Main image courtesy of Atlas Obscura.
Playing with a deck of cards is always fun—there are so many games to try out! Whether you like poker, bridge, rummy, solitaire, or even go fish, there’s always fun to be had when you break out a deck of cards. But did you know that you can use that very same deck to give a tarot reading? That’s right, you can draw on your intuition and do readings with a regular deck of cards. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to bring out the power and fun of tarot through playing cards, keep reading!
You might be asking yourself, why would anyone want to use playing cards for a tarot reading, especially when there are so many gorgeous tarot decks available? Well, we have a couple of reasons why you may want to try your hand at cartomancy:
You’ll notice that a deck of cards contains 52 cards, as opposed to the 78 cards of a tarot deck. So when you’re reading with a playing deck, there are no corresponding cards for the major arcana or the knights of each suit. That being said, for the remaining cards, there are quite a lot of similarities.
Hearts > Cups > Water > Correspond to matters of the heart, dreams, emotions, and relationships
Spades > Swords > Air > Relate to the intellectual realm, logic, how we think and communicate with others
Diamonds > Pentacles > Earth > This is easy to remember, since diamonds come from the earth! These correspond to matters of hearth and home, your health, and things of the material world
Clubs > Wands > Fire > These are the action suit, and relates to moving and doing things, but also creativity, passion, and inspiration
The court cards of each suit are also very similar, and you’ll find that there are jacks which represent pages, as well as queens and kings. You will also notice that the numbers within a playing deck are the same as the tarot deck. You’ll start with an ace, have 1-10, and then three court cards instead of four (no knight). The numbers of playing decks are the same they would be in your tarot deck, so you’ll interpret them just as you would normally in a reading. Most playing cards also come with a joker, which you can decide to use or not. If you do, it will take the place of the Fool from the tarot.
Next you’ll just need to shuffle your deck, and start reading! Using the cards for a tarot reading is easy and a lot of fun. Plus you’ll be strengthening your intuition as you learn to make new associations with the cards.
Now that you know how easy and fun it can be to use playing cards in tarot readings, we thought we’d highlight a couple of our favorites for you to try out.
These are by far the easiest readings you can do, but don’t let their simplicity fool you— a lot of information can be gleaned from a one card reading. One card readings allow you to get back to basics, and they can be just as precise as more involved spreads. By only using one card, you are encouraged to look at the result from all possible angles. This way, you don’t have to worry about other cards clouding your answer and leaving you more confused.
After you shuffle your deck to your liking, pull out three cards and place them in a row. Going from left to right, you turn them face up for a past-present-future answer to your question. This is also a great, simple reading to do, and you’d be surprised at how much information you can get out of them. As with all divination tools, it’s best to try and avoid yes/no questions. You want to leave a little room for nuance and interpretation.
Similar to the past-present-future reading, the situation-obstacle-advice reading follows a three card spread. This type of reading is great when you want to see what’s blocking you or is causing the disruption, and get advice about what to do about it.
It’s fun and easy to use playing cards in the place of your tarot deck. While you lose the archetypes associated with the major arcana, there is something to be said for going back to the basics of cartomancy using just the four suits and numbers. You don’t have to stick to one or the other, considering switching the energy up and reading with both tarot cards and playing cards! You might just be surprised at the results of your readings.