Monday, February 23, 2015


Cartomancy is fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards. Forms of cartomancy appeared soon after playing cards were first introduced into Europe in the 14th century. Practitioners of cartomancy are generally known as cartomancers, card readers, or simply readers.

Cartomancy is one of the oldest of the more common forms of fortune-telling. It is similar to tarot card reading in that various card spreads are used, such as single card, "Destiny Square," and 3 cards. The tarot is actually a form of cartomancy, as is oracle decks and other divination forms using cards.

Cartomancy using standard playing cards was the most popular form of providing fortune-telling card readings in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
In English-speaking countries, a standard deck of Anglo-American bridge/poker playing cards (i.e., 52-card, four-suit set) can be used in the cartomancy reading; the deck is often augmented with jokers, and even with the blank card found in many packaged decks.
In France, the 32-card piquet playing-card deck was, and still is, most typically used in cartomancy readings, while the 52-card deck was, and still is, also used for this purpose. (A piquet deck can be a 52-card deck with all of the 2s through the 6s removed. This leaves all of the 7s through the 10s, the face cards, and the aces.)

Harry Roseland; Reading the Cards, 1899

 Cartomancy by an unknown artist... looks Russian to me.

Playing cards were invented in China. There are cards as old as from the 9th century and it was in teh 9th century a writer referenced to playing cards, calling them "the leaf game". It is probably associated with the development of books, from rolls to sheets of pages.
The Chinese cards have four suits - coins; strings of coins (which may have been misinterpreted as sticks from the crude drawing); myriads of strings of coins and tens of myriads...

Here two of these cards; 1 of strings and 3 of coins. The myriads were usually depicted as people.

By the 11th century, playing cards were spread throughout the Asian continent and later came into Mamluk Egypt.[9]:309 The Mamluk pack contained 52 cards comprising four suits: polo sticks, coins, swords, and cups. Each suit contained ten spot or pip cards (cards identified by the number of suit symbols or "pips" they show) and three court cards, called malik (king), nā'ib malik (viceroy or deputy king), and thānī nā'ib (second or under-deputy). The thānī nā'ib is a non-existent title so it may not have been in the earliest versions. The Mamluk court cards showed abstract designs or calligraphy not depicting persons (at least not in any surviving specimens), though they did bear the names of military officers. Nā'ib would be corrupted into naibi (Italian) and naipes (Spanish), the latter still in common usage. The pip cards in two suits had a reverse ranking, a feature found in many old European card games.

mamluk cards - highly ornamented, no depiction of people.

Playing cards first entered Southern Europe in the 14th century, probably from Mamluk Egypt, using the Mamluk suits of cups, coins, swords, and polo-sticks, and which are still used in traditional Latin decks. As polo was an obscure sport to Europeans then, the polo-sticks became batons or cudgels.

Playing card symbols
The German symbols of acorns and leaves should be reversed 

- swords, leaves, piques, spades and batons, acorns, trèlles and clubs/clover

As cards spread from Italy to Germanic countries, the Latin suits evolved into the suits of Leaves (or Shields), Hearts (or Roses), Bells, and Acorns, and a combination of Latin and Germanic suit pictures and names resulted in the French suits of trèfles (clovers), carreaux (tiles), cœurs (hearts), and piques (pikes) around 1480. The trèfle (clover) was probably derived from the acorn and the pique (pike) from the leaf of the German suits. The names "pique" and "spade", however, may have derived from the sword of the Italian suits. In England, the French suits were eventually used, although the earliest packs circulating may have had the Italian suits. This may account to why the English called the clovers "clubs" and the pikes "spades".

"Coeurs, Hearts - denotes the Church.
Carreaux, Diamonds - denotes the arrowheads which are symbolic of the vassels from whom the archers were drawn.
Trefles or Clover, Clubs - signifies the husbandmen.
Piques, Spades - denotes the the points of Lances, symbols for the knights themselves."
- History of playing cards

 As you see the coins in the Chinese cards, they have a clear diamond figure in the middle.

When using cards to divide, one may choose to use the joker(s) and/or empty cards and give them a meaning. The Joker usually is interpreted as the Fool of the tarot deck, even though it has a different background story.

In the 19th century, people were playing the game of Euchre [from German Juckerspiel, (Jucker is a carriage horse, which is why I believe the game was called Junkerspiel. Junker is a young nobleman.)]. This Juckerspiel most likely developed from Karnöffel, a game where the jack is the "best" card. In USA the name of the game was Juker (originally pronounced as ewe-ker, not as jew-ker), and they added an extra jack, the best jack, unsuited, called Juker and later Joker. It was because of this, the depictions melted together with the tarot Fool.

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