The three card spread that we mentioned in our last blog post is one of the foundational spreads within tarot as it’s used today. The simple comparisons between past, present, and future lay groundwork for more advanced spreads, and one of those is the 5 card spread. The five card spread contains the three card spread in its entirety, but expands upon it to look at non-linear situations and influences.
The layout follows similarly to the three card spread: 1 -> 2 -> 3 -> 4 -> 5, and is read from left to right. Remember, when looking at and interpreting each card, that each card is read alone based on position and card meaning, and each card is also read in conjunction with the cards around it and in conjunction with the entire spread.
The layout positions are as follows:
Card 1: The Past
This one is read the same as the past in the 3 card spread. Look here to find the basis of the situation (or one of the bases of the situation) and see how it has lead events to develop the way that they are now. Look for similarities between this card and any other, as they will point out where something is coming from.
Card 2: The Present
Again, this is the same as the 3 card spread. The present card indicates where things are currently or what’s actually happening, either physically, situationally, emotionally, or mentally with the client, depending on the card. Look for relationships between the past card and the present card, as the past can often point out hidden connections or show patterns that the querent is unaware of, or sometimes in denial of. Ask yourself how things have developed from past to present and look to see if that direction or quality continues into future cards.
Card 3: Hidden Influences
This is where the 5 card spread starts to diverge from the 3 card spread. Instead of just jumping right to the future, or a future situation, we’re asking here to be shown what might not be obvious and what is affecting the present situation in a manner that is likely unknown to the querent. This is where we’re looking for secret or occult (hidden) information, and presenting it to the client. Do not be surprised if this card sometimes doesn’t make sense to the client. Sometimes they have that “aha” moment of understanding, because it makes sense, but often times the querent will have no idea, only to find out later exactly what this card meant (and hopefully telling it to you then). Look for patterns to be continued or repeated in this position, but also look for non-obvious things. Is the spread very earth heavy up until now? Do things diverge here? A water card can suggest a strong, subconscious emotional response, attachment, or motivation. Lots of fire turning to air here can feed or fan the flames. Ask your guides and your higher self to relate the meaning of this card, and just give what you get without worrying about it.
Card 4: Advice
This card is kind of fun, because if it represents advice for the querent, then who the hell is the advice coming from? The querent will think that the advice is coming from you, which it is, but where are you getting it from? The universe? The client’s higher self that arranged for him/her to shuffle the cards and arrange this card to fall here? What if you shuffled the cards? Who’s driving anyway? The important thing to remember is that as long as it works, who cares? If you are getting good, accurate information, or even good, insightful information, then just keep going and leave the cosmological questions for the philosophers, or for when you have more time to ponder such cosmic things.
Look at this card and ask yourself what it means, how it relates to the previous cards, and how you would work your own common sense into this given the information being presented. Don’t be afraid to just say what you feel or what you think. The less time you give your conscious mind to warp things, the better.
Card 5: Outcome
This card represents the outcome of the situation if things continue on the way that they are. Ask yourself if the advice card is something that would contribute to the outcome. If the advice card is good and there’s a bad outcome, does that mean that doing a good thing will lead the querent to ruin, or does that tell you that even though the client was given good advice, they’re likely to not take it or make use of it. Telling someone to stop calling their ex is almost always good advice, and it’s advice that is frequently ignored. Don’t freak out if you have conflicting cards. There are infinite situations in which conflicting events happen. Just look at them and create a story about how one situation affects the other and over time you’ll figure out which narratives and directions speak more loudly to you. Present the information in the most coherent way that you know how, leaving plenty of opportunity for the querent to recognize that they are in the driver’s seat and free to use or ignore advice given, and know that you’ve done your job.
Remember to summarize the entire reading from start to finish once you’re done interpreting the last card. You want the querent to leave the reading with a holistic understanding without getting hung up on any minor details they’d like to obsess over. Ensure that they understand what you are saying, and be sure to leave the reading off with a message of empowerment, even if doom seems to be on the horizon. Sometimes it’s not about avoiding the bad entirely, but ensuring that they know a new day will dawn shortly thereafter (or at all).