Past Life Tarot Spread
Here is a spread that you can use for focusing a more in-depth past life reading and also to answer fairly simple questions such as “Did I know this person in a past life” or “I went to such-and-such a place and it seemed very familiar – have I been there before in a past life?” Before beginning a past life reading, there is often a need to determine how long ago the issue or relationship originated and identify critical lifetimes that affect the development of the issue before doing an in-depth reading on the question.
The focusing reading is done by first removing the Fool (or any other card you would like to use as a significator for the question) from the deck and setting it aside. Then nine cards are drawn from the deck, and the Fool is mixed into them. The Fool represents the point at which the question originated. The cards are laid out into three rows of three. The top row represents the current lifetime. The right-hand card represents the beginning of the relationship or the first encounter with the question in this lifetime, the middle card the middle years or more mature part of the relationship, the left-hand card the end or later years of this lifetime or the relationship in this lifetime. The middle row represents several recent past lifetimes, and the bottom row represents several older lifetimes. The cards move into the more distant past as you move to the right and downward.
When the Fool appears , the next card is placed on top of it. If the fool appears in the top row, that would suggested that the relationship or origin of the question originated in this lifetime, rather than a past life. If the Fool appears in one of the bottom two rows, then the question originated in a past life. Cards above and to the left of the fool represent lifetimes associated with the question, cards to the right and below the Fool can be discarded, as they do not pertain to the question.
Start by determining the position of the Fool, then read the cards above and to the left of the Fool in sequential order, from oldest to youngest, starting with the card that is paired with the Fool. In the upper row, there may be one or two cards that represent things which haven’t happened yet (i.e., the future of the issue or relationship in this lifetime, if the person is young or the relationship is a new one). Reading the cards in this order will provide a brief synopsis of the person’s experiences with the question in past lifetimes and in this lifetime. Occasionally, this reading will be all that is needed. Usually though, this reading will point out areas that can be further explored – either in this lifetime or in past lifetimes, that will help shed light on the situation. To see a completed example of this reading, click here.
One minor interpretation note – the lifetime in which the Fool appears is sometimes the first lifetime in which they first encountered the person or issue, and sometimes is the lifetime before that, where the soul completed a previous cycle and set themselves up for this experience to happen next. You can usually tell this by the card that appears above the Fool. For example, if it is Judgment or Death, or the 10 of Pentacles, or something like that, there’s a good chance that that lifetime was spent finishing up whatever else they were doing, and it was between lifetimes that the decision was made to try to initiate this relationship.
Past Life Spread
2. In-Depth Analysis
Once the focusing is completed , here are some spreads you can use to look at specific past lives in more detail, in the context of life purpose and/or karmic lessons. There is also a version of this spread that provides more detailed information about the lifetime itself and less about life purpose issues, as well as a version that addresses relationships and combines both current and past lifetimes.
The layout has 13 cards, and looks like this:
Cards 7-11 represent a recent lifetime, and cards 1-5 a more distant lifetime, both of which represent past lives that are having a strong influence on this lifetime and the question. Cards 6, 12, and 13 are related to the current lifetime. 1 and 7 represent who they were in a past life, 2 and 8 show what they did with that lifetime, 3 and 9 were the life purpose of the past lives, 4 and 10 show how and whether that purpose was resolved or attained, 5 and 11 show what was carried forward from that lifetime, and cards 6 and 12 show how these things manifest in their life right now. Card 13 is the current life’s purpose, related to these past events. The cards are read in sequential order, staring with 1 and ending with 13. To see a completed example of this reading, click here.
A modification of this reading that focuses less on life purpose is to use the first four cards of each lifetime as follows: 1 – what circumstances they were born into, 2 – their youth, 3 – their middle years, 4 – the end of their life, then 5 – what karma is brought forward from that life and 6 – how it affects their current life. Card 13 can still be a karmic lesson or task they are working through as a result of all this.
Finally, this spread can be extended a little more into the current lifetime and/or used to explore couples relationships as follows:
3 4 16 17
2 5 15
1 13 6 14 22
7 12 18
8 11 19
9 10 20 21
The spread above was actually designed for a married couple, and with both their permissions, we looked at both of their past lives and how they were affecting their current marriage. The upper set of cards represents the client’s past and current lives and the lower set of cards represents her husband’s. The card positions have the same meaning as before, except here the spread is brought forward into the current life a little more, with cards 17 and 21 addressing what progress has been made toward their life purpose so far. In this version of the reading, the current life purpose is represented by cards 16 and 20 rather than the central cards, but cards 13 and 22 were added to look at the larger purpose of this entire cycle of lifetimes, since theirs was a very old relationship (the Fool was in the center of the bottom row in their focusing reading).
Example Past Life Tarot Spread
Deck: Rider Waite
Question: How do my past lives influence my current life and life purpose?
Spread card position meaning:
Cards 1-5 represent an older past life, Cards 7-11 represent a more recent past life, and Cards 6, 12 and 13 represent your current lifetime. Cards 1 and 7 represent who you were in each of these lives, Cards 2 and 8 what you did or accomplished in these lives, Cards 3 and 9 what was your life’s purpose, Cards 4 and 10 whether/how that purpose was achieved, Cards 5 and 11 represent what you brought forward from those experiences to the next lifetime, and Cards 6 and 12 are the way in which Cards 5 and 11 are manifested in your current life. Card 13 is your current life’s purpose, related to these past lives.
READING THE CARDS
Running all through this reading are issues about material abundance and working on developing different aspects of the Self. Both the previous lifetimes are male-oriented, and one of your tasks in this lifetime appears to be a rounding out of the persona to include female creativity and fertility. I am relatively certain that these lifetimes took place in England, in a time period corresponding to the 14th-17th centuries.
First Past Life
Card 1: Seven of Pentacles. In the first life, you begin life as a laborer, working to provide for your family. Your youth was spent in hard work, concerned primarily with meeting your daily needs. You were good at your work, and given progressively greater responsibilities, eventually rising to overseer or someone who ran the estate for the owner.
Card 2: King of Cups. As an adult, you were able to achieve enough prosperity that another facet of yourself could be expressed, a more emotional, loving, creative side. This also stems from a love of family, and being a provider and father, but in a less material way.
Card 3: Knight of Swords, reversed. The purpose of this life was to stabilize a personality that in the past had been emotionally immature, destructive, and which acted without thinking to the detriment of those around him. The soul was intended to learn the virtues of hard work, stability, love, maturity, and long-term relationships.
Card 4: The Chariot. The purpose was very well achieved, and the soul reached a state of completion and integration, where the Sword-like attributes were harnessed and combined with the pentacles and cups to create an integrated, balanced personality that could successfully meet the challenges of daily life in the world. All of these cards and personality aspects are very male-oriented, there are very few female energies in the picture yet.
Card 5: Ten of Cups. What was carried forward from this lifetime was a sense of achievement and completion, harmony, and worldly success.
Recent Past Life
Card 7: Ten of Pentacles, reversed. Continuing the theme of material abundance, the soul was next born into a family that was well-established, successful, and with many generations of ancestors and progeny. Having proven his ability to achieve in a recent lifetime, this time the soul was born into a situation where struggle to obtain material necessities was not important. He carried forward a sense of dissatisfaction however, to ensure that he would move beyond this ideal worldly situation and find a higher meaning in life. He was probably born a third or fourth son into landed gentry, for whom there was little chance of inheriting the lands and responsibilities of the family. This required him to find a new path in life and a sense of purpose on his own.
Card 8: The Hierophant. As a result of this feeling that there must be something more, he turned to organized religion (probably Catholicism) and made a career out of that. Using the innate abilities he inherited from his success in reaching the Chariot, he rose quickly in the hierarchy and mastered the rituals and trappings of religious life. He may have reached the position of bishop or abbot.
Card 9: Ace of Pentacles. The Soul’s goal in this life was to forge a self-directed sense of purpose, that was not driven by events that were largely out of his control (as in the first life, where he had little choice of life activities). This was to teach the soul to take responsibility for his own life and make appropriate choices with nothing but his own inner sense to guide him.
Card 10: Five of Cups. Although he achieved material and external success in his chosen life path, he did not find the sense of purpose in the Church that he expected. The Catholic church at that time was rife with political maneuvering, material gain, and ambition, and he ended his life with a spiritual malaise that was disturbing and unfulfilling. He was unable to see the spiritual truths that were hidden and buried under the layers of rich trappings and worldly manipulation that permeated the church, even though they were there if he had had the strength and personal integrity to look.
Card 11: King of Rods, reversed. He brings forward from this life an unfulfilled sense of purpose, a feeling that he made the wrong choices. The King of Rods is reversed, showing the person he could have become had he been able to feel confident about the results of his actions in life. Instead, there is a sense of doubt and insecurity, and a tendency to fall back on material resources rather than spiritual pursuits.
Card 6: The Moon, reversed. Arising out of the first life was a perfectly balanced masculine set of attributes, a personality to which little could be added from that side of the equation. The lifetime after that was also male, and less successful. A choice was made to add to the soul’s makeup a more spiritual feminine energy, and to give her some challenges to overcome so as to give the soul a reason to begin to explore its more spiritual aspects.
Card 12: Three of Pentacles, reversed. Arising out of the spiritual disappointment of the second life was a tendency to fall back on what the soul has succeeded with in the past – material labor and hard work. You have a gift for creating things with your hands and take pride in your skills in this area. Yet the situation was set up so that this alone would not be satisfying to you. The three of pentacles in this deck is constructed in the context of a church, and brings the soul back to issues of spirituality even as it is working on its projects. The upheavals going on in the Moon and your subconscious ensures that these issues will require some attention and cannot be ignored. You may feel most satisfied with your work when you can apply it in the context of spirituality, and bring your feminine creative energies into the picture.
Card 13: Queen of Pentacles. Here is the theme of material abundance again, yet this time it is tempered with fertility, creativity, and feminine attributes. The purpose of this life appears to be to reach a harmony within yourself between your successful masculine drives toward material accomplishments and your innate spirituality, expressed through your subconscious. If you can channel all of these energies into a creative, productive whole, you will have accomplished the goals of this lifetime.
Teresa Michelsen is a well known and highly respected tarot reader and instructor, and also the original creator of Tarot Moon.
Theresa has over 25 years experience in reading tarot.
Discover Teresa Michelsen Tarot books on Amazon