Using Playing Cards for Readings

Yes, it’s pretty hip right now to be into using playing cards for divination. I feel especially drawn to them lately, as tarot is so in the zeitgeist right now, and I immediately cringe when something dear to me gets big with the masses. Don’t mind me, I am still just an aging punk rocker at heart I guess, getting mad when my favorite band gets big. This too shall pass..

How to read playing cards has always sort of vexed me, having first tried it drunkenly in the North End of Boston at a friend’s apartment after the bars closed around us, about ten years ago. The problem was, I was trying to read it like tarot. I finally realized, through a little research and a paid course (that because of life stuff I never got into past the first video) by Camelia Elias, that I was making it way too hard on myself. I won’t get into her system here, obviously (I wouldn’t be able to anyway), but I do appreciate that she pointed us to Dawn Jackson’s The Wise and Subtle Arte of Reading Cards.

Not sure what the copyright status of this is, so I won’t repost it here (but it’s on the “internet way-back machine” apparently if you’re curious). I can say that I took some excellent basics out of it though. The first rule is that red is good and black is bad. It gets a little deeper with suits, where hearts are love, diamonds are fortune, clubs are work, and spades are troubles- to sum it up roughly. The queens are women, the kings are men, and the jacks are children or messages- easy peasy.

It gets a little more complicated than that, of course; you can use her system of number meanings, or the Kabbalah, or your favorite tarot correspondences, or whatever you please.

If you saw my post on using the “Crossed Cartomancy” , I am having fun with the systems from The Book of St Cyprian at the moment. As always, pick the system for the type of reading you want. I wouldn’t use playing cards for Jungian inner journey symbolism readings, but I might use it in place of my RWS deck if I needed to help someone on the fly with a clear answer. It’s great for quick readings in a bar, obviously.. no need to consecrate it. Maybe just find a smoker outside and pass it over the second-hand tobacco (I kid, I kid).

As with most readings, I like a three card layout that shows progression or two sides affecting the middle, depending on the question. For progression readings, Jackson recommends going left to right. A Red Black Red would show “a bump in the road”, and Black Red Red “troubles getting going but smooth sailing after”, for example.

In the case of the three cards I shoddily threw as an example, initial health problems will cause a slow start, but then there will be a path to increased fortune and perhaps one’s true calling. Wait a minute.. that sounds like it’s talking to me. Again. lol. Oh, divination..

I will let you take it from here, but this at least should be enough to dip your toes..

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