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Cartomancy is the skill of divination, through the use of cards. This art has been suggested to have roots in ancient Egypt, while other sources indicate it was first practiced in Europe, around the 16th century.
Originally, the playing cards were a tool used by gypsies to tell fortunes to kings and anyone else who was curious, before all forms of divination were declared blasphemous by the Catholic Church. For the purposes of this article, a little will be explained how playing cards can be used to divine the future and what not.

Like dream interpretation, each card is a symbol of ourselves, as well as the influences surrounding us. These symbols are thought to be basic elements, that when pieced together, will tell a story. In the Tarot, the story of the Major Arcana describes a journey a child goes through, as he learns life's lessons and becomes an old man, before he dies and is reborn: playing cards tell a similar tale. The lessons in the cards here, tell a tale of evolution; how our lives are shaped through great joy and great misery.

Each card may have its own meaning and have a new meaning, when in contrast with other cards. When interpreting cards, one must think in a non-linear way. The images should be seen as a whole, as the entire picture connects with the person or question that had been divined. So, even though certain meanings may conflict with another: one must use that guideline to create a meaning that best describes the purpose for the augury.
This is not exactly "making things up," but using the fundamental symbolism as the basis for the final conclusion; because no single card is going to fit every kind of life situation. In Psychology, this kind of collective association is used when diagnosing some disorders. The cards are a bit like vague "symptoms" that have no specific meaning in themselves, until they are placed in contrast with other cards, while maintaining a context; that context is where the cards are positioned.


Playing cards are divided into four suits, which in divination, are used to explain a certain numbered card's "experience". Each suit may be more easily memorized, when co-responding to Elements: Earth, Fire, Air and Water. Think of the suits as the perspective that each card has. From the specifically numbered card's point of view, it offers its personal symbolism, or "opinion" if you will.
After a card is known to be of a certain perspective, one must look at the number it holds. Each number (as well as face card) is like the card's personality: through its elemental quarter, a number is created. If Elements are experience, then the numbers are the stories the card has to tell, from that experience.

When drawn, a card may be inverted or dignified (right-side up). The position of a card often dictates the temperament that card displays. When dignified, that card is in its natural state. In the Tarot, when inverted, that card's energy has been turned against itself; so the meaning becomes a reversal of its dignified position. With playing cards, the inversion may simply be used as a guide for the potential destructive/negative aspects. Listed below are the Elemental quarters and their associations*:


Diamonds/Earth - The body. Mundane matters, such as health, or assets. Anything physically oriented. May pertain to business matters.
Spades/Fire - Expression. Actions available and the ability to take control of a situation.
Clubs/Air - The mind. Social communication. Anything to do with contemplation, or study. Psychic influences are included. Hearts/Water - Emotions. This suit also represents motivations. Hidden influences may be inspired, here.
(The Clubs and Spades' convert to traditional Tarot by switching their element.)

Listed are the associations, for each numbered card:


One - Beginnings. Potential. Youth. Purity. Inverted: solitude; being lost. Having been corrupted.
Two - Connections. Striving for unity. Inverted: conflict and division; loss of potential.
Three - Synthesis. That which thrives. Inverted: lack of focus. Resistance. Loss of momentum.
Four - Stability. Family unity. Tradition. Inverted: lack of growth; being contended.
Five - Exploration. The ability to change. Inverted: Loss; the need for reconstruction.
Six - Harmony. Pivotal relations. Inverted: anarchy and disorganization.
Seven - Wisdom. Perception. May also represent karma. Inverted: unable to learn; lack of experience. Failure.
Eight - Action. Expression. Application of resources. Inverted: decay and corruption.
Nine - Release; completion of a cycle. Death. Inverted: regeneration. Persistence.
King - Mastery. He is the gatekeeper, who unlocks knowledge. He may represent challenges that must be faced, in order to advance. Inverted: Fear and shame. Weakness. Limits all passages.
Queen - Creativity. She is the forgemaster, who begins and ends all creation. She may represent a nurturing spirit. Inverted: emptiness. Neglect.
(Joker and Jacks have not been included in this article. For purposes of education, the Joker co-responds to "The Fool" and the Jack co responds to the "Page/Princess".)


In a reading, these cards would be layed-out in what is called a Tarot spread. A spread is the connectivity between cards, as each position represents a focusing point for the cards to flow together. There are indefinite numbers of spreads, but for practice I will explain a basic "three card" spread, to play with.
Shuffle the cards, while concentrating on a question or person. Without looking, you make pull out cards that are to be meshed back in the deck, as they feel right to you. After, concentrate again and cut the deck, placing the new pile on top of the other cards. Draw three cards. And place them in order: 1, past; 2, present; 3, future. The past pertain to the reason for the inquiry, as well as how the situation began. The present indicates the current state of affairs, as well as what may be on a person's mind. The future indicates the potential outcome; or a possible course of action.
When using the cards on someone else, it is wise to ask them to shuffle and cut the deck. Some people like to use prayers and meditation before and after a session. Feel free to experiment on whichever works for you.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the card meanings and the spreads, before using them. Not understanding would result in inaccuracy, as well as possible embarrassment.
There are many various resources on the Internet, as well as in bookstores, on the art and practice of cartomancy. Have fun with the cards and dont be afraid to try new things.


In accordance with GNU License, this article should not be distributed or reproduced in its original form, without proper citation of the source. Thank you.

--solstice 18:23, 10 Jul 2005 (EDT)

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