Apr 30, 2013


Human  quintessential need to know the future, and hence affect it too, is probably as old as species
of homo sapiens themselves . And divination,  or mantic arts, as methods for achieving this   had always been an essential part  of human culture.   Readers, people who  specialized in divination aspects of spiritual working,  performing mantic arts, reading and understanding omens, or simply, telling the fortune, future and  giving guiding advices, were both reverend and persecuted. Quite often simultaneously. Information is power, more so if it’s about the upcoming event, and could thus enable   for people to preclude upcoming calamities, win wars or simply have a more prosperous and happy life. However, as it’s only expected to occur that way in human society, respect and social power readers would attain and enjoy , caused envy, and consequently they’d create nemesis, by simply being there and doing what they do.

Unlike prophetic gifts, divining future is a more “Gnostic” approach, where the  spiritual worker seeks insight, pays attention to signs, omens , numbs the common physical senses, and sharpens those intangible senses,  that’ existence is debatable, at least according to science.  According to Christianity seeking spiritual gifts,  yearning for them , more so   when fueled by  pragmatic needs, is seen as profane and leads to sin. I’d agree with that, being a Christian myself. But then again, divination is not a sin in or by itself, rather  a  tool that can be abused and thus lead into sin. Following the same logic , we should never take knife in our hands. Or frozen fish even,  for it  can be an extremely deadly weapon, If You wish it to be. Addressing mediums, psychics and readers for most profane things is actually a sin of sloth, and recklessness behavior  that leads in spiritual numbness, and procrastination towards self-salvation.  True again, yet, most of the things existing in this world, become dangerous in excessive amount, furthermore, If You are a spiritual practitioner why not do a readings for Yourself ? If not, address to Higher forces for guidance when You have a genuine dilemma, and need for actual discernment , rather than to find out “if she fancies You”

Before we proceed on the practical part of this post,  to conclude, divination is akin to  homeopathy, use in small doses and when needed, and You should be safe from spiritual decadence, as well as sin.

Many methods and tools are employed in divination, let’s name just a few for illustration purposes:

·         Astragalomancy – divination by reading from position and shape and size of cast bones, in modern day simply divination by dices

·         Pyromancy – Divination by fire element , encompassing many disciplines, such as observing flames and bonfires and their behavior ( such as those done on Imboloc, I’ve written on that before )   , reading candle wax remaining or drippings ( ceromancy ) , reading from remaining ashes  after combustion of sacrifice ( cauliomancy ) and so on

·         Bibliomancy – Divination by randomly picking passages , sentences or words of book, sometimes combined with other methods such as placing a key in the book, and  observing when and how it fall out from the book

·          Belomancy  - Divination using marked or specially decorated arrows , according to some, Bamboo arrow divination in Korea  preceded the following example;

·         Cartomancy – Divination by  reading card, playing cards or specialty cards, such as various divination decks, most well-known example being Tarot. Reading Tarot is sometimes referred as Tarotomancy, although I myself ( and I don’t think I’m alone in that either lol )  find that redundant,…

And many, many others. In this article we will be dealing with Cartomancy,  more precisely,  some basic history, symbolism,  and spreads done with common, playing cards.

Or are they that “common” ? The ordinary playing cards are more magickal and mysterious  than one would assume on the first look.  Their origin is even nowadays, after years and years of research, in best case speculated, or half-guessed.

There are many myths regarding the origin of the playing cards, according to  one geishas in  the Chinese imperator’s  castle invented the game. According to yet another of the legends,  the invention came from dire need of some Indian’s maharaja’s women, to prevent his obnoxious habit of picking his own beard, by means of keeping his hand busy with something .

However the Kun Pa’I game of China, dating back to time of the Tang dynasty  ( 618-907 ) of the ancient China. [1]  Apparently the playing cards, firstly represented both the money of a kind  ( stakes  ) and  cards in  China, and were initially hand printed, thus  extremely luxurious. Earliest records place playing cards in Europe in 14th century , namely Spain and Italy. They were a rarity in those days, and as each deck was had printed they were unique, and a prestige symbol. By the early 15th century, woodcuts with all the playing cards were made, and they had become accessible to broad public and very popular. 

They contained numerical values in for suits ( matching designs ) much like they do now,  with a bit more “archaic” symbols, being polo sticks, cups, chalices and swords.  These are still , even today prominent suits or markings in Tarot card decks, whereas  the common playing cards have adopted the symbols to ones we are familiar nowadays, being namely: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs. Spot cards ( on which the values were depicted in smaller symbols of their “ruling” suit ) were 9 of each, sometimes other than ten, lacking also six, making thus 8 of each. The “court” cards  were pictured cards, depicting personages, even though in the beginning the depictions did not resemble humans, rather they were abstract. They eventually evolved from King, Vice - king, and Second in deputy ,  to King, Queen and knave or knight, sometimes also servant,  3 of each correspondent to one suit or “color”. They  are reportedly created to depict famous historical  personage , such as King David ( King of Spades ), Julius Cesar ( King of Diamonds ) , Judith  ( Queen of Hearts ),  Biblical Rachel ( Queen of Diamonds ) , Lancelot ( Knave of Clubs ) and so on.

Like most of the things appearing in plurality of limited forms,  offering possibility of random arrangements of elements of some kind, they’ve become prominent tool for divination. When and how exactly, is hard to tell, although it is safe to assume, that it would have happen not too long ago after the very invention of the cards.  Considerable amount of experts think that it could have been the Gypsies, to introduce the use of common playing cards as divination tool, and that they’ve spread their  “findings” throughout the Europe, consequently. One of the first written documents that not only speaks of divination with cards in Europe, but also gives practical instructions  of how to do it, offering also the   possible interpretations for each card individually, appeared in Germany during the late  15th century . It was called “Eim Loszbuch Aus  de r Karten” [2] which some authors associate with Tarot, but is actually about the common playing cards, though could have, and probably was what influenced the creation as well as use of Divination decks, such as Tarot.

Magickal association and superstitions about playing cards

Each suit is associated with an element, and also corresponds to Tarot cards symbol.


Pentacles       | Diamonds          | Earth         |Business, journeys, news                              |Traders and admin

Swords           | Spades                | Air             |Obstacles, misfortune, diseases, death     |Aristocracy

Sticks              | Clubs                   | Fire            |Money, or efforts, hard work, changes     |Landlords, peasant

Chalices/Cups   |Hearts                  | Water       |Luck, friendship, love, family[3]                  |Theocracy

They can be used to represent the elements in rituals and conjurations. The symbolism of the cards is easily applicable in spell casting.

Playing cards are considered lucky, ominous, amuletic and talismanic.  For example it was believed that If the whole deck was to fall down on the floor,  that was foretelling a great misfortune . It was considered to be very risky to go down a mine, or off to sea with a deck of cards. Nine of Clubs is considered a lucky gamblers charm, more so If gifted to one by a child or prosperous person. Simmilar goes for 7 of Clubs. Nine of spades however, is a card that is sometimes used in  hexing ritual that are done in order to cause or inflict pain, suffer and illness upon someone. Old deck  must never be simply thrown away but rather burn and a new deck smudged, over it, in the flame.


There are many great books written on the meaning , interpretation , as well as spreading the playing cards for reading , and with that being said, I could not cover all that   in this one, single post. Rather , I’ll discuss some basic meanings , and a simple spread or two J

I think it’s wise  to keep in  mind, that proper expertise comes with experience anyway, and not try to learn all the meanings by heart, for a day or two.

We consult the cards when we have an important  question or dilemma ,  asking stupid questions may result in equally stupid actions. Also testing the accuracy of the cards by double asking the same, is beyond stupid, we can all guess at least three reasons why is it so

Other than simple reading card by card, we should also  consider meanings card form together, and allow intuition to ennoble and refine the insight.

Readings are most proficient if done on Mondays or Fridays [4] The deck  used for divination should not be used for playing, when not in use should be put down in a safe place, much like You’d have it done with common magickal/ritual tools such as athame or wand. 

Here are some things to consider in readings:

·         Should the Higher ( Figural and Ace cards ) appear dominant in reading, the questioner is expecting  great  changes in life, which  are often groundbreaking, and always  reffering to future

·         Naturally opposing the above , lots of “lower” cards appearing in the spread indicate to stagnation and necessity of taking action more vigorously

·         If ¾ of all of the cards are of the same color or suit this is extremely indicative! Black usually represents unfavorable outcome, and even  great tribulations , while red cards are the opposite

·         Domination of the spades in spreading may indicate danger, obstacles, need for extra caution, cold-head thinking and optimism and counseling with other people

·         Dominant clover spread speaks of luck, success , money and well being ,  although If all the cards appear to be clover, that should be a warning that person had grown egoistic and neglects others

·         Diamonds dominating spread speaks of good financial chances, success and gain, too many of them, however, are a warning that the person might get lost in all that,  turning into a “green monster” of a kind, obsessing over material

·         Hearts dominating the opening indicate that person is open for new meetings, , or might be seeking a love partner. However, almost all  cards of the heart ( as in suit )  in  a single reading indicate that person is too open, servile, submissive or that it shall try to take on themselves more than they are able to handle

·         Some  important and common interpretations include: Two red ten’s ( ten value cards, being diamonds and hearts ) indicate marriage,  ace of  clovers means letter , two of cloves warns about a false friend, a “snake in the grass” If you will, five of hearts  predicts upcoming gift from a lover or a suitor, ten of cloves an over-the-sea traveling, four of  hearts represents the marital bed, four of spades sickbed, seven  of cloves prison or imprisonment, captivation [5] 

Nine of hearts is also called “card of wishes” and is considered to  be one of the most positive cards in the deck, while directly opposing it “stands” nine of spades ( curious is that is similar with swords in Tarot )

The above given will  ensure a solid base for  general cartomantic interpretation, yet each  card, as stated before, can have very specific meaning, which by all means should be taken in account during readings. Have that in mind , more so If You really want to get an  in-depth, concrete and precise reading, and thus consult some source that provides those*

Following are example of card spreads, that are commonly used in cartomacy that employs the common, playing card deck:

Mythical Cross

Shuffle  the cards well, then align 7 cards , in front of You ( facedown ) , in a horizontal line. The middle ( or 4th card ) shall serve as the central point of the spread,  and the central point of the vertical line, which You get when You place three ( again, facedown ) cards above the central, and three bellow it. 
According to some schools of thought, the central card may represent the petitioner, or the person for  whom the reading is done , or oneself in, case we are giving a reading to ourselves 

First uncover the central card, that going from down to up, all the vertical cards, and finally the horizontal cards,  from left to right.  Vertical cards speak in general of the question, and may provide guidance towards solution, as well as stress the influences of importance , while the horizontal provide additional details and speak of chronological  aspect of the question,  those left from the central card speaking of past and those on the right side, speaking of the future. 

Yes and No quick spread

This particular  swift  method will provide the yes and no answers, or rather, will indicate If something we have wished to happen will occur the way we want or not.  Alternatively, If we  are in doubt of the outcome of certain situation, the cards in this spread will  tell If the outcome will be positive ( desired ) , or , alas,  negative  ( undesired ) one. It’s quite simple really, and fun

Thinking of the “wish”  ( also;  situation, event , plan ) shuffle the cards slowly and gently, placing those  from the bottom to the top, in smallest possible groups, or better  yet, single card at the time. Now draw one by one until either Nine of Hearts, or Nine of Spades appear. If the Nine of Hearts appears first ( also known as Card of Wishes  ) the wish will come true, or the outcome will be positive. If, unfortunately the Nine of Spades appears first, it’s a clear omen that the wish will not come  true, or that the outcome will not be as we would like it to be.

But keep in mind, many wishes are but silly whims,   and such coming true, could actually be more pain than gain. Also,   getting Nine of Spades, may mean that You need to try harder, instead of sitting and whining how nothing good ever happens to You.  Not to mention, that one can always do a more profound  reading to find out, what is blocking the positive outcome, or why will it not occur, and thus affect the future. In any case, this particular  method is not to be consulted about the same wish in 24 hours, and If You think a bit You will realize that   it is only logical to do so.

This article was written and  composed by myself, hence If You  wish to use any part of it elsewhere online, feel free, but add credits  Shadow of Shadows magick place, or Shadow-333@hotmail.com or a direct link to this post
*try first learning basic meanings of suits, color and what they represent, than consult various sources  that offer each of the cards In deck interpretation, and cross reference them. Other  than the books  and resources  “listed  in Credits and References”  , try also here:


 [1] according to scientific article by Sir Wilkinson, W.H. (1895) titled “Chinese origin of playing cards” published in “American Anthropologist” magazine
[2] according to an entry found here http://books.google.me/books?id=dVne-RK9UVYC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=Loszbuch+Aus++der+Karten&source=bl&ots=iSjMYqSDBt&sig=USBahFukJwxkI4HlFn0yzUVHJWM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eahYUbSDJdKN4gSdg4DgDA&sqi=2&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Loszbuch%20Aus%20%20der%20Karten&f=false
[3] Divination symbolism  mainly based on that given in “Gledanje u karte” ( literarily : “Card reading” ) by Wendy Kroffer
[4] acc to Cassandra Eason, as stated in her book “Encyclopedia of  magick and ancient wisdom”
[5] according to the same source as under [4] , page 120th ,  edited and paraphrased here

IMAGE CREDITS: The first, illustrative image is from http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-playing-cards-candle-image7635556  , which was  then edited by myself, and used here  without any ill will.

The Mythical Cross spread scheme is by   little me.

1 comment:

Angel Malaquez said...

Cartomancy is just great. I love it. It helps me everyday.