«The Art of Fortune-Telling with Playing Cards By Cory Hutcheson, Proprietor, New World Witchery ©2010 Cory T. Hutcheson 1 Copyright Notice All ...»
The New World Witchery Guide to
The Art of Fortune-Telling with Playing Cards
By Cory Hutcheson,
Proprietor, New World Witchery
©2010 Cory T. Hutcheson
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2 Contents Overview
3 Overview I’ve always been a fan of what’s referred to as “secrets in plain sight.” I love the idea that certain everyday objects have deeply mystical significance which needs but the right pair of eyes to unveil it.
Keys, coins, bottles, and boxes all find their way into my magical life and onto my household shelves, where most people ignore them. I, on the other hand, can turn to them at a moment’s notice and use them as tools to open up the mysterious and wonderful world around me. So it is with playing cards.
In this small book, what I would like to do is explain my personal system of card divination, as well as some of the variants and influences which have shaped my practice. I’m not going to dive into an extensive history of playing cards or tarot cards, as those subjects are well-covered and welldocumented in other sources. However, a little of the history that sometimes slips through the cracks (especially regarding playing cards) might be worth mentioning here.
While the absolute origin of pictographic cards is unknown, many folks believe they came out of India, China, or Turkey, or with the travelling Romany people (also frequently called “Gypsies”). What is known is that by the 1500’s, playing cards were very popular with the lower classes, and often cited as a vice by clerical and governmental documents throughout Europe. They received wide-spread appreciation from the highest ranks, including Bohemian emperor Rudolph II and Madame Lenormand, who is reputed to have provided psychic guidance to Napoleon’s empress, Josephine. Yet cards have almost always been popular among the lower classes, too. Cards came to America with settlers, sailors, and soldiers. In fact, in the late 1700’s, a popular ballad called “The Soldier’s Prayer-Book” described the suits, pips, and enumeration of playing cards in terms of biblical metaphor. For example, the fives represent the five wounds of Christ, the nines are the nine lepers healed by Jesus, and the tens are the Ten Commandments. While this song may have been a white-wash for gambling soldiers eager to keep one of the few portable entertainments allowed them, it does register an important point: cards make wonderful tools for metaphoric interpretation.
So why playing cards instead of tarot cards? For one thing, playing cards of one kind or another have been more or less easily accessible since the 1600’s, and are extremely versatile. The cards you play a game of blackjack with one day can be used to reveal the future the next. They also travel well in a pocket and are easily replaced if they get torn or damaged. Plantation owners in the antebellum South often thought little of slaves having decks of playing cards to amuse themselves in their few off hours (though in some places stricter masters prohibited them altogether). William Wells Brown, who provided a slave narrative for a character named “Uncle Frank,” claimed that each plantation also had at least one fortune-teller somewhere on the premises, and at least few of them used playing cards.
Today, playing cards are an excellent way of divining even in plain sight. No one thinks much of two people over a table full of diamonds, spades, clubs, and hearts, while a Devil or Lovers card might raise eyebrows.
My own system of playing card divination is largely based on the book It’s All in the Cards, by Chita Lawrence and the rhyme “For the Witch of Poor Memory” by Dawn Jackson, with a significant amount of additional material I’ve picked up from other books, teachers, and experiences over time. What I outline here will be my own understanding of these cards, so please do not take it as gospel, and find a method that works for you.
4Red & Black
Like most who practice cartomancy, I break the major meanings of the cards down by color and suits.
However, unlike a lot of other practitioners, I don’t ascribe these suits to tarot parallels or elemental attributes. There are some connections, of course, as hearts and cups both signal emotion-based interpretations, but it’s not a hard-and-fast link.
First, black cards indicate “negative” or “no” answers, while red cards are “positive” or “yes” answers.
This is most important in short readings, which I’ll address in a later post. Some will say that having more black cards than red is a sign of negativity, but honestly, the only truly “negative” cards in an extended reading are the spades, in my opinion.
Getting hung up on the red vs. black significance can short circuit a reading, too. While it is helpful in a way to be able to “summarize” the reading based on the proportion of “positive” red cards to “negative” black ones, it might also predispose you as a reader to offer a particularly strong interpretation as you continue with the session. Seeing lots of red cards may make you think “Oh, a very pleasant reading!
Good news for the client!” but when you see that, in fact, you’ve actually got a Seven of Diamonds and an Ace and Seven of Hearts in your reading, there are distinct possibilities for a negative reading that you might ignore based on your positive bias.
Basically, as always with divinatory methods, keep an open mind. Use the colors of the cards as a loose guide, but don’t get invested in them before thinking about the individual card meanings.
The Suits If you’ve had any experience with tarot, understanding the different meanings for each suit might be easier. Then again, it might be harder, as many tarot readers have preset notions about suit correspondences. I advise that a reader spend time with the cards and determine what patterns emerge from continual use. But I will definitely admit that having at least a rough concept of what each
suit means can be incredibly helpful. For me, I look at the suits in the following way:
Hearts – Family, friends, love, and lovers. Also emotions and things which are deeply felt.
Clubs – Work and business. One’s “calling” or destiny. Also conflict, discussion, and debate.
Diamonds – Money, luck, fortune, happiness. Also news, letters, and socializing.
Spades – Tears, suffering, woe. War, fighting, violence. Also change, warning, and doubts/fears.
I’ll get into each of these suits a little more when I break down the individual cards, but this should give you some idea what I see when I do a layout for a reading. If I see lots of diamonds and clubs, I know that someone’s got some good work he or she will be well compensated for coming around the bend.
All hearts means that the client is emotionally invested in the reading, or that he or she is dealing with deep family or friendship questions. Spades and clubs together would be a sign that the client’s job might be in jeopardy, or that work is very unfulfilling for him or her.
Next, we’ll get into the significance of the pips on the cards, but it is good to keep the overall meanings of the suits in mind as we go forward.
There are lots of different systems of interpreting the card numbers and the royals. Some are fairly simplistic (mine definitely are) and some get incredibly detailed, looking at astrological and numerological significance in cabbalistic and ceremonial magical contexts. I’m not a particularly good ceremonialist, so I tend to use a fairly straightforward system focusing on key concepts associated with each number. I can probably demonstrate better than I can explain, so here’s my numbering system.
Aces – Beginnings; Primary or Solitary things Twos – Pairs; Couples; Exchange Threes – Growth; Wishes Fours – Decisions; Stagnation; Choices Fives – Groups; Bodily things; Gains/Losses Six – Paths Sevens – Epitome cards*; Inversions; Trouble Eights – Talking; Ideas Nines – Patience; Ambition; Expansion Tens – Completion; Endings Jacks – Youth; Children; Messages; Peers Queens – Women or a particular woman; Beauty; Mothers; Nurses; Teachers Kings – Men or a particular man; Wisdom; Age; Power; Judges *A note on “epitome” cards – the Sevens of each suit represent the most concentrated form of that suit. Often, there’s a somewhat negative connotation to this intensity. Yet, this does not necessarily mean all good or all bad. For example, the seven of spades can mean “tears” as an epitome card, but if those tears are near lots of red cards, they are likely tears of joy.
The number combinations can also lead to a certain amount of interpretation. For instance, if you had several threes and nines, that would guide you towards a reading about opportunities and very quick growth (because both cards are about growth/expansion). A seven, five, and four might indicate bad choices and losses that come out of those choices. A king with a six might mean a teacher or elder is going to help guide the questioner in a new direction.
Royal cards (or “face cards”) also have a certain potency that the numeric cards lack. I sometimes include aces as a face card, but this really depends on the reading and the number of other face cards around it. It’s sort of like spiritual blackjack—it can be the highest or lowest value depending on the other cards. The other face cards usually represent particular people or major events in the subject’s life. Getting a king and a queen of the same suit can often indicate “parents” or the parental guidance which shaped the questioner’s life. You’ll see more about these as we explore them in depth later on, but for now just know that royals, aces, and sevens all mean “pay attention to this reading.” There are some divinatory systems (such as the card-reading taught in curanderismo) which also remove the queens from the deck before reading. This dates back to a European practice based on a specific deck, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see them in someone’s reading. As a final word on royals, there are two special royals in my system of divination: the King and Queen of Hearts. Depending on the gender of the client, one of these cards will represent him or her (the king for a man, the queen for a woman).
We’ll look at how that works later on, though. All of these interpretations are also deeply linked to the suits, of course, and to where they fall during the reading.
Now, on to the individual cards.
6 The Cards Now we’re going to look at individual cards and their significance in my readings. I’ll basically tell you a few key words, and then elaborate a bit on potential interpretations of these cards. Most of my system comes out of years of practice using playing cards for divination, as well as for games. I have found that in some cases, my personal work with a particular card has shown me a meaning different from the one I originally learned. When it comes to these sorts of fortune-telling methods, practice makes perfect.
Now, onto the cards! Let’s start with:
Diamonds Remember that diamonds in general signify money, fortune, luck, and happiness. They also can relate to messages or news, or social interaction.
Ace – A letter; A coin. The Ace of Diamonds indicates some new money or new information entering the questioner’s life. It can also have to do with a sudden shift in luck—if preceded and followed by spades, that could mean bad luck. Additionally, due to the solitary nature of the pip, it could mean being very careful with your news, luck, or money—keeping it to yourself, as it were.