I have been writing about reading grand tableaus, both short style and elaborate style, and offered as well, both traditional and some more innovative takes on it (See my Method page). I haven’t always been writing about cards, but lately I’ve found that it gives me a certain pleasure. As few out there also appreciate what I’m saying, I don’t think I can ask for more.

Now, however, and as I’m often asked, the best for me is when the cards tell you everything you need to know in one second. I’m always looking for that one second when I can go: ‘I knew it!’ I call going through the other steps of reading the tableau a brain-game, and I like to see how the one-second answer gets to be validated by the larger set. One can take really long time to look intently at 52 cards, or 36, or 78, depending on what one is playing with, and get a lot out of it, but there’s nothing like that one second glance that says it all.

The reason why I’m attracted to the cards offering such incredible and unambiguous answers in one second is because I link this with what we call ‘reality’. If you listen to the non-dualism philosophers, people like Krishnamurti, Osho, and a host of other interesting Zen and not so Zen folks, you’ll hear the same line over and over, and which pertains to what these people consider reality is, namely the ‘right now’ moment. Insofar as the past is gone, and the future is something you imagine – and mind you, I’ve seen people entertaining and living the opposite too, with their past imagined and their future gone – I think it’s safe enough to say that if we are to experience anything authentic, then it’s got to be the right now moment in the right now moment. Nothing else is as ‘true’ and ‘real’ as that. Alas, however, and as many experienced card-readers will tell you, for many the right now moment can be a lot about the lost past or the imaginary future.

Let’s take an example. One of the perennial questions that I get relates to people’s hope of getting the one their heart desires. Fair enough. But it can become a problem when the one dreamt of has been separated from the tormented subject for ages. As a card reader, one may always be tempted to tell both men and women to get a grip of themselves and move on if the separation has been long, anything from 7 to 50 years. On the other hand, I find it fascinating to think that some men and women out there must be getting something out of carrying the torch for some invisible other. Readers of cards can testify to the situation. A friend of mine, a well-known person in the cartomantic world, and whose books I’ve published, writes beautifully about how to be genuinely useful to a client who wants some answers about a lost relation that is now reaching the silver-anniversary. As Enrique Enriquez writes in his collection of interviews around the Tarot, one must be getting something out of thinking of the lost other for some 25 years. That something should interest us all. There is a lot of life-force and narrative-force in such stories.

Now, let me do a short reading of a grand tableau with playing-cards. All 52 of them, as I prefer the full deck, on the question of what one gets out of thinking of the lost other. This is a real-life reading, as all of my examples here are.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 6.04.37 PM


‘What do I get from thinking of the absent other?’


I have to say that the spread above is one of the most beautiful that one can get. It has an incredible symmetry and it offers a sharp answer to the count of 9. The spread is not beautiful in terms of its message – sad affair – but more so in terms of its being extremely clean; Especially as it relates to this classical count that I’ve also referred to in one of my earlier posts, namely the counting of 9 cards from the significator. The earliest example of a written account of this type of fortunetelling with playing-cards, at least in the English language, is in the large body of work by Robert Chambers from 1869. According to this account, you must read the 9th card in trio with the next 9th card, and the next again, beginning with the 9th card you land on in the first count (See, Robert Chambers’ The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities, 1869).

What I also do for variation and immediacy of the message is read the cards in the vicinity of the 9th, so I always have a trio to read as a combo: in other words, the 9th card as it’s flanked by the card at its left and the card at its right, the 9th card being the middle of the trio. The idea is that if the last card is the 9th card from the significator, then you can either keep counting, going to the top of the tableau so that you form a trio, or just consider the power of that one last card. In any event, first you read each 9th card from the significator (3 does it for me, but you can go through the whole tableau with it, and read that as a string), and then you read the trio around the 9th card for more info. Usually this info will not contradict the message of the first count, but be prepared for some brain-work at synthesizing if that happens.


I thought it appropriate to pick the King and Queen of Spades as significators, insofar as I see them as estranged lovers. In this case here, the Queen wants to know what she gets out of the King – who obviously gives her nothing in the ‘right now’ moment.

So we start by counting the classical way, 9 cards from the significator. As she wants to know what HE gives her, I’ve started the count forward from his position in the spread. Some may argue that you must start from HER position first, as she is the significator. Each with her way. I prefer to think about what’s most logical, not about what’s most traditional, for, as we all know, what we call ‘tradition’ may well be just unfounded claims and random opinions.


From this count it’s clear that what the Queen of Spades gets from the King of Spades is the following: Definitely nothing (A♠) that’s, however, slightly reconsidered as a maybe (2♦), but to no avail (3♠). So, ‘hang on to that thought of being invited to the party,’ I said, ‘and enjoy the nothing that comes.’ Nasty business, the business of reading cards.

Now, what one can also do that I haven’t seen others doing is count backwards. As you can see here, and enabled both by the deck I’m using today and the position of the Queen in the spread, you can count back from the Queen herself, as she gazes towards the past, so we can see what her perception of what she gets out of it may be. Counting the 9s again, here we have the following: 10♣ 10♠ 4♠. So the Queen of Spades doesn’t think much of the situation either. There is a wall, an obstacle (10♣), that she is unable to conquer no matter how much she invests in thinking about strategies to overcome it (10♠). She knows what the deal is. But even so she exhausts herself (4♠) with her culminating thoughts about nothing.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 6.04.14 PMIf we look at the two sets of trios with the 9th card in them, one from the King and one from the Queen, we get this message, first pertaining to the King’s situation: 2♠ A♠ 10♣. After the split (2♠), a decision is made (♠) to drown in responsibility (10♣). Some find work as a good substitute for a failed relationship. If we look at the Queen’s situation, we get this: A♠ 10♣ 7♠. This tells us that the 2 are entangled in the ‘end’ (they share the A♠ and the 10♣ in the count), but for her it’s more of a ‘cry over spilt milk’ situation (7♠).

If we are to put more of a spin on this situation we could count the 9 cards from the Queen but to the right rather than to the left. For some sense of the future, and as an expectation of what the outcome of all the thinking that goes into a dead relation is, however justified or not the thinking, we get this: 7♦ (the last card). Now we can either leave it there, and conclude: more trouble – it’s simply not economical in the long run to have thoughts of someone who gives nothing at all – or see it as an attempt to get novel thoughts about the negative thoughts (J♦ 7♦ 8♣ at the top). As this trio ends with a black card, we are here told that such an attempt would fail. If we read in line with counting three 9 cards from the Queen, we can see that there’ll be more of a relief for her, if she elects to focus on having exchanges with the one she loves or a friend, and then communicate largely some ideas, perhaps about a learned lesson (7♦ 2♥ 8♦).

As for the King himself, it looks like he has enough women in his life to worry about. He doesn’t sit all that pretty, and he lies a lot. Some abandoned woman may find such a message comforting, namely to know that she isn’t the only one deceived.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.41.48 PMBut the present, the present. How about the present? Indeed, it goes to show that it does pay off to consider sometimes just how useless disrespecting oneself is. Forgetting oneself in some lost relation. Anyone with respect for themselves would take that last card and turn it into a revelation. The 7s, as I pointed out in my intro post to fortunetelling with playing-cards, can all be magical, and not just trouble. The good news is that while it may be pointless to think of the past, and equally pointless to project fantasies into the future, it is never pointless to think of the present. That’s where the magic is. The woman I read for today went home with the seven of diamonds as her key to insight and vision. She will be back for a magical item that I’ll make for her in the form of a key tied to a red cord run through a bone. We’ll see what that trick will do for her sense of the present. Ashe. 


Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 6.03.39 PMNote on the deck:

Ciel de France, Cartes a Jouer de Luxe, Miro Company, Paris, 1950

Jacques Branger Designs.


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3 thoughts on “GIVE OR TAKE

  1. Caitlín Matthews says:

    Thank you for this clear example. The heart’s desire can certainly become an obstacle when it is frantically clutched and unavailingly invoked throughout many years of partial living: when we discern this in ourselves or others, we can choose to rescind that wish, in order to make clear space for another, especially when it has been years of sorrow – as Yeats says,’too long a sacrifice makes a wasteland of the heart.’

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Thank you Caitlín, also for the apt quote from Yeats. The idea of sacrificing your heart on an altar that offers nothing but grief is something we can all consider. On another note, my theory is that what men and women get out of thinking about a dead relation is some form of cruel creativity induced by hatred and resentment. If one can’t transcend, then, indeed, I would advice anyone to put that hatred to work. But for hatred to work creatively, it requires that one actually knows what is happening. It requires also that one knows that one acts out of an impulse that’s fuelled by hatred. Anything else will render your walk a walk into the desert. A good friend of mine and a famed psychoanalyst, Robert Silhol, once said: ‘when love is denied, hatred sets in’. I asked him whether he thought of an alternative. He said, ‘no.’ I think that there is an alternative, but it requires a magical not a rational solution.

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