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Cartomancy: A Comprehensive Guide to a Deck of Cards

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"My whole life was foretold to me. An old Romany gypsy read my fortune."
— Maureen O'Hara, Irish-born movie star, whose career spanned 50 years.

The word "cartomancy" means fortune-telling done with a standard deck of playing cards. This form of divination was spread across 14th century Europe by the gypsies and can be traced back through the Middle East. The original cards may have been developed in tenth century China, but their true origins are hidden in history. Gypsy travelers and other early practitioners were known as cartomancers or card readers. They have given their readings to "seekers" all over the world.

miscellaneous playing cards philippa willitts Image source: Philippa Willitts on Flickr

When people are playing Bridge, Spades or Poker, they may not understand that playing cards were the original tarot deck. Playing cards were called "Mamluk" in the Middle East. They have four suit designs that in a complex way relate back to Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. These symbols translate to Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades. There are some pictures of a hierarchy of Kings, Queens and Viceroys (Pages). In a deck of 52 cards, there are fewer images than in the tarot cards that evolved from them.

Card Spreads

Cartomancy is done using various layouts or spreads. By using various spreads, one can give a detailed reading. Each of the cards has a meaning, and when you lay them out in a certain way the interpretations deepen.

john waddington playing cards paul townsend Image source: Paul Townsend on Flickr

  • Single Cards = "Quick Answers."
  • 3 Card Spread = "Past, Present, Future"
  • 9 Card Spread, 3 Rows = "Past, Present, and Future Layers."
  • 21 Card Spread (3 Rows of 7 Cards) = "Gypsy Spider Web."

The Significations and Meanings

The truth is there is a myriad of spreads and thousands of possible readings. These nuances require a good interpreter of the basic meanings of each card, as well as an understanding of what they mean together in certain locations.

4 Suits:

  • Hearts represent issues regarding emotions and the home.
  • Diamonds are work-related and deal with affairs out of the house.
  • Clubs are all about money and finances.
  • Spades indicate roadblocks to your path or other difficulties that could be a problem.


70 3 ben watkin Image source: Ben Watkin on Flickr

  • Ace: Love. Joy. Home. Friendship. The beginning of a new romance.
  • Two: Prosperity. Success. Engagement. Partnership.
  • Three: Caution. Slow down. Be cautious.
  • Four: Changes. A trip or a move. Late in life marriage.
  • Five: Jealousy surrounds you. Make a considered decision.
  • Six: A happy coincidence. Unexpected good fortune.
  • Seven: Unfaithful or disloyal person. Promises will be broken.
  • Eight: Invitation. Visits. Attending a party.
  • Nine: Wishes and dreams come true.
  • Ten: Good luck. Great happiness.

The Royal Image cards have meanings and they are also identifier cards. They may represent a person in your life.

  • Jack: Close friend or happy, blonde younger person.
  • Queen: A nice woman with fair hair.
  • King: An open-hearted man who gives good advice.


playing cards ccarlstead Image source: ccarlstead on Flickr

  • Ace: Ring. Jewelry. Present. News or letter about money.
  • Two: Love affair people don't approve. Disagreements in a business partnership.
  • Three: Legal issues. Family arguments. Legal notices.
  • Four: Inheritance. Finances improve.
  • Five: Business success. Contented family.
  • Six: Second marriage problems.
  • Seven: Surprise gift. Setbacks at work.
  • Eight: Late in life marriage. Travel in winter. Financial cycles.
  • Nine: Surprises about money. Great new business opportunity. Restless to change.
  • Ten: Money. Travel. Good luck. Positive changes.
  • Jack: Family member. Light blonde youth. The possibility of a dishonest or unreliable person.
  • Queen: Woman who loves to party and gossip. Flirty. Light blonde woman.
  • King: Influential, but stubborn man with fair hair.


seven two orton vignette jim lynch Image source: Jim Lynch on Flickr

  • Ace: Health.Wealth. Happiness. Letter about money.
  • Two: Two-faced. Disappointment. Opposition.
  • Three: Marriage to a wealthy partner. Money coming from the partner.
  • Four: Changes for the worse. Lies and betrayal.
  • Five: New friends and a successful marriage. Help from friends.
  • Six: Business success. Getting financial help.
  • Seven: Prosperity and success. Be careful of trouble coming from a person of the opposite sex.
  • Eight: Trouble in relationships, business and personal. Jealousy and greed.
  • Nine: Achievements. A new lover or admirer. Don't be stubborn.
  • Ten: Unexpected money. Good luck. Travel abroad.
  • Jack: Reliable person.Dark-haired, youthful friend.
  • Queen: Pretty, self-confident dark-haired woman.
  • King: Honest, affectionate, generous dark-haired man.


black suit michael summers Image source: Michael Summers on Flickr

  • Ace: Obsession, conflict. Death and changes.
  • Two: Separation, Deceit. Tough changes.
  • Three: Unfaithful departures. Difficult partnerships.
  • Four: Illness. Business and money worries. Broken promises.
  • Five: Expect interference in your happy home. Reversals of fortune that will be resolved.
  • Six: Tiny improvements. Small victories.
  • Seven: Friendship is lost. Unexpected burdens. Warning against loss.
  • Eight: Troubles and disappointments. Plans that won't work out. Cancellation.
  • Nine: Bad luck in all things. Depression and low energy. Destruction, deaths. Extreme anxiety.
  • Ten: Misfortune and worry. Imprisonment. Unwelcome news.
  • Jack: A well-meaning but immature and unreliable youth. A very dark-haired youth.
  • Queen: A widow. An unscrupulous woman. A very dark-haired woman.
  • King: An ambitious and authoritative man. A very dark-haired man.

New developments. Risky. Fresh starts. New beginning.

Interpreting the Shuffle and the Cut

shuffle natasha vora Image source: Natasha Vora on Flickr

Look at how the seeker (even if you are the seeker) shuffles the deck and cuts the cards. Every person has a unique style. Sometimes their style differs in different readings.

People that shuffle very few times are more likely to want specific questions answered quickly. People that shuffle for a long time and are more deliberate are looking for long-term guidance.

When cards are accidentally turned during shuffling, it causes a "reversed" meaning in the reading. When the "seeker" has trouble shuffling, and cards fall out of the deck, it means that the falling cards are important.

Most readers ask the "seeker" to divide the cards into smaller piles before they create the spread.

If someone makes small cuts or makes a tiny pile, they may be reluctant to do a reading. This also may mean they don't want to reveal too much of themselves. They may be hiding true answers from themselves.

Outgoing people usually push the cards towards the reader. Shy people draw them close to themselves after the cut.

Complicated and confused people use multiple piles (more than 3).

The specific meanings of each card and the way they are cut before laid out in a spread gives the card reader a start. It is the power of the reader's intuition that gives the true answers. Since the gypsies first roamed across Europe with cards made from painted leather, cartomancy has been a gift of foretellers and seekers all over the world.

Want your own cartomancy reading? Contact one of our top psychics right here.


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