In my readings with playing-cards I use the full deck, 52 cards. But as it happens, when you own an exquisitely rare hand-stenciled deck, such as my 1880 piquet Grimaud with golden edges, a red of passionate messages, and no indices – such is the privilege of owning an untaxed luxury pack – I find myself on occasion reading with the reduced number. A piquet deck has only 32 cards in it.

Some have been asking me as to why I prefer to read with the full deck – a practice that is more commonly known as the ‘not French’ – and to this I only have one simple answer to offer. I like the numbers 1 to 10. I also find that reading with 52 cards saves me from the hassle of considering all those reversals that one finds in French cartomancy or the derivates thereof.

So here is a simple rule that I impose on reading with a 32-card deck. In my cartomancy 101 post, Fortunetelling in Three Steps, I explain that I follow the color and the number progression. Reds are good, blacks are bad. We go from hot to cold. 1 is a little. 10 is a lot. In between is a variation on the numbers 0 and 1, and to make it more fun, we can say that all the sevens are trouble (including the 7 of hearts). Allow me to quote myself here, for the sake of the point I want to make later in connection with reading with a reduced deck:

“We go from unity to division, contraction and expansion. In the middle we find cards dealing with cooperation or splits (the 2s), increments (the 3s), stability (the 4s) health and the body (the 5s), paths and choices (the 6s), challenges (the 7s), wishes and fears (the 8s) and changes (the 9s). The Aces mark a beginning, or more specifically, the house A♥, an opportunity A♣, wealthy means A♦, or a decision A. This latter A also indicates death, physical death or the death of something, such as a relation, the termination of a contract, or the death of a system of beliefs (logically speaking, a quick decision can also be seen as the death of hesitation).”

Given this method, how then to read with 32 cards, the court cards plus the 7 to 10 suits, if we want to maintain the basic idea as the above?

The reason why I want to maintain the above is simply because I believe in reading cards the logical way. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not interested in meanings that are generated by the illusion of some invented tradition.

For me tradition is this: following a solid logic behind the mechanics of reading the cards. If I can follow the argument as to why, for instance, the Jack of Spades in reverse should be associated with betrayal in love, when we have more immediately the Jack of Hearts in reverse that might fulfill that function, then I can accept it as ‘traditional’ meaning, if not, then tradition can go fuck itself.

Spades are for cutting – they are not natural, as we have to forge them ourselves or pay heavy money to have them done for ourselves. Spades thrive on cutting. A happy spade is a cutting spade. Hearts on the other hand are for loving. They are more natural as they are the first we hear: our own heart beat along with our mothers.

With clubs we work and with diamonds we buy. So, obviously, I also don’t give a flying fuck for the ‘arguments’ that account for one’s reading skills by way of referring to the mysterious Gypsy neighbor or the ‘gifted’ grandma. These people are good to follow if their system is consistent with logical thinking. Anything else for me is just a waste of time.

Now to the argument. But not before making the observation that, in spite of my personal opinion of what makes a good method, where arguments are concerned, it’s like in math. A theorem for which we have proof is only as good as long as no one contests it.

In other words, arguments are not infallible. In the context of card reading, this is in fact what makes it most fascinating, namely, that one can propose a simple method by following a certain system – logical or not – and then see others using their brain-power to either add to it or dismantle it.

Reading with a pique deck

I’ve done a square of 9, and read the standard way, horizontally in trios from left to right, ditto vertically, and then in an X. As you can see below, I got all the numbers from 7 to 10. Given that we lack the 2 to 6, here’s what I think is an efficient way of keeping with the logic.

grimaud 1880 camelia elias

Look at the 7s. What do you see? Two rows of 3 flanking one symbol. The most immediate response to this card is to think of 6+1. The ways of the 1. Remember that the 6s are for ways. But we can also see an empty house (the lower half consisting of 4 symbols and nothing in the middle, the body: two legs, two arms, and a head, a 5, or the 2, separated from the 5 and indicating an exchange).

So, in the 7 we have represented the 3, the 6, the 4 and the 5. How about the 8? Two rows of 3 listening to the 2 in the middle deliberating. So here we have represented the ways of the 2 negotiating, in conflict, or in love.

We can also say that increments double in the 3s raised at the power of 2. How about the 9? Oh la la, a nice and solid assembly – 4 on each side of the table – is talking about the 1. And the 10? The assembly can also be ambivalent. Or else, everyone rows to destination.

Now that we have the dynamics in place, with the other missing numbers represented nicely in each of the 7 to 10 cards, let us attempt our reading revolving around the preservation of energy.

I get this question often from people who feel drained of energy and want to know what to do to protect themselves against it. The angst is about having your vital force stolen away, with the consequence of feeling disconnected.

So, on the question: how can I protect myself from energy drain?, here’s what my exquisite Grimaud has to say:

The ways of the heart cannot be mended by the acquisition of cash. A skeptical young man is interfering with the querent’s affairs (7♥ 9♦ J♠).

The King of Clubs instigates to work that splits the camp (K♣ 8♣ 10♠).

The Jack of Hearts brings happiness, but trouble at work due to worrying is weighing down the querent (J♥ 10♥ 7♣, the latter as modified by 10♠).

The heart-ache may be the result of the King of Clubs interfering with a non-responsive Jack of Hearts (7♥ K♣ J♥). The Jack doesn’t seem to be interested in being patrolled by the King. He is looking in the opposite direction.

Talking finances with the community brings joy (9♦ 8♣ 10♥).

A disturbed youth creates a major practical problem (J♠ 10♠ 7♣).

Double trouble (7♥ to 7♣) and conflict between the ones in the business of learning something. Some resist (J♠) some don’t (J♥). Interesting corners, by the way, with 2 sevens and two Jacks aiming at each other.

Now, what does all this tell us about the energy of our querent? What we got here is a very simple and straight forward message that was delivered thus: Conserving your energy is not easy, with people slanderously plotting against you, lording over the negotiating table with malicious intent, and influencing the immature ones. Make sure you bank on the youth that inspires, even if they mind their own affairs (J♥ is looking away from the blissful 10♥).

Here we might add that what gives away the theme of the reading is in fact remarking the manner in which we have an equal division between the cards that flank one or two other symbols. So, what causes the drain of energy is ambivalent talk against the one idea. Our querent needs to be on guard with regards to what crowd he runs with, and not let small problems (the 3 factions in the 7s) get the better of him.

Thus, whether reading with 52 cards, 32, or whatever else, if we remember the simple rule of 10, we can divine until the hereafter. Reading cards is in fact the easiest thing in the world. All you need to do is follow the suit, the color, and the number.

If the black ends the string, bad news. If the red is on the horizon, relief comes after the hard time. Look at how the symbols are in conversations with one another, and invite them for a dance with you. Have fun.


Note on the deck: Grimaud, 1880. Hand-stenciled, without indices, and with gold edges.

grimaud 1880 camelia elias


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Add yours →


    Bent Sorensen: Not even playing with a full deck…
    2 hours ago · Like

    Camelia Elias: You don’t need to, if you know how to exploit the 0 and 1.
    about an hour ago via mobile · Like

    Iain Ismyfirstname: excellent…not being familiar with the deck, i saw the 7 as more of a diagonal split of 3 heading in one direction, and 4 going in the opposite…then i started seeing it as a tug of war almost, and how crowded or loose each member of the team were…great article!
    about an hour ago · Like

    Camelia Elias: Good observation. You could say that the Jack of Spades has the strong end of the rope, while the Jack of Hearts has the man of experience on his end. It takes a lot of energy to focus on all the mal intent at work. The good news is that our querent can make some material acquisitions to make him happy, and thus have some of the frustration related to going to battle with kindergarten types taken away.

    Iain Ismyfirstname: …could be that the ten of hearts is the perfect balance within the game of love…or a stalemate with a stale mate?
    5 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: We have two tens. One very hot and one very cold. Two Jacks, one hot one cold. Two sevens, one hot one cold. If they cancel each other out, what remains is the King, the 8 and the 9. WE could say that the King is working towards getting the cash. So, while the two battle, the third wins.
    a few seconds ago · Like

    Enrique Enriquez: I think we have ten fingers.
    15 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Any idea why the French decided to get rid of 5 of them?
    13 minutes ago · Like

    Iain Ismyfirstname: maybe they consulted with René Lavand?
    12 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Iain Ismyfirstname: sorry, that was a magician joke..
    12 minutes ago · Like

    Camelia Elias: I go with the Italian, Slydini.
    9 minutes ago · Like

    Enrique Enriquez: it is a good joke,
    9 minutes ago · Like

    Enrique Enriquez: I have no idea why the French do what they do.
    9 minutes ago · Unlike · 2

  2. Love this. Break everything down to its simplest components. Have been reading up on the evolution of language lately. When languages evolve, they become more simple & elemental, thus becoming more advanced. Just as you noted, zeros and ones, our most advanced and useful language.

    Finally sold on the 52. Especially with this option still to use the piquet, the smaller pack fits in my shirt pocket better that way. 😉

    • Good for you. And good luck. Reading cards is very rewarding. The full deck, that is. Nice cards, err, expensive hobby. But what joy to see all those museum pieces spread on your floor, the whole lot, and nothing but. I find it the best antidote to stress and stupidity, the latter, including my own.

  3. Excuse me, I apologize if you have been asked this/answered this/spoke about this elsewhere and I haven’t seen it, but you talk about what each number and suit signifies for you in this post, but you leave out the 10s. Could you please tell me what they signify?

    • No problem. And yes, I have mentioned it a few times, here and there. The bottom line is that we think of the 10 as 1+0. What does this mean? It simply means that once you’re done with the linear progression from 2-9, you’re ready to star over. Therefore the 10s are often thought of vehicles for travel. Two 10s often actually indicate travel. Generally, they just indicate the culmination of everything. In an extended reading, I must say that I like the 10 diamonds the most. You can never have enough of it. Whereas 10 hearts is terrible. Too much, and too much that spills over into contentiousness. 10 spades, well, take a wild guess. You’re dead, man. 10 batons, too much work. You might as well just kill yourself. So the 10s indicate an exaggeration.

      • Thank you so much! That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been struggling to find cartomancy meanings that were in any way sensible, so this is very useful to me. (Bit concerned that the one card that follows me around like nobody’s business is the 10 Spades.)
        If you haven’t spoken about it anywhere (and you don’t mind answering), is the interpretation of your face cards just the follow on from the meanings of the suits themselves? So, the Queen of Spades is a cutting woman, etc.?

  4. Yes, that’s pretty much it. I have an extended chapter on this in my Marseille book. As I don’t distinguish between reading the pip cards in the tarot pack from the way in which I read playing-cards, you may find more useful information there.

    • (Same person as Uskglass, just bothering to sign in). Thanks again! Your book is definitely on my “to-buy” list, when I have the funds/and the time to read it.
      If you don’t mind my incessant questioning, I have a couple more for you. (Sorry, I thought I was done, and after thinking about things yesterday I realized I still had a few things I was unsure about. Again, provided I haven’t worn your patience too thin.) The 3’s are the increments… so are they the cards that build to other things, as appropriate with their suit? For instance, if in a set of three cards you got something like the 3 Spades, 7 Clubs and Jack Spades – You could interpret it as some sort of trouble building up at work possibly caused by/surrounding the Jack of Spades?

      And finally, could you recommend a good book for starting with horary astrology?

      • Yes, that’s it. Though, it’s good to have a grasp of method too, and remember that because we’re with the spades, what we call increment can just as well manifest as the opposite, or loss. Say, if here we had the 3 spades come after the 7 clubs, what we’d say is that you’ve just managed to lose your job, due to dubious attitude. That is, if your significator is the Jack of Spades. If not, then due to some little snot at work who made sure that you would experience your downfall.

        About horary astrology. My favorite masters are Deborah Houlding and John Frawley.

  5. Love the logic, love your analysis.

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