Simple Five Card Spread Explained

Latest posts by Amber Brinnier (see all)

When you’re looking for answers and have a little time to spare, a simple five-card spread can be a great way to consult the tarot.

Here I will explain how I use five-card spreads in my own professional tarot practice.

When to Use a Five Card Spread

A five-card spread is great to use when you have about 20-30 minutes to do a reading. If you are doing the reading for yourself, it can take even less time if you are familiar with the cards enough to glean their meaning by just setting eyes on them.

If you aren’t super comfortable with the cards yet, not to worry! Even professional readers are constantly learning and studying. Tarot reading is a complex, layered divination tool. Give yourself time to reiterate meanings to yourself with references if you need to.

Why Use a Five Card Spread

A five-card spread is a good middle ground between a single or three-card pull and a full, in-depth tarot spread. You are able to go into some measure of detail without diving super deeply into a larger spread.

In my own tarot practice, the five-card spread is my most in-depth offering for clients. I do this as opposed to deeper spreads because I want my readings to be detailed and yet cost-effective for the client. Five-card spreads are the perfect balance for this.

A Conversational Five Card Spread

One of my favorite ways to read cards is in a conversational style – I ask the question and let one tarot card fall out, respond to that tarot card and then pull out another, and so on. There isn’t a structure to this, just a nice flow, as I am speaking directly to spirit, source, higher self, or whoever is guiding my experience as I read.

If you want to experiment with having a conversation directly with your guides (rather than interview-style, as structured tarot spreads are), I recommend trying this method out. It can go on as long as you are getting relevant answers, but to begin with, try it with just five cards.

Depending on your tarot deck, your guides may not want to have a long conversation about certain topics. Trust your intuition as you go.

The Five Card Shift Spread

A technique for five-card spreads that I borrow from a tarot reader I deeply admire is the five-card shift spread. It is a simple yet effective structure.

  • Card 1 – What you are shifting out of – This tarot card identifies what the querent is currently experiencing or moving through and ready to leave behind.
  • Card 2 – What you are shifting into – This card identifies what ‘shape’ the querent is being asked to shift into. This can be a level up or simply a new cycle or focal point in the querent’s life.
  • Cards 3, 4, and 5 – How the shift happens – These cards are the clarifiers and the true heart of the spread. I pull them after pulling what the shift is going to be because I find the cards to clarify more if I know the ‘result’ already. If you have a destination, you put it into your GPS first so that you know where you are going, and that is ultimately what guides you. Though you pull these cards last, place them in between Card 1 and Card 2.

This spread is most useful when you are at a level of comfort with the tarot, where you are able to link card meanings together into a story. If this is still something you are practicing, try some other spread structures first as you learn.

A Structured Five Card Spread

Five-card spreads can be pulled for any occasion and any question. I will list some ideas for themes for a structured Five Card spread, as well as questions that can be used within those themes.

Love Spread

Love and relationships are probably the most popular topics for tarot readers and diviners of all kinds to read about. These are great spreads to get started with before taking on more complex topics.

Some questions for love spreads:

  • How can I best prepare myself for a relationship?
  • How can I listen to my partner better?
  • How can I make myself heard in my relationship?
  • What can I do to attract a partner?
  • What am I doing that is keeping a relationship out of my reach?
  • What are people attracted to in me?
  • What am I attracted to in other people?
  • What issues from the past am I bringing into new relationships?
  • What do I need to release from my past relationships?
  • What am I overlooking in my relationship?
  • How do my partner’s characteristics mesh with my own? (Compare and contrast)
  • How can I be more true to myself in a relationship?
  • What does love feel like to me?
  • How should I approach my crush?
  • How can I move on when my crush doesn’t reciprocate feelings?
  • What can I carry with me when I am lonely?
  • How can I recognize love outside of romantic and relational love?
  • How am I self-sabotaging my relationships?
  • What characteristics are important to me in a partner?

This list, of course, isn’t comprehensive but hopefully will give you an idea of some questions that are appropriate to ask in a love reading. You can put these into some sort of structure, or just mix and match 5 of the questions and pull them in a row.

Career and Finance Spread

five card tarot spread the world knight of pentacles the chariot

Aside from love, career and finances are some of the most popular topics for Tarot readers to delve into. Like love, finances are a driving force in the lives of many people looking for answers.

Here are a few questions that can be used in a Five Card spread about career or finances. Again, this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive but to give you an idea of questions that can be used this way.

  • What strengths can I bring to a career?
  • What are my weaknesses in my career?
  • What sort of career would be best for me?
  • How can I advocate for myself in the workplace?
  • What should I be focusing on in my career?
  • What worries about my career are ready to be released?
  • Where can I restrain my spending?
  • How does money flow to me?
  • How does money flow away from me?
  • What are uses for my money that will ensure a return?
  • What obstacles are in my way?
  • What areas should I be investing my money into?
  • What can I do to alleviate money concerns?
  • What is my current financial situation?
  • What is my current career situation?
  • What are some goals I can implement in my finances/career?

As you can see, these questions are not meant to look into the future of your career and finances but rather to gain a picture of where things stand now and how you can work with these energies in the present moment.

Advice Spreads

You may wish to use a five-card spread to get advice from your guides about how to proceed in many different situations. Here are a few ideas for advice spreads.

  1. Where I am in this moment.
  2. Am I on the correct path?
  3. What is my main obstacle?
  4. What is helping me?
  5. How can I make progress?
  6. How things are.
  7. How I want things to be.
  8. Where does my focus lie?
  9. Where can my focus take me?
  10. What have I not yet considered?
  11. What is here that I am missing?
  12. What is here that I am seeing?
  13. What is here that I can draw to me?
  14. What is here that I can release?
  15. A final message from my guides?
  16. The present situation.
  17. What action you can take in this situation.
  18. The obstacles or challenges to be faced.
  19. The possible outcome of all the above.
  20. The effect of this situation is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Deck Interview Spread

When you have a new Tarot deck, it is best practice to first do an interview spread where you find the deck‘s voice, strengths, and weaknesses. This is a wonderful way to begin your relationship with your new deck.

A five-card spread is perfect for this purpose, as it is brief enough that you can spend a little time on it but comprehensive enough to get an idea of the deck‘s voice. Here are some questions to ask in a deck interview spread. Pick 5 of these or use them as inspiration for your own questions!

  • Describe yourself
  • Describe me
  • What are your strengths as a deck?
  • What are your weaknesses as a deck?
  • What can you teach me?
  • How can I best collaborate with you?
  • What is the potential within you?
  • Who are you?
  • What types of readings do you prefer?
  • How will you challenge me?
  • How will we dance together?
  • What is your primary elemental power?
  • What do you need from me?
  • What guides will speak through this deck?
  • Will you read for me, for other people, or both?
  • What can I learn from you?
  • What initial message do you have for me?

Getting to know your deck and understanding its unique voice is one of the most important things you can do on your journey of reading and understanding the Tarot. Be sure to spend some time with each new deck asking questions and gleaning responses. No two decks are the same.

Some decks prefer a more intuitive approach from you as to their meanings, some are especially bound to the guidebook they came with, and some are straightforward representations of the traditional Rider Waite Smith deck structure.

Interviewing your deck with a simple five-card spread will let you know how your deck wants to be worked with and will bring your Tarot practice to new heights.

Yes or No Spreads

Yes or No Spreads

Famously, the Tarot can be a bit ephemeral when it comes to answering simple Yes or No questions. Cards have neutral energy until they are pulled with a specific intention or question in mind, and their positive or negative attributes are then interpreted by the reader.

While it may seem like overkill, a five-card spread is actually a great way to find a Yes or No answer from the Tarot. The overall direction that the spread goes should be enough to give you your answer and clarify it as well.

Here is a simple five-card spread that you can use for Yes or No answers.

First, shuffle through your deck and find the Wheel of Fortune card. This will be your anchor card. Next, pull two cards to be placed to the left of the Wheel. These will be your ‘if yes’ cards.

Finally, pull two more cards to be placed to the right of the Wheel. These will be your ‘if no’ cards. Ruminate on the story created by these two cards together, and interpret whether there is a stronger ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ coming from this reading.

If you don’t want to pull an anchor card, try pulling four cards for possible outcomes and then a ‘tie breaker’ final card that will have the final say on the matter.

As always, use your intuition and discernment when creating or reading spreads. If something doesn’t resonate with you, you can always pull a clarifying card, reframe the question, or set the cards aside for now until you are feeling less scattered.

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Question: How Do I Fit Oracle Cards Into a Tarot Spread?

Answer: Oracle cards can be great to use on their own in a spread without even diving into the Tarot. The same questions can be asked, and in some cases, Oracle cards may even give a more straightforward answer.
If you want to use them in conjunction with Tarot cards, try pulling a five-card spread and then an Oracle card as an overall message for the entire spread. Pull three Tarot cards and two Oracle cards. The possibilities are endless!

Question: Can I Use Tarot Cards to Tell the Future?

Answer: Some people have an idea that the Tarot and other divinatory methods, and indeed that the art of divining itself, can tell the future. I would caution against using the Tarot this way. The future is not fixed, and your life is not set on any course that cannot be deviated from when you empower yourself.
Tarot is a great way to look at the picture as it is right now and to start a conversation with yourself about ways to change or ways to work with what you have right now.
For those who perhaps haven’t gotten the results they were looking for by trying Tarot as a fortune-telling method, try to use Tarot for the present moment to tease out where your mind is at and see how much more easily the meanings flow to you.

Question: Can I Create My Own Five Card Spreads?

Answer: Of course! One of the most fulfilling uses of the Tarot is in creating your own spread structures and asking the questions that are most pressing on your mind. Use this guide as a jumping-off point, and then use your imagination to create the perfect spread for you!

Question: Do These Questions and Structures Only Work for Five Card Spreads?

Answer: Absolutely not! You can pull as many or as few cards using the questions and structures I’ve provided here, depending on the amount of detail you feel comfortable going into. Just adjust accordingly.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this guide to the simple five-card spread has given you some inspiration to take with you into your own Tarot practice. What ideas for spreads and questions popped into your head while reading?

I encourage you to follow your instincts and intuition as you deepen your relationship with the Tarot and begin to create your own spreads. I think you will find it to be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your Tarot journey.

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