WHAT IS CARTOMANCY
Cartomancy, like any other form of divination, is under much scrutiny in spiritual versus scientific topics of discussion. While there is no concrete evidence to support the art of fortune-telling based on interpretations in ordinary cards, those who use Tarot or Oracle decks rely on them and believe in them. Cartomancy is, simply put, “fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards” (Wikipedia, May 2014).
With possible origination in Europe circa the 14th century, there is speculation as to whether cards for game-play came first or if the cards were first used for divination. Some theories even state that they were around prior to the 1300’s. However, the 14th century is-to our existing knowledge-our first recorded use of cards in divination.
HOW IT IS USED
People who use the cards may be referred to as cartomancers, card readers, or simply readers and the one seeking the answers is often referred to as a querant. The objective is simple: to seek advice or learn potential outcomes to a situation. Without over-simplifying it, the basic method consists of shuffling the cards, pull a few at random, and assign significance to those cards. In some cases the layout or spread used will also apply significance to that card based on its ‘position.’
Position can refer to the card’s appearance in the layout, for example, in the most basic spreads is, reading from left to right, the Past, Present, and Future. Each card has its own meaning, but now when we also apply the position in the spread to it we get a deeper meaning. A Two of Swords in the past position has a slightly different tone or meaning then in the future position. Position can also mean whether a card is used upright or reversed. This is another topic for discussion as some people use reversals and others don’t. Using reversed cards gives more possible interpretations and changes the meaning of the card.
The question or situation at hand also plays a part in how the card is read. The Four of Wands may mean stability in finances if asking a career-oriented question but if asking a health-related question it may mean good health.
HOW IT WORKS
Theories abound about how the cards deliver these messages to us but the most popular tend to be:
- · Guided by Spiritual Force: meaning that the ‘powers that be’ are guiding our selection of the cards in order to convey a message and guiding our thoughts on what the card means
- · Collective Unconscious: we are picking up on a universal stream of thought to interpret the meanings of the cards
- · Subconscious/Intuition: our subconscious and conscious minds are working together to develop interpretations based on our own personal interpretations and intuition when seeing the images conveyed in a card.
No matter which theory is correct, the cards images or symbols depict esoteric, allegorical, and archetypal meanings based on imagery and readers are using these images to convey a greater meaning.
DECKS TO USE
There also tends to be only three types of decks to use when performing cartomancy-some may state the using dominoes or dice is also known as cartomancy but this is a misnomer as cartomancy refers specifically to divination with cards.
Cartomancy can be read with any of the following decks:
This is a system of cards that hit mainstream, popular culture through the mass production of what is known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. A.E. White developed the deck, Pamela Coleman-Smith drew the artwork, and it was published by Rider. This deck is our forefather of mass-produced decks today and typically cartomancers refer to any deck based on the Rider-Waite system as a Tarot deck. Rider-Waite and such based decks differ from other types of card decks in that there is a Minor Arcana and a Major Arcana and made up of seventy-eight cards total. Reversals can be used in Tarot.
The Minor Arcana is made up four suits: pentacles, cups, wands, swords (although there are numerous suit variations). The suits are numbered one-ten and with four cart cards: page, knight, queen, king (again, names can vary).
The Major Arcana is made up of twenty-two cards depicting archetypal people or concepts such as The Hanged Man or Temperance. Another popular Tarot in non-English speaking countries is
the Marseilles deck (Tarot de Marseilles) but which still has seventy-eight cards usually. Tarot is the most popular and the one people associate with reading cards.
Sometimes referred to as angel cards, medicine cards, or power cards these are any detailed and image- or symbolic-laden decks that do not follow along with the Tarot and its Major and Minor Aracna and suits. They may be as few as twenty cards and as many as eighty or more. Oracle decks follow a wide variety of themes from animals (Steven D. Farmer popularly creates animal oracle decks) to angels or goddesses (Doreen Virtue has an angel oracle deck) or any other topic the author wants to use. Lenormand decks-created in honor of Marie Anne Lenormand, a professional French cartomancer-are made up of thirty-six cards and are quite popular amongst Tarot readers. Reversals may or may not be used in oracle decks, meaning that an author may or may not have written reversed meanings to the cards but typically reversals are not used.
Standard Playing Decks
As difficult as it may seem, standard poker decks made up of fifty-two cards can be used for cartomancy. Basically this would be the same as using only the Minor Arcana in a Tarot deck. The symbolism is even similar and the Two of Hearts has the same meaning as the Two of Cups in a Tarot deck. The use of
playing cards was popular in the 18-20th century and cartomancy in this fashion was a common parlor game in Victorian times. In France a common ‘piquet’ deck (a deck in which the numbers two through six have been removed) is used for cartomnacy. Reversals cannot be used in standard poker decks as the cards are designed to be irreversible. However, some readers will add in the Jokers when reading the cards.
Cartomancy is, and probably always will be, a popular topic of discussion between skeptics and believers and until science can explain how the cards work it is one that will always be up for criticism and debate but one thing is certain: there are hundreds of decks to choose from and just as many books to learn from.