In the last hour of the longest summer day today, I got permission to write up a short reading for a woman who wanted to know what her grandmother ancestors might have to say to her on this day of summer solstice celebration.

Her exact question was: What is the message from the Crones?

Now, I wanted to write something about this, as it relates to a pretty general question – and I’m not very keen on those.

I often insist on a very specific question, as I believe that the more specific the question, the more precise the answer. The more open-ended the question, the more information too.

The point of this post is to show that even though we may come to the cards with general issues on our minds, or a desire to know something metaphysical, the cards can offer very concrete information.

So let us have a look here, as this reading is based on a classic layout.

I chose the significator to be the Queen of Diamonds. She remained in the pack at the time of shuffling – until the very end anyway, when she insisted on popping up in the surprise card.

This being a reading for a message from beyond, as it were, I chose the spread that I like to think of as The Council of 13 (Etteilla calls this, The Great Star, Dawn Jackson in her hedgewytch cartomancy calls it The Coven).

The reading structure goes as follows:


First the inner cross, horizontal line first, with focus on pairing 2+3 and then 4+5.

Then the outer cross, horizontal line first, also with focus on pairing 6+7 and then 8+9.

Then the X, with the left diagonal line first 10+11 and then 12+13.

The center card must be taken into consideration, all according to how the reading advances and dances.

Variations upon the crosses can be made afterwards by looking at how cards modify the neighbouring cards, or how they enter in relation around the edges, for instance we can look at the clusters 10+6+13 and its mirroring partner 12+7+11, or all around.

At last, we can peep at the bottom card of the cut deck for a last word, or a surprise.



We shall see here that with this type of general question, the best is to really let the cards speak what they have to speak, and keep very close to the rules of color and number progression.

Anything else would be a walk in the woods with someone who doesn’t know the woods. (For more on the basic rules of fortunetelling, see my intro post here).

Let us begin. Lots of resources at the core (10♦) are distributed in the form of guiding ideas to a student (6♦/J♦).

But the larger community misunderstands these ideas (8♦/8♠). An older friend of the querent tries to smooth things out (6♣/K♥). But a third party insists on interfering (3♣/J♣).

An older man, ill disposed towards the querent settles his dispute (K♠/4♦). A message of good will is on its way that will re-establish the bonheur (A♦/3♥).

The K♠ is someone working with the querent (flanked diagonally by 6♣ and 3♣). He was engaged in devising a scheme to denigrate the querent with the aid of some young person, who purposely misunderstood the situation (J♣ modified by 8♣ cancelling out 8♦).

The K♠ plan of black-mouthing the querent backfires (read in a V movement K♠/8♠/A♦), as another young person, the direct recipient and beneficiary of the querent’s resources (J♦/10♦) sends out a letter of support (A♦/4♦) that re-establishes the good relations (3♥/4♦).

The K♥ is pleased with this outcome.

All ends well in the Kingdom of Diamonds. The surprise card is the Queen of Diamonds herself, which here tells me that she got the right reading. In other words, we were on the right track. ‘Spot on,’ she said.

The absence of the crones themselves, which the querent wanted to hear from, indicates that they are all at work behind the scenes.

And what they are working on is upholding the good fortune for the Queen. It is for this reason that they sent her forth as a surprise to herself.

As we can see then, very concrete information was passed along in spite of the general question.

Also, although the nature of the question was perhaps to hear something spiritual, the cards insisted on speaking about an issue at work.

One must accept that, and perhaps think about how the material conditions, if well taken care of, can put the querent on a path of teaching what she loves and thus get all wise and spiritual about it, if that is what the aim is.

Good luck to her.

With a wink to a friend who vanished.

Deck: Otto Tragy Jugend Spielkarten, Ver. Stralsunder Spielkartenfabrik, 1910.


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8 thoughts on “COUNCIL OF 13

  1. Markus Pfeil says:

    Dear Camelia

    I really love this spread. It looks nice, is symmetrically magical, has layers of 1, 8, 4 and also the 13 and an axes of 5.
    As your readings are continuously cunning and magically succinct, there is mostly litte to add….two things struck me about this reading though.
    Firstly, on the subject of the outer four cards, which to me look like compass rose elements we have the only benevolent influence on the airy east side, where the King of Hearts resides and makes communication, and honest communication the best course of action. Secondly in terms of the ring of eight, which I see as the 8 phases of the moon in a moony spread, I can see a benevolent first half of the moon (starting on top), which indicates to me that this is a time of inception and growth, not maturation and completion. Especially the full moon place is ill aspected and opposition in completing things is to be expected.
    A fabulous spread and I marvel at your precision.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Good observation again, Markus, and thanks. Indeed one can use the spread to mark the 4 ages of the moon. For a magical application of timing the events, one could use the 7s (if they are in the spread) to represent ‘within 7 days’ in each of the moon’s phases, beginning with 7 of diamonds to indicate the first 7 days from the new moon to the first quarter, and so forth. Good luck with it, and let me know how you find this if you test it, or whether you find other interesting applications to go with it.

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