The Three Faces of Time is an awesome spread that is kind of an expanded version of the simple Past/Present/Future three-card spread. This one, however, employs 15 cards for a more expansive and more detailed outlook on the issue. I got it from an amazing 1985 book titled Classic Tarot Spreads. It’s a neat little book that I recommend.
This spread lays out three rows of five cards: one for each past, present, future. It has specific instructions for interpretation. You don’t simply turn each card in sequence according to its position number. Instead, you start by interpreting the central card of the spread (the central “present” card), and follow a specific sequence until you get the full picture. Read below for full instructions, along with a demonstration of a real reading I did for myself.
Follow along, and I hope you gain as much insight from it as I did!
Laying out the cards
Shuffle and cut according to your usual method. Then, lay down fifteen cards in three rows of five, starting from right to left for each row, as shown below:
The bottom row represents the past. The middle row stands for the present. The top row, the future. You will notice that I isolated the middle column. The cards in the middle column are the main cards for each row. They set the theme for each past, present, and future.
You start by interpreting the central card of the middle row (the main “present” card). Turn it over as shown below.
Now, interpret it. I got the Nine of Swords for my main present situation. Here you see me in a position of anxiety and fear about something. Something I may be losing sleep over.
Now, turn over the central card of the bottom how (the main “past” card), as shown:
Now we interpret it. I got the Ace of Pentacles, indicating that the issue arises from an opportunity, perhaps a new financial beginning that I had in the past.
Now, turn over the central card of the top row (the main “future” card):
I got Death. It indicates that whatever I’m doing through, it will end in the future; or that it means the ending of something in my present life.
Great, we’ve completed the main column and should have a pretty good idea of what the reading is about. Trust your intuition here. Now, we turn over the remaining cards in their sequence, from 1 to 15, and interpret them. In other words, you reveal them from right to left, from the bottom row to the top row. In the image below I start to interpret card no. 1.
As you see, I got The Lovers, reversed for my first “past” card. Below is the spread after I finished interpreting them all.
The story went more or less as follows: I came from a place of misalignment with my heart’s desire (The Lovers reversed), went through some hardship (Five of Pentacles), and was met with an opportunity to start something new (Ace of Pentacles). That led to some conflict with others and with myself (Five of Wands), but that ultimately led to a personal change in my financial mindset (Four of Pentacles). I am now in a period of transition (Six of Swords), but still feeling restricted and stuck (Eight of Swords). I am feeling anxious about that (Nine of Swords), but am taking control over things (The Emperor) and starting to see things truthfully and with mental mastery (King of Swords). The future sees me establishing long-term benefits (10 of Pentacles), planning the next steps (Two of Wands), and bringing an end to my life as I now know it (Death). After this transition, I will be fulfilled and joyful (Four of Wands), and find myself beginning real work towards the fulfillment of my passion work (Page of Wands). You get the idea!
I hope you enjoyed reading about this spread. It should paint a pretty good picture of your past, present and future in any given situation. Allow yourself some time for interpreting this one. And feel free to comment with any questions!