Down the rabbit hole: confusing traditions of cartomancy
When I started my study of cartomancy, I became confused by the many divergent ‘traditions’ of reading the cards: the mainstream English, French, German, Italian… Golden Dawn (and offshoots Crowley, Waite), Eteilla…’hereditary’ (‘passed on by unnamed ancestors’) systems…idiosyncratic (‘channeled’) systems…etc.
Detour: Short history of fortune telling with playing cards
Beginning with chinese playing cards: dominoes with two suits => money suited cards with four suits => the fourth suits added water margin pictures => four colour suits with seven chessmen ‘court’ each.
From china via the Arabs came the Mamluk cards in Europe:
52 cards comprising four suits: polo-sticks, coins, swords, and cups.
Each suit contained ten pip cards and three court cards.
The Trumps as we now in Tarot are a later addition…let’s not go in that rabbit hole for now!
Cartomancy with playing cards have their roots in domino fortune telling, gaming and Fortunetelling have been going together since ancient times!
While some people believe that the ancient put secret message in the system of cards/dominoes, I am not so convinced…maybe it is a matter of faith.
Back on track:
One of the spiritual teachers I met, once said: ‘you have to make your own (spiritual) framework’
After working with cartomancy since 1980, I am still learning how to create my own way of cartomancy, making my own framework.
Memorising lists of card meanings does not work for me, there are so many conflicting lists of meanings, and even if some lists do agree on a meaning, these often still feel as just a meaning for that specific tradition, not for me.
Qabbalistic cartomancy (as being done since Eliphas Levi) is a good framework, but I feel not comfortable enough with the Judeo-Christian framework and worldview to work with this.
Using memory palace as framework for cartomancy:
‘Who cares for you? You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’ (Lewis Caroll)
In my opinion, there are no secret codes hidden in the cards.
Obviously there is the structure of four suits, ten pips and three courtiers each, so this is the existing framework.
But considering the divergent ‘traditions’ what a specific card might mean, I have to make my own decisions how to work with this framework.
So now I use the structure of a pack of cards as if it were a memory palace:
‘In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject ‘walks’ through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items’
In other words: the structure of a pack of cards is based on the structure of a map.
Each card is a location on the map.
The map is organised logically:
On the vertical axis the suits club-heart-spade-diamond
On the horizontal axis the numbers: 1-10 (the pips) 11-12-13 (the court: jack-queen-king)
I memorize a ‘meaning’ (concept, symbol, whatever) with a specific card, using the hedge witchery system.
Other systems like the Magi Method , New World Hedgewitchery cartomancy, Ana Cortez Picturebook might also work with this framework.
Now comes the interesting part: everybody can use the same map to fill a location with a different ‘meaning’!
This is my explanation for the diverging ‘traditions’ on cartomancy: different regions/clans/families use the same map to fill a location with their own variation of meanings (there is some heated debate how to connect the four classic ‘elements’ with the four suits : swords/spades might be air or fire depending on ‘tradition’).
The imagery of a certain location might influence the imagination in a certain direction, therefore some consensus of ‘meaning’ might occur (cups/heart-love, coin/diamond-money).
Considering each card is a part of the map, after assigned meaning(s) to a card will still be connected with the card after I pull the map apart in 52 parts and start shuffling the deck!