12 Month Tarot Spread Explained: What Does It Mean?

Use a Twelve Month Tarot spread to get some insight into what the year ahead holds for you. It can be used to get a general glimpse into each month or you can specify a theme or topic such as career or love. Despite it being a larger spread than say the simple 3 card spread, the 12 month layout is easy to do and is even an ideal spread for budding beginners. 

You don’t have to wait until New Years Eve to do this spread, you can do this spread at any point for the year. You can begin right where you are and do a reading for the next consecutive 12 months. 

How to do the 12 Month Tarot Spread

It can be helpful to lay out the cards clockwise in a circle, one card for each of the coming months. Even if you are starting in the month of August, place the card for January at the top of the circle and the card for July at the bottom. If you are in August, then your first card to read will be the eighth card. 

Step One

Choose your deck. 

My favourite tarot cards to use is the Rider-Waite deck. However, there are many different decks to choose from. And yes, you can even use oracle cards if you feel called to. Use whichever deck you feel an affinity for, and whichever makes you feel most comfortable with. 

Here are some questions you could ask for this reading:

  • What do I need to focus on for the next 12 months?
  • How can I cultivate more Love in my life for the next 12 months?
  • How can I further my career in the next 12 months?
  • How can I deepen my spiritual connection in the next 12 months?
  • How can I welcome more financial abundance in the next 12 months?

Step Two

Shuffle the cards.

Keeping your question or intention in mind, begin to shuffle the cards. You can also first clear the deck by knocking on it once with your right hand. Everyone has a different process when they use cards, you will find yours in time and experience. I like to light a candle and do a type of smoke cleansing to open sacred space. 

When shuffling the cards, pay attention to any questions or messages that pop into your mind. If the deck begins to separate into two parts, it’s time to cut the deck and draw the cards. If a card jumps out, you can either take that card as an additional card or use it as card number one. 

Step Three

Pull the cards.

When you are ready, cut the pack and pull the twelve cards. Lay them face down in the layout for your 12 month spread. You can either place them in a circle like I explained, or lay them in a row. It is up to you, so do what feels right. 

Once you have all twelve, begin to flip them over in order of the layout. Pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and anything that feels like an intuitive nudge when you flip each one. It is handy to have a journal or notebook nearby so you can jot these down without trying to hold on to them in your mind. 

Don’t rush this process, sit with each card and note what it brings up from the depth of your subconscious. 

If you find it challenging use these questions to direct the focus and messages:

  • What images do you see on the cards? What draws your attention? 
  • What parallels can you draw with your own life?
  • Take note of the card’s position. Is it revered or upright? Which month is it on and how is the card connected to its position in the layout and your question?
  • What guidance and intuitive messages do you feel?

Use the keywords for the specific card to help if you are a budding beginner, or even if you’re a seasoned reader. These keywords can also stir up things hidden in our subconscious. 

How do you feel when you read the keywords and how do they apply to you and your situation?

You might be tempted to research in-depth what other tarot experts have to say about the cards you draw. These interpretations can be a good guide to use, but remember to lean on your own understanding and what it triggers for you.

Top Tips for Understanding the Cards

Remember, the key for reading tarot cards, or any cards for that matter, is to use your intuitive sense to connect the dots. Even if something that surfaces does not initially make sense to you, jot it down in your journal. Some things take a little more time to simmer and make sense. 

Another top tip is to pay attention to the thoughts that pop into your head immediately. When you flip a card, what’s the very first thing that comes into your mind? This is usually the most accurate guidance since the logical mind hasn’t taken its toll on it yet. That’s why some things won’t make sense initially, but it’s important to jot them down. 

Once each card has been flipped and you have made your interpretations, go over the reading as a whole. Can you see how it all connects? Is there a recurring theme? There could be similarities among the cards and it’s up to you to see what connections there may or may not be. 

So, that is an easy-to-follow 12-month tarot reading. There are, however, many ways to do a 12-month reading and you don’t have to always begin at the start of a new calendar year. Another popular yearly reading is the Yearly Tarot reading that can help shed some light on the next 12 months. 

Yearly Tarot Layout

Whether you want a bit of support or need a bit of guidance, the following spread can be a great way to practice reading your cards and flexing your intuition.

Okay, let’s get to the year ahead. 

And no, just like the 12-month spread you do not have to do this in January. You can do this at any time of the year. Because, we all know by now that new beginnings and new chapters can arrive when we least expect it, at any time of the year. 

Year Ahead Spread: An Alternative to the 12 Month Layout

Card 1: Key Theme

This first card helps draw your attention to what you should focus on this year. You can select a keyword from the card or an overall feeling or theme. This card highlights your primary lesson for the year. 

Card 2: Key Challenge

The second card highlights what you will have the opportunity to face and transmute during the year. There is a message and a lesson with every challenge. By mastering this challenge, you will grow. These cards bring your attention to what you have to go through to grow, and what area you may be challenged in.

Card 3: Key Wisdom

This card shows you what you will need to cultivate within yourself to overcome the obstacle alluded to in the second card. Use this card to help shift your perspective to move through it.

Card 4: Key Opportunity

This fourth card helps you see what is coming to the surface for you this year. This can include the lessons as well as the opportunities and what you are welcoming into your life. 

Cards 5, 6, 7 & 8: The Four Yearly Quarters

These cards will signify the four quarters of the year. Use these cards to get a general picture of the coming quarters. 

Cards 9, 10 & 11: Your Goals

These are the cards for your goals. What do you want to achieve in the coming year? This can be material gain, such as buying a piece of land or a home, or it can be cultivating a certain habit or quality that you feel will enrich your life. 

These goals can also be a simple acceptance of what you already have. So often we strive to be more, have more, and forget to just be who we are. 

Sometimes, quite often actually, my goal is to be okay with life as it is. It doesn’t mean giving up, but in that surrender, I often find peace. This opens up space for the natural progression of blessings and manifestations. The cards you draw for each goal will show you what you should remember when striving to achieve your goal. They can also symbolize a theme or archetypal energy to tap into for success.

Card 12: Key Message/Archetype Card

This card is one I like to use from an angel deck or other oracle deck. I use this final card as an overall message to affirm my confidence and guide my thoughts. 

Whichever spread you choose to do, remember to keep it light and to enjoy the process. Try not to do too many readings, as this often means we are constantly searching for answers. Instead, do the reading you choose, allow the waters to settle and the answers to be revealed. Remember, the cards are not your personal fortune teller. They are here to unlock forgotten rooms in your subconscious, where most of your answers are stored. 

Top Tarot Decks we Recommend

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Should I only use a tarot deck for these types of spreads?

Answer: You can use any deck that you feel familiar and comfortable with. If you do decide to use the tarot deck, it can be helpful to draw from the major arcana. Use two tarot decks and use the major arcana cards from both for these types of spreads. While some ‘tarot purists’ may not agree with this practice, it is perfectly acceptable as the right message will come through to you no matter which cards you decide to use. 

Question: Can I mix card decks when doing these spreads?

Answer: Absolutely. I encourage you to use an oracle deck for the overall affirmation or message for the twelfth card. 

Question: Should I do a 12-month spread only at the beginning of the new year?

Answer: You can do the yearly spread or the 12-month spread whenever you feel like it. Whether you choose to do it in October or in January, or even in July- it doesn’t matter. Remember that you can start fresh at any time of the year, and you don’t have to wait until January to set new goals either. 

Question: Is the 12-month spread layout the same as the yearly spread layout?

Answer: The spreads are different. The 12-month layout is typically one card drawn for each month. The yearly spread draws cards to give an indication for challenges, opportunities, and a card for each quarter. 

Question: Should I do a 12-month spread or a yearly spread? 

Answer: This is totally up to you, and you could do both if you wanted to. But, be careful not to slip down the rabbit hole of readings without taking in what the readings are offering. If you are looking for a specific message or direction for each month, the 12-month spread is best for you. Are you seeking a more general reading for your lessons and growth over the course of the year? Then you might find the yearly spread is better for you. 


Remember, the yearly tarot spread and the 12-month spread are not meant to define your future. They are highlighting probable situations and outcomes based on your current situation. This premise is based on your current situation remaining the same. Sometimes, in fact, quite often, the cards can offer a glimpse into a possible outcome if you follow the guidance offered in the previous cards. Instead of relying on the tarot cards to read your future, simply allow them to show you what you need to know to make the best decisions moving forward. 

If the cards offer you an outcome that you like, and you do not get the indication that you need to change anything, then you’re on the right track. However, if you get the sensation that something is a bit offbeat, then they’re most probably is. Use the cards to delve into what you need to change. And no, the cards are not there to tell you what to change, you already know what it is. Simply use the cards to uncover what is already inside your subconscious mind.

If you want to focus on unearthing the more problematic parts of your psyche and your life, you could try the Celtic Cross tarot spread. Take a look at our website- you will find all the resources that you need to move ahead with all of your questions. 

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