Once I got up in the morning and I wen: ‘there’s nothing more I’d rather do today than kill the neighbor’s children.’ I had different sets of playing cards on the table. I looked at them and said: ‘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.
Over the weekend prior to this episode I was fortunate to have a fellow cartomancer and former student in the house, Miguel Marques from Portugal. We did what we do best. We 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 the hedgewytch cartomancy, based on a compilation of classical texts, relies on using a cunning folk approach that enlists the ‘common-sense’ 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 (we took out of the pack the cards from 8 to 10). We read each row until we got to a Clubs card, our full stop to the sentence. Sometimes your first sentence starting with the first row can easily stretch over three rows, or you can experience that you have three sentences in the first line of 10 cards. The determining factor for your sentence break is the Clubs pip cards. You read the Courts as you do the other cards. If you want a variation of this layout, you can take the Spades pip cards to act as full stops, as they tend to suggest digging, as in, ‘you dig that, right?’ – basically because what you do with a spade in your hand is stabbing first and digging next.
In addition to the pip cards in the Clubs suit counting as full stops, they can also function 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 Clubs card 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 a simple move from what is increasing and what is decreasing, numerically speaking. You consider the function of each suit, but not beyond the bare essentials: hearts are good will, spades are bad will, diamonds are transacting will, and clubs are working will. You go with the 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. I stress this a lot in my writings when I insist that people 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 a cluster of court cards, then you can easily ask this question: ‘who the fuck are these people?’
When you do tirage-en-ligne, what you look at is 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 9-card layouts featured 5 court cards in them, one next to the other. Miguel went: ‘fuck it, I hate it when this happens.’ 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.
But let’s keep it simple, and give you here at taste of this game, based on my desire that morning, namely, to kill my neighbor’s children.
Thou shall love… or kill
Here’s how I read my 40 cards.
The heart of the house contracts in facing instability due to the unruly behavior of the black-haired kid; I, Queen of Diamonds, 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 4 Clubs via the Queen of Clubs who lovingly tries to address the pain). I can elect to turn towards the three boys and talk some pragmatic common-sense to them, kindly showing them the error in their behavior (2 Hearts to 4 Clubs). The manager, King of Clubs can’t do much, full stop. But the landlord King of Diamonds is already on top of the situation, urging the mother, Queen of Hearts to collaborate with her husband, King of Hearts.
Not much comes out of it, other than escalating anger (3 Spades, via the Queen of Spades to 5 Clubs). Things fall down again when the King of Spades suggests a compromise for both parties in the interest of maintaining law and order (3 Hearts to the full stop, 3 Clubs, with the King of Spades flanked by 5 Diamonds and 5 Hearts). The value of what is being put on the table opens up a new path (7 Diamonds to 6 the full stop, 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 got to consider how I could avoid turning my anger into aggression. Some high standing officials were 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 cartomantic 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:
- On reading the grand tableau with playing cards, see my Heart’s Desire (a 52 pack).
- On reading the grand tableau on count of 9, see Give or Take (a 52-pack)
- On reading the Houses, see my post, Houses in a grand tableau with playing cards (a 52-pack).
- On choosing significators, see The Logic of Significators (square of 9 example).
Note on the cards:
Published by Van Genechten Turnhout, Belgium for Nederlanden van 1845. Design by Aviva Davids Bahar, 1965.
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