Complete Guide for the 4-Card Tarot Spread

  • By: Reece
  • Date: 20 February 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Doing tarot readings is part intuition and part science, and the way you design the procedure from the very start directly affects the data that the reader receives during the process. The pattern that you use to choose your cards from the deck during a reading is called the spread. You can use several numbers when choosing how many cards to use as you’re doing a reading. Interestingly, the querent – the person asking for your advice during the reading – has an important role to play in this process.

Interestingly, the process is usually started the same way, with the querent being the one to shuffle and cut the deck of 78 cards. Always instruct them to think about their question or intention as they do this so that the reading is more productive.

Many readers use spreads of between one and five cards, although it is entirely possible to use other numbers as well. The main result of the spread that you choose is that it helps guide your own interpretation of the story that the cards tell so that you can relay that to the querent. You can also use spreads that address the issues that you’ll be asked about, from psychological healing to relationships and even decision-making assistance.

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4 Card Tarot Spreads for Beginners

If you’re a beginning tarot card reader, you should start with a spread that involves a small number. Many readers start with a classic 2- or 3-card tarot spread because this is a good foundation for beginning readers. That being said, a 4-card reading is not that difficult, especially if you’ve already mastered tarot spreads with three or fewer cards. You should always build up to a 4-card spread before attempting to conduct a reading using five or more cards.

Regardless of which spread you decide to use, there are different ways to look at each one. The 4-card tarot spread generally represents past, present, future, and advice. When it comes to looking into the future, the most important thing to remember is to have a very specific and clear timeframe in mind from the very beginning, even before the cards are shuffled by the querent. If your time set isn’t narrow, the answer you receive from the cards will be a lot less specific, which might not do the querent much good.

You’ll want your spread to provide you with a lot of details so that you can answer the query, but you also want one that is easy to remember and fairly simple to learn. The higher the number of cards you use, the more detailed your answers will be, and using four cards is the perfect combination of getting detailed answers while still keeping the reading fairly simple on your part. Also, if you reflect on how accurate your reading of the past is, it will tell you a lot about your skills as a tarot card reader and how they are developing.

Some Examples to Consider

Here is an example of some interpretations when pulling four cards that are meant to represent past, present, future, and advice when the querent is curious about a matter related to their relationship with someone:

  • Past: The Lovers card is pulled, indicating that a great new relationship has recently begun to grow in the querent’s life.
  • Present: The Two of Cups card is pulled, indicating that while the relationship seems to be going well, it is likely taking more mental effort than it did in the beginning.
  • Future: The Eight of Swords is pulled, which means the querent may be feeling some anxiety about the fact that the relationship isn’t as effortless as it once was.
  • Advice: The Queen of Pentacles is pulled, indicating that the querent could take charge of the situation by showing their partner how much they care in a tangible way, such as buying them a small gift.

As you can see, the 4-card spread gives you a chance to learn some very specific answers to the querent’s situation. Let’s take another look at a way to use the 4-card spread, this time using the four cards to look at four other interpretations: positive, negative, result, and advice. In this specific situation, the following four cards would represent the following things:

  • Positive: The Chariot card is pulled, which usually means that there are a lot of positive things going on in the querent’s life that should be remembered and reflected upon.
  • Negative: The Four of Cups card is pulled, which means the querent could still be letting negative energy interfere and prevent even greater things from happening.
  • Result: The Nine of Swords card is pulled, indicating that the querent is likely being kept up at night due to worry and anxiety over the situation.
  • Advice: The Three of Pentacles card, when pulled, can indicate that the querent should rely on someone they trust to provide them with the opportunity to take some of this weight off of their shoulders so that they can achieve all of the things they’re hoping for in life.

Keep in mind that with all tarot cards, both a positive and negative meaning could be interpreted, so getting the querent to ask the right questions before pulling a card is crucial. This can take some time to accomplish if you’re just beginning your tarot reading career, but ask the querent to stick with questions that start with “why,” “how,” and “what” for the most efficient results. These types of questions can be quite useful in ending up with a reading that is fulfilling both to you and to the querent.


Naturally, there are many other 4-card combinations you can use in place of the two mentioned above. For instance, many readers use a beginning card, a “yes” card, a “no” card, and a conclusion card. Keep in mind that the number four has a very grounding effect, which makes the 4-card spread perfect for either/or types of questions.

Naturally, the more you practice your reading skills and learn to trust your instincts, the easier it will be to end up with answers that both you and the querent will get a lot out of in the end.

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