Here are all the various info sheets I'll have at the Cartomancy table today...er...yeah I need to go to bed!
A Brief History of Cartomancy
Cartomancy is a term for anyone who uses cards to divine the unseen. Cart is basically Latin for Card; –omancy is a common tail-end to several magical systems, such as Necromancy (summoning the dead) and Stichomancy (randomly choosing words from a book, as an omen). I believe it comes from the belief that one who meddles with things beyond the veil, is “romancing” the Devil. The origin of Cartomancy is still disputed. Is it just an old game of cards from 13th century Europe? Or do they have an ancient magical past?
Most historians will only acknowledge history if it has been recorded or written down. Whether it is cuneiform tablets, old scrolls, or intact artifacts; historians need physical proof to believe in anything. In fact such proof does exist, but only to support the game of cards known as Tarocchi or Triumphs.
First lets talk about our modern day playing cards. The basic “Poker” deck, hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs and those nasty lil Jokers (the Joker was added in 1857, in America, and has no connection with the Fool of the Tarot), these cards entered Europe in the early 1300’s from Islam. Records indicate that this game was a new game to Europe. Before this time, the records make no mention of any kind of card game.
Jump ahead to the 1440’s, records begin to mention a card game called Triumphs, and they clearly distinguish between Triumphs and the Islamic cards. So the Islamic deck may have inspired tarot, but at some point they become separate from each other.
Unfortunately there is no record of either deck being used for magical purposes, the magical era of the tarot doesn’t come until much later, but we’ll get to that soon.
The earliest known printer of Triumphs cards was Italy, in the 16th century France began printing them as well. It is in France that the word Tarocchi first appears to describe the Triumphs cards, an early predecessor to the French word “tarot”.
The reason for the name change was to distinguish between the Islamic card game, which was now also called Triumphs, or Trumps.
Why create a deck of picture cards? The images used were common in art at the time, but to bring them altogether just for a game seems odd. Maybe the original designer had some other motive? History gives us no clue either. There are several individual decks, of which we have some account of their creations, but I will let you follow that research line yourself.
Records don’t acknowledge any reference to occult or magical uses until the 1780’s, when writers Court de Gebelin and Comte de Mellet begin writing about the hidden secrets in the tarot. Later the Order of the Golden Dawn, Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley, and Arthur Edward Waite, and other occultists ascribe meanings to the cards, eventually producing the first contemporary decks. The Rider-Waite deck and the Thoth deck are both among the most influential decks to come out of the early 20th century.
While both of these decks designs were inspired by the original gaming decks, for the first time the tarot deck became a tool for divination, instead of a gambling game. Today we have several thousand different tarot decks, and all may be traced back to the original Italian made game decks. This is what history tells us, but what about the other possibilities?
What about the Gypsies? The gypsies were named so because they were believed to have come from Egypt. In fact they originated in Romania, and sometimes they are called simply the Rom. Anywho, many tarot books will credit the Rom with the invention of the tarot as a tool for divination. Yet history credits them only with using palmistry , scrying, and tea leaf readings. Not until much later do they start using the modern day playing cards for reading. “Fortune Telling” is an awful phrase that may have started with the Rom, but may go as far back as China, I cringe whenever somebody calls me a fortune teller. Another card game also used for divination can be found in Mexico as well as other parts of the world. A wheel on a post, with cards all around it, and pegs inbetween each card; the wheel is spun, and a catch clicks past the pegs, eventually stopping on a random card. This may be the origin of the Roulette wheel or even The Wheel of Fortune games. The wheel game sometimes came with it a sheet, with some of the various card images on it. Like a Bingo card. Spin the wheel, mark off the card, get 3 in a row, and win a prize! “Hey Pat, can I buy a Trump?”
Some tarot origins go back as far as Atlantis. Where the tarot may have been used as a magical learning tool. Maybe the true origins do lie in karmic memory, we may never know. But whatever story you choose to believe, it shouldn’t effect your belief in the power of the cards as a tool for divination. The tarot was used as a gambling game, long before it historically became a divination tool, yet the occultists of the 18th century saw something more than a game, they saw stories and mirrors of ourselves in the cards.
Oracle cards, such as the popular Animal Medicine cards, or Doreen Virtue’s many Angel and Fairy decks, were no doubt inspired by the idea of tarot, but take a different path in their structure. With an oracle deck, you have cards depicting a theme (angels, animals, deities, flowers, etc.) and the structure of the deck is usually a lot looser than an average tarot deck (78 cards: 22 major arcana, 4 aces, 36 minor arcana, and 16 court cards). With an oracle deck, you may choose one or two cards and reflect on their overall meaning, but with the tarot you may choose several cards, lay them out in a question spread, and get a detailed outcome. There are some exceptions to the rule that all oracle decks are unstructured. The Celtic Tree Oracle, is complex system of cards inspired by Druids and Celtic tree worship. Oracle decks invite their creators to abandon the structure of the tarot, and reinvent the cards by their own imagination.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I get the “Death” card does it mean I’m going to die?
No, and anyone who tells you so isn’t a very good reader. Western culture doesn’t really acknowledge death, but most of the eastern religions honor death, and that’s where the death card comes from. Death is a change, and some people are terrified of change, so death personifies that fear of transition and transformation. Some view the “Ten of Swords” in the same way, but that card symbolizes the need to recognize the unneeded chains and suffering we inflict upon ourselves every day. Death comes to tear away pain, cut away fear; when we’re so used to fear and hatred, it can hurt when those parts are removed.
Card readers get their messages from the Devil!
First off, I personally believe that the Devil is a personification of our darker selves, and is not some horned god in a lava pit dictating our lives. Every reader will give you a different spin on where they believe the messages come from. Here’s my idea, the universe, seen and unseen, is made up of energy, this energy is intelligent, it has intent. This universal energy flows through us, guides us with messages or what is called “intuition”, the cards act as a mirror for our intuition to bounce off of. If you have ever studied dream symbols, you know how vague they can be at times. So that’s when I depend on what I know about the person. I see a message, and apply it to the person’s life story.
The Bible condemns prophets and witches!
It certainly does, nails them to a cross just for telling everyone to love thy neighbor! When the ol’ rock of ages was being translated and retranslated, in some cases a rushed translation, certain concepts were taken out of context. Like the Witch of Endor (they have Ewoks in the Bible?), may have only been a midwife in the original texts. As for prophets, well the Book is full of them, many before Christ. David may have been a mystic, as well as his son Solomon.
Then there is this startling verse from the Book of Joel (Old Testament, verse 28):
“Thereafter the day shall come, when I will pour out my spirit on all mankind; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions.”
Lotsa funny things in the Bible…
What are “reverse” meanings?
Some of the older tarot decks include a second definition if the card is reversed, or upside-down. Some jump to the conclusion that the reverse meaning is the opposite of the upright meaning. This is not always the case. Let’s take a look at the Devil card (15); traditionally it depicts the Devil as a horned god, with two naked people chained to his throne. Upright the card may mean the seeker isn’t acknowledging their true desires, they may need to let loose and express their trapped emotions. If the card is reversed, don’t assume the person should then repress their darker self. Instead perhaps the card is acknowledging that they have embraced their inner self, and are ready to apply their new desires to the world?
Something to remember, not all decks were created with reverse meanings. Some believe that 78 cards is enough, using reverse meanings you essentially have a deck of 156 cards!
Should I memorize what the book says about my cards?
I suppose you could, but you would be restricting yourself to only those definitions. For some reading and learning the cards is a difficult process, others pick it up fast. I know one woman, who has been reading the tarot professionally for about 25 years, and she still looks at the book! The best advice I can give to any novice reader, the moment you see something in the cards that you don’t find in the book, it’s time to put the book away. Think of the cards as training wheels for your intuition. At some point your own intuition will begin to take over, and you won’t need the book to give you the meaning, because you will already know it. The book is a valuable backup tool; it can give you a general foundation for each card, but try to be open to the infinite number of stories each card can tell.
Is there a special way to protect my cards?
Yes, and it can be whatever you feel is special and/or powerful. Many books will give you specific rituals to follow, some of them quite complex. If you like complex rituals, that’s great, do whatever feels right to you. But let me tell you the practical reasons behind the ritual. First, you should put your cards in a box or wrap them in cloth, mostly to protect them from damage or the elements. If you believe we all have a personal energy field around us, then you should be aware that many magical tools, such as card decks will suck up that energy like a sponge. Every month or so it’s good to clear your deck of any energies that aren’t yours; some use incense or candles, maybe you will sleep with the deck under your pillow, or put the cards back in the order as you first found them. Remember the cards are a key to your intuition into the unseen world; treat them with respect.
Should I let people handle my cards?
This is a personal preference issue; there is no right way of giving a reading to another person. I believe we connect best by reading each other’s energy field, and not by physical contact through the cards. If you let someone touch your cards, you are showing them trust that they will respect your cards. If however the person gives you the heebie jeebies, maybe you shouldn’t be reading for them in the first place. But if you do decide to read for people with creepy energy, remember to protect yourself, and don’t let them touch your cards!
Should I buy a deck or get one as a gift?
I have only ever received 3 decks as a gift, all the others I have bought myself. My opinion is this, if you’re at a store, and you see a card deck you like, and it feels right, and your birthday and/or Christmas is far away, I say you should go for it! As long as you respect the cards and their energies, I don’t think it matters where the deck comes from.
Should I charge for readings?
This is a big ethics issue, which I have struggled with myself as a professional reader. Often if you read for another reader, you can trade a reading for payment, so money isn’t an issue, but when reading for the public, value is placed on goods and services. Some people will honor advice more if they have given up something for it. Don’t charge more than a 900# Psychic would, but also don’t let people take advantage of you. A dollar a minute is fairly standard, anything more than that and you get the feeling that the reader wants money more than helping people find harmony in their lives.
Should I read for myself?
Yes, because if you don’t, you will never develop a close relationship with the cards. Reading cards gives your inner psyche a chance to communicate directly, but be ready to confront your inner demons; the cards do not come from the realm of emotion, the messages are honest, and sometimes quite harsh. If you cannot confront your inner-self, you will have great difficulty reading the cards. In some cases, when you are in a particular mood, it is a bad idea to read for yourself or anyone. Do not try to read the cards if you are sad, depressed, angry, physically sick, or going through any extreme emotions. These rules apply to anyone you might read for as well. The cards can become an addiction just as much as any drug can, try to limit how many readings you do for yourself, otherwise the messages will begin to repeat themselves. If you are sad or angry about a situation in your life, wait a few days to sort things out yourself, if you are still lost, then using the cards might help you find a way out.
Do the cards give you answers to problems?
No, they can only offer advice and guidance. Phrasing your question is hard, it cannot be a Yes or No question, those won’t work well. Try to ask how a situation can be changed, or why the situation is the way it is. The cards will give you actions, chances to change a situation; the cards give you doors and roads, you have to choose whether or not to use them.
Books, Decks and Links
Complete Book of Tarot Spreads
By Evelin Burger and Johannes Fiebig (Sterling Publishing)
An expansive list of history, information, and exercises for the beginner and advanced reader. Plus more than 100 spreads to use!
Mystic Sciences: Volume 2 – Tarot & Numerology
By Isabella (Santa Monica Press)
This book is part of a larger series exploring the many facets of divination and mysticism. In the Tarot section of the book, each card is broken up into meaning sections: Descriptive Meaning, Love, Career, Health, Emotions, Special Advice, and Summary.
The Tarot Revealed
By Eden Gray
(Signet Books, New American Library Publishing)
Fully Illustrated guidebook for the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The definitions given are basic, but still good as a general reference. In the back are some classic spreads, with example readings included.
A Note About Choosing A Companion Book For Your Card Deck:
Most Tarot/Oracle decks nowadays give you the option of a separate, larger guidebook. Every deck will come with either a small booklet, or an actual book. These are really all you will need to learn about the deck you own.
If you want to go deeper into the meanings of the cards, then I suggest you look at any of the larger companion books that may connect to your deck. Investigate the book first; sometimes the information is the same as the book that came with your deck.
The Rider-Waite Tarot
By Arthur Edward Waite
This is one of the first Tarot decks to come out of the 20th century, it is by far the most well known, and most referenced. Many of today’s tarot decks, use the Rider-Waite as a template. I highly recommend this deck to beginners, and to advanced readers who want to delve deeper into the development of the Tarot.
The Thoth Tarot or The Crowley Deck
By Aleister Crowley
This is the second most influential Tarot deck to come out of the 20th century. Created by Aleister Crowley, a past member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, he created a deck for the occultists. It is a darker vision; complicated visuals take you deep into the matter of the reading. I do not recommend this deck for beginners; it’s a thick deck, full of intense meanings. I do not believe Crowley was evil; he studied myth and magic, and found a way to bring them together in a deck of cards.
Get a free reading using the Thoth deck here:
The Arthurian Tarot
by Caitlin & John Matthews
(Thorsons/Harper Collins Publishing)
This was my first deck I owned. And I’m happy to announce it is back in print! The Matthews have written several books focusing on the Arthurian myth, and this deck brings some of the most meaningful stories together. The King Arthur in this deck is both Christian and Pagan; the characters around him represent the landscape of Britain. This is a great deck for beginners or anyone interested in learning more about the Arthurian story.
Legend: The Arthurian Tarot
By Anne-Marie Ferguson
This is a darker retelling of the Arthurian mythos. These cards cut to your soul, much like the Thoth Tarot does. This deck focuses more on the earlier tales of Arthur, the Welsh and Gaelic ballads. The guidebook gives the reader rich meanings, and each card has a story from the Arthurian saga attached to it.
The Cosmic Tribe Tarot
By Stevee Postman
Stevee should be credited with making the first Gay tarot. The deck combines photography with digital paintings. And it works! The images are spiritual and sexual, a perfect balance. And you may like the 3 Lovers cards; a straight couple, a gay male couple, and a lesbian couple. The Justice card is a transgendered person, perfect for representing the balance of our male/female selves.
The Herbal Tarot
By Michael Tierra and Candis Cantin
(U.S. Games Systems)
The images are similar in design to the Rider-Waite deck, only in each card an illustration of a herb, plant, or flower is woven into the image. The companion booklet gives the general meaning, plus identifies the herb, and gives suggestions for it’s use. This is a wonderful tool for anyone who is interested in studying Homeopathic Remedies or cooking with magical herbs. The deck can be used to assist in the diagnosis of a health issue.
There are thousands of different card decks; some decks are based on Runes and the I-Ching, some work with a mystical system, like the many Qabalistic decks, the Mayan and Aztec decks. Some uses animals or mythical creatures to tell their stories. Some decks follow an unconventional theme, like the Jesus Tarot, which quotes Bible passages on the cards. Other odd decks include the Disney Tarot, Lego Tarot, Star Trek Tarot, and the Lord of the Rings Tarot. Here are just a few of the Oracle decks I have owned, and I would recommend.
(Animal) Medicine Cards
by Sams and Carson
This best-selling deck of more than 50 cards representing animals from the Native American Tribal tradition. This is a great deck for daily readings, or to find out what an animal’s message is, if you happen to see one.
The Faeries Oracle
By Brian Froud and Jessica MacBeth
(Fireside Books/Simon & Schuster)
This deck is not for people who think faeries are happy lil’ Tinkerbells! Faeries are made up of positive and negative forces, light and dark, good and evil; they are tricksters and helpers, and they switch their minds frequently. This deck gives you a peek into their world, but watch out, cause they will peek into yours and drag out things you may not want to see. Not a good deck for beginners, or those afraid of the darker parts of Nature.
I Ching of the Goddess
By Barbara G. Walker
Author of the “Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myth’s and Secrets”, Barbara takes us deep into the origins of the I Ching, and deeper onto the feminine. Each card represents one of the 64 combinations you can have in the traditional I Ching coins or sticks. The paintings are incredible, a reach that tantric balance between sexuality and spirituality, we seek in our lives. If you are looking for another view of the modern masculine-based I Ching, then I highly recommend this deck.
Tree of Life Oracle
By Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur
(Friedman and Fairfax Books)
This deck breaks all of the possible paths on the Tree of Life into groups, and assigns meanings according to the planetary groups which rule over each sphere. It’s complicated and simple at the same time. If you are looking for another way to apply the knowledge of Qabala, this deck is for you.
Buy Card Decks
Located on 260 W. Gilman St., just off of State St. in Madison. Support local businesses!
U.S. Games carries several kinds of card decks, some can are only printed in Europe, they even have reprintings of antique decks. Check out their history section and card museum.
Tarot.com is a fantastic site! When you first sign up, they give you a credit amount so you can get free Tarot, I Ching, or Rune readings. When you do a Tarot reading, you can choose from over 50 decks, and if you like one, their store sells it! The free email horoscopes are great, and you can also receive notices when certain astrological events are happening.
Learn About The Tarot
A site that gives descriptions and meanings of the Tarot. And provides other information for beginners.
A great site for learning the cards. Everything is easy to understand, and has information for both beginners and advanced readers.
This is a great big huge layout archive! If you can spare the paper, I recommend printing it out. Also if you do save it, make sure to save it in Word, or else certain effects won’t load properly.
Awesome site, definitely check this one out. Any question you have about the history of the Tarot, can be answered here.
This deck is a little twisted, but the stories and archetypes are still strong in the images. If you have any aversion to eroticism or Clive Barker’s novels, then I suggest you avoid this site. If however you embrace the darker parts of your soul, then you will enjoy these cards immensely.
Play the Game!
For most of its history, tarot was known primarily as a card game. Although somewhat obscure today, it was once tremendously popular. Even if you appreciate tarot cards as a divination tool or as an artifact of popular culture, you may be curious about the game. How is it played?
Much of the 600 pages of Michael Dummett's impressive tome, The Game of Tarot, is devoted to detailing the many games that have been played with tarot cards and their rules. There are some web sites that present official rules for one variant of the game or another. (See, for example, Game Report: Early French Tarot http://www.inmet.com/~justin/game-recon-tarot.html or the comprehensive Card Games site http://www.pagat.com/index.html.) There is a very nice shareware tarot program called Objective Tarot http://altern.org/tarot/objective/index.en.html that you can download and practice with. (The software is in French, but if you refer to the rules for French Tarot http://www.pagat.com/tarot/frtarot.html from the Card Games site, it should be clear enough for English speakers.) What I present here is a very basic form of the game, including most of the basic features found in the countless variants. If you want to learn the game of tarot simply to satisfy curiosity and gain an appreciation for how early players thought of the cards, I think you will find these basic rules valuable. If you want to seek out modern-day tarot players and enter tournaments, you are advised to look up the official rules of the modern forms of the game.
It is best to have 3 or more players (the original game was probably designed for 3) although you can play with two if need be. The dealer shuffles the pack and deals out the entire deck. If there are more than 3 players, there will be some cards left over. The dealer, who must discard an equal number of cards, takes these. The dealer keeps these discards, to be counted toward his or her total at the end of the game.
The player to the dealer's right leads, by playing any card from his or her hand. Other players must play a card of the same suit, if they have one. If not, they must play a trump card. If they have neither the proper suit nor a trump, they must play a card of another suit, thereby losing it. Each "trick" is won by the highest-ranking card of the suit led (if no trumps were played), or by the highest-ranking trump, if there were any. In traditional forms of the game, the cards within each suit rank as follows (from high to low):
swords and batons: King - Queen - Knight - Page - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6- 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - ace
cups and coins: King - Queen - Knight - Page - ace - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 -7 - 8 - 9- 10
There is a special rule regarding the Fool. The Fool may be played at any time, regardless of whether the player holds cards of the suit led or trump cards. The Fool never wins a trick, however. The Fool is thus an "excuse", used when you prefer to not to play any of the other cards you hold. The player who plays the Fool gets to keep it, handing over another card previously won to the winner of the trick, as a replacement for the Fool.
Whoever wins the trick gets to lead the next trick. Play continues in this fashion until all the cards have been played.
The winner is determined by counting points. Players score 1 point for every trick they win, plus extra points for the "counting cards":
· for each page, 1 point
· for each knight, 2 points
· for each queen, 3 points
· for each king, 4 points
· for the Fool, Bagatto, or World card, 4 points each (the other trumps do not count)
Often, the points are totaled in a peculiar way. The player groups the cards won into groups, each having the same number of cards as a trick, but trying to place exactly one counting card in each group, if possible. Each group thus counts one point more than the counting card(s) included in the group. If there are no counting cards in a group, the group counts 1 point. This method means you don't have to go through your cards twice, once to count tricks and once to count counting cards. After doing this awhile, it becomes quite natural, and you start to think of kings as worth 5, queens worth 4, and so on, because that is the value of the groups they usually land in when counted.
If you are playing with two or three players, you may find dealing out the entire deck unwieldy. If so, you can decide to deal only half the deck per round.
Strategy: this is a very subtle game, which may take some practice to really master. To begin, remember that most of the points (56 out of 78 in a three-handed game) are in the counting cards, rather than in the tricks won, and most of the counting cards are court cards. In simplistic terms, then, the goal is to capture court cards, particularly queens and kings. The most likely way for this to happen is if you are out of suit cards for the suit led, but still have trumps in hand. There is thus a certain advantage to playing your kings and queens near the beginning of the game, when other players are likely to still have pip cards of the same suit which they must play, losing the trick. Don't hoard your trumps. Except for the Bagatto and the World, they have no intrinsic value. Their value is in their ability to capture court cards. So if you have an opportunity to take a king or queen with a high-ranking trump, play it! Don't save it for a rainy day--you may end up winning a trick consisting of only trumps, giving no extra points at all! A good time to play the Fool is when you would otherwise be forced to lose a counting card: for example, when the only cards you have of the suit led are court cards, and another player has played the king or a trump.
This basic form of tarot is easy to learn, but is still tremendous fun to play. You will find that it is a very well designed game. The rules and point values of the cards combine to make it strategically challenging. It is not just a game of chance. Get together some friends and try it out! It's best to have a more or less traditional pack, with pips for the number cards (Tarot of Marseilles and Swiss 1JJ are readily obtained decks suitable for gaming). If your friends are unfamiliar with the structure of a tarot pack, be sure to point out possible points of confusion--swords are curved, batons are straight. Justice is not to be mistaken for the Queen of Swords, nor the Emperor for the King of Batons.
For a real time-travel experience, play with a Visconti-Sforza reproduction deck, and refer to the cards by their old Italian titles http://www.tarothermit.com/titles.htm!
This entire text copied from www.tarothermit.com, and used without permission.
The Cartomancy Collective
Cartomancy is a term for anyone who uses cards to divine the unseen. Cart is basically Latin for Card; –omancy is a common tail-end to several magical systems, such as Necromancy (summoning the dead) and Stichomancy (randomly choosing words from a book, as an omen). I believe it comes from the belief that one who meddles with things beyond the veil, is “romancing” the Devil. The origins may go as far back as Atlantis, or it may just be an invention of 17th century occultists, no one seems to agree. Is it just an old game of cards from 13th century Europe? Or do they have an ancient magical past? Today cartomancy is alive and well, some take it seriously, while others play the cards in gambling games.
I created the Cartomancy Collective so I may share my knowledge of the cards, and hopefully build a community of others who wish to share their insights and knowledge. This is not meant to be a free reading space. That would not be respectful of the reader's talents. The group is online at www.yahoo.com, you will need a Yahoo email account to join the group, which is a free and easy sign up. This is not a religion opr a cult, just a small community of card readers sharing their passions.
Once you have a free Yahoo account, go to this address:
The club is free to join, all I ask is that you introduce yourself, and give your personal history reading the cards.
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