Tarot cards and oracle card decks are staples in many people’s spiritual toolkits for turning to whenever they need help tapping into their intuition for clarity around an issue or a quick vibe check of what the day up ahead has in store. If you’re totally new to card reading or are always game to try a new divination tool, there’s another alternative: using a deck of playing cards, which is a practice called cartomancy.
Wait, what is cartomancy?
Technically speaking, cartomancy refers to using any cards to tell fortunes or for inner guidance, says Fahrusha, a professional intuitive; however, a narrower definition of cartomancy focuses specifically on playing cards, she says. As with many mystical practices, Fahrusha says the true history and origin of cartomancy is a unknown, but we do know that it goes way back. “Playing cards were well established in Europe in the 14th Century, though there were different cards and numbers of cards in the various countries,” she says. “Games with cards were reported [even] earlier in India and China.”
Unlike tarot, which uses 78 cards, a playing card deck only has 52. The latter also lacks the abundance of visual imagery found in a former except for face cards (i.e. kings, queens, jacks). Both types of decks, however, are broken down into four suits, albeit different ones: Playing cards feature hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades, while tarot’s are pentacles, swords, wands, and cups.
- Fahrusha, professional intuitive based in New York
Similar to tarot, Fahrusha says cartomancy meanings will differ and depend on how the cards are laid out and the question asked. For instance, if you pull the Ace of spades in a career reading it may mean something different if it comes up during a love reading.
Also, there aren’t as many resources on how to read a 52-card deck as there are for tarot, so many experienced readers have developed their own unique system of meanings, she adds. As a starting point, below, Fahrusha shares her interpretation of cartomancy meanings.
According to Fahrusha, the suit of spades focuses on themes of thoughts and planning.
- Ace of spades: Ready your plan
- Two of spades: You’re feeling uncertain
- Three of spades: Communication is poor
- Four of spades: Ideas are growing
- Five of spades: You’re receiving push back from others
- Six of spades: You’re going somewhere with a purpose
- Seven of spades: Prepare for new possibilities
- Eight of spades: Stoppage has occurred
- Nine of spades: There is fear of future
- Ten of spades: Do it or forget it
- Jack of spades: Young man becomes important to your future plans
- Queen of spades: Woman becomes important to your future plans
- King of spades: Mature man wants a say in your plans
The diamond suit, which refers to the shape not the precious stone, is focused on energy and work, Fahrusha says.
- Ace of diamonds: Start your work with energy
- Two of diamonds: Your energy is finite—use it well
- Three of diamonds: Teamwork is highlighted
- Four of diamonds: Trust your coworkers or helpers
- Five of diamonds: Accept a helping hand
- Six of diamonds: Help others in their work
- Seven of diamonds: There’s confusion over what to do next
- Eight of diamonds: You’re learning a new job
- Nine of diamonds: Business is booming
- Ten of diamonds: A responsibility or alliance
- Jack of diamonds: reliable young man
- Queen of diamonds: reliable woman
- King of diamonds: new boss or someone who wants to be your boss
The suit of heartsnis all about relaxation, love, and peace, Fahrusha says.
- Ace of hearts: feelings of friendship, romance, or peace
- Two of hearts: falling in love or lust
- Three of hearts: a new and important friendship
- Four of hearts: peace and tranquility prevails
- Five of hearts: loss of love or contentment, or illness
- Six of hearts: being with children or being like a child
- Seven of hearts: decisions based on emotions
- Eight of hearts: breakup of friendship or romance
- Nine of hearts: alone and happy
- Ten of hearts: deal with family issues
- Jack of hearts: young man for romance or friendship
- Queen of hearts: woman for romance or friendship
- King of hearts: older man for romance or friendship
Fahrusha says the suit of clubs homes in on the themes of harvest and fruition.
- Ace of clubs: Rewards are coming
- Two of clubs: Gather up what you've got
- Three of clubs: Share your bounty
- Four of clubs: You win
- Five of clubs: Financial reversal or loss
- Six of clubs: You can't buy love or friendship
- Seven of clubs: buying luxury items
- Eight of clubs: saving money or investing
- Nine of clubs: spending on travel or traveling
- Ten of clubs: Pay back debts of all sorts
- Jack of clubs: man you share with
- Queen of clubs: woman you share with
- King of clubs: Person who wants to manage or use your resources, money, or gains
How to do a cartomancy reading
Like with tarot, how a cartomancy reading is conducted will differ from reader to reader. Typically, you’ll start with a shuffle before laying out the cards. Fahrusha notes there are many possible layouts. The easiest to start with is a three-card spread focused on a specific question or a prediction for a certain time period (i.e. What’s up ahead in the upcoming month?), she says.
Once the cards are chosen, you can piece together the messages based on the cartomancy meanings and your intuition. Pro tip: When you’re just starting out with cartomancy readings, Fahrusha recommends attaching sticker or Post-it notes to each playing card with its meanings or writing the meanings directly on each card with a fine marker. Whatever suits you.
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