Tuesday, July 7, 2015

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 at Basic Card Meanings.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is exactly what I try to drum into people's heads. Especially those who have previously read something other than playing cards. Why are they so resistant to the idea that not all cards are necessarily read the same way? They're missing out on so much of the fun. :)

  2. You're welcome, and thank you! I'm happy for the feedback and confirmation that my explanation of card pairing makes sense to a fellow cartomancer.

  3. Hi! Really happy to have chanced upon your site and so appreciate your generosity and patience In taking lay readers through the world of cartomancy. A question, if I may? After three years, I finally came close to landing a job but the actual Skype interview never materialised. I drew three cards and got the Queen of Spades , the Five of hearts and the Queen of Clubs. The process actually involved two women, the first is the lady who I spoke to and would have replaced, the second the Director who was to Skype with me. Though the time was to have been fixed for the interview, two weeks have passed with no news. Should I read this as something to be pursued or given up on? ( ending in clubs/ two blacks)?

  4. sempre un grande maestro complimenti

  5. Grazie questo è un gran complimento da un maestro

  6. Hi! You mentioned in paragraph 2 (I think?) that your system of reading the cards had all the 8s dealing with balance, and all the spades dealing with negative outcomes. Is there a possibility that you could write a post about your complete system? I'm new to cartomancy and liked the sound of your system. ( If there already is a post about that, then I'm sorry, and could someone link me to it?)

  7. You can find my complete system under the menu "Basic Cartomancy Skills"

    I hope you find the material helpful.

  8. Thank you so much for getting back to me, the information was very helpful!

  9. Will be visiting the site a lot, bought a book many years ago and haven't used it. Today I begin learning how to read the cards properly.

  10. Thank you, Carol. I'm glad the site is helpful on your journey with the cards. Welcome!