Last night I decided to try the Square of Sevens method of reading the cards. This is a method from a historical book whose author claims to have located a nearly-lost publication, which captured and revealed a barely-known Gypsy method of reading the past, present and future in playing cards. The book seems likely to be a literary hoax, which you can read about here. Someone went to a lot of work to create this piece of possible fiction, in my mind.

Hoax or not, I was curious about the method. It seems fairly legitimate, in terms of a reading method. It’s possible that the author had a method of card reading, and followed a common occult tradition of falsifying the source, in order to give lineage and a sense of importance to the material. (See: Golden Dawn.)

It’s a bit complicated, though not difficult. After setting aside three wish cards, the deck is laid out in a 7 x 7 pattern: starting with a stairstep pattern, then shuffling and dealing from bottom and top of the deck, in a prescribed fashion, until forty-nine cards are spread out. Then a “reduction” occurs, moving common suit cards to the left, and taking away cards so that a 3 x 7 column layout is left.

This 3 x 7 spread is interpreted row by row, according to a table of meanings given in the book. For each three card row, the rightmost card has a meaning based on the influence of the suit to its left; the middle card is interpreted based on the suit to its left; and the leftmost “master card” is interpreted on its own merit.

My first thought upon laying out the cards was that it takes a lot of space — I was using the floor, so I was okay, but a large tableย  would be needed. The methodical shuffling and top or bottom dealing could help get one into a mindset, into the reading zone; so although it seems rather silly at first, I can’t complain about something that could settle a reader’s mind… although dealing from the bottom of the deck feels a little strange!

The reduction was interesting, as was the resulting 3 x 7 layout. The fact that a card is given meaning shaded by a neighbor’s suit reminds me a bit of the Master Method described by Foli, Sephariel and one book by John Dee. This method is generally attributed to Mlle. Lenormand, and uses a 36 card layout for a 36 card deck; each position is interpreted with a meaning based on the suit of the card that falls on it. I haven’t tried the Master Method yet, but it’s on my to-do list.

I’m sure some of my readers will wonder why I didn’t post a sample reading here. The fact is that I didn’t really care for the reading method. The card meanings were along the typical lines for the suits: hearts to emotion, diamonds to position and means, clubs to efforts and intellect, and spades to trouble. However, the fact that each card had a meaning modified by suit was a bit much for me in this first reading. I would have to study the table given to determine if there are consistent rules for how a card’s meaning is shaded by a neighbor; some of the cards made sense to me, and some did not. I would also prefer to then apply any rules to meanings that I already know, rather than rely on referencing a table, or having a new set of meanings to learn.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I enjoy learning new methods of working with cards, and I’ve been finding fertile grounds in some of the historical methods lately. This is one that I might play with in future, but not without some modifications for modern sensibilities or at least the application of card meanings I already know.

If anyone is curious, this public domain book is available for free from the above link to Project Gutenberg. If you give it a whirl, let me know in the comments.