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Isn’t it funny how our tastes can change over time? We start our card reading explorations drawn to certain types of decks. We may start with a Waite-Smith tarot, and find comfort in decks following that same pattern, or which are also illustrated such as the Robin Wood or Hanson-Roberts. After some time we may wake up and decide we prefer more realistic artwork. 


Waite-Smith 8 of Pentacles

 Or we find the Marseilles pattern to be “dullsville,” and some years later enjoy sinking our teeth into this classic pip pattern and it’s suddenly “coolsville.” Our interest in occult tarot decks like the Golden Dawn and Thoth may wax; our interest in making associations to kabbalah, astrology or i-ching may wane.


Thoth Tarot

The tarot audience was psychologically focused in the mainstream for some years, I think, coming out of the classic books in the 1970s. Now tastes have changed and predictive models and styles of reading cards are becoming acceptable again.

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Three French Hens: Better than a gaggle of geese! Three hens are a productive trio.

It is time to talk about a favorite topic for many people: the spread. Cards and spreads are like peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes they are great together. Sometimes they are innovative, like that Smuckers product that contains peanut butter and jelly in one jar. Sometimes they just don’t work, like pairing peanut butter with orange jelly (marmalade).

Card spreads are a popular topic. I suppose this is in part because they make life seem easier for authors and learners. Like card meanings, they are easy to write about, which is good if you need to author a book. Learners like them for the same reason kids (of all ages!) like Pokémon games, where the goal is to obtain as many critters as possible: Gotta catch them all! I think it’s a parallel to the deck-buying syndrome. Learn the perfect spread and become the perfect reader.

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11_pipersEleven Pipers Piping: Sometimes a new deck calls with a siren song; a lure like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

In our materialistically focused society, people tend to like getting new things, and the New Age community is no exception. You can walk into almost any New Age store across the country and find a tantalizing display of expensive tschochkes, brick-a-bracks, collectibles and dust collectors available for purchase. People have always been hungry for shortcuts to heaven, or to ascension. It’s human nature.

There is nothing wrong with buying or having nice things, if a person enjoys them. I have collected various things myself over the years: miniature figures, books, video games, penguin items and — yes, tarot decks. The problem is when the collecting is for the wrong reasons.

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This is my summary of a playing card reading “spread” called the Quick Cut, from Chita St. Lawrence in her out-of-print book, It’s All in the Cards. You can read more about her book and methods in this old post of mine.

The Quick Cut is just that: cutting the deck of playing cards and reading the two cards revealed. It provides a quick answer; and is intended to last for up to a month. (Which is good if the answer indicates blockage!) It is excellent for a quick overview; or as a first reading for a sitter, which can be followed up with more in-depth readings to explore the situation.

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A common technique for reading playing cards today generally classifies red as good and black as bad. That is, hearts and diamonds have positive meaning; whereas spades and clubs would have negative meanings. This means a spread with a majority of red cards, or a line that ends in a red card, would generally mean good things for the questioner whereas a majority of black cards would mean bad things are in store. A further refinement to this is that clubs aren’t quite as negative as spades; so a line ending in a club, for example, might mean a block that can be overcome through some effort.

This concept of red playing cards as generally having positive meanings appears to be a modern convention. I can’t say for certain that all “Romany” (32 card) methods follow this traditonal approach, as described by modern authors. But searching through historical sources, including Sepharial and A.E. Waite, suggest that card meaning assignments were more idiosyntratic; and a red card could be good OR bad, and the same goes for a club. Spades still mostly draw the short end of the stick, and carry largely (but not unanimous) negative meanings.

I’m still deciding how I feel about this. It’s convenient when an overview can determine the likely result or “feel” of a spread of cards, based on predominant color. This is similar to analyzing a tarot spread for majority suits, for example. Leo Martello and Regina Russell are two readers whose systems of cartomancy are based on this fact. However, does life have to be so black and white — or black and red?

One concept I really like from the traditional, or older, ways of card reading is that diamonds are more “reflective” of the suits nearby. (I’ve not seen it described that way, but that’s how I thik of it.) Diamonds would mean things that are sharp, or cutting, or they speed things up. Whether this is good or bad is determined by combinations.

The 9 of diamonds by itself might mean news or sharp instruments. Combined with the 8 of spades, a health card,  it now indicates surgery. (Which may happen sooner than later.) Reading all the cards is necessary to determine the outcome. If these two were followed by the 10 of clubs, it would likely mean the surgery would be successful — the goal of the operation would be met, and one can infer a typical recovery. The 10 of hearts would also mean a successful surgery, and probably an effortless recovery. But what about the 8 of hearts as the third card? In modern systems, red-black-red is usually good. But the 8 of hearts speaks of jealousy, and related actions. The outcome no longer seems so benign.

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet; I’m still doing research and experimenting with reading. I wanted to share my thoughts at this time.

Whether you have experience based on modern usage of suit colors, or you’re a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist, you know the drill: if you have something to say on this, hit the comments. I’d love some opinions on this topic!

I highly recommend this blog post titled Three Ways To Accurately Predict When Events Will Happen. I think it’s very much worth a read for anyone interested in determining timing of events when reading cards, particularly tarot.

I don’t have a whole lot of experience with timing, but the approach I’ve mostly used is very direct: build timing into the question. “Will X happen soon?” “Is Y going to occur in the next six months?” Or state up front that this reading is valid for Z months. For example, when I first read playing cards I followed a technique where the reading is considered valid for a month at most.

Lenormand cards have their own approach to timing. There are astrological associations that can be used, such as the Fish being a Pisces card, which translates to anytime mid-March through mid-April. (I think the associations very more with Lenormand than with tarot.) The Rider usually indicates something that will be happening soon, like two to three days. The Clover, card number 2, is the classic two days/weeks/months. I read the Moon as a card that indicates “soon.”

Playing cards can also have timing associations which vary even more. The red 2’s are more traditional timing cards that can indicate a time duration of two, whether that’s days, weeks, months or years. Some people use astrological associations with the cards too, or suit timing assignments as the linked article describes for tarot suits.

A reader I know shared something she was taught about timing. The gist is that if you looked down at a traveling train, you could see the stops it has to make along the way, and where those are in relation to the destination; but you don’t know the exact times each stop will be visited. Only the order in which they will and must occur before getting to the end of the route. Timing is the same way, the sequence of events can be determined but it’s harder to pinpoint “when.”

This makes a lot of sense to me, especially for events further away in time. And I think this reflects the fact that intuition or the subconscious would be the best judge of time. If it can determine the events that will be occuring in a questioner’s life, then perhaps it can make a best guess on how long each of those events will take. All of this can be added to determine a final time period for the goal to occur or destination to be reached, and then this can be communicated to the conscious mind in the form of a card that jumps out at the reader.

Hopefully I’ll have more experience to write about Lenormand timing, at least, in the near future. I do have some techniques for this, but I’ll save them for another day. Meanwhile, I encourage my readers again to check out that tarot timing article.

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 table  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.

When I was first working with Chita Lawrence’s card reading method, I did some readings for people using her Quick Cut and Five-Card Draw. One of the readings can be summarized as follows:

Q heart to K club (Q heart significator; K club older man or co-worker)
… 9 club (business; place of business)
… 10 heart (great happiness)
… K heart (man, could be a sweetheart or significant other)

I read this as the querent being interested in a co-worker, and there was a good chance they’d find happiness together and start a relationship. It seemed like the “flow” of cards to me at the time.

My sitter was kind enough to follow up with me on the situation, and looking back at this reading, I was blown away at its simple accuracy — if only I’d read the cards more literally, as they had fallen!

9 club 10 heart K heart : Her love interest (K heart) is busy finding his happiness (10 heart) at work (9 club). A mutually known co-worker (K club) is interfering with the potential relationship, and therefore is between them. His antics have been on the querent’s mind.

Basically, the love interest chose his work over the querent, due in part to interference from this co-worker.

When it hit me as I reviewed the original reading in light up the feedback, I was floored. I realized the cards matched the reality that occurred, although my initial interpretation was faulty. Notably, I thought the King of Clubs would became the King of Hearts, rather than being two different people.

The lesson? Try to see what is truly there in the cards. Remember that although the cards are likely right, the particular interpretation may not manifest. I understand that even experienced readers run into this over time; we’re all human. Good old-fashioned human error can appear anywhere. Regina Russell, an experienced and respected reader of playing cards, wrote that we can expect 80-85% accuracy. Something to keep in mind.

I’d love to hear similar stories from any of my readers. Please leave a comment if you have something to share!

Here are some thoughts on the book It’s All in the Cards by Chita St. Lawrence. This is a great book for someone who wants to get quickly started with reading playing cards. I’ve found it to be a good foundation for me, and I’m carrying forward some of the method while incorporating other material.
The book was a very enjoyable read, starting with the history of her card-reading method and how it began, and traveled through five generations of women to the author herself. I didn’t like her statement that women have that extra something, that “women’s intuition,” that makes them the best readers. (I think she was explaining this mainly in the context of why gypsy women read cards.) Other than that, I liked the book.

Her method is interesting. It consists of up to three spreads. First, a quick read by cutting the deck and reading two cards at the cut; a 5-card reading in a Y-shape; and finally an in-depth reading of 22 cards, most of which are in pairs. So there is card interaction, but not the same as doing a line of 4+ cards. This is the part I had trouble with, because although pairs can be descriptive, I find it more appealing and helpful to read card triplets.

One thing that initially struck me is that Ms. Lawrence uses the K heart and Q heart to represent the querent and the querent’s significant other. (Like the Man and Woman in Lenormand.) Her K diamond represents a father/son/younger man, and Q diamond is similarly mother/daughter. Then the J diamond is expectations. So the red face cards are already a departure from the usage that most people else seems to use, which tend to group people by age, color and/or temperament. I have found her court descriptions very helpful, and incorporate her basic face card usage as I work with other systems.

The cards are supposed to talk about whatever they want; the querent, which Ms. Lawrence calls the Principal, is not to ask a specific question. For the 5-card layout, cards are drawn in pairs at first until a pair with the significator ( K heart or Q heart ) turns up. The meaning of the pair differs depending which of the pair is on top.

Someone once mentioned that Chita’s meanings and system are straightforward and uncomplicated. This may be true, but Chita does write that the fewer descriptive words that a card has, the more the reader can get out of it (or words to that effect). I think she expects the reader will get a feel from the overall cards layed out in a reading, with experience, and not be limited. She perhaps doesn’t feel it necessary to dwell on this, and she even writes that the peron will learn the basics of this method then “be on your own.” In other words, only experience will be a real teacher.

This also fits in with some views on tarot that I am familiar with, namely that it’s better to only have a couple of keywords per card rather than extensive lists of meanings which jostle each other and hamper the reader’s intuition.

Lawrence includes a lot of sample readings, which is both helpful and interesting. I liked them a lot. A lot of these are presented as practice exercises, where the learning reader should layout and interpret an example spread, then compare to how Ms. Lawrence would interpret it.

All in all, I find her approach appealing. It seems a bit simplistic for me, as I am fond of having “systems,” and things like timing cards and interaction that can provide more detail. As given, this method seems fairly straightforward and high-level event-driven. Yet it’s easy to get started with, I really like the sample exercise style, and I think this book could carry someone a long way in card reading. I’ve had some good success with accuracy in reading for people with this method. I also suspect that someone who uses this system over a longer period of time will get quite a bit out of it; more than might be written in the book.

Only time and experience will tell. The person who isn’t interested in memorizing a bunch of attributions and definitions will especially like this book. It even includes a one-page “tear sheet” at the end, which makes for a great reference to have on-hand while reading, when reference is needed. I have no problems recommending this book to a beginner or someone looking for something a little different.

As a fan of most things Alice, I had to order these Alice in Wonderland playing cards.

Alice in Wonderland playing cards

Alice in Wonderland playing cards

They are available through (linked above) and also through, with red or blue backs. Each card features a Sir John Tenniel illustration and a quote from the story.

I never realized before that Alice appears to be such an angry, or impetuous girl!


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