Cartomancy: Playing Your Cards Right

Cartomancy is a type of an online psychic divination that uses a regular deck of playing cards. Your future can be determined through the use of these cards and through understanding human feelings. It originated from the times when the playing cards came to be used in the 14th century in Europe. While there is also unsubstantiated view that Cartomancy originated during the ancient Egyptian times. On the other hand, some believe that the art of this type of psychic reading was derived from the wisdom of the ancient Egyptian god named Thoth.

People who have expertise in Cartomancy are commonly known as cartomancers or simply card readers. Just like tarot reading, cartomancers also have the ability to give psychic advice. Cartomancers are able to gain an understanding of the querent just by looking at the cards.

In the English speaking countries, a standard 52-card deck is commonly used for playing bridge and also popularly used as for fortune telling. A 32-card deck though is used in France for playing piquet – this card can also be used for cartomancy. All the 2s up to all the 6s in the piquet deck are eliminated from the normal 52-card deck while leaving the others in use. These were practice during the 18th, 19th, and the 20th centuries, and now in the 21st century.

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The ancient playing cards were mainly used for the purpose or divination or psychic readings and each card is said to have its meaning. The 52 cards represent 52 weeks of the year. The four suits signify the four seasons which is the spring, summer, fall and winter. It can also be the four divisions of the day which is the morning, afternoon, evening and night. While some represents it as the four elements which is the earth, wind, fire and water.

In the four suits, the diamonds symbolize youth, career, and money and travel while the Clubs symbolize adulthood and business. On the other hand, the Hearts represent maturity, love, friendship and domestic matters while the Spades represent old age, difficulties in life, treachery, sorrow and infidelity. There are thirteen cards in each suit which signify the thirteen lunar months in a year as the thirteen weeks in each quarter of the year. The Kings, Queens, and the Jacks in the twelve court cards probably signify the twelve months of the year or the twelve houses of the zodiac.

Power and strength is represented by the Kings which also indicated structure and stability. Compassion and care is represented by the Queens as they signify deep love and when rejected can be vindictive. The Jacks represent immaturity and changeability.

So it is understood that each card corresponds your past, present and future. Cartomancy can predict matters of love, health, wealth, happiness and answers on any questions put forward by the querent. Certain traditions believe that this deck of cards is only use for divination and should not allow others to touch it. However, due to the popularity of tarot reading, cartomancy readings have been left behind.

How Does Card Reading Work

This can be done with an ordinary 52-card poker deck but a better alternative would be tarot cards. Today, there are already three popular card spreads are being used by most of card readers. This could be the Celtic cross spread, the horse-shoe spread and the three card spread. In a Celtic cross spread, the reader spread 10 cards on the table, with five set into a cross and four cards placed vertically beside the cross. The last card is placed horizontally across of the central card of the cross, commonly referred to as the significant card.

To be able to predict the past, the present, obstacles and problems, possible solutions, and outcomes in the future, the cards are arranged in V-shape or in a horse-shoe spread and read from left to right. For the finale, the three card spread uses three cards, each of which represent the past, the present, and the future.

Cartomancy and tarot reading may be similar with each other as they both need psychic skills to be able to forecast certain happenings. It can use the standard deck of playing cards or Tarot cards, which ever the client or the reader prefers. A deck of Tarot card is composed of the Major Arcana, 21 trump cards and one Fool cards, and a Minor Arcana, composed of 56 conventional cards. Any deck of cards that do not have this number and classification of cards can be used for cartomancy.

How Can Card Reading Help You?

Identify areas for improvement. A card reading can help highlight the aspects of your life in which you should be focusing on at the moment in order to achieve a better future.

Make life-changing decisions. A card reading can provide better perspective by giving you a snapshot of your present life and the direction in which it is going. With this information, you can determine if you wish to continue down the road you’re on or make a necessary change.

Gain Clarity. A card reading can bridge the gap between you and your higher self, more commonly known as your intuition. This connection encourages you to take an honest look at your life and make the necessary changes. Once clarity is achieved, it becomes easier to make responsible choices.

Find Peace. A card reading can assuage the fear of living in the uncertain and unknown. It focuses on the potential of what is happening right now. Once the present becomes crystal-clear, it’s easier to determine what path to take or if the one you’re on now is the best one.

Improve Life in General. Ultimately, this is the goal of every card reading. It will show you a snapshot of your current life so you can see what aspects you need to improve and what changes you need to make. A card reading can act as your guide to creating a better future.

Click on the inforgraphic to see it in full size.

Benefits of cartomancy inforgraphic

Cartomancy Basics: Meaning, Spreads, and More

Tips for beginners

Here are some helpful tips for beginners when doing cartomancy:

1. Clean the deck. It is important to properly cleanse the deck after each use. This is done by shuffling the cards, storing the cards with a crystal, or placing the cards under moonlight.

2. Know the stories in cards. When learning to read cards, a person must try to put stories in them. For example, reading a king and queen together means a possible marriage. If the cards are read separately from each other, they would have different meanings.

3. Develop intuition. One should understand that the cards have different meanings. As the three of hearts may mean an affair, for a beginner it can mean a social event.

4. Keep a journal. It is important to take note of the cards chosen and the reason behind it. Referring to this journal at a later date may help in studying cartomancy reading.

5. Everything has meaning. The card suit has different meanings so does the numbers. There are many different definitions, combinations, spreads, and types of readers in cartomancy. One should know which works best for him or her.

6. Never read for oneself. No one should do card reading for himself or herself. Those who want to know about their life should have someone more experienced do it for them.

7. Trust instincts. The first instinct is important when reading cards. Following the gut feeling is more essential than logic.

The meaning of the cards

When choosing a card to represent the subject of the card reading, these guidelines can be used:

Gender. King represents the male gender, Queen the female, and Jack the youth of any gender.

Zodiac Sign. The Club or Heart represents the Fire Signs, such as Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. The Diamond or Spade signifies the Earth Signs, such as Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. The Air Signs such as Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius may be Spade or Diamond, while the Water Signs Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces may also be Heart or Club.

Personality factors. The Heart may represent people who are shy and helpful. The cool and logical ones are represented by the Spade. Diamond signifies individuals who are ambitious, businesslike, impatient, and outgoing. People who are instinctive or intuitive, cheerful and friendly are symbolised by the Club.

Knowing the spreads

One card is used for a quick answer to a question. For a more comprehensive reading, experienced card readers use the different kinds of cartomancy spreads.

The Three-Card Spread. This spread is used to give a quick answer or overview. This is done by shuffling the deck and concentrating on the question. Then the cards are laid out in a row from left to right.

1 2 3

The first card represents the past, the second the present, and the third card the future.

The Nine-Card Spread. This is a more in-depth reading of the Three-Card Spread and is done by laying the cards out in three rows across and three down.

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9

Cards 1, 2, 3 are for the past. Cards 4, 5, 6, are for the present. Cards 7, 8, 9, are for the future.

The Magic Square. Known to be good for psychic or psychological reading, this spread begins by choosing a Significator Card to represent the questioner. This is placed on one side while the questioner shuffles the remainder of the deck. When shuffled, the reader takes four cards from the top of the deck and places them in the order presented. The fifth card is the Significator Card selected for the questioner. The remaining cards are taken from the top of the deck.

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9

Card 1 – Individuality (Questioner’s true nature)
Card 2 – Duality (Relationships with others)
Card 3 – Stability (What is stable in questioner’s life)
Card 4 – Tenacity (Where the questioner will not compromise)
Card 5 – Potentiality (Court card for questioner)
Card 6 – Opportunity
Card 7 – Spirituality
Card 8 – Negativity
Card 9 – Positivity

The Horseshoe of Fate. This spread is done with seven cards and is good for answering questions of great concern, or questions involving life changes, such as changing careers, moving house, or getting married.

Unlike the Magic Square, there is no Significator card selected. The deck is then shuffled and spread out face down in a fan shape. The questioner chooses seven cards from the spread and gives them to the reader. Then, the cards are spread face up in the order that they were selected.

1 7
2 6
3 5

Card 1 – Past influences affecting present situation
Card 2 – Options and alternatives
Card 3 – Stability or instability of situation
Card 4 – Challenges
Card 5 – Help or hindrances
Card 6 – Who are friends or adversaries
Card 7 – Aftermath

The Horseshoe Spread. Done with 21 cards, this spread provides a more universal overview of the seeker’s life. It is done by laying down seven groups of three cards in the shape of a horseshoe or arch. After laying down the cards, the reader counts from one to seven, then starts the eighth card on top of the first card and go around again. The 15 cards should be placed in a structure on the first and eighth cards and so forth.

The seven categories for each group in this spread are:

1 – the past
2 – the present
3 – developments in the near future
4 – what the seeker does not expect
5 – people around the seeker
6 – obstacles and opposition
7 – the outcome

The Gypsy Spread. Like the Horseshoe Spread, this is also done with 21 cards. From left to right, the reader lays down three rows of seven cards. The top row represents the past, the middle row the present, and the bottom row the future. This 21-card spread demands great skill and is not to be attempted until one is very confident with the meanings of the cards and combining them into a meaningful narrative.

Pyramid Spread. This spread is good for general reading and there is no Significator card selected. The deck is shuffled and spread out face-down in a fan shape. Then ten cards are nominated from the spread. The reader places the cards obverse in the order that they were selected, following a pyramid.

3 2
4 5 6
7 8 9 10

Top Card (Card 1) – Overall influence at work
Second Row (Cards 2 & 3) – Choice of action
Third Row (Cards 4, 5, & 6) – Essential forces
Base Row (Cards 7, 8, 9 &, 10) – Guidance of the cards or resolution

Celestial Circle. This spread is done only once a year. Like the rest of the spreads, there is no Significator card selected. The deck is shuffled and spread out face-down in a fan shape. The reader selects 13 cards from the spread, and then places them up-side in the order that they were selected like that of a clock. For example, the first card would be 1 o-clock, the second card 2 o-clock, and so on. Card 13 is placed at the centre.

The cards are read as months of the year, where the first card is the current month. Card number 13 is the overall forecast for the year. The card is read by suit alone.

  • Heart – Happy forecast for the year
  • Diamond – Successful practical year ahead
  • Club – Enterprise, money, accomplishment in the next year
  • Spade – Arguments or disagreements ahead

Top 5 Facts and Myths About Cartomancy

Is cartomancy a type of tarot reading or vice versa?

Throughout thousands of years of history, people, ranging from primitive people to kings and pharaohs as well the so called “new age man” and the internet-savvy techno geek, have always wanted to see a glimpse of the future, which is primarily due to our human nature of being curious.

And long with the increasing need of people to know this uncertain future is also the surging fascination on psychic readings using the traditional deck of playing cards and also of tarots.

With these 2 types of cards used in psychic readings, it has resulted in the confusion between the 2 methods of getting a reading.

Cartomancy: Facts and Myths

Here are the top 5 facts and myths about cartomancy:

1. laying cards used in cartomancy are derived from tarot cards. There are many people, including those aspiring to be “psychics”, who have fallen for the urban myth that playing cards are derived from tarot cards. This is not true.

In fact, the reverse is true. It was the playing cards that had first entered Europe in the late 14th century, probably from Mamluk Egypt. The use of playing cards spread rapidly throughout Europe, and with some certainty, may be traced from 1377 onwards. There are even documents mentioning the cards date from 1371 in Spain, 1377 in Switzerland, and 1380 in many locations including Florence and Paris. The Mameluke deck is said to contain 52 cards comprising of four “suits”.

On the other hand, the tarot card deck is said to have been created between 1430 and 1450 in Milan, Ferrara and Bologna in northern Italy when additional trump cards with allegorical illustrations were added to the already existing common four-suit playing cards. This was done in order to provide more “trump” cards for games such as Tarocco or trionfi, from whence came the name. And it had taken another three centuries before these additional cards were embraced by various occult traditions and acquired the meanings we attribute to them today.

2. Cartomancy originally emerged first as a form of fortune-telling or divination using a deck of standard playing cards. This is true. In fact, forms of cartomancy, including the use of tarot, only appeared soon after playing cards were first introduced into Europe in the 14th century.

In fact, there is evidence that divination using playing cards is in evidence as early as 1540 in a book entitled The Oracles of Francesco Marcolino da Forlì, which allows a simple method of divination, with the cards used only to select a random oracle and have no meaning in themselves.

3. Tarot is a form of cartomancy and not the other way around. In fact, it was only until the 18th and 19th centuries that the tarot was widely adopted by mystics, occultists and secret societies in forms mysticism and divination. The tradition was begun in 1781, when Antoine Court de Gébelin, a Swiss clergyman, published Le Monde Primitif, a speculative study which included religious symbolism and its survival in the modern world.

4. Playing cards were invented by either the Chinese or the Indians. This is a myth. Two legends may, or may not, describe the origin of the playing cards. The first says that it was in the twelfth century in the harem of the Chinese imperial palace that the playing cards were invented. According to legends, in 1120 C.E., one of the bored women living there had invented the playing cards to help pass the time. The second legend claims that, it was in India that the playing cards were invented, with the maharajah’s wife inventing the card in order that the maharajah’s hand will be utilized in playing the game of cards instead of being used to constantly pull at his beard.

Though these legends may even hold a kernel of truth, it seems more likely that playing cards originated in Korea and were descended from a Korean divinatory arrow, according the two experts on the history of playing cards. The two experts made a study of the Korean connection and were convinced that this is where playing cards began as the original Korean cards are said to have similarity in shape to the slips of bamboo that were used as arrows in divination rites. They also thought that the scroll in the shape of a heart on the backs of the cards represent an arrow feather. Finally, it is thought that the numbers on the cards were related to the cock feathers on the arrows.

5. Nobody except who owns the cards should ever lay a finger in it. They have to safeguard in the aura of others to ensure that the bond between your cards and also the medium is undisturbed and obvious. False. Remember, the cards are just tools.

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Article Info

Date: Feb 28, 2018
Amelie Rose Estrela is an experienced psychic and recently published, esteemed lead author for the Psychic Guild since 2003. She has written hundreds of articles for the website on a range of topics covered within the psychic niche, including Psychics & Mediums, Tarot & Angel Cards, Astrology & Horoscopes (the topic of her newly-released e-book), Love & Relationships, and Spells & Magic. You can find out more about Amelie on
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