IMG_8947My summer solstice yesterday was magical. I have received a marvelous gift in the form of a pack of cards, a bag with magical plants, salts, and crystals, and a blackthorn tincture from Dana Komjaty, a Dutch artist and herbalist. Dana’s cards are all original artwork. They are not a facsimile. A regular 54 playing-card deck has been transformed into an oracle. Dana painted on the surface of the cards with white wash, and then glued keywords of her own choice, and at random, on the face of the cards. The manual labor that must have gone into this process impresses me. The result is just beautiful.


Dana and I have talked about reading cards and my claim that we can read with everything. All we need is a method. ‘But how about intuition?,’ most of my cartomantic students ask me. ‘And is knowledge about esoteric systems important?’ To this I often reply the following: Yes, It’s fascinating to know what people were thinking throughout the ages and where they came from to the cards. But is this necessary to one’s ability to read the cards? Here I would say, no. It’s not. What’s important is that one goes with a few solid and down to earth meanings of the cards, and which one has arrived at not by way of ‘intuition’ alone, but rather by way of observing how nature plays a part in the suits, or how the trumps embody situations. Say, answering simple fundamental questions: why are hearts or cups associated with water, family, friendship, and healing? Well, simply because hearts and cups relate to the blood, the circulatory system, hence blood relations, or good flow as the flow between friends. Why are spades related to the earth? Well, what do you do with a spade? You dig the earth with it. When the Hermit retreats his steps, does that mean that he disengages from ordinary life? Indeed it does. Do we need to embody that movement sometimes? Indeed we do.

IMG_8951The way we arrive at these meanings is not part of a greater mystery, but rather part of what we make of a thing’s function. When we reduce meaning to function, what we create is poetry. As things don’t have an inherent meaning, there is no meaning other than the meaning that we, as a collective body, assign to them. The poetics of the cards is all about intuition plus function; or intuition plus pattern recognition; or intuition plus process. It’s not enough to get information from the cards, all sorts of information coming the random way. One must also develop a sense of how one can process this information. This process is based on learning and self-discipline, and has very little to do with what we ‘intuitively’ make of it.

Which brings me to giving an example of how we can read with original artwork, where we can both, make recourse to traditional meanings and assess what ‘comes through’ when looking at how randomness creates a pattern of meaning independently of ‘tradition’.

IMG_8944Dana’s cards are a palimpsest. New ‘meaning’, or rather, a possibility for meaning, has been superimposed on traditional playing cards. How do we read the cards underneath the paint? And do we even want to bother? And wouldn’t some of the artist’s randomly chosen keywords work counter to the traditional keywords of each card? Now, that is the challenge. Such challenges have already been with us, if we consider the Lenormand cards that feature a playing-card inset on each of the image-loaded 36 cards. Most readers don’t have a clue as to how to read these insets, and they are convinced that they were placed there to serve the needs of the people who just want to play cards rather than read with them. So you get two packs in one, a piquet playing-card deck and an oracle. Others feel that the playing cards could be read, but they seem to contradict the images they accompany. Would one have to devise a system of one’s own, if one doesn’t want to get lost in the woo-woo woods? I’m one of those readers who take up such challenges with joy, as I consider them a way of flexing my brain and my elastic of wisdom (you may check out my other posts on this here and here).


With Dana’s pack I’ve decided to go for the Council of 13 (read an intro to this method here). As I’ve been confronted with the question of boundaries lately, both in my personal life and also as others have presented me with, I’ve decided to ask the following question:

How do we set boundaries to our giving? The implicit concern here is how we measure our resources by giving them away, to whom, for what purpose, and at what time. And are we happy with what we get in return, if feedback or something else is needed?

Here’s what the council says:


The central card, FATHER (King of Clubs) already tells me that the starting point is precisely here, namely in the ability to provide, like a father or a king would. The FATHER is flanked by WOMB (Ace of Hearts) and MOON (3 of clubs). This tells me that the resources that can be provided are also those that find themselves gestating. They are in latent, rather than manifest from. Already a question prompts itself here: how can I manifest my giving? What’s in the WOMB, only the MOON knows. I like the association of the WOMB here with the Ace of Hearts, the card that indicates the house par excellence. But we’re dealing here with the very core of the house, which is often not something that one gives away. One shares of the house with other associates in it or outside it little by little (3 clubs). The womb knows good timing.

Incidentally, the surprise card here, BIRTH, enforces this reading already from the very beginning. BIRTH simply tells me that the setting of boundaries for one’s giving must be aligned with timing. You must give of yourself exactly at the right moment. You can FEEL this moment (card above FATHER, the Queen of Spades), and anchor it in awareness. REMEMBER, the card below FATHER, (Jack of Hearts) indicates that setting boundaries for what to give, to whom, and when, is very much indeed a question of aligning your resources not only with the needs of others, but also your own needs. Your own needs for feedback, inspiration, and material things, must not be forgotten. So, the emotional content that goes into acts of generosity must be in touch with what you can provide, as well as with your gut feeling for when to do it. How well do you know your womb, so to speak? We all have something cooking inside of us, but how many of us can guarantee that what we give birth to is flawless and healthy?

The outer frame also tells me that this exchange between one’s values and other’s needs must be fiercely protected. The card FIERCE (Jack of Spades) in tandem with BEAR (5 of spades) warns of the possibility to overload ourselves. On the vertical axis, we are told that the pleasure in giving (5 of hearts) can be FRAGILE. Therefore listening to the CROW (Joker) may be a good idea.  Giving is fun, but remember also the wisdom in the play for discernment.

GO for BEAUTY, the final diagonal line tells me. The other joker in play here urges us on, GO. Let us enjoy what the clever and beautiful Queen of Diamonds has in store for us. Knowing how to give is BEAUTY. The first diagonal in the reading tells me that there may still be an elephant in the house, the WHALE (10 spades) causing us to worry about our DILEMMA (8 of diamonds), but as long as we remember that a process of birthing is a natural process, then we can wait, we can be patient. We learn not only to communicate with our concerns, but also to communicate them to others.

While the WHALE can also be a FIERCE BEAUTY (as the reading of the curves tells me), mirroring the desire to let GO of a BEAR-strong DILEMMA, it may also contain all that is vulnerable in a giving act (WHALE, FRAGILE, GO), mirroring the deliberator (BEAUTY, CROW, DILEMMA).

Does someone overstep our boundaries? Call on the fierce Jack of Spades. Do we overstep others’ boundaries? Learn to feel how the Queen of Spades accepts things the cool way. Overall, keep the balance between the manifest giving represented by the FATHER, and the more hidden and latent powers of the WOMB and the MOON.

IMG_8945I am very grateful for this act of giving here, from Dana. Her deck proves to me once more, that indeed we can read with anything. All we need is a method and commonsense. The common sense that allows us to make logical inferences along what we intuitively get from the cards.

Thank you, Dana, for this most thoughtful and sensuous gift, and for the please it has giving me already in answering my question.


For those interested in knowing what system I imposed on the playing-cards underneath Dana’s artwork, if it’s not already or immediately apparent, see my post: Fortunetelling in Three Steps.


IMG_8958Note on the deck:

Playing-cards Oracle.

Original artwork: Dana Komjaty.

Amsterdam, 2014.


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3 thoughts on “BOUNDARIES

  1. Markus Pfeil says:

    Thank you Camelia for your insight. What impressed me most (apart from your excellent reading) is the way the white washed cards read in your council of 13. Usually I look at it to absorb the red/black balance and absorb the pips and characters. Here, the cards are fogged and the impression is much more uncertain and vague, while, at the same time the writing on the cards is just so readable. This makes a much closer inspection neccesary and at the same time led me to an uncanny feeling that the father in the middle is feeling threatened from the left by the black jack there. The basis appears solid and nice while the root at the bottom is showing nothing (the jokers imagery being vague on my screen). Combining this impression with reading your interpretation made for a very powerful reading experience. Thank you and thank the artist for the white wash.

    1. Camelia Elias says:

      Markus, you’re right on, as usual. I like your idea that the authoritarian father feels threatened by the Jack of Spades, and it’s clear that he gets sick of him (5 spades). This reading, just of the playing-cards, is quite straightforward here. Pertaining to the question, we can easily see how whoever holds the authority can also be tired of the young ones, the aspirant pestering, or in this case here, as we’re with the Jack of Spades rather than the eager Jack of Clubs, the one who is not only pestering, but rather also has a hidden agenda. The Jack of Spades is not a direct person, and can be quite maleficent. An ingrate, basically, in the context of this question. Therefore the call is here to feel the situation and listen to voice of the Crow. Crow power, in Native American parlance, besides having trickster quality, is also good at initiation. So the project is one of paying attention to what needs to be done and then do it. Hence the dilemma in the final position. This is basically a spread about deliberation, about how to find the right course of action in the face of boundaries being transgressed.

  2. Camelia Elias says:


    Fortune Buchholtz: “feel fragile? Remember crow-father.” This is the Indian folk-tale of Sanykisar.
    Yesterday at 4:32pm · Unlike · 3

    Dana Komjaty: Thank you for this thorough try-out .. I’m still chewing on it..
    21 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Great, Dana. Let me know what the artist thinks of this reading.
    20 hours ago · Like

    Dana Komjaty: I also like what Fortune said. You know my initial thought on making this kind of deck was, wouldn’t it be super great when pulling cards with words on it would create sentences or stories where you can feel a mythological under current, and to me it almost feels like having an actual conversation with spirit(s)..Like talking with the other side through the words on the cards.
    20 hours ago · Edited · Like

    Fortune Buchholtz: Enjoy then:

    Folktales of India
    Bringing together nearly one hundred tales translated from fourteen languages, F…See More
    20 hours ago · Unlike · 1 · Remove Preview

    Dana Komjaty: Camelia, The horizontal line(seems to be the backbone and answers your questions deeply) is what i focused on for now, Father, your inner master, your inner ruler, the one that keeps the balance in check with a sense of authority. Womb is where the everything created is coming from, the place where all is born. All you bring to life, all you bring into the world is coming from your womb. The moon is the feminine energy, the creator of flow, the ruler of flow, the ruler of your emotions. Bear is the protector, the fierce, soft but most of all the super powerful protector. Fierce on the opposite side suggest a confirmation, a reminder, of the necessity to guard your creative center, the womb. But also very important to guard the flow where everything you put into this world, begins even before it enters the womb. The bear wants you to take responsibility to keep both safe, and do it more fiercely then until now. Ultimately you, the father, the king is the one who needs to embody these aspects to make sure the balance between giving and receiving is honored.
    2 hrs · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Wonderful, Dana. Thank you for this response.
    21 mins · Like

    Dana Komjaty: Many things keep comming up in my mind after i wrote this., Camelia. i forgot to mention: bear’s way to protect is next to fierce also very nurturing, much like a strong powerful motter. So this balances the male energy in the center perfecy too. So there is a balance issue that needs to be looked into, which may be the answer to the question in most simple terms. Giving-receiveing-protecting your creations…the im-balance betwen the feminine and male aspects inside you may have caused you to feel like you are losing energy..
    2 mins · Like

    Camelia Elias: Indeed. Check the webpage again, for a very insightful comment from Markus Pfeil to which I also responded. He points out in fact what causes the situation, or rather, what brings about the question – which is very clear, given the reading of just the playing cards. But I like what your keywords let us know, further on.

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