Prompted by a question from cartomancer Fortune Buchholz as to whether I have a house system for reading the grand tableau with playing cards, here is a method I have devised that can be used both as a house system and as an alternative way of reading the tableau to the one I have indicated in my previous post on this, The Heart’s Desire.

Here is a diagram containing all 52 cards distributed in 5 rows of 9 and 1 row of 7 at the bottom. This is my own method. Please make the proper reference if you want to share it. For a traditional approach check the Gypsy Witch fortunetelling cards which has devised a popular system. I’m not so keen on it myself as I find it odd in the symmetry department, but as many prefer ‘tradition’, they are welcome to try it out.

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The cards that fall in the inner square of 9 fall in the House of Destiny. The cards that fall in the outer square of 5X5 fall in the House of Influence. The 4 outer squares designate past and future relations. The upper left square of 9 contains the cards that fall in the House of Befalling Events. The bottom left square of 9 contains the card that fall in the House of Control. The same applies to the right hand column of squares. The cards that are shared horizontally between the top and bottom squares are called the Clench cards. The cards shared vertically indicate Direction. Read these latter cards also in mirror with the card in the middle of the destiny square as the middle card of your trio.

camelia elias grand tableau playing cardsAs you can see in the diagram, the cards in the positions 21 and 25 are Over-determined cards as they are shared more times than the others. You can read these as two sides to the same coin, in tension, but also in inseparable harmony.

The reading of the squares must proceed according to the classical way. Read the cards in trios, first the horizontal rows, then the vertical, and then in a cross with the card in the middle as the middle card of your trio. Six squares will elicit 48 sentences. This can be quite a lot to go through. What you can do if you don’t have the time to ponder too much over all these relations, is glance at the intersecting points either between the diagonal lines in the X or the cards that are shared between the squares. For the outer square of 5X5 read the corners and then the X. The square of destiny in the middle should be read in full, as it indicates relations that you cannot escape.


Now to the question. I’ve chosen for this tutorial a question that comes up a lot in readings, namely:

What should my attitude be towards X?

I get this question a lot from people who have experienced a fall out with lovers, husbands, wives, children, bosses, or friends. People get hurt, and often they would like to know what to ‘think’, as in, what attitude to adopt towards the party that has inflicted pain on them. There are several possibilities: to ditch, to forgive, to embrace, to love, to hate, to forget, to confront, to report, to humiliate, to anger, and so on. Given this premise of negative event when most people lament the lack of compassion, respect, or recognition from others, I have chosen here as the significator the Queen of Spades. Among her traditional attributes is sadness, and she stands for truth and fairness. She is often the other or divorced woman. Her official tasks are judging, policing, disciplining. She can fence. Her physical attributes are middle height, and dark complexion.

camelia elias grand tableau playing cardsSo the Queen of Spades wants to know how she should be towards the King of Spades. Being of the same suit the King shares some of the same attributes as the Queen. He can also be the insensitive man, or the man who causes grief simply because he can. So here goes the reading, but not before I make a final point.

My style is to read the cards straight and head on. I don’t invent anything beyond the system I apply. But there is such a thing as being seized by some cards to enter a magical realm. Where relevant I will make a point about this in the reading here, particularly as it pertains to how to engage in a magical application of the cards. But be forewarned that not all cards lends themselves to a magical application. One should not impose a magical reading on a tableau simply because the magic may tell the better story. Sometimes the 7♠ just means tears and has nothing to do with the casting of spells. 

THE READINGcamelia elias grand tableau playing cards

The House of Destiny says:

A decision is made to split with the K of Diamonds (A♠ 2♠ K♦). Ill health is restored through friends and a small increase in finances (5♠ 3♥ 3♦). The King of Clubs has a new working opportunity for the Jack of Diamonds (K♣ A♣ J♦). A blow contributed to the ill health of the King of Clubs (A♠ 5♠ K♣). A disaccord is forgotten in favor of new opportunities (2♠ 3♥ A♣). The King of Diamonds is in excellent and growing financial cooperation with the Jack of Diamonds (K♦ 3♦ J♦). A decision to increase the kindness towards the Jack of Diamonds is made (A♠ 3♥ J♦). The Kings of Diamonds and Clubs support this decision (K♦ 3♥ K♣).

Based on this we can infer that on the level of what the Queen of Spades must do in terms of what she cannot practically say no to, as this is her Destiny house, is accept that some deals are made across friends regarding the well being of a youth. At first the King of Diamonds turns his back to a disagreement, but eventually he decides to compromise and cooperate with the King of Clubs. The Queen thus must acknowledge his act and make sure that they all agree on maintaining an amicable relation.

Here, a note on agency. When I say: ‘a decision is made…’ I use a passive construction that may leave one wondering: who exactly is making this decision? Often the agent of an action is the querent herself, or, if a court card initiates the string, then we can say that he or she is the subject of the action. Agency is also determined by the context of the question, therefore it is crucial to remember the question all the time at all steps in the reading. Otherwise we end up with a walk in the woods. The Court cards are traditionally seen either as helpers or as antagonists. The Jacks are either children or messengers. The Kings are men of power, and the Queens are guardians of truth.

The House of Influence says:

A gathering of friends cannot agree on what agenda to follow (8♥ A♣ 8♣). New ways for good exchanges are being devised (6♣ A♣ 2♦), here in the form of an invitation from a family member (K♥ over 2♦).

The House of the Past Befalling Events says:

What was a good trip with the family ends with the loss of imagining that the familial crowd can do anything but destabilize all relations (6♥ 10♦ 3♠, as modified by 8♥ and 4♠). The King of Spades wants money or the material and stable concretization of ideas (6♦ 10♦ K♠, as modified by 4♦).

The House of the Past Control says:

The King of Spades has his eyes on the Queen of Hearts, who is married to the King of Hearts (K♠ Q♥ K♥). He acts as a third party interfering (3♣) in the King of Hearts’ relation. He is in a mental relation with the Queen of Spades (K♠ 4♦ Q♠), who however favors the King of Hearts (Q♠ 9♥ K♥). The King of Spades moves towards losing the Queen of Spades to the King of Hearts (K♠ 4♠ 3♠ to Q♠ 9♥ K♥).

Now this looks like a complicated relationship. We have two pairs, each King with his consort. One could assume that they are married couples. But given the question here, we must say that the King of Spades must be seen as not the partner of the Queen of Spades, but rather as the one she is trying to get her head around in terms of what kind of attitude she must assume towards him. So, interestingly enough, we could then argue that the King of Spades is here in fact married to the Queen of Hearts and the King of Hearts is married to the Queen of Spades. Nice mess.

The Clench cards of the past are here extremely revealing too, with the King of Spades causing the misère (K♠ 4♠ 3♠). The 3♠ is also the over-determined card, telling us a lot of what is at stake. What we are dealing with here, and what stares us in the face is loss. Loss imitated by the King of Spades, spilling over into illness (5♠). Good thing it’s all in the past.

The House of the Future Befalling events says:

Sex for fun leads to heart troubles with the consequence of leaving (5♥ 7♥ 6♠). Working for one’s own pleasure, although emotionally painful, leads to happy fulfillment (5♣ 7♥ 10♥).

The House of the Future Control says:

Great pleasure is put in the service of changing work related to writing (10♥ A♦ 9♣). But the lost ways, while recovered through the letter, lead to trouble with the mental energy (6♠ A♦ 7♦). If a magical application of the cards would seize me, I would say that the lost ways lead to a new vision, as the 7♦ is related to all things divination.

The Clench cards of the future tell me that the great pleasure will translate into keeping bad company (10♥ 10♣ 6♠) either in the form of negative thoughts (8♠ above the 6♠) or skepticism (J♠ below the 6♠). Magically, I’d say that a restless spirit is about the house (J♠ is outside of the square containing the A♥ signifying the house of the querent. Above him he has the host of others in the coven (6♠ 8♠)).

The over-determined card is here the 10♥. Mirroring this card to the other over-determined card of 3♠ we can say that Loss and Love are part of the same coin here. What these cards suggest so far is that the Queen of Spades must take to her heart that King of Spades is both lost and won to her. At the same time, loss, 3♠, going over to love and happiness, 10♥, through the 3♥, also gives us the indication on a pragmatic level that the love triangle is maintained. This is part of the destiny pull. It is the ‘so it goes’ situation. The King of Spades may create havoc, but he will be forever caught in this relation.

For the directions that the Queen of Spades must take in her attitude towards the King of Spades, the vertical columns of the shared cards tell me this. First I read them in line from top to bottom and then as mirroring sets.

Left column: Friends or positive thoughts will help transforming the loss into a renegotiation of relations with the King of Hearts (8♥ 3♠ 3♣ K♥).

Right column: The ways of the fulfilled heart are oriented towards helping the young and loving ones who are yet struggling with their vision (6♣ 10♥ J♥ 7♦).

In mirrors, the past events relate to the future events in the following manner:

Entertaining thoughts of splitting must be reconsidered as an alternative that’s not so good (8♥ 2♠ 6♣). Loss of love can still mean love (3♠ 3♥ 10♥). Increasing the opportunity to teach the young ones something of value is a good idea (3♣ A♣ J♥). With the help of the King of Hearts you turn the double trouble into working magically through new visions (K♥ 7♣ 7♦).

The surprise card here is the 10♦ (card in position 11), and what trumps it is 5♠ (card in position 22). We can say that there was a culmination of invested energy (too much) in the past, with the consequence of illness, now part of the destiny lot. Basically the Queen invested too much brain power in a King who didn’t get it. Tough luck.

The bottom line

As a reader of cards, I take to my heart the beautiful suggestion, however, that that cards offer me: Read more cards. In a magical application all the troublesome sevens have a very specific function. The 7♥ is related to spirituality, or a system of belief, the 7♠ is for the mysteries or occult knowledge, the 7♣ is for practical magic, and the 7♦ is for the strongest vision. I think it is quite befitting of the Queen of Spades, who is also the grand Witch in a magical setting, that she abides by her strong vision and her practical magical skills. And it’s good to know that both the King of Hearts and the Jack of Hearts can help her to carry her magical tools, her chalices, and the spells of whatever her heart desires.

Good luck in the house of cards.


Note on the deck: Grimaud, original hand-stenciled cards from 1853.


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Add yours →

  1. Hi! Do you have this grand tableau from your family or you´ve created this spread alone?

  2. Awsome spread! I want to try it! Thank you very much!
    Please, tell me, where I can find the meaning of cards that you use here in interpretation?

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