A Tale of Cartomancy: The Art of Fortune-Telling with Playing Cards

The magick starts long before she shuffles her cards and the reading begins. She brings out her cards for the day, sets them down on the table in front of her, spends a few moments thinking about the deck and connecting with it. Sometimes, she places her hands on the deck. Sometimes, she lights incense. Sometimes, she lights candles. Sometimes, she may choose to do something a little different. It all depends on her mood. However, one thing she always will do is ensure she will not be interrupted during the reading. This ensures the connection with the cards and the client remains constant throughout the reading.  

After she has cleared her mind and connected with her cards, she meets her client. Pleasantries are exchanged, and she connects with this person. She focuses on their energy, and when she begins to feel their energy and the emotions tied to them, she begins to shuffle her cards and lay them out. 

While conducting the reading, she doesn’t refer to the book that came with the deck, as she has been doing this a long time and knows her cards well. She has a vague standard for each card. She expands on this by connecting to the person she is reading. She closes her eyes as she envisions each card. She connects the card to the person’s life and explains each card in detail. For her, the meanings of the cards play as little visions in her head. She is able to make her cards come to life. The cards tell her a story, and it is a wonderful experience. 

She knows there are different methods in which cards can be read, and that there is no right or wrong way to read the cards. She was taught mostly by her aunt as a young child and throughout her teen years. As she grew, her skills grew too. She learned to read with playing cards and later with tarot and oracle. She was taught it took time, understanding, and much personal research and reflection. First, she developed an understanding of what the basic meanings of the suits and card numbers meant, and as time went on, her skill and understanding developed further and flourished.

Over time, this young girl became a woman, and she learned to tell fortunes with playing cards. She learned that each spread told a story. A three card spread may show the past, present, and future in the simplest terms, whereas a larger spreads such as the Celtic Cross, or the Tree of Life, would be more centered in the present and future. She learned that tarot and oracle spreads were interchangeable with spreads used for playing cards. 

For those wondering how she reads with her cards, the four different suits in a deck of playing cards correlate with the four different suits in Tarot decks. Similarly, each number on the card is linked to a certain event or life happenings.

The Suits

The Hearts Suit correlates to the Cup Suit in Tarot, as both represent matters of the heart and relationships. The Spades Suit, in turn, relates to Tarot’s Swords Suit, as both represent conflict. The Diamonds Suit correlates to the Pentacles in Tarot because both pertain to wealth and prosperity. Finally, the Clubs Suit is interchangeable with the Wands Suit in Tarot, as both deal with growth and ambitions.

The Numbers

As with Tarot, the Aces are most linked to beginnings, whereas the twos often reference bringing or needing balance, where balance is needed depends on the suit and the other cards within the reading. The threes connections often tie one suit of cards in with another. The fours often refer to either having or needing stability in a certain area or aspect of one’s life. The fives often represent a disturbance, while sixes can often indicate harmony. The sevens can refer to unknown areas or mystery. Eights often indicate change of movement. Nines can indicate growth and learning, whereas tens often mean reaching an end or the completion of a cycle.  In addition, the Joker reads similar to the Fool card in Tarot, and the court cards (Jack, Queen, and King) often show personality traits, so they give information and insight with respect to the choices or decisions one may need to make. 

As time went on, she furthered her reading and met other readers. She learned that not all readers include both jokers within their deck. She learned that some included one, while others included none at all. She learned there were many different ways that a person could read playing cards, not just the way she was taught, which was mostly intuition. She learned there were many sites available where the general meanings for each card could be found. This made her think of just when reading with playing cards started. 

Through her research, she learned that reading fortunes with playing cards became popular not long after playing cards were invented in the 14th century. She learned  readings with playing cards were rather popular from the 18th century through the 20th century, and that using them to read most likely started somewhere in Europe.

At the end of the day, she places her cards back in their box. She bids them good night. She then gently places them in their cabinet or chest where they are housed so they can come out to play another day. She bids her guests farewell, and proceeds with her evening chores. 

“Blessed be,” says she, “may you be well while on your magickal journey.”

~ Sara Lynn