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..

Crossed Cartomancy with St. Cyprian

I have recently been diving into The Book of St Cyprian; The Sorcerer’s Treasure (translated and commentary by José Leitão), with the extra free time granted by the most recent shutdown here in California. St. Cyprian of Antioch has become pretty popular in the English-speaking world of late, but as Leitão shows in his introduction, this saint/spirit has been hugely popular for centuries in Iberia and Latin America. So, I am a little late to the party. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to work with this book, as my attempt to “introduce myself” to this saint didn’t go so well. By “didn’t go so well” I mean I wound up in the hospital with a bizarre acute condition, as well as a couple of other misfortunes that I had a hard time explaining (Earthly explanations being available, for sure, but as to why it all happened within such a short time and all right when I started working with him, there just might be something there). He’s not a guy to mess with lightly. This is good old “down and dirty” magic, magic that gets things done for people who don’t have time to mess around.

I have been messing around with playing card readings over the last year, as traditional tarot is starting to bore me a little to be honest. Tarot is annoyingly part of the zeitgeist right now, as is magic in general- this too shall pass.

I looked at two spreads in the book, and while they both looked interesting, I went with the more stripped-down of the two. It felt cleaner.

I skipped all of the ritual for this spread (below), as it requires that you run the deck by the waves of the ocean at noon on Friday while saying “May the celestial spirits give thee virtue.” Easy enough, but I live in the desert. Also, this was supposed to be for learning purposes and I wasn’t trying to do a reading.

The gist of it is you separate the 8’s, 9’s, 10’s, and all court cards besides the King and Queen of Diamonds, The Queen (or King) of Spades, and the Jack of Hearts. The aces and sevens are the “temptation cards” which are separated and shuffled together. These are placed, facedown, in the center of what will become a cross. The other 24 cards are shuffled and placed faced down into the rest of the cross, 1-2-3-4 the top to bottom, and 5-6-7-8  left to right forming the horizontal. The remaining cards repeat the pattern until gone.

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Now you flip the cards over, the ones that oppose each other, starting from the top and bottom, and onto the sides.

The top and bottom cards are 5 of Clubs “out of the house” and 3 of Diamonds “cuddles of love” (heehee). This is interesting, as my lady is away from my house right now. The side cards are 4 of Spades “in the house” and 6 of Spades “captivity”. Holy smokes. Aren’t we all feeling that way right now?!

Once again, it doesn’t matter if you are just trying to make an example spread. Once the cards come out, any cards, in the hands of a reader, it’s gonna give a reading. The rest of the spread continues, out to in, and finally the temptation card is flipped.

The rest of the reading was interesting (not trying to read for myself, I went with the QQKJ set-up rather than the QKKJ the book prescribes for a man), but it was pretty accurate as to some things that have been going on lately. Choose a question for your reading or the cards will choose for you I often say.

This is definitely a fun spread, and I will definitely dedicate a deck to the purpose and consecrate it at some point. Hopefully I am on the Saint’s good side now!