Card Pairing in Cartomancy: Basic Lessons in Reading Playing Cards

In response to repeated requests for more introductory information on the best way to begin the study of Cartomancy, and also how to make sense of a group of random cards in spread, I thought I would post a detailed breakdown of how I approach the cards in a reading…

Step 1: Card Meanings

Naturally, the first step in learning to read the cards is choosing a core set of meanings. You want to choose a comprehensive system that will allow you to pick up on a wide range of events and experiences in your readings. The system should make logical sense to you, so that you will be able to build onto the core meanings and make them your own.

Look for consistency…

In other words, it helps if all of the cards of a particular suit convey a similar influence, and if all of the pips of the same number share a common theme. For example, in the system I use the suit of Spades represents challenges, delays, and obstacles. The 8′s all deal with balance. So in a general sense the 8 of Spades would indicate the need to overcome an obstacle (sickness) or a challenge (disappointment) in order to restore balance to mind, body or soul.

You will find this consistency helpful for memorizing card meanings, and to be immeasurably useful when you’re faced with a card that seems to make no sense in a reading. In most cases, if you fall back on the general card meanings based on suit and number, the purpose of the card in the spread will suddenly become clear.

Step 2: Card Pairings

Once you understand the suit influences and number meanings, and have memorized one or two keywords for each card, the next step is to learn how the cards relate to each other in a layout or card spread. The basic unit in card reading is the pair. Reading a card pair is much more than just combining the meanings of each individual card into a third conglomerate meaning. Card pairing is also about the flow of action between the cards that tells an important story.

The following examples are based on the particular set of meanings that I utilize, but the techniques should be applicable to any set of meanings of your choice.†

When pairing cards the card order is important because the first card (card A) acts as the premise of the situation, or the initiator of the action. The second card (card B) shows the result or outcome, or acts as the receiver of the action.


Another way to look at the pairing is by card sequence. The flow of action moves from left to right. We could say that Card A represents the past, and card B represents the future— but depending on the context of the situation any sequence is possible…

Card A Card B
Now Later
Distant Past Recent Past
Past Present
Present Future
Near Future Distant Future
Tomorrow Next Week

Now let’s take a look at a couple of examples to see the pairings in action…

For the following examples, I am utilizing the following card meanings:

2 of Diamonds = an exchange of money, a payment
4 of Diamonds = a bank account

In a general sense, the Diamond suit represents money and financial matters, the 2′s represent cooperation or exchange, and the 4′s represent stablilty or a solid foundation.

Please note that other meanings are possible for these cards, but for this exercise I am limiting the interpretation to combinations of the above listed core meanings.


Example 1

In the first example, Card A (the 2 of Diamonds) indicates that an exchange of money is the premise of the matter. Card B shows the result or outcome or receiver of the money exchange, a bank account. So based on the card order in Ex. 1 the interpretation would be read as money is being deposited into a bank account, or a payment to the bank.

Example 2

In the second example, Card A (the 4 of Diamonds) indicates that a bank account is the premise of the matter. Card B shows the result or receiver of the action. In this case the money is received. So based on the card order in ex. 2, the interpretation would be that money is being withdrawn from a bank account (or a bank loan, dividend yield, etc).

Step 3: Incorporating Additional Cards

Now we can introduce an additional card (C) to the mix to see how the flow of action continues toward building a detailed interpretation of the cards. We have already paired cards A + B, and now we will pair the cards B + C for each example…


In the above examples, Card C is the Ace of Hearts, and for me this card represents home and family. In a general sense the Aces represent the beginning or the source, and the suit of Hearts represent emotional matters. For most of us, home and family is the source of our emotional security.

Example 2.1

The 4 of Diamonds indicates that the bank account is the premise of the reading, and the 2 of Diamonds is a payment being received from the account. The Ace of Hearts tells us who or what receives the payment. Hence, this could be a bank withdrawal that is spent on the home, or money lent to a family member, or a bank loan for the home. Other interpretations are possible such as real estate earnings, a small loan on a house, etc.

I had this combination show up in a reading for a client who was applying for a home improvement loan to repair the roof on her house. The combination of red cards showed a positive outcome, and the client was approved for the loan.

Example 1.1

The 2 of Diamonds falling first shows a payment as the premise of the readings. The 4 of Diamonds tells us where the payment is received; it is deposited into an account. The Ace of Hearts describes the account as dealing with home or family. Hence, these cards show a payment made to account on a house mortgage, or home loan.

It’s important to note that each card is combined with the adjacent card to either side, but cards are not “reflected” as in Lenormand. In other words, I would not combine cards A + C because that would negate the flow of action which is important for an accurate interpretation of a card sequence in cartomancy. To maintain the flow of action, the cards are read (A+B) + (B + C) + (C + D)….


A very useful exercise for practicing card pairing is the three-card daily draw. While you’re enjoying your morning cup of coffee or tea, before starting your day, you can ask the cards, or your spirit friends through the cards, what you most need to be aware of this day. Then draw three cards, interpret the cards in pairs, and journal your impressions. That evening or the following morning you can review your journal entry to see how well the cards described the energy that played out in your day. This is an excellent exercise for bonding with your cards, and picking up new meanings or gaining a new perspective on old meanings.

The Next Step

Once you feel comfortable with your three-card draws, you can graduate to using more cards. In a row of more than three cards, you would continue to pair the cards in order to build your meaning. I look at the card suits for a general impression of the energy of the reading. The final card in the series will describe the outcome of the matter. Red cards reveal a positive outcome, Clubs suggest the need for effort, and Spades show delays, obstacles and challenges.

A row of cards with predominantly red cards that ends in a Spade will show obstacles and delays. A card row with predominantly black cards that ends with a red card shows overcoming challenges to achieve a positive outcome. You can find an example for how to read a row of 5 cards in my blog article: Cartomancy Skills: Linking a Row of Cards.

†You can find a copy of the card meanings I use in PDF format in the files section of the Art of Cartomancy Facebook group.

Basic Cartomancy Skills: Number Meanings

Part 2: Number Meanings

I think the biggest problem most new cartomancers encounter is how get the card meanings to fit together and tell a story.  The beginner will memorize all of the various meanings and the important combinations for each card. In actual practice, those special combinations don’t always show up in a layout to make things easy.  That’s when a good foundation in the symbolism of the suits and numbers becomes so important.

Once you have a good understanding of the Suits and how they interact as outlined in Basic Cartomancy Skills: Part 1, the basic number meanings can be used to delve more deeply into the symbolism of each card.

In the system that works for me, each number has two opposing meanings.  The appropriate meaning applied to each card will be determined by it’s suit symbolism.  The first meaning listed (positive meaning) usually applies to a red card, and the second meaning (negative) will most often apply to a black card.  It’s important to note that the card falling to the right will always influence the final meaning, and it’s always best to allow your intuition to make the final determination.

Basic Number Meanings:

1 – beginning or ending

2 – cooperation or conflict

3 – expansion or loss

4 – foundation or instability

5 – activity or restlessness

6 – communication or ignorance

7 – improvement or stagnation

8 – Health or illness (balance/imbalance)

9 – wish or disappointment

10 – success or failure

11 (Jack) – thoughts/message, also young helpful person, or troubled youth

12 (Queen) – receptivity/intuition, also female friend or rival

13 (King) – action/force/mastery, also male friend or rival

The basic Suit Interactions combined with the Basic Number Meanings are all you need to produce accurate, insightful Cartomancy readings.  You can add additional meanings to each card to broaden the scope of your readings, but you’ll find that you’ll return to the basic information again, and again when the more detailed meanings don’t seem to jive in your card layout.

Example Reading with Basic Number and Suit Meanings:

To illustrate this basic method of Cartomancy, I shuffled the cards while focusing on my question.  When I felt the shuffling process was done, I cut the cards into three piles from left to right using my left hand.  Finally I flipped over the top card of each pile to reveal the three cards for my reading.

Question: Will I be hired in the new job position I’m pursuing?



  1. 9 of Clubs
  2. 6 of Diamonds
  3. Queen of Hearts


Since I asked a “yes/no” question, the first thing to take note of is the balance of red vs black cards in the layout.  In this spread we find a predominance of red cards indicating that the basic answer to the question is “yes.”

Next, let’s take a look at the Suit Interactions:


Club + Diamond =   an increase in money, rewards, or power.


Diamond + Heart = rewards, positive attraction, and sharing money.

The suit combinations confirm the good news, and suggest that the new position will bring a raise in pay, and emotional well being.

Now let’s dig for more information by taking a look at the Basic Number Meanings:

The number 9 represents a “wish or disappointment.” Because the 9 is followed by a red card, I would read it to represent a wish.  The 9 is a club, and if we look to the basic suit meanings, we find that clubs represent business and work, among other things.  So the 9 of clubs is the perfect card to represent my wish for a new job.

The number 6 represents “communication or ignorance.“  Since this number 6 is a red card, and it’s also followed by another red card, I would go with the positive interpretation of “communication.”  The basic suit meanings tell me that diamonds represent energy, power, rewards, money, etc.  So the 6 of diamonds would indicate some good news (followed by ) regarding money, and could represent the forthcoming news that I am hired for the new position.

The final card is number 12 (or Queen) which represents “a female friend or rival,” and may also denote the qualities of “receptivity and intuition.” Either or both of these meanings could apply.  In either case, I would interpret the Queen of hearts as a friendly influence since hearts indicate love, friendship, peace, happiness, and pleasure.

The Queen of hearts falls in the end position of the layout which represents the final outcome. Therefore, I can read this card in a general sense to mean that the new job brings (I receive) pleasure and happiness.  Or I could read this card to represent a kind-hearted female who will be instrumental in helping me secure the new position.  Either way, this card denotes a happy outcome to the question.

As you can see, with just these simple meanings it is possible to get a lot of detailed and accurate information from the cards.  When you encounter a card in a layout that doesn’t seem to make any sense, you can fall back on the basic symbolism of suit and number. You’ll be amazed by how the reading will suddenly come together and make sense.  Give it a try, have lots of fun, and happy readings!

Basic Cartomancy Skills: The Court Cards As People

Part 3 – The Court Cards As People:

When Court Cards appear in a reading, they will most often represent actual people in the querent’s life.  When I first learned to read the cards, I had a terrible time trying to sort out “who was who” in my readings.  I found it helpful to familiarize myself with the personality attributes associated with the four suits, and then apply that information to the basic physical attributes for the specific Court Card.

Basic Physical Attributes:

Jack – Young person of either sex usually under 35 years old.  Can represent a child.  May also represent an older person who is immature, or just young at heart.

Queen – Traditionally a mature female, but the queen may represent a female of any age.

King – male, usually mature, or in a position of authority.  May also represent a younger man who is mature for his age, or is burdened by responsibilities.

Basic Personality Attributes Based on Suit Correspondences:

Hearts:  emotional, creative, romantic, compassionate, generous, sensitive, nurturing, dependable, protective, moody, lazy.

Clubs: practical, friendly, reliable, trustworthy, helpful,  ambitious, enthusiastic, sensible, stable, stubborn.

Diamonds: independent, extravagant, impulsive, impatient, optimistic, dynamic, restless, analytical, intelligent, high strung.

Spades: Powerful, intense, demanding, controlling, secretive, possessive, spiteful, charming, mysterious, calculating, detached.

Traditional  Attributes and Descriptions Associated with the Court Cards:

The following table lists the traditional physical attributes used for choosing a significator to represent the querent in certain layouts.  Alternatively, the significator may be based on the personality attributes listed above, or stereotypical correspondences outlined further below.

Blond or red hair & blue or green eyes Sandy hair with brown, blue or green eyes Brown to dark brown hair, brown eyes Dark brown to black hair, dark brown eyes
Male under 35 years old Jack of Diamonds Jack of Hearts Jack of Clubs Jack of Spades
Male over 35 years old King of Diamonds King of Hearts King of Clubs King of Spades
Female under 35 yrs old Queen of Diamonds Queen of Hearts Queen of Clubs Queen of Spades
Female over 35 years old Queen of Diamonds Queen of Hearts Queen of Clubs Queen of Spades
Female under 18 yrs old Jack of Diamonds Jack of Hearts Jack of Clubs Jack of Spades

Basic Court Card Stereotypes:

I found it also helped me tremendously to think of the Court Cards as stereotypes, or cardboard cutouts.  It’s a natural psychological function to sort by archetype, and I found that when I described a Court Card as a stereotype, the querent had an easier time placing that person in their life.

Of course real people are shades and combinations of all of these and many other “types,” but if you focus on a predominate personality feature, it’s not too difficult to pick a card to represent any real person in your life.  When I was learning, I found excellent practice in assigning a playing card Court to each real person in my life.  Then when that card would come up in a reading, I would describe some of the major characteristics of the person I knew.  I was amazed at how often this description rang true for the querent.

Below I suggest two stereotypes for each Court Card.  Once you are familiar with the Suit meanings, you’ll think of many more on your own, and eventually you’ll flesh out the Court Cards into real people. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a starting point for developing your own associations for each Court Card.


Jack of Hearts The Dreamer:  He or she is also The Lover, and he can represent a loved one, or family member of the querent. He is sensitive and romantic, but can be moody or lazy.

Jack of Clubs ♣ – The Athlete: He or she is also The Trusted Friend, or helper, and can represent someone who admires the querent. He is helpful and sincere, but he can be stubborn.

Jack of Diamonds The Student: He or she is also The Letter carrier or The fashionista, and can represent someone who is related to the querent through marriage. He is intelligent and optimistic, but he can be restless and impatient.

Jack of Spades ♠ – The Charmer: He or she is also the The Soldier or the Spy, and may represent any young person in uniform. He is dynamic and perceptive, but he can be spiteful and controlling.


Queen of Hearts  The Homemaker:  She is also The Nurturer, and may represent the wife, mother, or quality of “motherhood.”  She is sensuous and loving, but she can be self-indulgent.

Queen of Clubs ♣ – The Trusted  Friend:  She is also The Business Woman, and may represent a female work associate. She is logical and organized, but she can be headstrong.

Queen of Diamonds  The Socialite:  She may represent a woman with money, or who works in finance. In love triangles she may represent The Other Woman.  She may also represent a woman related to the querent through marriage. She is intelligent and independent, but she can be extravagant and highstrung.

Queen of Spades ♠ – The Widow:  She is also  The Divorcee, and although certainly not true today, prior to the 1950′s there was a social stigma attached to the divorcee who was not to be trusted.  This idea is reflected in the symbolism of the Q♠, and she may also represent a rival in business or love. She is decisive and fearless, but she can be secretive and controlling.


King of Hearts The Family Man: He is also The Protector, and may represent the querent’s husband or father or any  paternal influence. He is dependable and kind, but he can be temperamental and self-absorbed.

King of Clubs ♣ – The Advisor: He is also The Businessman, and may represent an executive, a business owner, or a work associate.  He is ambitious and practical, but he can be tenacious.

King of Diamonds The Entrepreneur:  He may have wealth, or work in finance. He is also The Magistrate, and may represent a politician or government official. He is intelligent and enthusiastic, but he can be aggressive or fussy.

King of Spades ♠ – The controller:  He is also The Man of Authority, and may represent the querent’s boss or landlord, or a policeman or military officer or judge.  He may also represent a divorced or widowed male in the querent’s life. He is charismatic and astute, but he can be jealous or possessive.

The Court Cards in Groups:

When the Court Cards fall in groups they will indicate the interactions between the people in the querent’s life.  A cluster of Court Cards may denote a social function.  The final Court Card in the series will generally indicate the mood of the get-together.
Hearts = partying, having a good time, or a family function.
Clubsa practical function such as a class, or a work engagement.
Diamonds =intellectual pursuits, or earned or reward celebrations.
Spades = a gathering out of obligation, or necessity.

In a cluster of Court Cards, the direction they face can reveal much about the dynamics of the group. The direction a Court Card faces will usually indicate where that person’s interest is focused.   Here are some additional suggestions for interpreting Court Cards based on their  direction :

  • Traditionally, the querent’s position is to the left of a row of cards.  Therefore a Court Card that faces left is generally showing interest in the querent, and a Court Card that faces right is generally not focused on the querent or his/her needs, and may indicate disinterest, disagreement or estrangement.

  • A Court Card facing toward another court indicates interest in that person. If the second Court is looking away, it can indicate a one-sided relationship, or unrequited love.

  • Court Cards of the same sex facing each other indicate agreement or  friendship.

  • Court Cards of the same sex facing each other with heart between them can indicate a same-sex relationship.

  • Court Cards of the opposite sex facing each other indicate marriage or a strong relationship.

  • Court Cards facing away from each other indicate a disagreement, argument, or estrangement.

  • The pip the Court Card looks to will reveal what is on the person’s mind, or may refer to  an event or circumstance  influencing this person directly.

Basic Cartomancy Skills: Suit Interactions

Part 1: Suit Interactions

I first learned to read playing cards from my paternal grandmother, who was professional reader in New York City back in the 1950′s and 60′s. She had learned to read the cards from an aunt back in Italy before immigrating to the U.S. I remember, as a young child, eavesdropping on my grandmother’s readings with fascination, and when I turned 12 years old, she agreed to teach me her method.

The first thing I learned was to read the cards based on the symbolism of the four suits only. At the time, I was feeling restless and disappointed because I desperately wanted to learn the “meat and potatoes” of card reading. Now in retrospect, I appreciate my grandmother’s immense wisdom. My ability to perform a complete, in-depth reading using only the symbolism of the four Suits, and how they interact, has contributed greatly to my success as a reader.

The cards will speak to you in a unique and personal way if you are willing to open your heart and mind to their wisdom.  These are the basic suit meanings that work best for me:

Basic Suit Meanings:

Spades – negativity, problems, challenges, failure, illness and loss.

Hearts – emotion, love, happiness, sharing, pleasure, and healing.

Clubs – good luck, growth, activity, work, business and social interactions.

Diamonds – energy, power, imagination, money, rewards, success and legal judgments.

Basic Suit Interactions:

Each Suit is influenced by the Suit that tops or falls to the right of it. Here is a table of suggested meanings for the interactions of the Four Suits that work for me. This list only scratches the surface, so don’t be afraid to work out your own interpretations based on your own unique understanding of the four suits.






serious trouble, illness, possible harm physical or emotional healing actively working through problems imagined problems, improved finances


hurt feelings, emotional pain joy, happiness, love, romance, enjoyment creativity, service to others & good luck happiness & success, comfort & security


increased difficulties, problems with work happy outcome, developing emotions action, increased activity, taking control increase in power or money, rewards from work


energy block, money problem, spending money rewards, positive attraction or sharing money applied power or investing money great success or acquiring and saving money

With just the basic meanings to the Suits, it’s possible to provide an accurate, insightful reading. And a good understanding of the four suits and how they interact is an excellent jumping off point for delving more deeply into the symbolism of the individual cards.

In Part 2, I’ll review the basic cartomancy number meanings, and how to combine them with the suit interactions to provide a surprisingly detailed and accurate cartomancy reading.

Analyzing a Line of Five Cards

I used to work a monthly psychic fair, and I came to rely on the simple Line of 5 Cards in place of a more ambitious card spreads. Readings at a fair are usually only 15 minutes long. Most clients are looking for fast answers, and are not tolerant of the extra time it takes to lay out an elaborate spread. It took me a few seconds to shuffle the cards while I tuned into the clients energy, then I cut the deck and drew off five cards. Nine times out of ten, the cards would highlight the exact reason for the client’s visit without my having to ask the client any questions.

Here’s an example of how I interpret the Cartomancy Line of 5 Cards…


First I look for trends and patterns in the cards. I make note of the ratio of red cards to black. I notice how many cards of each suit appear, and which suits do not appear in the spread. I consider the sequence of numbers, and any interactions between the face cards. Most importantly I take special note of the suit of the card that ends the line because that card will represent the outcome of the situation.

The first thing I notice in the above reading is that the red cards dominate the reading giving it a positive spin. The problematic black cards are surrounded by red cards showing that the problems or challenges are minor or temporary in nature.

Next I notice that only hearts and spades appear in the spread indicating an emotional or relationship matter. I surmise that the client wants to know about a relationship, and that proved to be the case.

Finally I interpret the individual cards. The flow of action in the spread moves from left to right, and the timing also moves from left to right. The Cartomancy Line of 5 Cards is immediate. The first card describes an ongoing situation or the recent past– usually no more than two weeks ago up to the present. The final card reveals the outcome of the situation usually no more than a month into the future.

The 4 of hearts is a relationship card, but it’s still a relatively low number, so the relationship described by this card is not usually serious. The 4 of hearts can denote a sexual relationship, and of course not all sexual relationships can be considered “serious.” Because the 4 of hearts is the first card of the spread, we know that this is an existing sexual relationship, and not something in the future.

The 7 of spades is a change for the worse that usually indicates stagnation and frustration. The sexual relationship is experiencing setbacks. We’re still at the beginning of the line, so we know that this reflects the current situation. The client is feeling frustrated by an existing sexual relationship.

The Jack of Spades is a young person of either sex. The client is a heterosexual female, so we can assume the Jack is male, and that he represents her lover. I call the middle card of the Line of Five “the linchpin” because it anchors the reading. In other words, the middle card will provide a focus for the events depicted in the previous and following cards. It’s not surprising that in a reading about an unhappy sexual alliance the partner would appear as the middle card.

Notice that the Jack is looking toward the right– toward the future, and away from the problems and frustrations in his past. We can determine from the interaction of the face card that the partner is not interested in the problems and setbacks represented by the 7 of spades. The Jack is looking toward the 6 of hearts, and that is where his interests lie.

The 6 of hearts is another love card, but because it’s a higher number than the 4, it represents a more serious alliance. The Jack of spades is interested in taking the relationship to the next level, and that may be what is causing the difficulties in the current arrangement. The Jack of Spades is usually a sexy guy with a tendency toward jealousy and possessiveness. If the client is only interested in a casual sexual relationship, the Jack’s possessiveness could be what’s creating the problems.

The 8 of hearts is the couple card. It represents compatibility and sharing. As the outcome card it shows that the couple will reach an agreement. Because that 6 of hearts is followed by another heart, the positive influence suggests that the lovers will take the relationship to the next level and become an official couple.

As a side note, if the 2 of hearts had ended the line of cards instead of the 8 of hearts, it would still show an agreement and a positive outcome, but the 2 is a smaller number than even the 4, so the indication would be that they resolve their differences and agree to be friends.

If the 10 of hearts, the highest relationship card of the deck, had ended the line of cards, the indication would be taking the relationship to the ultimate level of commitment– marriage.