Only a Game?
When I first began to seriously study the tarot, I remember reading a book that explained that in a pinch, it was possible to give a tarot reading using an ordinary deck of playing cards. I was astounded! How could someone receive accurate, inspired information from the same deck of cards that the rest of us used to play solitaire or gin rummy? I had read other books that described very specific ways that tarot cards should be cared for, cleansed before each reading, handled with respect, and not touched by anyone else other than the reader except during a session. But most people keep their playing cards in an old desk drawer, or on a shelf with other family games! Sometimes playing cards are bent, look dog-eared, and possibly torn a little from regular use. I had been taught by a member of my family that tarot cards and the information that we receive from them are part of a sacred tradition and should be respected. I asked myself, if I tried to use playing cards during a reading, was I betraying that tradition?
A Brief Lesson
After decades of reading for clients, I’ve come to appreciate that there are many tools for divination, and playing cards are just one of them. A fellow reader later explained to me how reading playing cards works, and I’ll share this information with you now. As my friend explained, in the past, the tarot was considered to contain esoteric knowledge – only for the initiated. It is only in modern times that anyone can just go into a local bookstore and buy a deck of tarot cards. For those who had studied and trained, the tarot was a powerful tool for psychic information. For those who were not – the uninitiated – the deck could be used to play bridge or bid whist.
The Major Arcana
A standard tarot deck is made up of two parts called the major and the minor arcana. The major arcana are the cards that are rich in symbolism and, unlike a card like the Three of Coins, they have names: Justice, the Magician, and Strength. You have probably seen these images many times if you are familiar with the tarot. The cards are very important to a reading and represent archetypal experiences that a client may be going through. If I see the Moon in a reading, I may ask if you have been through an experience where you were betrayed or lied to. When the Hermit appears, it may be time to “go inside” and deal with a problem quietly through meditation and reflection.
The Minor Arcana
The other half of the deck is the minor arcana. These 52 cards correspond with the symbols of a basic playing deck. In the minor arcana, we have Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages as we have Kings, Queens, and Jacks (Knights and Pages are combined). We also have cups, swords, coins, and wands which correspond to hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs, respectfully. So, in a deck of tarot cards, the Two of Cups would be the Two of Hearts.
Playing Card Suits as Tarot
As in the traditional tarot, the court cards represent people in the client’s life, the Queen of Swords upside down in a work reading could be a difficult boss. The numbered cards, from ten down to the Aces, share the same meanings as a tarot deck. Hearts represent love, relationships, and creativity, swords correspond to decision making and life challenges, wands help us to see where we can use our power more effectively and where we are being drained, and coins usually deal with security and financial abundance. The minor arcana can be great for basic questions. For example: Does it look like I will get a new job? Will he or she call me back this week for a second date? The major arcana is best for deeper psychological questions and hidden motivations.
Playing Cards in a Pinch
The great news about reading with playing cards is that they are never far away. Whether you are traveling through an airport, or picking up something at a convenience store, playing cards are almost everywhere. If you need a reading in a hurry, you can have a deck of cards in your hands in minutes. The challenging news is that even with playing cards, to give an effective reading, you need to know what the original cards mean. Many popular decks, like the Rider-Waite deck, have beautiful drawings on the minor cards which help us with their meanings. It is not hard to look up the Two of Cups in this deck and see that the card means marriage or a situation resolving itself in a positive way; however, with playing cards you don’t get any hints. Reading the Five of Clubs when you don’t have an image or a knowledge of the card to guide you can be a little frustrating. You also don’t have access to the major arcana with playing cards. This may not be a problem for quick readings, but if you want to go deeper into a client’s question and history, you may find that the major arcana is essential.
And finally, I’ve met people who believe that because they are using playing cards, they don’t have the same responsibilities to readers as they might with a “real” tarot deck. I was taught that with any tools of divination, it is important to appreciate that a reading, no matter what tools you use, can be enormously powerful and can change a life. It is my belief that my guides will always be helpful during a reading when I ask for help on behalf of a client, no matter what tools I use.
Playing cards can be an effective tool for any psychic, just don’t get your client readings and your game nights mixed up. Telling your friends that the Eight of Diamonds means a successful new business when they are looking for a full house or straight flush on poker night could get a little confusing!
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2 thoughts on “How to Use Playing Cards as Tarot”
I have used playing cards many times over the last 32 years of doing readings.
I’m not Leo I’m Scorpio