Exploring Cartomancy; Suit Themes

©2023 michael raven

Oh! Hai!

You decided to pop by the imaginary pub I have erected in the middle of etherspace?

Pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage and sit down at what appears to be, erm, a very sticky table in a dimly lit corner of the friendly neighborhood dive bar. Hell, two-fist your favorite beverage! I assure you that my posts along these lines get more entertaining when your blood-alcohol level increases. I’ve got a deal with the bartender here — he won’t, under any circumstance, cut you off. [Waves down bartender. “Hey,” I say, “I thought we agreed you’d wipe this down before the guests arrived.” He gives a surly nod and I regret making a scene because the bar towel might just be a wee bit more seedy that the table he is wiping.]

[Cough, cough. Nervous tittering.]

Ahem… I want to dig into the next topic to consider: suit themes.

This thought experiment [Ed: I’ll admit it right out, my thoughts shared in these cartomancy-as-writing vehicle is in the primordial end of the spectrum; not the freshest idea ever, but an idea being reworked to fit my sensibilities] regarding cards as a writing tool, whether it be used for plot or NPC walk-in characters in a short story, or prompts for a poem, or developing personality traits in a primary antagonist or protagonist… Needs a bit of structure.

We could do the hard part first, but I like the KISS principle. For those unfamiliar, KISS stands for “keep it simple, stupid”. So, let’s start with the suit themes (four suits) instead of the pip count/face card (thirteen total) themes.

I already described the suits as having a largely agreed upon tarot equivalent (although not absolute agreement). To reiterate (with a few additional common suits alternatives from tarot):

Hearts = Cups/Chalices/Grails/Cauldrons

Spades = Swords/Arrows

Diamonds = Pentacles/Stones/Coins

Clubs = Wands/Staves/Bows

Where this relationship with tarot becomes helpful is that the suits (in general) also share the corresponding themes and elemental (water/air/earth/fire) associations with tarot. While I point out the elemental associations, I want to pull back a bit from that and leave them off for the time being and, instead, focus on the themes of each suit. While not absolute, there is general agreement for both cartomancy and tarot. Those themes are:


Associated with emotional energies:

Relationships, love, anger, disappointments, sadness, bliss, sexual energy and so forth.


Associated with intellect and logic:

Mental clarity, decision-making, contemplation, conflict and arguments, deceptions / fabrications, binds, anxiety, fear, and more.


Associated with material gain, health, and self-image:

Includes things like ego, money, investments, mental and physical well-being, skills, career, security and independence.


Associated with the spirit, action, energy and drive:

Potential, growth, harmony, success, confidence, resilience, hard work, courage, and faith, amongst other traits.

Without getting too far into the weeds about the matter, these themes are also represented with the elements mentioned above by those studying the occult: water/emotion, air/intellect, earth/well-being or wealth, and fire/spirit. The elements then become a reminder of what thematic elements the suits represent in either tarot or cartomancy, provided you are cued in, “in the know”, with respect to those relationships.

You slam back your sixth or seventh Jamieson, neat… without water or ice and lean back in your wrap-around wooden bar chair and lean back, causing the wood to protest loudly at unaccustomed stress of having to be both weight-bearing as well as an impromptu rocking chair and say, “Yeah, so what about it?”

Actually, after that much whiskey, it comes out more like, “Yuh, zo whaddaboutit?”

And I lean in with overstated sobriety (recall, I’m drinking water, but I might have moved to coffee as we talk) and say…

“I’m still working that part out.”

You slap the air and make the chair squeal across the beer-soaked floors, making motions like you are about to stand up and walk out of this dive bar I’ve dragged you to, filling your head with my blither-blather.

“Wait,” I say and you look at me all blurry eyed. “This had better be good,” you say. Actually, it comes out more like… you know? I think you have the idea…

I actually have a rough conceptualization of what I might do with the pip counts and ranks, again borrowed from several sources which “largely agree with tarot”, but I haven’t quite gotten it to where I think it is ready for prime-time. The core essence of the idea is that these value-wide characteristics or traits are relatively internally consistent, but influenced by the thematic elements of the suits. But the idea is this: each value of a suit, from Ace to King, can each be represented by a family of traits. As mentioned in my first post, ace cards represent new ideas and beginnings. Deuces (or twos) are one-to-one interactions (partnerships) and setting the stage. And so forth.

In this element of cartomancy, there is not so much in the way of broad agreement. Nor is there clear agreement within tarot. There are some general agreements, but it is far from consistent, nor is it perfect.

While I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole, the skeleton of the trait system has elements of spiritual or psychological alchemy, depending on the references one uses. I’m not sure that I want to directly pull in that aspect into this thought exercise, as it can even more esoteric in ways that even the occult influences can be and, as I said in the beginning, I want to eschew those parts to make it more accessible to anyone interested in using something like this scheme as a tool for writing. I want to keep it simple, stupid — not muck it up with things that make it more complex.

However, as I think about these things, the general alchemical pathway may provide the framework for simplifying the traits. I just need to avoid terms like calcination and albedo, and see the framework as a continuum rather than a series of distinct stages.

Which is why I may dig deeper into the individual numbers in future posts about this — to help develop a better conceptualization for myself on the likely chance I am the only person playing around with this frankentool I am working on.

Hope you are having a good evening. Oh. And I called you an Uber and pocket your keys. You’re in no condition to drive home.

2 thoughts on “Exploring Cartomancy; Suit Themes

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