorce was necessary.

Breaking Down the Celtic Cross - Lesson 4: The recent past position


But what if the Recent Past was the Three of Cups? That might show that recently someone new entered the picture and it caused great upheaval in the querent’s life.  Now they are trying to make a decision between two partners.  The decision will not be easy to make because perhaps both partners bring something to the querent’s life. This will require much contemplation.

See how that works?

Breaking Down the Celtic Cross - Lesson 4: The recent past example two


Again, the Tower is critical because it shows a massive change has happened – and that recent past card is giving you an idea of how this is shaping up.

What if the querent asked the questions “what are you bringing forward – and what are you leaving behind?”

In the first example, they may say that they are leaving the relationship behind and accepting a new beginning.  In the second example, the querent may realize that this new relationship has been a wake up call, a catalyst, to examine whether or not they are really happy with the other person.

Mini tips:

Look at both the past and recent past – they are forming a foundation for the present moment. These two cards give clues as to how the querent got in the current position.

If the past cards are both positive, it could be symbolizing good decisions and a period of happiness or success moving into the background.  Both negative?  We’re coming out of a shit storm.  Both Majors?  Huge, important cycle is behind.  Both Court Cards?  Lots of people have been playing a role in the past – or the querent may be putting some people into their past.  Play around with these combos and start looking at what story they are trying to tell.


Get your tarot journal and your favorite deck.  Lay out a mini cross along with cards to represent the past and the recent past.  How might the recent past be influencing the mini cross?  How might the past position influence the card in the recent past?  Now – switch the recent past card with a new one.  Once again, contemplate what affect this card might have on the others.  Do a few more.

Even better, go through the whole deck, putting down a different card in the recent past position but keeping the same cards for the mini cross and past positions.  How might different cards in the recent past influence them?  If you were a tarot detective, what clues might you garner from the recent past and past positions if you had no question to focus on? Journal your face off.



© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2016

deck featured in the header image is the fabulous Fountain Tarot ; other cards are from the Rider Waite deck.

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