Read Tarot With a Simple Deck of Playing Cards (2023)

“Right, you’ve got a crooked sort of cross…” He consulted Unfogging the Future. “That means you’re going to have ‘trials and suffering’ — sorry about that — but there’s a thing that could be the sun… hang on… that means ‘great happiness’… so you’re going to suffer but be very happy…”

“You need your Inner Eye tested, if you ask me,” said Ron, and they both had to stifle their laughs as Professor Trelawney gazed in their direction.”

―J.K. Rowling,Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Reading fortunes with a deck of playing cards is fun for entertainment purposes, but you can also use this as a way to analyze your take on a situation/relationship (or similarly for someone you might do a reading for). The cards have their own personalities and ways in which they interact with one another to develop a story or overall picture of what’s going on. If reading tarothas stumped you and all other forms of divination don’t really seem accessible, this may be for you.

Telling fortunes by using regular playing cards is commonly called cartomancy. This article is a basic overview of the symbolic associations of the suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs), and the numbers and royal court within Western cartomancy.

Jokers are not used, to my knowledge. Associations do vary, but the associations below are mostly agreed upon by readers. The important thing is to develop your own associations and understanding of the cards. Once you find or create a consistent system that works for you, then roll with it.

The information here will look like a lot to consume, but don’t let it dissuade you.

Reading playing cards is really easy and fun, and it can be as complicated or simple as you make it out to be.There are many interesting associations one can make between the cards and the calendar, such as thirteen cards in each suite to match the roughly thirteen weeks of each season as well as four suits to match the four seasons.

So, it is really up to you on how in depth you would like to go with association making.

Quick Note On Reversals

Some of you may be aware that in tarot readings, a reversed card can come up (which some associate with negative meanings).Some people don’t even read reversed cards. I read them usually as blocks, an energy that’s holding back or hindering the situation somehow. Reversals don’t always mean the situation can’t get better–That’s a myth.

The obvious problem with playing cards and reversals is that frequently the top and bottom are mirrored in each card. If you wish to read reversed cards, then take a red pen and mark a star in a corner of the card to indicate that when the star is on the top of the card it is then a reversed card.

(Video) How to read tarot using a basic deck of playing cards

This is a method I used when I first practiced cartomancy as a teenager.

Understanding the Associations of the Suits, Numbers, and Royal Court

The Suits

Spades =Swords (in Tarot)
Thinking, communication

Element: Air

Hearts =Cups (in Tarot)
Emotions, feelings, relationships

Element: Water

Diamonds =Pentacles (in Tarot)

Practicalities, material world

Element: Earth

Clubs =Wands (in Tarot)
Creativity, action

Element: Fire

Numbers and Associations

Ace– Beginnings, Opportunity; Missed Opportunity, Bad Timing
Two– Balance, Cooperation; Disharmony
Three– Connection, Sharing; Loss
Four– Stability, Foundation; Instability
Five– Activity; Disturbance
Six– Flow, Pattern, Communication; Ignorance
Seven– Mystery, Change; Stagnation
Eight– Movement, Harmony/Health, Time; Imbalance
Nine– Growth, Wishes; Disappointment, Idealism
Ten– Completion

The Royal Court as Types of People/Archetypes

The Jacks represent children and young people. Therefore the Jack can denote something small or the start of something new. In the days before the invention of the telephone, young boys were employed as messengers, so the Jacks can be the messengers for their suits. Jacks can also represent thoughts, so there is the idea of movement connected with these cards.Young person of either sex usually under 35 years old. Can represent a child. May also represent an older person who is immature, or just young at heart.

The Queens represent women, feminine things, and the divine feminine principle. Queens represent motherhood and love, and they are nurturing, creative, receptive and introspective. The Queens denote growth and personal power. They bring emotions and intuition and healing to their respective suits.Traditionally a mature female, but the queen may represent a female of any age.

(Video) How to Read the Tarot with Playing Cards

The Kings are grown men, and are the highest ranking court card. They denote mastery, authority, control and leadership. The Kings are protective and commanding, but they can be demanding, possessive, and even aggressive and overbearing, depending on their suit and surrounding cards. Male, usually mature, or in a position of authority. May also represent a younger man who is mature for his age, or is burdened by responsibilities.[Source]

Basic Personality Attributes Based on Suit Correspondences:

Spades:Powerful, intense, demanding, controlling, secretive, possessive, charming, mysterious, calculating, detached.

Hearts:Emotional, creative, romantic, compassionate, generous, sensitive, nurturing, dependable, protective, moody.

Diamonds:Independent, extravagant, impulsive, impatient, optimistic, dynamic, restless, analytical, intelligent, high strung.

Clubs:Practical, friendly, reliable, trustworthy, helpful, ambitious, enthusiastic, sensible, stable, stubborn.[Source]

Tips on Archetypes, Groups of Figures, Reversals and More

You can read about the Royal Court more in depth as stereotypes and in groups of figures, researching more about each specific card and types of cartomancy spreads.

If you feel a card is reversed, explore that feeling in writing; it’s a matter of personal preference. Research about what others have experience is helpful in pinpointing and refining your own associations.

Though, again, the important thing is to develop your own associations and understanding of the cards. Practice in doing readings for yourself and others is helpful to developing trust in your own intuition and learning more about your particular style of reading.

Do what feels right to you.

Sample Spread and Question Phrasing Exercise: The Three Card Spread

You can give the cards here any associations you would like. Here are some spread ideas to explore:

  • Past/Present/Future: Position 1 is represented as past; position 2 is represented as present; position 3 is represented as a possible ‘future’ springing from the present as it currently is.

  • Current situation (Position 1)/ Obstacle (Position 2) / Advice (Position 3).

  • What you can change (Position 1)/ What you can’t change (Position 2)/ What you may not be aware of (Position 3).

  • The nature of your problem (Position 1)/ The cause (Position 2) / The solution (Position 3).


  • Option 1 / Option 2 / Option 3.

  • Option 1 / Option 2 / What you need to know to make a decision (Position 3).

  • You (Position 1)/ Your current path (Position 2) / Your potential (Position 3).

  • You (Position 1)/ The other person (Position 2)/ The relationship (Position 3).

Tip: Avoid Yes/No questions or very vague questions. Use simple, open-ended questions.Let’s explore that:

Let’s pretend we are doing a three-card reading about a relationship for a friend named Rachel. She just started dating this guy Bob but he’s been acting distant lately, and she doesn’t know what to do about it; should she talk to him, give him space, or what?

So if we were to use the three card spread here we could use Current situation (Position 1)/ Obstacle (Position 2) / Advice(Position 3).

We should relax and make sure our minds are clear and focused.

If Rachel is there, so we can have her shuffle and cut the cards to associate her energy with it, or we can clear our minds and replay Rachel’s description of the situation and shuffle/cut the cards.

Lay the cards in positions 1-3, or one at a time; remember to do what feels natural to you. Take in the cards; let the associations come to you; then knit the associations together. There’s a natural narration. Let’s look at it together.

Where are the cards? What are their associations and how do they relate? What is the story here?

Position 1/Current Situation: 9 of Spades:Spades relate to thinking and communication. Rachel is definitely concerned about distance in the relationship; worry is at play. The number nine relates to disappointment and wishes. Perhaps she longs for him to communicate in a certain way. Ask her. It seems there may be a communication issue.

Position 2/Obstacle: 8 of Diamonds:Diamonds relate to the material world and practical concerns. Eight is associated with movement, harmony, health, balance/imbalance related to the self. Perhaps he’s dealing with the movement of career/funds at work or home and there’s stress there. (There may feel like there is a gap in the information or story; go on to the next position(s) and let the reading tell you the story of what’s happening.) The obstacle hints at something to do with practical matters but also an issue of balance. One or both of them may have gotten busy with life and work and so Bob may seem distant. Perhaps he’s just using it as an excuse. Either way, the block indicates that the relationship isn’t really moving right now in a way that she desires.

Position 3/Advice: 10 of Diamonds:As we know,Diamonds relate to the material world and practical concerns. Ten is associated with completion. Completion could be positive like all is well, or what if it means the relationship is over?! Let’s go back to the associations before we jump to conclusions. Completion is about the seasons of cycles. Something ends and something begins.There is a definite focus on Diamonds/the practical in this reading. Here we may need to ask Rachel more in depth questions.What is she not aware of?

The reading feels like it needs more substance and information. So let’s pull what’s called a Clarification Card. It’s an extra card you can pull from the deck to clarify what feels hazy in the reading or unclear.

(Video) Playing Cards as Tarot Cards 101 (What the Heck, Try the Deck)

Perhaps even Rachel doesn’t know how to phrase it or what she even is seeking.There is always something underlying. Let us (or have her) cut the cards and draw an extra card… While doing this, feel the question “What is she not aware of regarding this situation, that she needs to know… What will be the most helpful?”

Clarification Card: The Jack of Spades

Spade personalities, as denoted previously, can be charming and detached. Since business matters come up in the reading, it is reasonable to assume this person is clever. This card seems to describe how Rachel sees Bob. It seems that Bob is a young man focused on his career right now, enjoying the pleasures of life…

Rachel is one of those pleasures. In terms of advice, it seems that by theJack of Spadesshowing up it would be plausible that Bob is set in his ways and probably not going to change his communication style anytime soon.

The Ten of Diamondsdoes suggest completion and satisfaction. Perhaps she finds joy in sharing a similar phase of life with him–the pursuit of a fulfilling career and the building of supporting structures–such as a relationship. On the negative end of Jack of Spades’ traits, maybe he hasn’t been honest about what kind of relationship he wants or what his priorities are.

On a similar note, Rachel really needs to ask herself what she wants and needs right now in life, which unites the associations of communication and practical concerns within the reading.If this resonates with Rachel, then we would hope she has a little more insight into her feelings about her situation.

Whether reading tarotor playing cards, it’s like when we lay down and make shapes out of the clouds. The clouds have a say in this, too. We have to let the elements move about in their way.We trace the patterns with our eyes.

We choose what most resonates. We live the lessons we discern.Cartomancy can be used to gain further insight into situations or relationships this way, or it can just be a cool parlor trick to get a free drink at the bar.

Either way, at some point in our lives we are all “going to suffer but be very happy.”

Further Reading

Fortune-telling by Playing Cards: A New Guide to the Ancient Art of Cartomancy

Editor's Note: This appeared previously on our old site.

Tiffany Chaneyis a poet, a witchy woman that still swings on the swing set and wishes on stars. She suggests you try it sometime. She writes articles and a Weekly Tarot column on Sundays for Luna Luna Mag. Snag your reading here. Her poetry collection Between Blue and Grey won the 2013 Mother Vine Award for Best in Poetry. Discover more about her writing at tiffanychaneycom. Now, crank up the volume to the tune playing in your head and dance to a Mad Girl’s Love Song.

(Video) How to read Tarot with Playing cards easy #tarot #cartomancy #12thhouseherald


What is the easiest tarot deck? ›

The Rider Waite Tarot Deck is a classic, and for good reason. It's not as pretty as the newer decks, but you can't go wrong here, either. It's fairly inexpensive and perfect for the beginner.

What each playing card means? ›

Spades represent challenging tasks or events coming in the future. Hearts are about feelings, family, home, love, and relationships. Clubs represent positive things that are coming in the near future. Diamonds are all about money and finances.

Can you read tarot for yourself? ›

Is it possible to do Tarot spreads on yourself, even if you're a beginner? Yes! It absolutely is. Tarot is a modality that helps us gain greater insight into our current situations, honor our intuition and forecast potential outcomes.

Can you cleanse tarot cards? ›

That's right—to ensure the most accurate of readings, Magdaleno actually recommends cleansing your deck every time you do a reading. "Whether it's for someone else, or yourself," she says, "it's always best to start with a cleanse to clear the cards for your reading."

What is the most important card in the tarot deck? ›

In almost all tarot games, the Fool is one of the most valuable cards.

Which card deck is best? ›

Best Overall: KEM Poker Arrow Red and Blue Standard Index Playing Cards (Pack of 2) A gold standard in casinos and poker tournaments, KEM is known for making the best playing cards in the industry. The brand's signature Arrow standard-size deck comes in a sturdy two-pack box.

What is the easiest way to learn Tarot? ›

Start Reading Tarot

The best way to learn Tarot is to start. Create space each day to regularly practice reading Tarot. I recommend starting with a card each day. Ask the Tarot daily, “What energy do I need to focus on today?” and proactively manifesting that energy throughout your day.

Can you practice tarot cards? ›

Whether you're a newbie, spiritual skeptic, or an advanced reader, there are many benefits to having a daily tarot card practice. For one, a daily practice such as tarot can help you get in the habit of accessing your intuition, which in turn can guide your decision-making and align your actions.

How many tarot cards do you pull? ›

You can pull one or three cards at a time. I prefer to pull three to tell a whole story. Being that we all have different relationships with each card, the connection you feel with it will best explain the information being shown to you. Think of yourself as a painter, using your knowledge as the brushstrokes.

What do the 4 suits of cards represent? ›

The four suits in playing cards, clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades, collectively represent the four elements (wind, fire, water, and earth), the seasons, and cardinal directions. They represent the struggle of opposing forces for victory in life.

What are the 4 playing cards symbols? ›

Today's 52-card deck preserves the four original French suits of centuries ago: clubs (♣), diamonds (♦), hearts (♥), and spades (♠).

How often should you read tarot? ›

I advise leaving a gap of at least three months between professional tarot readings, UNLESS the reading is about a totally different and specific question. Let things change and progress before going back to the cards.

Should I let others touch my tarot cards? ›

These readers often keep their Tarot cards well protected and ensure that no-one else but them touches their cards. In this way, the Tarot cards are kept sacred to the owner (i.e. the Tarot reader) alone. It can also prevent any negative energy from the client being transferred to the cards.

Is tarot card reading difficult? ›

But reading tarot can feel daunting because of how much you have to memorize and learn. We're here to tell you something: It doesn't have to be that way. Just follow our quick-start tarot guide and you'll be a pro by the time your BFFs come over for drinks tonight.

How do you activate Tarot cards? ›

While still holding the cards in your hand, “knock” or tap the pile of cards several times to spread your energy into the deck. Give the cards a thorough shuffle. Cut the cards into three piles and then put them into one pile again. Now you are ready to start the reading as you have jazzed up the cards.

How long do you leave Tarot cards in salt? ›

Stick the cards in a bowl of salt.

Let it sit 1-8 hours in dry place (watch out for humidity with this one!)

What does a deck of cards symbolize? ›

Some say the deck of cards is based on the calendar. 52 cards represent 52 weeks in a year. Red and Black symbolize night and day. The four suits represent the four seasons; there are 13 cards in a suit to match the number of lunar cycles and 12 court cards that represent the 12 months of the year.

What is the number one tarot card? ›

The Magician (I), also known as The Magus or The Juggler, is the first trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional tarot decks. It is used in game playing and divination; in the English-speaking world, the divination meaning is much better known.

What age is appropriate for Tarot cards? ›

Ages 8 and up. Tarot is a great resource for advice, decision-making, understanding how to help your friends and family, making plans, avoiding drama, creative thinking, learning to trust your intuition, and so much more.

What is the strongest set of cards? ›

The royal flush sits atop the poker-hand rankings as the best hand possible. It features five consecutive cards of the same suit in order of value from 10 through to ace. Any five cards of sequential values in the same suit that's not a royal flush is a straight flush.

What is the strongest shape in cards? ›

When suit ranking is applied, the most common conventions are: Alphabetical order: clubs (lowest), followed by diamonds, hearts, and spades (highest).

What are the 4 types of cards in a deck? ›

- There are 4 suits (Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds, and Spades) and there are 13 cards in each suit (Clubs/Spades are black, Hearts/Diamonds are red) - Without replacement means the card IS NOT put back into the deck.

Can you learn tarot with any deck? ›

Choose a deck

The decks have been reimagined many times with different styles and themes. The most important thing is that your tarot deck resonates with you: Buy a deck you'll want to use and practice with. (Or, ask someone to buy a nice deck for you, if you feel superstitious about buying your own.)

How do I start a daily Tarot practice? ›

11 Tarot Practice Exercises for Beginners
  1. Choose your deck intuitively. ...
  2. Do a daily draw. ...
  3. Make personal connections with each card. ...
  4. Find relations in the court cards. ...
  5. Compare the same card from different decks. ...
  6. Learn 3 keywords for each card. ...
  7. Positive/negative exercise. ...
  8. Learn the fool's journey.

How many times should you shuffle a tarot deck? ›

Apparently, the exact number of shuffles to achieve a truly random tarot deck is seven, but honestly, there is no need to adhere to that. Some people like to shuffle their tarot deck a few times, while others like to shuffle for at least a full minute as they zone in on their question.

How many times do you cut a Tarot deck? ›

Using your opposite hand, take a stack of cards out of the full deck and place them either at the top or in the middle of the deck. Repeat the process 5-7 times. Keep breaking the deck apart into stacks and placing them on top and in the middle of the deck.

What are the odds of pulling the same tarot card twice? ›

The probability of drawing the same card twice in a row would be 1 in 78, or approximatel 1.3%. That's in a "one card" spread.

What does B stand for in cards? ›

English: Playing cards with the letter "B", generally the Jack in German-language French decks ("B" stands for "Bube").

What does the ace of spades symbolize? ›

The ace of spades is the highest card in the deck, and as such, it has come to symbolize power, success, and good fortune. In many cultures, the ace of spades is also seen as a symbol of death.

What are the 4 queen cards? ›

The names of the queens -- Judith or Judic (hearts), Pallas (spades), Rachel (diamonds), and Argine (clubs) -- have been a continual object of speculation, as the real-life personages they represent are not so easily identified.

What does a jack represent in cards? ›

The usual rank of a jack is between the ten and the queen. As the lowest face (or "court") card, the jack often represents a minimum standard — for example, many poker games require a minimum hand of a pair of jacks ("jacks or better") in order to open wagering.

What is Q called in cards? ›

Single cards
Card nameInitialCollective names
10 more rows

What is D and B in cards? ›

Each suit includes a KING (K), a QUEEN (D), a JACK (B), an ACE. The numbered cards are from seven through ten. Suit symbols are in the French-English style - spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs - rather than in a traditional German style.

What is 4 of the same card called? ›

Four cards of the same rank - such as four queens. The fifth card can be anything. This combination is sometimes known as "quads", and in some parts of Europe it is called a "poker", though this term for it is unknown in English.

How does the deck of cards work? ›

A standard 52-card deck comprises 13 ranks in each of the four French suits: clubs (♣), diamonds (♦), hearts (♥) and spades (♠). Each suit includes three court cards (face cards), King, Queen and Jack, with reversible (double-headed) images. Each suit also includes ten numeral cards or pip cards, from one to ten.

Do tarot decks come with instructions? ›

Every tarot deck comes with a guidebook to aid in interpretation. However this practice isn't about learning a correct meaning to the card or a single way to interpret the message.

What do the 52 cards in a deck represent? ›

52 cards represent 52 weeks in a year. Red and Black symbolize night and day. The four suits represent the four seasons; there are 13 cards in a suit to match the number of lunar cycles and 12 court cards that represent the 12 months of the year. If you add up all the symbols in a deck they add up to 365.

What is the most important card in a deck? ›

The Ace of Spades (also known as the Spadille and Death Card) is traditionally the highest and most valued card in the deck of playing cards in English-speaking countries.

What does 1 deck of cards mean? ›

a pack of 52 playing cards.

Can you read tarot everyday? ›

Whether you're a newbie, spiritual skeptic, or an advanced reader, there are many benefits to having a daily tarot card practice. For one, a daily practice such as tarot can help you get in the habit of accessing your intuition, which in turn can guide your decision-making and align your actions.

Do you use all the tarot cards in a reading? ›

You don't have to use them for every reading, but it's a nice way to get started while you learn about the cards. One of the simplest readings you can use to familiarize yourself with the cards is the past, present, future spread. Take the top card from your shuffled deck, and reveal them one by one, left to right.

What do spades symbolize? ›

The spade represents a leaf of the "cosmic" tree, and thus life. Along with its companion suit, clubs, spades represent fall and winter and the power of darkness. In the Tarot, they symbolize intellect, action, air, and death.

What does spades mean in cards? ›

form one of the four suits of playing cards in the standard French deck. It is the same shape as the leaf symbol in German-suited cards but looks like a black heart turned upside down with a stalk at its base. It symbolises the pike or halberd, two medieval weapons.

Should I let others touch my Tarot cards? ›

These readers often keep their Tarot cards well protected and ensure that no-one else but them touches their cards. In this way, the Tarot cards are kept sacred to the owner (i.e. the Tarot reader) alone. It can also prevent any negative energy from the client being transferred to the cards.

Should you shuffle your Tarot cards? ›

Reading your tarot cards can be as simple as asking your deck a question, pulling one or more cards, and then interpreting the potential answers they hold. But before you pull your card(s), it's a good idea to clear the slate from past readings by shuffling your deck.

How many cards do you need for a Tarot reading? ›

There are lots of ways to read tarot, but all of them require practice. Learning 78 distinct cards takes time, particularly when so many of them have multiple possible meanings.


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