Playing Cards
Cartomancy is a useful and enjoyable form of divination, and is practiced widely throughout the world. While "traditional" tarot cards are most commonly used for this purpose, ordinary playing cards can also provide reliable divination, especially when they are used by someone who already has a strong understanding of the Rider-Waite or Aquarian decks.

Tarot cards have their roots in playing cards, and are essentially identical, except that playing cards lack the major arcana. In playing-card cartomancy, the suits line up gracefully with their tarot counterparts. As a long-time tarot reader, I have found that the meanings communicated through playing cards correspond exactly to the meanings of tarot's minor arcana.

In playing-card cartomancy, each of the suits corresponds to an equivalent in the Rider-Waite or Aquarian tarot deck. The suit of hearts stands in place of cups, symbolizing femininity and comfort, while the suit of spades is the playing-card counterpart of swords, and represents wisdom and warnings. Like pentacles or coins, the diamond suit signifies materialism and clarity. Finally, the suit of clubs, which corresponds with wands, represents creativity and personal initiative.

When using ordinary playing-cards as divination tools, the card-reader (assuming pre-existing understanding of traditional tarot decks) treats each card as if it is its Rider-Waite or Aquarian counterpart. The two of hearts is read as the two of cups, and the eight of spades is read as the eight of swords.

Additionally, within every playing-card suit, a court card will correspond to a card in the tarot deck and have an identical meaning. The King, Queen, and Jack of each playing-card suit operate identically to the King, Queen, and Knight of the corresponding tarot suit. Thus, the Jack of Clubs, for example, is the playing-card counterpart of the Knight of Wands. The Page of tarot has no direct equivalent in standard playing cards.

The Joker is the only card that acts as an equivalent to one of the tarot's Major Arcana. He corresponds roughly to the Fool and is believed to be the primary symbolic origin of the Major Arcana story itself. In playing card decks with two Jokers, I often mark one of them and use it as a replacement for The World.

Despite the conspicuous absence of the Major Arcana, tarot-like readings through a typical deck of playing cards are still useful and worthwhile. Successful divination and self-understanding can be reached just as easily through an average playing card deck as through a more conventional tarot deck, and the results are equally satisfying.


Article by Juniper Taroscio