Cartomancy is fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards. Forms of cartomancy appeared soon after playing cards were first introduced into Europe in the 14th century. Practitioners of cartomancy are generally known as cartomancers, card readers or, simply, readers. Some practitioners have claimed that cartomancy's origins date back to ancient Egyptian times.
Cartomancy using standard playing cards was the most popular form of providing "fortune telling" card readings in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. In English-speaking countries, a standard deck of Anglo-American bridge/poker playing cards (i.e., 52-card, four suit set) can be used in the cartomancy reading; the deck is often augmented with jokers, and even with the blank card found in many packaged decks. In France, the 32-card piquet playing card deck was, and still is, most typically used in cartomancy readings, while the 52-card deck was, and still is, also used for this purpose. (For a piquet deck, start with a 52-card deck and remove all of the 2s through the 6s. This leaves all of the 7s through the 10s, the face cards, and the aces.)
In recent years, however, the popularity of Tarot readings has diminished to a certain degree the popularity of the once-common cartomancy readings using standard playing cards.
According to some, a deck that is used for cartomancy should not be used for any other purpose. Cartomancers generally feel that the deck should be treated as a tool and cared for accordingly. Some cartomancers also feel that the cards should never be touched by anyone other than their owner.
Methods of cartomancy
Although a standard playing card deck can be used for cartomancy, other decks are used such as tarot decks. In the view of some, including the webmaster of the Aeclectic Tarot website, any deck that is not a tarot deck (56 minor arcana with 4 suits of 14 cards and 22 major arcana) is referred to, more generally, as a cartomancy deck.
The Tarot deck differs somewhat from the standard deck used for cartomancy. The Tarot deck consists of twenty-one "trump" cards and a "Fool" card, these being referred to collectively by occultists as Major Arcana, and fifty-six conventional cards, called the Minor Arcana (Arcana means "hidden things"). Each Minor Arcana suit contains four court cards (usually king, queen, knight and page) along with the usual ten numbered, or pip, cards.
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