Cartomancy: Playing Card Reading Guide

Grace Duong Headshot Contributing expert: Grace Duong - Updated: Mar 24, 2022


Did you know that you can attempt to tell the future and divine hidden information with the same deck of cards you use for poker night? The old tradition of interpreting the colors and suits of a deck of playing cards lives on today through cartomancy readings. This divination tool provides a practical, black-and-white approach to answering questions. We’ll go over the basics of cartomancy, how to do your own readings, and some common meanings for each card in the deck.

What Is Cartomancy?

Cartomancy is the use of cards for divination. Tarot cards are a subset of cartomancy, but the term is more often used for divination with ordinary playing cards. And they have a long history as tools for telling fortunes and divining information. 

Playing cards are thought to have been invented in China during the 9th century AD. Over the years, various cultures have created their own decks of varying size and use. There are accounts of people telling fortunes and practicing divination with playing cards as far back as the 1400s. By the 18th century, Europeans were using standard playing cards to predict the future and answer their burning questions. 

The popular English 52-card deck is a common set of cards people use to practice cartomancy today. Each color, suit, and number holds its own meaning, and the order in which they appear within a reading affects how the cards are interpreted. 

Cartomancy Reading Versus Tarot Reading

Although tarot cards are used for similar purposes, they’re seen as a more intuitive, spiritual, and mystical tool. Tarot uses a deck of 78 cards full of illustrative symbolism, while cartomancy usually uses the standard simple 52-card deck. Cartomancy tends to be viewed as a more practical, straightforward approach to divination, with a focus on the polarity of the red and black colors and yes or no responses. Some people say that cartomancy provides more down-to-earth, applicable answers. 

How to Do a Playing Card Reading

Cartomancy Image

As with any card reading, it’s recommended that before beginning you should cleanse your deck. Cleansing can be as simple as tapping on the deck or as involved as smudging it with smoke. Once the deck is cleansed, it’s time to shuffle the cards using your preferred method. Think about your question while you shuffle and determine how detailed you would like the answer to be.

Similar to tarot readings, cartomancy readings use different spreads (a specific number and layout of cards) depending on the type of question being asked. For example, a yes or no question could be answered by pulling a single card, while a three-card spread is often used for past-present-future questions. There are even spreads using five or more cards that can give you a detailed answer, though interpretations can get complicated with larger spreads. 

Reading the cards

The ability to interpret playing cards depends on how well you know the meaning of each element of the deck. Start with color: Red corresponds to positive and black to negative. If you ask a yes or no question and you draw a red card, the answer would be “yes,” while black would be “no.” Each suit and individual card is assigned a meaning as well. Let’s go over them below.


The suit of clubs corresponds to earth, work, business, the body, social life, luck, accomplishments, and growth. 

Ace of clubs Good news, financial wealth and fortune, a new business venture, or a legal contractual process
Two of clubs New personal or business-related social challenges that may lead to gossip
Three of clubs A trio partnership with room for growth or advancement
Four of clubs An unexpected betrayal or deceit, possibly from someone you thought was a friend
Five of clubs Meeting a new friend, change of social situation, or newfound support
Six of clubs Success or improvement regarding work or social goals, and prosperity
Seven of clubs Change or success in business requiring a high level of attention
Eight of clubs A potential difficulty in business or love
Nine of clubs Luck, new opportunities, or a new admirer
Ten of clubs Unexpected money or business-related travel
Jack of clubs A hardworking, reliable, trustworthy friend with dark hair
Queen of clubs A helpful and confident businesswoman or co-worker with dark hair
King of clubs A strong, kind, and successful businessman with dark hair


The suit of diamonds corresponds to fire, money, the spirit, intelligence, energy, financial status, success, recognition, and rewards.

Ace of diamonds A new message or beginning, a gift, or a letter
Two of diamonds A denial and disapproval of a relationship
Three of diamonds Lack of commitment, poor focus, legal troubles, or instability
Four of diamonds New financial stability or an unexpected inheritance, payment, or gift
Five of diamonds An improvement around self, home, or career
Six of diamonds Problems in relationships around communication or jealousy
Seven of diamonds Challenges around personal finance and investments
Eight of diamonds A caution to prepare for an unexpected financial situation
Nine of diamonds An unexpected monetary bonus or new business opportunity on the way
Ten of diamonds A sign of prosperity, good fortune, or wealth
Jack of diamonds A dishonest and unreliable young person with light hair
Queen of diamonds A flirtatious, successful, wealthy person with light hair
King of diamonds A wealthy and accomplished older person with light hair


The suit of hearts corresponds to water, emotions, love, the soul, home, feelings, relationships, and family. 

Ace of hearts A new beginning or relationship, positive energy, good news, or happiness
Two of hearts Success and good fortune in love, affection, and relationships
Three of hearts A warning to be cautious in a new relationship
Four of hearts A possible next step in a relationship, incoming change, or return of a previous partner
Five of hearts A feeling of jealousy, deceit, or resentment
Six of hearts An unexpected but pleasant surprise around a new love interest
Seven of hearts Broken promises or disappointment from a friend or partner
Eight of hearts An unexpected visitor or invitation
Nine of hearts Wishes and dreams coming true
Ten of hearts Success, good fortune, and fulfillment on the way
Jack of hearts A close young friend with light hair
Queen of hearts A good-natured, kind, motherly person with light hair
King of hearts A kind, caring, paternal person with light hair


The suit of spades corresponds to air, mind, obstacles, challenges, setbacks, secrets, and conflicts. 

Ace of spades A misfortune, a significant change, or the ending of something
Two of spades A tough decision, a disagreement, bad news, or communication troubles
Three of spades Relationship troubles, infidelity, lies, or betrayal
Four of spades A broken promise, an illness, or an unhealthy situation
Five of spades Facing obstacles, loss, abandonment, or depression
Six of spades A completion, moving forward, or a small improvement of a situation
Seven of spades An unexpected trouble, setback, grief, or loss
Eight of spades A wound, anger, danger, or imbalance
Nine of spades Failure, bad luck, sadness, or anxiety
Ten of spades Misfortune, tragedy, darkness, or bad news
Jack of spades An immature or unpleasant young person with dark hair
Queen of spades A cunning and intelligent person with dark hair
King of spades A controlling and ambitious person with dark hair