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Alleyman Tarot by Seven Dane Asmund used with permission

Cartomancy is back

Tarot is cartomancy.

Cartomancy is just a fancy name for an intuitive reading with cards. Any cards. RWS Tarot, Lenormand Tarot, gaming cards, oracle decks, anything. I suppose you could use baseball trading cards or greeting cards if you want. The key part of it all is intuition. The important part is you, your heart, your mind, your imagination and your spirit. Cards in any style are just a tool to help us access our intuition more easily and communicate it better. As Tarot and oracle cards have become more popular and well known, the term cartomancy has become a more specific term. Cartomancy has come to mean a reading with the modern game playing deck in particular.

Tarot and the gaming deck have a long history together, albeit a fuzzy one. Some sources say the modern gaming deck is a pared down poor man’s Tarot that used only the minor arcana ostensibly to make it affordable and portable, especially for soldiers. Other sources say that the gaming deck is far older, and Tarot is an expanded gaming deck embellished to appeal to the wealthy who could afford the more intricate printing, the extra paper and had the leisure time to use it. Over time, it seems both stories carry equal weight, but personally I don’t think either story really matters.

Either way, the real upgrade in Tarot came with the Waite Smith Tarot deck in 1909. Waite Smith is the first, it seems, to put detailed unique images on the numbered cards of minor arcana.

The well-known Tarot de Marseille, dating to the 17th century, didn’t have intricate artwork on the numbered 1 – 10 cards. Instead they only showed the given number of suit symbols. The two of coins had two coins drawn on it and so on. The minor arcana of the Marseille deck is styled just like the pips of the gaming deck. Or vice versa. The “face” cards of the game deck are very akin to the “court” cards of Tarot’s minor arcana.

A modern game playing deck is, basically, an old-style Tarot deck without the major arcana or the knight cards. Do you need the major arcana to do a good reading? Not really. People do major arcana only readings all of the time. In the early days of computers and the webbernet, computerized Tarot programs would often give major-only versions for free or low cost with full price full decks – kind of like in-app purchases.

Major arcana only, minor arcana only, classic Tarot or dollar store playing cards, all cards serve the same purpose. They are just the springboard and projection screen for our innate intuition.

So why do do game-deck cartomancy at all?

Kindness, gentleness, and a light touch.

As silly as it may seem to those of us used to Tarot, the occult, and pagan aesthetic, some people are genuinely nervous about Tarot cards. Usually it stems from some old, long held religious indoctrination. Those are not easy things to overcome. Cartomancy is a kinder gentler way to explore intuition and spiritual exploration and personal growth for those who are nervous about Tarot for whatever reason.

Cartomancy is like intuition training wheels. Gaming decks have been used as a beginner deck, just like the ‘student’ line in musical instrument. Once you’ve learned your art, you can upgrade.

Personally, I think it is the exact opposite. Teaching someone to do readings with playing cards is kind of like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the deep end of the pool. Having primaily only pips to work from, you have no choice but to rely on pure intuition.

Luckily the deep end is a good way to train in Tarot and intuition even if it isn’t so much for swimming. It’s a little like swinging a weighted bat. To mix sports metaphors, throwing a student in the deep end of the card-reading pool makes reading image laden Tarot cards seem like a breeze by comparison.

If you take Tarot lessons with me, we will learn cartomancy first. Bring your snorkle.

And yes, that is a big tease for the Autumnal Equinox roll-out announcements.


I’m bringing cartomancy readings back. If you would like a taste (or if you know someone who is interested in exploring card readings but is worried about Tarot’s oogie boogie reputation) they are available for purchase HERE . Get a three card cartomancy pathway for $10 (instead of $15 for the Tarot three card pathway reading)

An no, it isn’t a cutesy pants promotion. That’s the permanent price.