The Cartomancy Square of Nine

The Square of Nine (also known as the Box Spread or the 3X3) is a popular layout that is traditionally used with the Lenormand cards. There are several different version of the Box Spread that vary in terms of the order in which the cards are laid out, the meanings assigned to each column and row, and how the cards are combined and interpreted.

The following diagram illustrates the version that I have found works best with the playing cards. This spread provides a nice overview of the past, present and future influences surrounding the matter in question. I use this version of the spread whenever I need a bit more information than I can get from the standard six-card Answer Spread…

Square of Nine Spread
Square of Nine Spread

The center card (#1) is the Significator, and it provides the focus for the reading. You can choose a Significator ahead of time to represent the person or theme you are asking about. I generally prefer to allow the center card to be drawn randomly from the shuffled deck.

Sample Cartomancy Square of Nine Reading

I think the best way to explain the Cartomancy Nine Card Spread is to present an example. The following is from an actual reading I did several years ago for a long-time client. At the time her son was being deployed to Iraq for his 2nd tour of duty, and the querent was anxious for reassurance that he would return home safely. I did not pre-choose a specific Significator for this reading.

Question: Will my son return home safely from his second tour of duty in Iraq?

I had the querent shuffle the cards while thinking of her question, and then I had her draw nine cards randomly from the shuffled deck. The cards were laid out in the order presented in the above diagram.




Normally I incorporate the meanings of the rows into my interpretations of the columns, but for this example I will also interpret the rows separately to better illustrate how the spread works.

Middle Column:
The middle column represents the present influences surrounding the question. I look to the center card first because it describes the current situation and provides a focus for the reading. The 9 of Spades in this position suggests that the situation is outside of the querent’s direct control, and she is feeling stressed and upset that her son may be harmed. Interestingly, the 9 of Spades is the card that represents “war,” which is the focus of the reading. This confirms for me that the cards are in tune with the question. The top card (Ace of Hearts) shows that the querent wishes that her son would stay home and not go back for an additional tour of service. The bottom card (10 of Clubs) confirms that he will be leaving soon for overseas regardless of what she feels or thinks.

Top Row:
The top row shows the querent’s hopes and wishes regarding the situation. The querent wishes that her son had decided to go to college (Jack of Diamonds) and remain at home (Ace of Hearts) where she can nurture and protect him (Queen of Hearts).

Left Column:
The left column represents the past influences that led to the current situation. The top card (Jack of Diamonds) shows that the querent wanted her son to be a student and go to college. The bottom card (Jack of Spades) shows that he wanted to be a soldier. The middle card (6 of Spades) indicates that he has decided to leave home for his second tour of duty.

Middle Row:
The middle row answers the question. The son has decided to leave (6 of Spades) for a second tour of duty in Iraq (9 of Spades = war), and this is causing the querent worry that he will be harmed (9 of Spades) in the war. The querent’s fears are unfounded. Her son will return safely and with honors (7 of Diamonds).

Right Column:
The right column represents the future outcome. The middle card (7 of Diamonds) represents success and honors, and answers the question that the querent’s son will return home safely and with honors. The top card (Queen of Hearts) suggests that all the querent wants for the future is to be a mother and to protect and nurture her son, and the bottom card (5 of Clubs) represents good luck, and also shows a return to service. These cards confirm that despite the mother’s wishes, the son will return to service and complete this 2nd tour of duty with courage and distinction.

Bottom Row:
The bottom row represents factors contributing to the situation. The querent’s son is a soldier (Jack of Spades) who is presently being deployed overseas (10 of Clubs) where he will serve his country with courage (5C).

The son did complete his second tour of duty, and he returned home safely with honors. Whenever I review this reading I consider what I would have told the mother had I seen in the cards that her son would be killed in the war. I know I would not have told her bluntly that I see death, but I would have given a warning of possible harm. I don’t believe in only one possible future. I believe in our potential to create the future through the choices and decisions we make. I would have advised the mother that there would be dangerous situations, and that the son should be careful and not take unnecessary risks. Perhaps it would have been the soldier’s fate to die in the war, and perhaps not. In any case, I believe the cards can provide a warning that if heeded may successfully avert potential danger.

You can also employ other techniques that are associated with the Square of Nine Spread. For example, you could read the inner cross, the four corners, the diagonal rows, and apply the techniques of knighting and mirroring. But I find that these additional techniques merely support what has already been learned in the main part of the reading. I encourage you to experiment using the Square of Nine with playing cards to see which techniques work best for you.