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Playing Cards

Playing cards probably came to Europe in the fourteenth century from the Middle East. There are plenty of references to playing cards from 1377 onwards. Tentative connections have been made with very early cards found in China from the tenth century. It is thought that European playing cards are based on Mamluk playing cards. These Islamic playing cards do not have pictures, instead there is an elaborate suit sign with a title: Malik (King), Na'ib (Viceroy) dan Na'ib Thani (Second Viceroy). The suits are Cups, Polo Sticks, Swords and Coins.

Telling fortunes using playing cards is well known as being used by the Gypsies. But wherever cards are played, they are used for divination purposes also.

Playing cards vary from country to country according to the number of cards included in each deck, the suits used and which court cards appear. Decks may also come with 2 or more jokers. Usually the jokers are not included in divination but some readers choose to use them and give them Joker the meaning of the Tarot Fool (New developments, fresh starts, taking a risk).

However, the Joker is not actually a descendant of the Tarot Fool. Instead, it was an American invention in the 1860's for the game of Juker (now known as Euchre) where it was used as the "Best Bower". By the 1880's the Juker had become the Joker and had started appearing in decks all around the world.

For a full list of the meanings for a 52 card deck, click here.

For the meanings of the 40 card Spanish Deck (Baraja Española), click here.

Card Decks Around the World

DeckSuitsCourt CardsNo. of cards
Standard English/French
Divinatory Meanings
Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades

France: Cœurs, Carreaux, Trèfles, Piques
Italy: Cuori, Quadri, Fiori, Picche
Spain: Corazones, Diamantes, Tréboles, Picas
Germany: Herz, Karo, Kreuz, Pik
See more card names around the world...

Jack, Queen, King

French: Valet, Dame, Roi
Italy: Fante, Regina, Re
Spanish: Jota, Reina, Rey
German: Bube, Dame, König

English Variants
(36 Cards: Ace and 7-10 plus 2/3/4/6 Hearts plus Face Cards)
(32 Cards: Ace and 7-10 plus Face Cards)
Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades
Variant: Hearts, Squares, Clovers and Pikes
Jack, Queen, King36/32
Southern Italy
Carte italiane

(40 Cards: Ace-7 plus Face Cards)
Cups, Coins, Staves and Swords
Italian: Coppe, Denari, Bastoni, Spade
Page, Knight, King
Italian: Re, Cavallo, Fante
Baraja española

(48 Cards Ace-9, 10, 11, 12)
(40 Cards Ace-7, 10, 11, 12)
Divinatory Meanings
Cups, Coins, Staves and Swords
Spanish: Copas, Oros, Bastos, Espadas
10 (Sota), 11 (Caballo), 12 (Rey)48/40
Eastern Germany
Deutsches Blatt

(36 Cards: Ace (Daus) and 6-10 plus Face Cards)
Hearts, Bells, Acorns and Leaves
German: Herz, Schellen, Eichel, Gras/Laub/Blatt/Grün
Under, Over, King
German: Unter (Bauer), Ober (Dame), König
Switzerland (German-speaking)
Schweizer Blatt

(36 Cards: Ace & 6-10 plus Face Cards)
Roses, Bells, Acorns and Shields
German: Rosen, Schellen, Eichel, Schilten
Underm, Over, King
German: Unter, Ober, König
Central & Eastern Europe
Mitteleuropäisches Blatt
Doppeldeutsches Blatt

(32 Cards: Ace (Daus) and 7-10 plus Face Cards)
(36 Cards: Ace (Daus) and 6-10 plus Face Cards)
Hearts, Bells, Acorns and Leaves
German: Herz, Schellen, Eichel, Grün
Croatian: Crvena, Bundeva, Žir, Zelena
Under, Over, King
German: Unter, Ober, König
Croatian: Unter/Dečko, Iber/Kraljica, Kralj

All these decks have been used for fortune telling purposes over the years. The meanings can vary drastically from one area to another. Unlike the often standardised meanings of the popular Tarot decks (usually based on the Rider-Waite deck), regular playing card meanings still come from a long oral tradition.

The following table shows how the meaning of the 7 Hearts may differ between traditions and authors...

Comparison of 7 Hearts

Traditional English (52 cards)False hopes and broken promises, an unreliable person.
Traditional English (32 cards)Contentment. (Reversed: Boredom).
Traditional French (52 cards)Close lady friend.
Traditional Italian (48 cards)Jealousy from a lady.
Traditional Spanish (40 cards)Joy. Happy events. Things work out well despite bad beginnings. Things work out after being at a standstill.
Richard WebsterCard of disagreement, lover's quarrel. Temporary altercation between two people.
SophiaReunites people from the past. Joy, spontaneity and romance.
Regina RussellA pleasant surprise. A repeated occurrence. Peace.
Joan MooreRomantic dreams come true; wisdom and inner peace follows.
Marthy JonesDifference of opinion between sweethearts. Gullibility.
Nerys DeeThe card of emotional fulfillment. Emotional energy.
Francis BevanA successful new idea, a period of 7.
Hazel Whitaker (32 cards)A fickle admirer.
Sasha FentonUnfaithful or unreliable person. News.
King Midas cardsArguments with people close to you. Avoid hasty words.
CelestineKeep plans flexible: you could be let down at the last moment. Romance is well-starred.
Robert CampSpiritual love, letting go of personal attachments.
Chita St. LawrenceJealousy, envy.
Leeann RichardsA deep and often disconcerting level of intimacy and communication.
Patricia TelescoGood relationships. Peace with self.
Ana CortezThe power of love, forgiveness, sickness, surgery.
Gillian KempYour wishes for romantic love are fulfilled on the 7th of a month, in 7 weeks or in July. Positive card. Triumph over adversity.
Mlle Lenormand (36 cards)Issues of health, energy levels
Camille Le NormandThe thoughts. A weapon. A jewel. (Reversed: A package. Desire.)
Waite (32 cards)Marriage, if the Querent is a lady, and the issue will be daughters only; if a man, it is destined that he will make a rich and happy marriage.

For a full list of the meanings for a 56 card deck, click here.

Ultimately, you should not worry that these different systems exist. You simply need to decide which system you will use and stick to it! As long as you are consistent and have banished all doubts, it will produce good results.

For free readings using playing cards, click here.

If you are interested in teaching yourself how to read the cards, I can recommend you taking a look at these excellent books:

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