Cartomancy or Playing Card Divination Part 2
Learning the Oldest Form of Card Divination
When I first looked to learn cartomancy many years ago, I found the systems very complicated to the point that I set the desire to learn aside for decades. I had that one paperback book and it was a complicated system. I decided a few years ago to see if I could find better teachers and books to learn from. I first ordered 4 of the most popular cartomancy books, 2 whose titles gave me a laugh and a smile.
While waiting for the books to arrive, I searched online for various sites that either taught or pointed you towards how to learn cartomancy. The first system I checked out was free, tucked away on the Wayback Machine. It is from the Hedgewytchery site by Dawn R. Jackson. She had this up since at least 2002, from what I can tell. Sadly, she died a couple of years ago. She had also authored a book, having it printed on a small run. Is not to be found anywhere. I found out a year ago that this is THE most popular system out there. I found the Hedgewytch system great, then I set it aside because I wanted to read more on cartomancy. If this was good, what else is out there?
Note: All the books I mention are listed, as well as links to the sites with free systems. With Dawn has passing away, one may want to read up and learn that system soon. No telling how much longer it will stay up, even on the Wayback Machine site.
The books finally arrived. One book I received turned out to be based on astrology. It made no sense to me. For the price of postage, it is available to anyone who wants it. Seriously. The other is “Simply Fortune-Telling with Playing Cards” by Jonathan Dee. It was okay. It was a basic memorize the meanings system. Eh. Cory Thomas Hutchison’s “54 Devils…” was interesting. He designed his system based off Dawn Jackson’s Hedgewytchery, “It’s All in the Cards,” by Chita St. Lawrence and his years of experience.
The last book was “Speed Learning Cartomancy – Fortune Telling With Playing Cards (Volume 1)” by Julian Moore. That was a very simple system of suits meanings and numbers. I wrote on the cards with a thin Sharpie as he taught. I did the same with the meanings from the 2 other books I liked, making their own “decks” to compare how each system worked. After a short while, I found myself stuck for the four meanings written on each card.
The meanings for each system became static in my head, like stone. For some reason, I could not move beyond them. They became a language block for me. No variation came to mind for a card’s short meanings. It was rather bizarre for me. Argh!
I searched for the out-of-print book by Chita St. Lawrence mentioned by Cory and ordered it. She tells how her system was developed on the fly by a Russian Gypsy dancer in 1820. The system was handed down the family line until it was taught to Chita’s mother, who was very close with one of the last of the family’s card reading members. It is a good read with an interesting history of that time period. I really liked that system and played with it for a bit. It took me less than a week to remember it, it was so simple. Her cheat sheet at the end was helpful, too.
As I was looking at a blog site that liked Chita Lawrence’s system, the woman mentioned another- “The Message. Your Secrets in the Cards” by Deborah Leigh, that she blended together somewhat. I did not need another book. No. Nada. Nope…
I went ahead and bought Deborah’s book, of course.
Deborah Leigh’s grandmother read playing cards and she was taught her grandmother’s system in 1980. Deborah Leigh gives one to two keywords. Her method of learning the keywords and committing them to memory worked for me, much, much, more quickly. It was a method that worked better for me than any of the others I had tried to learn. It clicked. It flowed. Yea! Some of Deborah’s meanings for a card were the same as Chita’s. The rest of Deborah’s system have the same meanings, but for different cards. I can see why that one blogger said she blended the two systems so easily.
Deborah does add descriptors for the face cards, but added they are not as important as the general traits and tendencies of the person they are describing. She touches just enough on them so you can see them represented a particular person or one you may come across. The system covered everything in life quite well. I picked it up within a day, it is that simple. It is not built on matching numbers and suits.
As I played with it, I read other books, ebooks and websites. None spoke to me. As much as I loved Deborah’s system, I found it did not work for me in the long run. I realized is did not speak to me when doing a reading. I cannot say exactly why. I included a couple of historical internet sites in the listings at the end to see the 1869 system meanings I found that matches Deborah Leigh’s work the closest- Hillman’s Hyperlinked and Searchable Chambers Book of Days 1869.
I looked through many sites. eh… I did some dot art painting while wondering why I could not find a system that spoke well enough to me for readings. Now what? I reread Cory’s 54 Devils because that was one book that grabbed me the most at first. Then I pulled up Dawn’s Hedgewytchery site and really read the 4 cartomancy sections thoroughly again.
After all of the reading, books and ebooks, I had Dawn’s system down in a couple of days. And it was free. And it was the first one I looked at a couple of years ago. laughing hard… There is two woman who cover her system, though they do not mention her, on YouTube. They give nice lessons for the price of your time and attention. They will be listed right after Dawn’s links. Though Dawn followed a spiritual path I do not, it was easy to skip over the few combinations she listed that covered those areas for those who do follow her path. The names of her spreads may give some pause. Get over it. Most are old Romany names, that are still used today.
The system is based on three simple rules, written rather poetically. Rule One is the two colors. You lay 3 cards out that has only 8 possible combinations using the colors. She gives meanings for those combination for extremely basic readings.
Rule Two is very brief suit meanings. You use the three cards again for learning quick to do basic card readings. 3 cards and 2 colors give you the 8 possibilities of the general flow of meanings with the suit meanings added, you get at least 64 card meanings. Funny, but one does not need them all written down separately. Your vocabulary is not stifled, if that makes any sense.
One can stick with that for bare-bone reading. When comfortable, you move to the last part of that section for Rule Three. She gives her number meanings to match to the suits, and dang, they flow well. No getting stuck like I did before. That gives a good, pointed reading using the 3 Rules.
Once you are good with her first page, her next page is her list of meanings and some more spreads, though the images are now missing of the layouts. At the end of that page, is a link to various combinations. The third page, or part, is more combinations to describe things and more. You move from part to part when you were comfortable learning the previous one. All in all, I will agree with those on the Cartomancy Forum, this one sings best for me in the end. It only took a couple of years to figure out that the first system I found was best for me. laughing… I did enjoy all the things I read, being an avid reader. I realized that I learned a lot going though all all of the systems. As time goes on, your card meanings will change with you, like tarot did for me. They become your own language. It is rather cool.
I had also read “Read Like the Devil” by Camelia Elias. She uses colors, suits and numbers, but it is all sort of abstract in direction. She teaches to go with what stands out most when looking at a spread, usually 3 card, then use what speaks to the context of the question best with the suits and cards laid out, even ignoring the number meaning if does not flow well. It is so hard to describe. I do need to reread it again. The book is long, yet I found for all of its abstractness and wordiness, interesting. Technically, I use Dawn’s method with a touch of Camelia’s.
I have a Faro playing card deck. I found it while reading Camelia Elias’ “Read Like the Devil” book after seeing it used there for example images. It rocks. It reads well too and one does not get the numbers so prominently, not having any on the cards. It kind of eased the learning for me.
I wish I could find the Faro deck printed by Cartamundi® on Slimline B9 stock. The tactile feel of that card stock is sublime. It is like silk to my finger tips. The Faro deck is on a good cardstock, it just doesn’t have that same excellent feel to my fingers. At least it is not plastic. ugh! Some find no problem with plastic cards, liking the ability to wash them off, too. I also use The Deadman’s Deck – The Unharmed edition. That is the one with the excellent cardstock for tactile types. I am such a picky thing, yes?
Some may find this funny or insane- I have no want to read for other people. I find it a fun method to relearn how to memorize things and to stretch my sense’s muscles. As for readings, I have always felt that everything is a possibility if you stay on your current path. Deviate from it and the cards are no longer valid. Also, variables can pop up because you cannot control what others do, not that I would ever want to do so. You can change things, or at least lessen the more unpleasant parts if you pay attention and work towards a better outcome, if possible. Forewarned is forearmed. I found this also tweaks my intuition up a notch. All in all- cool!
The list of cartomancy systems is stunningly long once you start digging. Below is some links you may find interesting. 2 systems are only online and bonus! Free! There is also a list books that I personally found the most interesting.
The first website and YouTube channel listed is the system that worked for me as I mentioned way above. There is another YouTube Channel that is pretty similar, the last website listed is the other favorite site to learn cartomancy with members of the Cartomancy Forum.
Hedgewytchery Cartomancy by Dawn Jackson. This is system is 3 long, long, long web pages. Okay, not that long. She divides it into 3 sections and levels of mastery with fourth page for card combinations, in page links below, but linked at the end of section two on the site. Her system is like Julian Moore’s and J. David Acuri using suits and numbers. Hers is done in a way that is very easy to learn for many. The cartomancy section was just one part of her archived site.
Queen of Diamonds uses Dawn’s system above. She covers it pretty well in 3 videos, listed below. You can stop, rewind or even slow the video if you want while taking notes.
How to read playing cards for fortune telling and divination – part 1 – colours
How to read playing cards for fortune telling and divination – part 2 – suits
How to read playing cards for fortune telling and divination – part 3 – numbers
Christine Scott also follows a very similar system. The link to her YouTube Learning Cartomancy playist-
A favorite among many is J. David Acuri’s (aka Kapherus) work. He is a certified World Divination Association teacher and well-liked. He has another site dedicated to his current learning of the Sibilla cards. His system is based on his grandmother’s card reading system and his decades of experience. His grandmother was a card reader in the NYC tea rooms in the 1940s and 1950s. She taught him the basics when he was 13. His current system uses the numbers and suit blending form of meanings. He also teaches online, the last I heard.
Historical Systems to Delve Into
Hillman’s Hyperlinked and Searchable Chambers Book of Days 1869
February 21, scrolling down to: THE FOLKLORE OF PLAYING CARDS
It is not a long read. Over 75% of Deborah Leigh’s grandmother’s system of meanings are from this system. I did have to look up some of the phrases and definitions that I had no clue as to what they were referring to or saying. laughing… I found the article very interesting, especially after figuring out after “modernizing” some of the words to see that it still exists today.
Square of Sevens. An Authoritive Systems of Cartomancy by E. Irenaeus Stevenson. Printed in 1896. This is a completely different way to read cards from all I have read. This one is complicated, yet very interesting. Some say it was made up to sell the book back in the day and the story at the beginning is a load of baloney. (shrug)
Why include this one? The whole system has a “master-card” meaning, then the the cards have another layer of meaning, based on whether one card is next to another by suit and whether it is a high or low card or face card. I did make a document that made it easier to look up. As complicated as it sounds, this is rather interesting of a read if one loves historical methods. Besides, the scan of the book is of a lovely, nicely printed book. I cannot imagine going through the cost of printing a lovely book with it being an untrue story. It makes no sense.
These are the six books that I liked and I reread, some of them many times. You can find most of them at various online book sellers. One may speak to you.
“Read Like the Devil” – The essential course in reading Playing Cards by Camelia Elias. This is an interesting read. It is one of those books that is hard to describe. Those into the set meanings systems did not like it in reviews. I rather like her sometimes snarky style of speech. She goes by what the cards say to her and staying within the context of the question. She is the one who uses, and gave me the idea to use, the Faro poker cards in her book. She also offers a reprint. The Faro deck helped me so much in the end. She also did a book on reading the Marseilles Tarot deck and another on the Lenormand. If you are greatly offended by the proper use of the “f-word” in speech, by a professor yet, you may not like it. laughing…
“Speed Learning Cartomancy – Fortune Telling With Playing Cards (Volume 1)” by Julian Moore. This also comes with a free-with-purchase download of an audio version on his website. I did really like the system, but it did not flow for me and I kept getting stuck on the same 4 keywords for each card. There is a ton of examples for those who like them. His writing style is conversational. There is a little humor here and there, a perk. His style of teaching is very good, just not one that worked for me personally. You may pick it up quickly and it will flow for you. His site covers other subjects.
“Fifty-four Devils: The Art & Folklore of Fortune-telling with Playing Cards” by Cory Thomas Hutcheson. His system is based on the Hedgewytchery system in the site list, a little of Chita Lawrence’s book and years of his personal experience with the cards. At the end of the book, he includes a few old historical poems and such relating to card reading at the end that is interesting. His is also a conversational style of writing with a little humor. Cory’s system is similar to Julian’s system’s use of numbers and suits.
“The Message: Your Secrets in the Cards” by Deborah Leigh, May 1, 2008. The winner for me at the end of my search before I went back to Dawn’s site and system. There is no number association, yet she talks about numbers. The writing style is conversational. Deborah specializes in relationship readings on her professional website. That IS the most requested type of card reading out there for professional readers!
“It’s All in the Cards” by Chita Lawrence, January 1, 1999. It is out-of-print but available used and in libraries. I loved this one, but it was not quite right for me. There is no number associations in this system. Chita does not have a website. I am grateful she shared the cartomancy system before disappearing into her private life. It will not be lost completely.
“Card Reader’s Handbook” by Regina Russell. An interesting book. J. David Acuri, listed above in the sites, likes her work. There is nothing about the numbers at all. She gives combos, along with cards that represent objects, situations and events for fine-tuning. She designed a spread many card readers, of many systems, uses. She runs a tea room back east that specializes in having your cards read, including tea reading, and more. Those who work for her learn her system. Do note that her book is old-style self-published, the print-type is the old easy-to-read computer font and the cover is thin. I made a clear contact-paper cover and it is as good as the fancier covers.