‘Tradition’ in Playing Card Meanings, Part 2

diamonds-Jack-fancyAs Madame Fabia’s researches into playing card divination were so extensive, it is impossible to pin-point exactly the sources she has drawn upon. Minetta may have been one (Card-Reading: A Practical Guide, 1916). Either Sepharial’s The Art of Card Fortune Telling, a book that appears to date from after the publication of the Waite-Smith Tarot in 1911, or A.E. Waite’s A Manual of Cartomancy and Occult Divination (originally published under the pseudonym Grand Orient in 1909) was possibly another. In all probability both were consulted, judging from the thoroughness of Madame Fabia’s research into other subjects. But if not these particular two books then a source common to both will have been consulted. For Madame Fabia agrees with the Sepharial/Waite meanings more often than not. How closely Sepharial’s meanings parallel Waite’s can be seen from this compilation, in which the Sepharial meaning is placed first.

The Club Suit
Ace. – Peace of mind, happiness, a success card.
Ace. – Wealth, happiness and peace of mind.

King. – The influence in your life of a dark man, upright, faithful and affection.
King. – A dark man, upright, faithful and affectionate in disposition.

Queen. – A brunette, gentle and pleasing.
Queen. – A dark woman, gentle and pleasing.

Jack. – The thought of the King for the questioner.
Jack. – A sincere but hasty friend. Also a dark man’s thoughts.

Ten. – Unexpected good.
Ten. – Unexpected riches, and loss of a dear friend.

Nine. – Disobedience to the wishes of friends.
Nine. – Disobedience to friends’ wishes.

Eight. – A warning against speculation.
Eight. – A covetous man. It also warns against speculations.

Seven. – Good fortune and happiness if you are careful in your dealings with someone of the opposite sex.
Seven. – Promises good fortune and happiness but bids a person beware of the opposite sex.

Six. – Business success.
Six. – Predicts a lucrative business.

Five. – A prudent marriage.
Five. – A prudent marriage.

Four. – Be careful of changes in your plans or mode of life.
Four. – Cautiousness against inconstancy or change of object for the sake of money.

Three. – Indicates a second marriage.
Three. – Shows that a person will be more than once marriage.

Two. – A disappointment, but not a serious one, unless other prophetic cards are bad.
Two. – A disappointment.

The Heart Suit
Ace. – This indicates your home, and if Spade cards touch it quarrelling is foretold. If other Hearts are next to it they foretell friendships and true affection. If Diamonds, money and distant friends – and if Clubs, feasting and merry making.
Ace. – The house. If attended by Spades it foretells quarrelling – if by Hearts, affection and friendship – if by Diamonds, money and distant friends – and if by Clubs, feasting and merry making.

King. – A fair man, good natured but rash.
King. – A fair man, of good natured disposition, but hasty and rash.

Queen. – A fair woman.
Queen. – A fair woman, faithful, prudent and affectionate.

Jack. – This covers the thoughts of the dearest person of the one who consults then cards.
Jack. – The dearest friend of the consulting party. Also a fair person’s thoughts.

Ten. – Refers to children. It also softens the bad tidings of the cards near it and increases the good.
Ten. – Is prophetic of happiness and many children; is corrective of the bad tidings of cards next to it, and confirms their good tidings.

Nine. – Money and position. Also, where the cards are consulted about one single question or wish, the nine of Hearts is the key card upon which all depends.
Nine. – Wealth and high esteem. Also the wish card.

Eight. – Pleasure, companions.
Eight. – Pleasure, company.

Seven. – A false friend.
Seven. – A fickle and false friend, against whom be on your guard.

Six. – A generous person.
Six. – A generous but credulous person.

Five. – Troubles caused by jealousy.
Five. – Troubles caused by unfounded jealousy.

Four. – A person near you, not easily convinced.
Four. – A person not easily won.

Three. – Sorrow caused by your own indiscretion.
Three. – Sorrow caused by a person’s own imprudence.

Two. – Success, but it will need care.
Two. – Great success, but equal care and attention needed to secure it.

The Diamond Suit
Ace. – A letter. You must look at the surrounding cards to judge the result.
Ace. – A letter – but from whom and what about must be judged by the neighbouring cards.

King. – A fair man.
King. – A fair man, hot tempered, obstinate and revengeful.

Queen. – A fair woman.
Queen. – A fair woman, fond of company and a coquette.

Jack. – Thoughts as before. [This covers the thoughts of the dearest person of the one who consults the cards.]
Jack. – A near relation who considers only his own interests. Also a fair person’s thoughts.

Ten. – Money.
Ten. – Money.

Nine. – Travel.
Nine. – Shows that a person is fond of roving.

Eight. – A late marriage.
Eight. – A marriage late in life.

Seven. – Unpleasant rumours, scandal.
Seven. – Satire, evil speaking.

Six. – Early marriage and possible widowhood.
Six. – Early marriage and widowhood.

Five. – Unexpected news.
Five. – Unexpected news.

Four. – Trouble through friends, a secret betrayed.
Four. – Trouble arising from unfaithful friends; also a betrayed secret.

Three. – Quarrels and legal trouble.
Three. – Quarrels and law-suits and domestic disagreements.

Two. – An engagement, but against the wishes of friends.
Two. – An engagement against the wishes of friends.

The Spade Suit
Ace. – Great Misfortune. Death when the card is reversed.
Ace. – Great Misfortune, spite.

King. – A dark man, or his thoughts.
King. – A dark ambitious man.

Queen. – A malicious dark woman, generally a widow.
Queen. – A dark woman, or her thoughts.

Jack. – A dark young man, or his thoughts.
Jack. – An indolent, envious person; a dark man’s thoughts.

Ten. – Grief and trouble.
Ten. – Grief, imprisonment.

Nine. – Sickness and misfortune, a most unlucky card.
Nine. – A card of very bad import, foretelling sickness and misfortune.

Eight. – A warning to be careful.
Eight. – Warns a person to be cautious in his undertakings.

Seven. – Loss of a friend, much trouble.
Seven. – Loss of a friend, attended with much trouble.

Six. – Money through hard work.
Six. – Wealth through industry.

Five. – A bad temper that causes trouble.
Five. – Shows that a bad temper requiring correcting.

Four. – Sickness.
Four. – Sickness.

Three. – A journey.
Three. – A journey.

Two. – A removal.
Two. – A removal.


About auntietarot
Born in Britain just before the outbreak of the second world war, I was taught basic tarot skills by my maternal grandmother. In the sixties, I joined a Golden Dawn-type esoteric school, passing through the curriculum and becoming an instructor in ritual etiquette and the making and consecration of talismans. At the beginning of the eighties, I left the school to plow my own furrow in areas such as tarot and astrology. Since my retirement I have spent time researching the occult history of the tarot and the various ways the tarot has been used for divination in the past.

4 Responses to ‘Tradition’ in Playing Card Meanings, Part 2

  1. Emma Donovan says:

    Hello ~ I have been researching in this area too. The meanings given above can be traced to a series of chapbook/booklets published under many titles from 1760 (ish) onwards. They were all very similar and reprinted in both the UK and America. ‘Every Lady’s Fortune-Teller’ 1793 is definitely one of the influences of these meanings. Quite possible Chamber’s 1864 section on Fortune-Telling too…

    • auntietarot says:

      Thank you for the information, Emma. I didn’t know about ‘Every Lady’s Fortune-Teller’. Chambers Book of Days certainly had an influence. Chambers took his meanings from those in use by army wives across the then expanding British Empire. Though you may already know that. Mark K. Greer has written about it on her blog.

      • Emma Donovan says:

        I have since delved further and have found an earlier text that pre-dates Chambers and from which he undoubtedly ‘borrowed’ to create his work. It is by Louisa Lawford – ‘The Fortune Teller’ one of several similar. I believe Chambers’ anecdote regarding soldiers is likely to be an elaboration. If you notice he gently avoids saying it is he who was sent away and was looked after by an illiterate woman who taught him cartomancy (in fact he was brought up in Peebles and was not sent away). This then begs the question as to who the ‘writer’ was? As the text of the card meanings was borrowed, I presume he was a good journalist who created an intriguing story. Perhaps the most exciting part of this finding is that A. E. Waite’s ‘Manual of Cartomancy’ text is taken *directly* from the Lawford rather than from Chambers. The Chambers borrowing is subtly but only slightly different, whereas if you compare with the Lawford text, it is a direct lifting.

      • auntietarot says:

        Well researched, Emma! I had always wondered why there was a difference, slight though it was, between Waite’s meanings and Charles Platt’s.
        Your comment is available on the blog but I don’t know how many people will search it out. I will try to post something to the blog highlighting the information you’ve uncovered. Time, however, is a problem. So don’t hold your breath!

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