Reading playing cards in lieu of tarot cards is quite straightforward. If you have previous tarot reading experience, then you’ll find the transition easy. However, if you’ve never read tarot, then all you have to do is memorize a simple system and carry out some practice readings. Fortune telling with playing cards has been around for centuries – the correct term for reading cards is ‘cartomancy‘.
The system is based on two things: the card suit and the card number. Once you have an idea of the progression of meanings assigned to the numbers 1 to 10, then you’ll soon be reading like a professional. You will also have to familiarize yourself with the ‘court’ personalities, which are also based on the suits.
The playing card suits correspond to the four suits in tarot:
Hearts – Cups: Emotions, feelings, relationships – ‘issues of the heart’
Spades – Swords: Thinking, communication – ‘head stuff’
Diamonds – Pentacles: Practicalities, material world – ‘everyday life’
Clubs – Wands: Creativity, ideas, inspiration, action – ‘motivation’, ‘spirit’.
As you can see, those four suits cover every aspect of human existence. Spend some time learning the suit correspondences. Think up some situations and see which suit they fit into best. It is possible for situations to straddle more than one suit, of course.
The numbers on the cards indicate where the card’s energies lie on the scale, ‘beginning to end’. For instance, in a relationship question, four could mean feeling secure. It might also mean that the relationship is in danger of becoming stagnant. An eight might indicate that it’s time to move away from the relationship or to take things to the next level.
• Ace – Beginnings
• Two – Balance
• Three – Connection
• Four – Stability
• Five – Disturbance
• Six – Harmony
• Seven – Mystery
• Eight – Movement
• Nine – Growth
• Ten – Completion
How do you work out what these abstract ideas mean when trying to decipher a real-life situation? After all, you want answers in concrete terms. It will help if you spend some time adding to the above list. For instance, nine – growth; you could expand it to learning a lesson, knowing yourself or seeing the end in sight. How about three – connection; working in a team, friendship or simply reaching out.
Now marry those numbers to the card suit and the meanings start to coalesce. Take the Five of Diamonds. You have disturbance + practical issues. In traditional tarot, this card, the Five of Pentacles, means financial loss or some kind of physical hardship. So the Five of Diamonds means a practical challenge needs to be faced and dealt with.
See how the suit affects the meaning of the number. Six means harmony; combine with:
• Hearts and you have a peaceful, rewarding relationship or friendship.
• Spades and you are thinking the same thoughts as another, or you reach a healed place in your head.
• Diamonds and your life/work/financial situation takes on a rosy hue.
• Clubs and you are looking at a happy achievement or victory. All is well.
Remember that each positive has its negative, so if you are puzzling what the Eight of Spades means in a relationship reading, consider that lack of movement/progression could be an issue. In traditional tarot, the Eight of Swords shows that someone has got themselves into a situation they feel trapped in, therefore they are unable to move forwards.
If you get stuck then try looking up the meaning of the corresponding tarot card to see if it works in the context of the question you are reading for.
One more layer – spreads
When you become more confident you can add a spread to the reading. A simple one might be three cards laid out as past, present and future. Another three card spread could be: my influence on the relationship, his influence on the relationship and the outcome of the relationship. Where the card turns up on the spread also has a bearing on the meaning.
The personality cards
These are easy to learn when you remember that they are categorized by suit and age.
Take the knave of hearts – we have youth + love, so that would mean that a young person is in love or, at the very least, attracted to someone. If the card appeared for a mature person, then it could mean that new love is on the way. Here’s basic list of the personality attributes:
Hearts: Falls in love easily, romantic, likes to talk about him/herself
Spades: Rebel, fights for a cause, intellectual, political, energetic, focused
Diamonds: Reliable, hard-working, quiet, hidden depths, a dark horse
Clubs: Unreliable, hotheaded, risk taker, athletic, likely to have divided loyalties.
Hearts: Emotional, dependent, empathic, someone you can talk to
Spades: Sharp, intelligent, ruthless, insightful, organized, impatient but good to have on your team
Diamonds: Practical, warm, dependable, motherhood, will make tea in a crisis
Clubs: Energetic, career-minded, untidy, disorganized, fun to be with
Hearts: Wise, tolerant, diplomatic, feeling, patient, easy to ask for advice
Spades: Introspective, ethical, communicator, stern, knows what he’s talking about
Diamonds: Self-made, businessman, encouraging, jolly – think Santa Claus
Clubs: Creative, forceful, charismatic, hot-tempered, he’ll respect someone who can stand up to him.
Think of some people you know and try to determine which personality card would fit them best. Remember that they don’t have to be male to have a kingly personality; the same goes for the other personalities too – male or female. When a personality card appears in a reading, it can represent an actual person or a situation.
Note: these cards also have numbers. The Jacks are 11, which is really 1+1 = 2. So they hold the energy of twos – balance. The Queens are 12, which reduces to 3. They hold the energy of threes –connection. The Kings are 13, which means they have four energy – stability. Knowing this can add even more shade and nuance to your readings.
Example reading using playing cards
Question: How can I improve my work situation?
The cards are shuffled and laid out in a row of three. There’s no designated spread in this reading; we are simply asking the cards for some suggestions.
Card 1 – Three of Diamonds
Card 2 – Queen of Spades
Card 3 – Eight of Clubs
The Three of Diamonds means ‘practical connections’, therefore making an effort to improve my relationships with my co-workers might be a good place to start. I could offer to help them if I find myself with time to spare.
The Queen of Spades is a feisty, intelligent, difficult woman (or man). I could identify who this might be at work and try to get to know her better. She may be able to offer some good advice if I can get past her frostiness.
The Eight of Clubs means ‘movement with creativity’ so I should put my creativity to good use. There might be something I could improve on in my working environment, something that makes my life and that of my co-workers better and more productive.
Tarot reading with playing cards can offer quite a lot of information and good advice. You will become very popular in your circle of friends if you can whip out your deck of cards and answer their questions. It takes some practice to become fluent with reading playing cards, but it is a fascinating subject and one that will reward the student cartomancer.