3 Card Tarot Spread ~ Past, Present, Future

3 card tarot layout
Card back images are from the Universal Waite Tarot Deck, U.S. Games, Inc.

This 3 card tarot spread is a quick and simple way to get insight into the past, present and future. There are many variations on the 3 card tarot spread, including the past life tarot spread, but this is one of the most common and useful (in my opinion!) spreads. This spread also works great with oracle cards if you prefer using those.

1. Past

  • Energies and events that are in the past yet still effect you
  • How your past either holds you back (blocks) or helps you move forward (growth)
  • What you need to take from the past and use to your advantage today

2. Present

  • What is going on for you right now
  • The energy of the present moment
  • Opportunities and challenges that are currently being presented to you

3. Future

      • Outcome of situation
      • The direction that things seem to be moving in
      • What you are wanting

Look closer at each card and ask yourself what it represents:

Some possibilities are…..

        • A person in your life
        • A situation
        • Your emotions / feelings
        • Your thoughts
        • You and the way you are approaching things
        • A new way of seeing things
        • A possible solution

Here is a video demonstration and mini lesson (taught by me!) on how to read tarot cards using the past, present, future 3 card tarot spread:

Β See more tarot card spreads…

58 thoughts on “3 Card Tarot Spread ~ Past, Present, Future”

  1. Can you help me interpret my spread? It’s the first one I’ve ever done
    Past: The Emperor
    Present: The Star
    Future: 2 of Pentacles

    Thank you!!!

  2. Jessica Martin

    Present : up right 8 of cups
    Past: reversed queen of cups
    Future : reverse 10 of cups
    Can u tell me what this means pls

    1. I think that it’s saying that there was a bad friend mother-in-law a person in her life and she’s afraid to move on but everything is going to be okay in the future a bad person is going to come back she just needs to keep her eyes open

  3. Past- upside down: The Moon
    Present- upside down: The Emperor
    Future- upside down: The Star

    What does this mean?

  4. Here are the cards I received in this order:

    Past: Three of Wands (Reversed)
    Present: Hierophant (Upright)
    Future: The Devil (Upright)

  5. I did a 3 card Past Present Future spread for my relationship and got the following:

    Past – The World
    Present – 3 of Pentacles
    Future – Judgement (Reversed)

    Any insight would be appreciated x

  6. I did a love reading for past-present-future. Can someone help me understand what it means?
    Past – Seven of swords
    Present – High Priestess
    Future – Ten of swords

  7. I pulled 3 cards for a 3 card spread and I’m a bit confused can someone help me
    5 of Wands
    Knight of cups
    The Empress
    What do these cards mean
    I’m female 41 years old

  8. kate, i’ve been doing readings for 10 years, this is simple…
    the querent was in charge and could have created any result they wanted, but made the wrong choice and is now so unhappy that they are thinking of walking away, what they want is being in charge and real love – and a woman
    – you can’t ignore that it’s a Queen and a person vs just the energy of the card.
    i do mini readings only – usually for millennials. Court cards require knowing if the querent is male or female – then that makes all the difference in the reading. No?

  9. My reading past future present. Past queen of swords, future five of pentacles, present upside down two of wands. I need help understand my reading plz help

  10. A person just did a past present and future reading for me but I would like a little extra help understanding it if you could help
    First she said a card that kept coming up while shuffling was the Ace of cups she felt this significant to tell me
    Past card was The Justice card
    Present card was 3 Of Cups Future card was Son Of Wands

    Any help with a better understanding would be appreciated please and thank you

  11. IV if Wands Past
    Ace of Pentacles Present
    Knight of Wands Future

    What does it mean on my situation right now as far as creativity, work wealth etc

  12. Hi,
    When doing the three card past present and future spread… should I cut the deck into three piles first before revealing each card or rather take three cards straight from the full single deck?

    1. King of Cups in your past I think is a caring person in your past, maybe your father or somebody mature that led you to your present situation (4 of cups) of celebration and being happy and fulfilled. The celebration may also be a factor in your near future of finding/being in a loving and harmonious relationship or partnership. It may be romantic, family or career/business partnership.

  13. Hi guys,
    I have just given myself my first reading using this spread.. I have come up with my version of events (so to speak) but would love to hear others veiws to see if I’m on the right track ????
    The cards I drew were..
    1. Past – 10 of swords
    2. Present – The Empress reversed
    3. Future – The Devil reversed

    Also.. I do read reversals just to make life complicated

  14. Past present and future reading
    I’m trying to get my tarot skills back
    Past-8 wands
    Present-knight Of cups
    Future-10 of swords
    All rx

    Can’t get my head round it x

  15. im still learning the meanings to all the cards but did a quick reading ion myself and drew them in this order
    past 8 of swords
    present the hierophant
    future 5 of pentacle

    1. I see this spread as telling a story about feeling mentally stuck, not feeling you can move forward, maybe not feeling you are entitled to express your opinion. There may have been people in your life who gave you this message,, yet you have accepted some of these mental limitations as your own. The hierophant card seems to be saying that you have spiritual protection and guidance, possibly from a male mentor or spirit guide and some traditional spiritual values that are healing and supportive. The five of wands is saying to me that you are moving in the direction of expressing your opinion and not being afraid to go out in the world and fight for what you want.

  16. Please settle a debate my friends are currently having..

    What tarot card represents “gambling” ?..

    not after a reading about me gambling.. I’m after your technical knowledge..
    Which tarot card best indicates ‘Gambling/lottery” type of thing?…

    Your expert opinion will weigh very heavily within our group discussion..

      1. yes Wheel of fortune is included..
        answer is

        WF_?_? => luck..

        for 3-card layout… it’s the other 2 cards I’m after..

  17. Hi I got my cards out for the first time in years and did a 3 card spread for myself.
    Past- 5of pentacle
    Present- 5of cups
    Future- 5of wands

    I’ve been discussing it with my work colleague who is also relearning tarot, and the three 5 cards have got us stumped, because that can’t just be a coincidence surely!

    Help would be much appreciated!

  18. Hi Kate,

    I’m looking for a spread that I can use for guidance on specific topics. I’m not quite ready for the Celtic cross. Would this spread be a good option for a specific question?


    1. Hi Alison,
      I hear you – the Celtic Cross is probably my least favorite spread for a specific question.
      I would use this past/present/future spread, but modify it a bit, depending on your question.
      I like to substitute “what I need to let go of” for the “past” card, and “action I need to take” in the “future” position.
      Good luck!


        1. Thank yall for asking and answering the questions. I am feeling drawn to do readings and I am greenish. These informative threads are so helpful.

  19. Hi, I just wanted to ask, is there a right kind of deck I should look out for? I got mine at a store called half priced books and my boyfriend said that I got the kind you “play” tarot with. Like a card game. I have looked it up and there is a card game but i am not sure if i can use this deck or if i should just go to an actual store and get them. Please help me! Im so confused right now. The deck says it was illustrated like a Marseilles Tarot Deck. Hope that last bit helped in telling me what kind of deck i have.

    1. Hi Gabrielle,
      Don’t worry, you didn’t get the wrong kind of deck. You probably have a pip deck – which is a Tarot deck whose minor arcana cards are not fully illustrated, meaning the minors look similar to a playing card deck. These kind of decks are much harder to learn on than a Rider-Waite style deck, which is a fully illustrated deck (there are scenes on all the cards). If you are serious about learning Tarot i would get the Rider Waite Deck. Keep the deck you’ve got though, it’s not bad it’s just harder to learn with.
      Hope that helps!

  20. So glad I found this information! I just learning the art of Tarot cards and now know how to read them this way.

  21. I recently found your site and am enjoying it. I have a generic question and one that’s probably been asked a million times. I’ve been dabbling in Tarot off and on for years and have, for the last month or so, been getting serious about it. I have used the Connolly Deck for all of this time and recently bought the Ryder-Waite deck that I’m only beginning to look at. However, the cards in the readings and interpretations that you’ve done on video for demo’s using the R-W deck are vastly different than my deck. How do I integrate the two without having to start all over? I’m also using a book called “Choice Centered Tarot” and I think that the way they describe the implication of the number on the cards may have something to do with why the decks may seem so different. Help?

  22. hello, i am a beginner in reading cards would u say that to begin learning that i dont look at the meaning or interpretations of the cards that someone else wrote and that i should use the “insight” that i get from the cards. basically i am asking should i use my own understanding of a card or should i use one from another reader.

    1. Rebecca, I think it’s best to use your own understanding first. Hearing other’s ideas about cards can be helpful, but it shouldn’t supercede your own ideas!
      Good luck πŸ™‚

  23. Hi, I was just wondering if there was an app or a program that helps interpret a card spread. I’m just starting out with tarot and getting used to the cards for a few months now but I’m still a bit fuzzy. I did a 3 card spread today for myself and for some reason the cards I got kinda scared or worried me and I don’t know why. I got these in that order..
    Knight of Swords Knight of Wands Ace of Swords

    I’ve looked up the generic meanings, but just something about having 2 knights and 2 swords in a 3 card spread worries me. Any insight would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Susan,
      I’m not aware of any apps but I’m not the person to ask – I’m not very techy. Have you googled it?
      That is not a bad card combo at all, so don’t be worried.
      If you want me to do an interpretation for you, please order one here: https://daily-tarot-girl.com/work-with-me/tarot-interpretations/
      Otherwise, I suggest you check out these articles which may help you with your interpretation: https://daily-tarot-girl.com/learn-tarot/court-cards-learn-them-once-and-for-all/ and https://daily-tarot-girl.com/2013/05/04/when-your-tarot-reading-makes-no-fking-sense/

      Good luck!

  24. Hello there, I had a quick question regarding reversed cards. Do you recognize it in a three card spread? All of mine were upside down and when I looked almost my whole deck is upside down. Should I set them all right side up like they were when I first got the deck? I Am a beginner, any tips will be greatly appreciated!


    1. Hi Caroline,

      The reversed and upright cards have different meanings, which are mostly opposite of one another. But, as a tarot reader, it is your choice whether you want to consider the reversed cards… from my 6 years of professional tarot reading, I always have considered the upright card meanings.

      Further, since you mentioned that the whole deck was upside down … there is no harm in making them upright and considering the upright meanings as your readings.

      Another solution for you will be to draw the cards again … by keeping the cards upright and then in case the reversed cards come out .. consider the reversed meaning

      Hope this helped

  25. Dear Kate,

    A while ago my mother bought a mind body and soul kit for herself in upgrading she has passed the set onto me. I would like to learn to read the cards properly to understand what they potentionally mean in using your step guide I have landed with a few really strange cards and numbers I am uncertain what they mean do you have anything on these that I may read up on to understand?

  26. Hi, I am watching your past, present, future reading demo. You didn’t mention if you would use this spread using ALL the cards, or just the minor arcana, etc.
    I am a beginner and so far have just been using the major arcana and doing a cross spread.
    What do you recommend as far as using spreads that only use certain cards in the deck vs. using spreads that use ALL cards in the deck.
    Thanks for your time!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      When I do a reading, I always use all the cards in the deck.
      However, when I was learning, I did readings with the Majors only, or the Court Cards only, in order to get comfortable reading those cards. So it is really up to you how you want to do a reading.
      I prefer using all the cards for a reading, but for learning purposes, its helpful to read with certain cards.
      Hope that helps πŸ™‚

  27. My reading/conversation with my Deck – Past, Present, Future:

    *Deck (PAST): Ace of Wands – “BOOM went the dynamite! You made some bold moves/changes in finally deciding to write your life story the way YOU WANT.”

    Me: Yah! No more comments from the peanut gallery! πŸ˜›
    It felt sooo good to finally stand up for myself & let go of my fears. I finally had the courage to say, “P*** off – you do You, and Imma do ME” πŸ™‚

    *Deck (PRESENT): Ace of Pentacles – “GET IT GIRL!!! It’s all gravy, baby!”

    Me: Is this what people mean when they say “make it rain”? (dollar bills hahahaha) I’m guessing 2 Aces in a reading is friggin’ awesome?! It feels pretty awesome… πŸ™‚

    *Deck (FUTURE): 7 of Pentacles – “Stop and smell the roses, cause the roses are a bloomin’ ALL AROUND YOU….. It’s ALL good :-)”

    Me: Lucky number 7! First thing to pop in my head! Weeeee! I wanna do a cartwheel!!! πŸ™‚

    πŸ™‚ Roses for everyone!!! πŸ™‚

    1. I use this spread for yes/no. It is a five card spread, and it works very well for me. Lay the card out like this:
      1 4 2
      Card 1 and 2 represent the heart of the matter. Card nr. 3 is the past, Card 4 is how things are now and it will give the yes/no answer together with card no.5 wich is the future. I hope you understand my explanations,as English is not my everyday language.

      1. The layout came out all wrong. πŸ™‚ Card 3,4 and 5 are laying in a straight line under each other. Card nr 1 is placed to the left of card 4 and card 2 to the right. πŸ™‚

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