“Destiny plays its cards in a way that no one can comprehend.”
– Anurag Shourie
Rather than being cast like dice, cards are purposefully shuffled with the question in mind, then drawn to determine an insightful answer. For card divination (also called Cartomancy), most people get a tarot deck or regular playing cards, but other options exist. Business cards, greeting cards, flash cards, or hand-drawn symbolic cards are functional media for the creative-minded modern Witch or Pagan.
Card Divination: 13 is the Magic Number
Tarot cards and playing cards already have some interpretive values ascribed to them by tradition. If you make other card sets, however, create at least thirteen cards so that the responses can somehow touch on the diversity of human experience. You’ll also need to predetermine each card’s meaning (both upright and reversed), as you did with the personally devised casting systems. Make note of those in your Book of Shadows for future reference.
The number of cards drawn out of a set for a reading varies from system to system, so it’s really up to you. You can draw one for a yes or no answer, but for a little more insight draw at least three cards:
Card One: represents the past or underlying influences.
Card Two: symbolizes present factors in the question
Card Three: the final card signifying the future or next actions.
If you decide to draw more cards, consider some traditional tarot or rune layouts for the designated meaning of each.
Playing cards are the modern relative of Tarot decks in a simplified form. Having 40 instead of 72 cards (without face cards), the four major suits correspond to the four main symbols in Tarot:
Hearts – Cups/Shells/Chalice representing love, relationships, emotions, the Water Element.
Spades – Swords/Arrows illustrating conflict, struggle, power, knowledge, the Air Element.
Diamonds – Coins/Pentacles/Disks symbolizing money-related matters, self-images, tenacity, security, the Earth Element.
Clubs – Rods/Wands/Batons reflecting concrete matters like business, creative energy, manifestation, the Fire Element.
If you are buying a playing card deck specifically for divination, get one that has a definite right-side up when you look at it (in other words you can tell when the picture on the card upside down). This increases the potential interpretive values from 40 to 80 outcomes. Next, take out all the face cards and joker. This leaves you with Ace through Ten in each suit.
Shuffle the deck while thinking intently about your question, draw three cards, then interpret them according to the following generalized list (or one of your own devising). This list gives the upright meaning first and reversed meaning second.
Suit of Hearts (Cups)
Upright−success despite difficulties
Reversed-success, but only after a long, diligent struggle
Upright-reason for hope
Reversed-relying on the wrong person
Reversed-unexpected turn for the worse
Reversed-listen to your heart instead of others’ opinions
Upright-a move or personal transition; stay put-stop
looking elsewhere for what you already have
Reversed-difficulty leads to arguments and separation
Upright-abundance, often financial
Reversed-monetary improvements that need to be handled, prudently
Reversed-mixed or enigmatic news
Suit of Spades (Swords)
Upright-a saddening announcement
Reversed-bad news of a personal nature
Reversed–death or an unhappy ending
Upright-don’t move forward with plans right now
Reversed-the destruction of efforts or plans
Reversed-misunderstanding leads to disagreement
Upright-a turnaround of some kind
Reversed-things will go downhill
Upright-troubled times, but family or friends help
Reversed-close acquaintances jump ship when trouble arises
Upright-a partnership’s showing signs of trouble
Upright-feeling unhappy or unfulfilled
Reversed-neglect causes a separation
Upright-lies and underhandedness
Reversed-betrayal by a trusted friend or companion
Upright-diversion from a conflict
Reversed-pleasure that results in trouble or an argument
Suit of Diamonds (Coins)
Upright-a new home or apartment
Reversed-look closely before making a contractual commitment
Upright-postponement of plans by choice
Reversed-things that you cannot control cause delays
Upright-improved finances help a relationship
Reversed-a relationship whose focus is wrong (as in money)
Upright-spend a little money to get away from it all
Reversed-be prudent in your travels or use of vacation time
Reversed-improvements, but ones that take a lot of hard work to achieve
Upright-a business prospect solidifies
Reversed-be wary before accepting a forthcoming proposal (read the fine print)
Upright-a raise or promotion
Reversed-carefully consider this opportunity, it may not be as good as it looks
Reversed-an unscrupulous legal arrangement
Upright-a partnership blossoms potentially into love
Reversed-watch any dealings with companions closely, they may have hidden motives
Reversed-good if Upright, bad if Reversed.
Suit of Clubs (Rods)
Upright-success, especially financial
Reversed-be wary of perceived improvements; they won’t last
Upright-a gift or offer of assistance
Reversed-accept this, knowing strings are attached
Upright-help from an acquaintance leads to prosperity
Reversed-an offer that doesn’t produce what it promises
Upright-advancement (mental, spiritual, or financial)
Reversed-fooling yourself into believing things are better
Upright-mastery of some type
Reversed-being a know-it-all instead of listening
Reversed-don’t listen too closely to well-intended advice without listening to your heart.
Upright-disillusionment or dissatisfaction
Reversed-consider your own actions as they’re causing more of a problem
Upright-discord followed by resolution
Reversed-discord leading to separation
Upright-watch your purse strings and allocate time carefully
Reversed-don’t throw caution to the winds-stay focused
Upright-prosperity in business
Reversed-temporary business improvements followed by setbacks
Say you asked about love prospects. The three cards that appeared, in order, were the ten of spades, eight of clubs, and eight of hearts, all Upright. This means you’ve been burned in past relationships. This negative experience is somehow affecting the way you act in present settings, especially with someone currently showing interest. If you let go of the past and open your eyes, you’ll see that a good opportunity is waiting from which a very satisfying relationship could develop.
Please note that other interpretations for playing cards exist in various books on divination and Cartomancy if you want to personalize or adapt this system further. Also, you could use the interpretive values for each card’s corresponding Tarot card instead, which would provide more detailed responses. Again, use your instincts to guide you in how best decipher and apply your readings.
Note: Some magical practitioners and readers include the Jack, King and Queen of each suit using their corresponding meanings in the Tarot, along with the Joker, which behaves like the Fool Tarot Card.
Making a Greeting Card Divination Set
This is another fun way to recycle and make a divination system that really sings with the voice of your spirit. Keep all the greeting cards you get for an entire year. Go through them and separate the cards into same-size piles. Use the pile with the most cards for your deck. Cut the front of the cards off (the side with the picture). Cover these with clear art spray for longevity.
Look at the cards one at a time. What words or phrases come immediately to mind with the imagery? Use these as a foundation for your interpretations. For example, bells might represent announcements or joyous occasions. Reversed they could symbolize plans that go awry. Other common imagery that appears on various greeting cards can potentially be interpreted as follows:
Upright-a new beginning or literal birth
Reversed-delays in getting something started
Upright-a gift or another pleasant surprise
Reversed-a surprise that turns out badly
Upright-look beyond the surface to find your treasure
Reversed-a proverbial Pandora’s box opening
Upright-a young man who is helpful and kind
Reversed-a young man with his own agenda
Upright-cause for celebration
Reversed-don’t get greedy or overconfident
Upright-curiosity leads to further mystery
Reversed-a setback, but one from which you recover
Upright-your humor is an ally and a coping mechanism
Reversed-don’t become the class clown
Upright-faithfulness among friends and family
Reversed-dishonesty or disloyalty
Upright-follow your dreams wherever they lead
Reversed-keep one foot in reality when making plans
Upright-beauty and hope surround you
Reversed-take care; things don’t “smell” right here
Upright-rewards that come by your own handiwork
Reversed-being undone through lack of effort
Upright-a project comes to fruition
Reversed-delays and entanglements
Upright-take a break before you get sick
Reversed-unrecognized or untreated disease or illness
Upright-a young woman who is helpful and kind
Reversed-a young woman with her own agenda
Upright-improved love prospects
Reversed-deteriorating love prospects
Upright-a new residence or job
Reversed–travel and the gipsy spirit
Upright-progress is halted temporarily
Reversed-a standstill over which you have no control
Upright-a man who is helpful and kind
Reversed-a man with his own agenda
Upright-listen to your instincts and trust your heart
Reversed-your intuition is faulty, get counsel
Upright-cooling of emotions, not of your choosing
Reversed-distance yourself to get perspective
Upright-blessings, abundance, good prospects
Reversed-temper good news with prudence and wisdom
Upright-put down your roots to withstand the wind
Reversed-you’re on dubious ground; watch your step!
Upright-a woman who is helpful and kind
Reversed-a woman with her own agenda
Putting it to Work:
Write down each card in your personal set and the meanings you’ve given it in Upright and Reversed position in your Book of Shadows.
Shuffle and think about your question then draw out the cards. Returning to your earlier question about love say you pulled the woman (Reversed), sun, and heart (Reversed), in order. This might mean that in the past a particular woman negatively influenced the way you think about relationships. While right now things are going smoothly, love’s path will remain difficult in the future unless you shake off that influence.
Learning Cartomancy isn’t difficult. The most time-consuming part of the process comes when you are making your own or personalizing an existing system. Having said that most people find they get much better results this way.
One small word of advice. Don’t overthink the symbolic value for the cards you use. Intuition doesn’t require hours of study. Go with the first thing that comes to mind. Why? Because THAT interpretation is the one to which you respond most strongly.
Adapted from Wicca 2000 by Patricia Telesco All Rights Reserved