I get up in the morning and I go: ‘There’s nothing more I’d rather do today than kill the neighbor’s children.’

I have different sets of playing cards on the table. I look at them and say: ‘Give me a second to get my coffee, and I’ll be right there, reading all 40 of you in the fastest wheeze’.

As said as done. It took me no more than 30 seconds to get through a narrative.

This past weekend I was fortunate to have a fellow cartomancer in the house, Miguel Marques from Oporto, Portugal. We did what we do best: Read fortunes to death.

We exchanged variations on reading with the playing cards, and looked at the value of keeping it even simpler than some more sophisticated methods.

For instance, the French love to count cards à la Etteilla, and create mirroring pyramids, while hedgewytch cartomancy relies on using a cunning folk approach that enlists the common sense of the nature of nature and its cycles.

I myself use modified versions of these, with an added love of the tirage-en-ligne, or linking cards, straight Romanian gypsy style (read this also as Yiddish style).

Now, what we did when Miguel was here was to lay down 40 cards in rows of 10 each (you take out of the pack the cards from 8-10).

You read each row until you get to a clubs card, the clubs being your full stop to the sentence that you will be creating as you go along (in some other variations of this layout, the suit of spades fulfils this function, as in, ‘you dig that, right’? – basically because what you do with a spade in your hand is stabbing first and digging next).

Only the pip clubs count as full stop, or indeed as a comma, or ellipsis, if that turns out to be the case. It may also be the case that, depending on where the last club falls towards the end, you will be left with a number of cards without a full stop. You discard these, and give them no further attention.

No ‘meanings’ are assigned to the cards or the numbers other than the old style of common sense that dictates: 1 is little, 10 is a lot. What you observe is the move going from expansion to contraction. This is the basic bones in traditional cartomancy.

The quality of each suit is considered, but not beyond the bare essentials: hearts are good will, spades are bad will, diamonds are transacting will, and clubs are working will. In other words, you go with mundane intentions to love, to hate, to assign value, and to collaborate.

So that’s the method. Nothing more, nothing less.

The art is to go through the cards while maintaining a sharp eye for context and coherence. Nothing is more important in fortunetelling than context and coherence. So I stress this a lot in my teaching when I insist that folks not only formulate a clear question, but also answer it.

The reason why you want to keep up with context and coherence is because when you encounter the court cards, for instance, then you can easily come to the question: ‘Who the fuck are these people?’ upon seeing a whole cluster of them.

I wrote a solid essay about the court cards that explains what the drill is very nicely, but when you do tirage-en-ligne, what you look at is also how you maintain the focus on the querent, and see how the querent changes position and attitude.

What this means is the following: You can read three Queens as one person changing position and attitude, until all of a sudden the fourth Queen is someone else.

Now, the art is to recognize that when this shit happens you need to calculate quickly what is plausible and what is possible in terms of assigning agency so that it makes sense to the querent.

When Miguel was here we did a few readings together, and one of the layouts featured 5 court cards, one next to the other. Miguel went: ‘Fuck it, I hate it when this happens’.

Yeah, exactly. For you see, making sense of who is who is completely contingent on your genius as a reader. In my readings what I strive for is this: To stay as far away as possible from formulating lame generalities. Generalities move no one. Generalities kill the very spirit of this high contemplative art, which reading cards is all about.

miguel marques

But let’s keep it simple, and give you here at taste of this game, based on my desire this morning, namely, to kill my neighbor’s children.


Here’s how I read my 40 cards.

camelia elias, cartomancy, playing-cards, aviva davids bahar

The heart of the house contracts in facing instability due to the unruly behavior of the black-haired kid; I clearly intend to put a stop to it (Ace of Hearts  to the full stop, the Ace of Clubs).

The red-haired kid is not any better, as he attempts to maintain the conflict by enlisting the mischievous deeds of the blond brother (Jack of Diamonds to Queen of Clubs).

I can elect to turn towards the three boys and talk some common sense to them, kindly showing them the error in their behavior (2 Heart to 4 Clubs), but. . .

. . . it looks like the administrators (King of Clubs and King of Diamonds) are already on top of the situation, talking to the single mother, and across the board, to her ex-husband (King of Clubs to King of Hearts) about how to collaborate in a more focussed way (this line is a swerve from the ‘clubs=full stop’, because you never read cards the dogmatic way).

Not much comes out of it, other than escalating anger (3 Spades, via Queen of Spades to 5 Clubs).

Things fall down again when the Black King of the housing order suggests a compromise for both parties (3 Hearts to 3 Clubs, with the King of Spades flanked by 5 Diamonds and 5 Hearts).

The value of what is being put on the table decreases the tension (7 Diamonds to 6 Clubs).

This prevents me from stabbing to death the irritating brats (2 Diamonds to the Jack of Clubs via the Ace of Spades; in principle, you don’t read the cards after the last full stop, here, the 6 Clubs, but as the string ends with yet another clubs court card relevant to the context of kids being moronic, you go all the way).

So that’s it.

Now, we can safely agree that I could have arrived at this wise decision without having to read 40 cards on the table. That would be a correct assumption.

But I can also tell you this: In the process of seeing my life in the morning unfold in this way, I get to consider how I can avoid turning my anger into aggression. Some high standing officials are already at work on it, so why waste my breath?

There’s a lot of value in anger that’s put to creative use, like reading the cards and testing your abstract sharpness against the concrete image.

Now you know why I find reading the cards the highest and the most rewarding of all the contemplative arts.

Good luck with your cards; context and coherence, common sense and catomantic genius.

You may also want to dig Miguel’s work at his Golden Pentacle website.

Or read similar posts with the playing cards – just a few below, I as have too many to reference here:

Note on the cards:

Published by Van Genechten Turnhout, Belgium for Nederlanden van 1845. Design by Aviva Davids Bahar, 1965.


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