The simplest lesson in cartomancy

There are many ways of reading cards, each more elaborate than the other. Also in this world there’s competition for it. Who can invent the most intense spread? The Americans like to do that. Count in chunks of fives or nines? The French like to do that.

I prefer the simple way, which is looking at the cards and understanding the essence of what I see.

I look at 9 Clubs, 3 Spades, and 8 Clubs.

I go like this:

Something 9 pieces of wood have an encounter with 3 shovels. Something 8 pieces of wood are still on the ground. I conclude: The shovels are not very efficient.

I look at 5 Diamonds, 7 Diamonds, 8 Spades.

I go like this:

Something 5 diamonds meets a greater fortune. Now there’s 7 of them. 8 shovels are at work. Man, someone is busy getting all them diamonds under the ground.

I look at Jack of Clubs, King of Hearts, Jack of Hearts.

I go like this:

Someone man of woods meets a father and his son, men of hearts. What’s cooking? Only the context can tell me what this encounter is about. I could invent things and call it ‘tradition’, but do I want to die from boredom? Fat chance.

Now you’re welcome to ask: Why do I prefer this method to all the other sophistications, meanings galore, and symbolisms stretched all the way to the moon?

The answer is simple: I have no interest in dying of boredom while performing any reading of the cards. Hearing myself on repeat and auto-pilot delivering the same old same regardless of what context it’s put on my table is a sure way to hell or a place much worse.

Also, if there’s a strong stereotype out there representing the fortuneteller as a mean, cynical gypsy out to con you of your money, I can assure you that it’s because of said fortuneteller’s immense loathing of her job, when she has to deliver the same line at least 10 times a day. If I had to do that job, I’d also con people out of their money, not to mention the fact that I’d be close to suicidal. How would I live with myself saying things like this 10 times a day?

‘Yes, he’s cheating on you, the 7 Spades tells me, but it’s better to stay with him, as he’s a man of genius, the 3 Hearts also tells me. You’re, after all, most fortunate, as the 10 clubs tells me.’ (This is the French/Romanian Gypsy style reading).

The thing is, one can divine with any method whatsoever, but are they all equally good? They aren’t. Not if nuance and fresh insight is what the fortuneteller is after. For this, you can try the simple method that will prevent you from loathing what you do, and from loathing the people who come to you, asking almost always the same type of questions. Your answers don’t have to be equally uniform by the great book of veritable fortunetelling.

Great fortunetelling is all about the willingness to kill it, which is what you do when you when you read for the essence of what’s put on your table in the form of a question and its context. You take this essence and mirror it with the essence of the 4 cleverly stylized suits of a playing cards pack. You make a quick judgment that’s not based on regurgitating meanings à la ‘this means that…’ Your judgment must be the result of what you see is happening in the cards, with the sound conclusion based on what is plausible in context.

Let’s look at another example, where we have the King of Spades, the Ace of Hearts, and 5 Clubs on the table.

If you said: ‘This someone, shovel master, is looking at a big heart. Something like 5 pieces of wood surround it’, what would you conclude? You’d conclude that the shovel master, King of Spades, is interested in working on it, the heart, one way or another, either giving it a fence or getting rid of the 5 sticks following it. But which one is it, exactly? Can you be precise here, and demonstrate why you picked one option above the other? Is the fence around the heart going up or down?

Generally speaking, we like to think of the big heart as free. If it’s not, we make an effort to free it from its ties. But how likely is this action here in light of the function that the King of Spades performs? When was the last time a general in the army got rid of all fortifications? I never heard of such a thing. The King of Spades is not the Dalai Lama. So what are you going to conclude? That the King of Spades will open widely the door to his heart? Because that’s what the ‘ancient’ French cartomancy manual tells you? If you came up with that conclusion, I’d pray for you…

So this is the work. My work. I bet that if you’ve read this far, you may conclude now that whatever you feel about my teaching is actually irrelevant in the face of having to admit that you didn’t get bored. You’d probably like me to keep going. Which I can. I can tell the wildest stories with the cards, all tall and true. No cynicism, cross my heart. Only seeing what there’s to see.

The Playing Cards Foundation Course is open for registration. Learn to read the cards to refined precision, as that’s what reading like the Devil is all about.

Cards: Piatnik’s Playing Cards, 1954.

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