Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows
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Title: What is Cartomancy
Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows   Divining Magick
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Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/10/2009 00:41 AM)
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What is Cartomancy
Cartomancy is the act of divining using cards.  Divining means to find out by inspiration, intuition or magic; to foresee.  Divination is most often practiced as a means of foretelling the future, however, many people who practice divination using cards or other tools find it a helpful tool for exploring the present and the past as well. 

What are the origins of cartomancy?

The history is cartomancy is shrouded in mystery.  We do know that playing cards have been around at least 600 years and it is believed that paper cards originate in China since they developed the first known paper currency which resembled playing cards.  It is believed that the tradition of playing cards traveled from Western Asia to Egypt, then to North Africa.  From there, they finally surfaced in Europe.  One theory of the history states that the Arabs and Moors introduced the cards to the Spaniards in 1379.  In Spain, people called the cards naibi, which means "to foretell." Whether they originated as tools for playing games or for divination purposes cannot be sure, however, cards were definitely being used for predictive purposes by the sixteenth century.  By the eighteenth century, cartomancers - as fortune tellers were frequently called - were all the rage.  The Emperor Napoleon is said to have consulted the cards on a regular basis. 

Playing cards and tarot cards

Most people are not aware that the 52-card playing deck that can be found in almost every home is almost identical to the tarot deck, although research has not yet proven which came first.  The traditional tarot deck contains a total of 78 cards.  Twenty-two cards form the Major Arcana and 56 cards form the Minor Arcana, from which the regular playing deck is derived.  Instead of three face cards, the tarot deck has four face cards, called court cards.  They are Page, Knight, Queen and King.  The Minor Arcana consists of four suits:  Wands (Clubs); Cups (Hearts); Swords (Spades); and Pentacles (Diamonds).

My approach to cartomancy

Unlike tarot, cartomancy using playing cards is typically used as a purely predictive tool.  The meanings given to the cards are generally simpler and of the fortune-telling variety.  Alternatively, the tarot is often used as a tool for self-discovery and meditation and the card symbolism and meanings are explored in great depth.  Since I came to use playing cards for divination after reading tarot cards for several years, my card interpretations are probably more detailed than many.  They are based on my observations from studying tarot and numerology.

I created this website to share my ideas and offer a more robust variety of information on playing card cartomancy than I have been able to find on the Internet.  I hope you enjoy it!

The Four Suits


Clubs reflect the drive, energy and ambition you put forward to reach your goals.  They can reflect struggle and weariness or determination and a fighting spirit.  Clubs often relate to business endeavors, career or work issues and any area where you may face obstacles and learn to assert yourself.  Clubs reflect your desire to get moving, take action, defeat the enemy, and achieve victory.  Too much club energy may mean that you are moving too fast, taking on too many responsibilities and expending too much energy.


Hearts reflect your emotional state, the status of your relationships, and your ideals and wishes.  They depict your feelings and concerns about others and may show love, happiness, estrangement or boredom.  Hearts most often relate to partnership or group concerns.  They may reveal opportunities to identify and pursue your secret desire and opportunities to celebrate your thankfulness and success.  Hearts reflect your desire to share and cooperate, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and find what truly makes you happy. Too much heart energy may mean that you have your head in the clouds and are living in a fantasy world.  It can also suggest that you are too emotionally vulnerable to the desires of others.


Spades reflect areas where you are experiencing blockage, conflict and a need for change and elimination.  These cards are often seen in a negative light, but their purpose is to let you know when it's time to move on, give up a bad habit, or release a destructive or unhealthy pattern in your life.   Spades often relate to problems and conflicts as well as illness or health-related difficulties.  However, these cards hold the power of transformation as well.  Spades reflect your inability to let go, to see clearly, to share and cooperate with others, or to act in a direct manner.  Too much spade energy suggests that you are in denial about some issue and refusing to make necessary changes in your life.


Diamonds reflect your sense of financial and emotional security and issues concerning structure and stability.  They can show  how much you have, don't have and how much you want.  Diamonds reveal what brings you comfort and satisfaction and they usually relate to concerns about money, possessions, home and family.  Diamonds reflect  your desire to acquire things, to increase your financial status, and to feel satisfied with your progress and station in life.  Too much diamond energy suggests rigidity, hoarding and possessiveness.  It can show you are unwilling to change or have a deep-seated fear of losing some form of security.

Pip Cards

Numerology is an integral part of cartomancy.  Below is an outline of numerical meanings of the pip cards, those numbered one to ten.  To find detailed card descriptions, click on the appropriate number.

Represents new beginnings, ambitions, fresh opportunities, and planting new seeds which may have long-range developments.  Aces signify the right time to begin a new venture or they can reflect a deeply held desire.  They show that it is a time of leadership, independent thought, and progress.

Represents partnership issues, cooperation, receptivity and the need to make a choice or decision.  Twos often herald a time of waiting and being passive and a need to cultivate patience.  Twos often relate to the characteristics of sensitivity, gentleness, and shyness.

Represents growth, creativity and expansion.  Threes signal a time where self-expression and self-promotion are likely and there is a possibility of recognition and expression through the written or spoken word.  Three represents groups and shared interests so it also reflects increased social activity.  

Represents stability, order and structure.  Fours suggest a time to lay foundations for future success.  They may also reflect a period of restriction and burdens where you feel you are faced with important decisions.  Fours relate to self-discipline, hard work and maintaining the status quo. 

Represents a desire for freedom and independence that makes you go against the status quo.  Fives can signal a time of nervous energy, challenges and conflicts with others, and adventure and impulsive actions.  Fives also suggest travel and expansion as well as fluctuations in many areas of life.

Represents a transition from the past to the future.  Sixes also relate to responsibilities to others, and duty to home and family.  It is a number that is associated with peace and harmony and its vibration tends to settle any past debts. 

Represents a need for introspection, independent self-discovery and inner growth.  Sevens reflect taking an original approach to learning, meditation, retreat, and reevaluation.  Sevens often signal a time of slow growth and may also suggest an attitude of defiance.

Represents power, leadership, money and career issues.  Eights relate to the focus and control necessary to direct your energy toward achieving your goals.  They show movement and changing direction. This number signifies advancement in the external world, property issues and material gain. 

Represents completion, self-fulfillment, and preparation to let go and move to a new level of experience. Nines suggest a time of attainment and clearing the decks to make way for new opportunities.  It also symbolizes compassion, selflessness and charity.

Represents the end of a cycle and starting over on a new level of experience which can mean a new marriage, house or a promotion.  Tens also reflect having too much of something and the stress and preoccupation that causes.

Face Cards

The face cards are Jacks, Queens and Kings.   These cards usually represent people surrounding or influencing your question.  In most playing card decks, the face cards actually face to the right or to the left.  This directional clue can help you to determine the personality or concerns of the person represented by the card. 

Here's an example where the King of Hearts is facing the 2 of Spades: This may signify that a man surrounding the questioner (perhaps the questioner's husband, father or someone having an emotional connection to the questioner) is feeling indecisive and doubtful.  Or, as a significator, it may reflect a  male questioner with concerns about love who is not seeing things clearly or is indecisive in a relationship.

For detailed card descriptions for each suit, click on the highlighted title.

Represents youth and youthful attitudes.  They can represent people of either sex that are younger or less experienced than the questioner.  Jacks also relate to issues of movement and change.  Like children, they are restless and have a need to travel and explore.  They are gaining experience and maturity and cannot be counted on to commit to anything or anyone but themselves.  They tend to browse through life, stay neutral and seem unable to make decisions.  Yet there is a stubbornness and tenacity about them.  Jacks can also represent  thoughts when they are in readings with Queens and Kings of the same suit. 

Represents women and issues of nurturing or cultivating traits and projects.  Queens often represent the growth stage of any project or goal and relate to helpful people that can assist the questioner.  Queens react to external impulses.  They judge them and based on that judgement, either cherish or reject them.  They are therefore good arbitrators and mediators.  Queens also represent nurturing our inner qualities of introspection and intuition. 

Represents men and issues of authority and control.  Kings also stand for the endpoint of a project or goal, and reveal successful endeavors.  Kings are often considered aggressive-natured and outgoing, but unlike the Jacks, they have matured and have gained ample experience along the way.  Kings tend to display little emotion and view life from a particularly practical standpoint, regardless of thie suit.

A spread is the pattern in which the cards are laid out.  Spreads can help you to gain a general picture of someone's life or they may focus on a particular problem or question. 

Below is a list of just a few spreads you can use for doing readings.  You can also create customized spreads when you find that set spreads are too limiting to answer your questions. 

To see the spread layout and a sample reading using the spread, click on the highlighted title.

Chien De Pique
This method is French, and focuses on four areas of the questioner's life, with particular emphasis on their fate.  Uses 12 - 16 cards.

The Romany Spread
A gypsy favorite, this spread has been used for at least 200 years.  Choose this spread when you want to have a general look at the past, present and future.  It can also be used to answer a specific question, revealing past influences, current circumstances and future potential.  Uses 21 cards.

The Destiny Square
This spread places cards in a position which corresponds to the twelve houses of the Zodiac.  It helps to explore twelve different areas of life, including career, home, and finances.  Uses 13 cards.

Business Snapshot
This spread is based on the layout of the destiny square but is performed from a business perspective. It gives a snapshot of an organization from the inside out. Uses 12 cards.

The Six-Card Linear Spread
This is a short, basic spread that helps to answer specific questions.  It also reveals a primary challenge the questioner is encountering and the strengths and skills needed to deal with it.  A seventh card can be selected as a timing card.

The Celtic Cross
This is a popular tarot spread and it gives an excellent overview of the questioner's situation.  It also provides insight into the questioner's past, and hopes and fears.  It can be used for a general reading or for a specific question.  Uses 10 cards.

The Process-Direction Spread
This spread is useful for receiving advice on the direction you should take regarding your concern.  Choose this spread when trying to answer "should" questions, for example, "should I take the job out of state?"  Uses 9 cards.

Relationship Spread
Choose this spread to help you answer questions regarding your relationship with another person.  Cards are chosen to represent both sides of the partnership.  Uses 10 cards.

Chakra Spread
Chakras are energy centers in your body.  This spread examines how you are using the energy of these centers and shows areas of potential blockage. Uses 7 cards.

Choosing a Significator





Some readings require a significator.  A significator is a card that represents the questioner and usually the card chosen is a face card.  This card is usually chosen for one of two reasons:

(1) Sometimes, the reader will give the questioner the significator card to focus on during the shuffling process.  This allows the questioner to focus his or her thoughts so that the reader can concentrate on the question being asked.

(2) Often, the significator is chosen and then put back into the deck to shuffle.  If it appears in the reading, it suggests the questioner has a good deal of control over the issue at question.  It is also important to note where the significator comes up in the reading for further clues to answering the questioner's concerns.

Face cards of the same suit in a reading indicate a close relationship.  For example, if the King of Spades appears in a reading for a questioner whose significator is the Queen of Spades, you can assume he represents her husband or an important man in her life.  If the reading is about career issues, this could be a colleague or boss.  Suits also have an opposite which reflect a negative affinity.  Hearts oppose Diamonds and Clubs oppose Spades.  So, if the King of Clubs appears in a reading for a woman symbolized by the Queen of Spades, this could represent a man who will bring tension and difficulty for her.

Typically, Kings are chosen to represent men, Queens for women and Jacks for young people and children.  But what suit should be used?  There are many systems for choosing a significator and you should come up with a system that works for you.  You can choose the suit based on the questioner's concerns, or based on their Astrological sign, or their personality type, or any other method you create.  Below is an outline of typical methods.


Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn


lively, energetic, enthusiastic, leadership potential

warm, friendly, compassionate, creative, loving

powerful, intelligent, crafty, melancholy

methodical, materialistic, practical, down-to-earth


business, career,
goals, ambitions

love, relationships, celebrations

decisions, deceit, worries, health problems

money, possessions, home and family, security

Card Combinations

People often wonder how a reader sees major life changes such as pregnancy or divorce in a spread.  No single card signifies an event of this magnitude.  It takes several cards combined in a spread to trigger the possible interpretation of such events.

The following list shows certain combinations that may be seen in readings.  These combinations do not typically signify predictive events but usually indicate issues surrounding or influencing the question. For example, if you see a combination for death, this may signify that someone related to the questioner has recently passed.  You should see at least three of the cards shown in the combination before interpreting them as listed.

Addictions - 7 of Hearts, 9 of Hearts, Jack of Hearts

Arguments/Fights - 3 of Spades, 5 of Spades, Jack of Spades, 5 of Clubs, 7 of Clubs

Birth/Pregnancy - Ace of Hearts, 3 of Hearts, 6 of Hearts, 10 of Hearts

Death - Ace of Spades, 9 of Spades, 10 of Spades

Deceit - 7 of Spades, Jack of Spades, 7 of Hearts, Jack of Hearts

Divorce - Ace of Spades, 3 of Spades, 5 of Spades, 10 of Spades, 5 of Hearts

Health problems - 4 of Spades, 8 of Spades, 9 of Spades, 10 of Spades, 10 of Clubs

House or property issues - 4 of Clubs, 9 of Diamonds, 10 of Diamonds

Job Layoff or Quitting Job - 4 of Spades, 5 of Spades, 6 of Spades, 7 of Spades

Job Raise or Promotion - Ace of Diamonds, 3 of Diamonds, 8 of Diamonds, 6 of Clubs

Marriage - Ace of Hearts, 2 of Hearts, 3 of Hearts, 10 of Hearts

Monetary increase - Ace of Diamonds, 4 of Diamonds, 6 of Diamonds, 9 of Diamonds

Travel - 6 of Spades, 8 of Hearts, Jack of Clubs, 8 of Clubs

The Numerical Theme

Finding the reading's numerical theme is one way to broaden your understanding of the questioner's concerns.  The numerical theme of a reading tends to reveal the questioner's current state of mind or where their energies are directed with regard to their question.  It sometimes sheds light on readings where there is internal conflict between the questioner's energy and his or her external influences.  For example, the questioner may be presented with a new job opportunity but they may be in waiting mode, unable or unwilling to act upon the opportunity.

Usually, the numerical theme helps to explain why the questioner is asking the question.  For example, when a questioner is in a mode of reflection or contemplation, their numerical theme is often a seven (introspection and wondering about direction and progress).  When they are concerned about security and may be afraid to take on a new adventure their numerical theme is often a four (holding onto what you have, maintaining the status quo). When the questioner is ready to take action, they may receive a numerical theme of five (adventure, freedom and travel) or ten (starting over on a new level of experience).

To find the numerical theme for a reading, I add all the numbers in the spread using the following coding system:

Ace through 10 = 1 through 10
Jack = 11
Queen = 12
King = 13

Next, I add all the numbers and arrive at a number which is reduced to a single digit by adding the individual components of the number.  If you are familiar with numerology, this process should be familiar.  Here's an example.  Let's say the numbers for your reading add up to 56.  I add 5 + 6 = 11.  Then I add 1 + 1 = 2. Two is your numerical theme.  This may suggest that you are concerned about partnership issues, cooperation and compatibility.  It can also mean you are vacillating and indecisive about some issue.

Timing Techniques
People often want to know when an event will occur and I believe that this is not something that cartomancy can reveal accurately like astrology.  However there are a few techniques that others have come up with that can give timing estimates if you would like to include them in your readings.  Here are some of these techniques:


Since there are 52 cards and 52 weeks in a year, each card suit can be broken down into the 13 weeks of each season.  Clubs correspond to spring; Hearts to summer; Diamonds to fall; and Spades to winter. On the Pips and Face Cards pages, I have given the time periods for each card.

You can assign time periods to each face card according to their zodiac cycles:

King of Clubs - Leo
Queen of Clubs - Aries
Jack of Clubs - Sagittarius

King of Hearts - Scorpio
Queen of Hearts - Cancer
Jack of Hearts - Pisces

King of Spades - Aquarius
Queen of Spades - Libra
Jack of Spades - Gemini

King of Diamonds - Capricorn
Queen of Diamonds - Taurus
Jack of Diamonds - Virgo

If you assign each ace to its appropriate season, you can go through the shuffled deck until you come to an Ace.  The Ace that appears reflects the season during which the event will happen. 

Twelve months spread
Using the
Destiny Square spread, you can find out what will happen during each month of the year.  Instead of using the spread for astrological houses, make each card represent a month of the year.  Look for clues in the cards that suggest timing issues.  For example, if the questioner is asking about when he will get a raise and the Ace of Diamonds shows up in the month of July, a raise may be forthcoming at that time.

There are many timing techniques out there.  What is important is that you find a system or create one that works for you!

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