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Expanding on crossed cartomancy

It is that time of the year again, September, the month I like to focus on St. Cyprian and St. Justina, as their feast day is in this month. Today as a matter of fact. Seizing this opportunity I’d like to expand a little on crossed cartomancy or what can alternately be termed Cyprianic cartomancy. (For an introduction please go here). I’m going to start with words from Jose Leitao, in an introduction to one of the pamphlets found in Opuscula Cypriani.

Cyprian-derived systems of divination or cartomancy are complex, variable and fluid systems which, through subsequent publications and rearrangements, find new forms, significances and meanings. This instance should not be considered an inferior pastiche, but actually how Cyprian literature and divination systems function and are generated at each new interaction.

From a practitioner’s perspective, such an instance underlines how, with each new step in the march of this material throughout history, new systems are meant to be born and synthesized. One does not need to really concern oneself with keeping the purity of the system, because, if the analysis of this pamphlet and all the others present in this book tells us anything, it is that this material is not pure to begin with.

Toward the end of my first survey of Crossed Cartomancy I briefly spoke about an alternative spread, the tableau, this is the spread I now want to explore.

In the 40 card tableau, the whole pack is laid out in five columns, with eight rows. The central pillar or column is sometimes called a novelty. This happens when there are no courts in this column. When a novelty occurs, the querent gets to ask an additional related question. Here it gets tricky as the rest of the cards are then picked up and reshuffled, saying the orisons, 21 are placed directly on top of the pillar, which remains unmoved, and then the remaining eight cards are spread in a cross, each hand having two cards. You will be left with three cards in your hands, these three will answer the additional question. There is no explanation as to why the elaborate process, but I think it has to do with the numbers. Rather, the meaning of the numbers in relation to the shape that is being used in the spread. The tableau is also read in the same mirroring way.

Here are a couple images from the book illustrating the method of reading the tableau.

One can see here that two possible ways of reading by mirroring is offered, one is starting from the two outer columns, the top card with bottom card (Ace of spades with 4 of clover), the other is mirroring columns side by side as in the second picture. To be honest, from the several examples given in the book, most are clunky at fully explaining how to read the tableau well. Moreover, what I’m interested in here is seeing what I can coherently form out of what is given in the book. Therefore we have here the 40 card deck, Ace-7 in the suits, with all the court cards.

Naipes españoles, la baraja española.

So we can start from the farthest two columns, reading the cards that mirror each other at an angle, whether from top-bottom or bottom-top. As an example, I will use a set of significations from Opuscula Cypriani, and I will not pose a question to the cards just read them and create a story.

  • a lover’s letter 11 of cups+2 of cups
  • sent by courier, through paths 11 of coins+6 of cups
  • is received with joy at the banquet/dinner 7 of cups+3 of coins
  • sharing good words of recuperation from an illness 3 of cups+5 of swords
  • The father, opposed to the love affair, intervenes 11 of batons+12 of swords
  • creating strife in the house 4 of batons+11 of swords
  • with the five senses (in full awareness) 5 of batons+2 of coins
  • the lady quickly determines to change plans 6 of swords+10 of swords
  • not thinking twice about severing ties 2 of swords+3 of batons
  • she determines to follow her passion 7 of swords+10 of batons
  • and with the help of a friend escapes to a church 4 of coins+12 of batons
  • affirming that bad words sour relations ace of sword+3 of sword
  • this is an opportunity to take courage 10 of cups+ace of coin
  • a novelty that allows her escape 5 of coins+4 of cups
  • She sends a courier through slow paths 10 of coins+2 of batons
  • hidden by the night with the message of promised pleasures to her lover if he meets her in the church 7 of batons+ace of baton

I embellished a bit and quite a scandal of a story arose from the spread, I’m also not finished as I left the middle column alone, since, as per the book, this is where one judges whether the column is a novelty or not based on there being court cards. In this case, there are court cards, deeming the column a novelty.

Novelty is not clearly defined in the cartomancy sections of the book. There is only the mention of an additional step should there be one. As mentioned above, one leave the cards (in the column) on the table yet removes all the other surrounding cards; shuffling them and laying them back down in a cross above the cards already on the table. Given that my aim here is to read the entire tableau in one go using crossed techniques, how to keep the novelty, and yet not have to do the part of removing the other cards? A novelty as per Merriam-Webster dictionary is defined as “something new or unusual.” Perhaps, if there is a novelty one could allow the querent/sitter to ask a new question, based on the reading of the other cards so far, and the answer would lie in reading this column alone. This would create a sort of closing judgement on the reading overall, a closing statement. If there is no novelty then one reads the entire tableau in one go, no new questions added. As there is a novelty here, let’s say the lady asks the cards if the lover will respond to her couriered letter with arriving at the church to sweep her off her feet.

  • indulging in luxuries, the lover 12 of cups+12 of coins
  • will receive the lady’s message, in bed with another, at a party ace of cup+4 of swords
  • only tears and heartache would the lover bring, for they are impoverished 5 of cups+6 of coins
  • being a zealous gambler and swindler 7 of coins+6 of batons

In the end, the lover will not arrive to rescue the lady, and she will have left her home for no good reason. Since this is a straight vertical line of cards, the crossed reading would be done by reading the cards that mirror each other, starting from top+bottom and working inward.

As this is a very straightforward approach to a crossed tableau, one can actually play with other types of decks, such as the Lenormand which has playing card inserts.

Maybe Lenormand by Ryan Edward published by US Games, 2016.

The key to following this method is in laying the tableau so as to have an odd number of columns, nine for lenormand, and five for a 40-card deck. This would allow for there to be a column that stands alone after pairing the others in reading them.

Caitlín Matthews’ Daveluy Lenormand Deck c.1860, reproduced by thecartomancer.bigcartel.com, 2020.

The way I see it, Cyprianic cartomancy or crossed cartomancy is about seeing across things, for looking at the corners that frame and reading from there toward the crux. From the edges you put together arbitrarily distant points, making your way to the center, the heart of the matter.

There are other considerations I’m thinking about in relation to playing with this tableau and keeping to a cross reading. In the end, it is about finding the threads that you can work with. In the example I gave above I used the significations from the book, but you can use your own significations, what matters is arriving at the heart with the answer. I will add if you are in the market for a book on reading playing cards, a very good one I recommend, with an excellent survey of playing significations, and ways to use playing cards for divination and magic is Professor Charles Porterfield’s A Deck of Spells: Hoodoo Playing Card Magic in Rootwork and Conjure.

May all your divinations alight on the heart of the matter at hand.

Icon by Biso, Saints Cyprian and Justina. Icon a gift to the church St. Kiril and Metodi, Slivnitsa. From Wikipedia, 26 September 2020.
  • Jose Leitao, “Opuscula Cypriani.” Published by Hadean Press, 2019.

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