Three French Hens: Better than a gaggle of geese! Three hens are a productive trio.

It is time to talk about a favorite topic for many people: the spread. Cards and spreads are like peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes they are great together. Sometimes they are innovative, like that Smuckers product that contains peanut butter and jelly in one jar. Sometimes they just don’t work, like pairing peanut butter with orange jelly (marmalade).

Card spreads are a popular topic. I suppose this is in part because they make life seem easier for authors and learners. Like card meanings, they are easy to write about, which is good if you need to author a book. Learners like them for the same reason kids (of all ages!) like Pokémon games, where the goal is to obtain as many critters as possible: Gotta catch them all! I think it’s a parallel to the deck-buying syndrome. Learn the perfect spread and become the perfect reader.


There is some truth to that. A lousy spread isn’t going to help your readings, while a carefully crafted spread — that you know well and understand, mind you — can give you a leg up. A spread that the reader knows well enables his conscious mind to let go a bit and see the interplay of the cards and what they say as a result, which can enable a reading whose components interlock like the flow of the cards.

Alternatively, a poorly thought out spread or one created for fun may sometimes give good results, especially to an experienced reader. But it’s just as likely to produce a jumble of statements that don’t give a coherent reading.


Most of those themed spreads that people create in the shape of hearts, keys or Christmas trees make me cringe. I like the concept in theory. I’ve even designed a basic Halloween spread, although it’s basically an enhanced three-card spread. There is just something that turns me off when I see spreads with positions like, “This is what I ____,” or “What makes me ____;” perhaps, “What you fear,” or “How you can ____.” Maybe it’s the wording of these kinds of spreads, which often seem designed for banal introspection.

I favor a good utility spread with broad use cases. I would argue that many people do, looking at how popular the Lenormand has become: traditional Lenormand spreads (lines, square of nine or the Grand Tableau) are all what I would call general utility spreads. They don’t require tweaking per client or per question.

My mainstay is often the humble three card spread. (I like five cards for the Lenormand.) My opinion is that more does not necessarily equate to better, and I think the three card spread has a lot to offer. As a bonus, when I’m writing about a spread, I appreciate only having three cards to capture. Sometimes they still require a fair amount of writing if I’m capturing the interaction and nuances!


I generally read the three card spread three ways. There is the venerable “PPF,” or past-present-future, from left to right. This gives a useful framework for interpretation, and I recommend it for the learner. It is still possible to utilize card interactions, but the focused positions allow for a definite answer. There is no ambiguity about what each card signifies.

I’ve worked with this spread in two ways when it’s not a PPF. If I want to focus on elemental interactions, I’ll take the middle card as the main one, while the two flanking cards support or add to the main message. The other approach I use is to read from left to right like a sentence. Overall I can generally get a clear answer based on this. I find the first card is usually, but not always, the strongest component of an answer.

There are other workhorse spreads in my toolbox, but I will talk about them another time. Today I salute the versatile and long-lived three card spread!

Do you favor the three card spread? Or do you prefer something with more cards to sink your teeth into? Let me know in the comments!