In The Cards: A Brief History Of Divination And Cartomancy
Start writing a post

In The Cards: A Brief History Of Divination And Cartomancy

What's in the cards for you?

In The Cards: A Brief History Of Divination And Cartomancy
Psychic Joker

For my recent birthday, I unwrapped several oracle decks as gifts from my mother who knows my interest in divination very well. However, the majority of my friends and relatives are not as big of divination geeks as I am, and when I have my decks out in front of them, the most common question I get asked is, “What do you do with those?” The best way to respond to that question would be to give them a reading and demonstrate, but in most cases, I simply explain their use for giving advice and guidance through interpreting the cards, but that doesn’t really capture the total awesomeness which these divination decks have to offer.

Divination is a wildly misunderstood past time, with many thinking that divining is everything from fake to foolish and, in some case, sinful. As my great aunt so plainly—and somewhat sarcastically—put it, “I wouldn’t go showing those to the preacher.” Divination is defined as “the practice of attempting to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by the occult or supernatural means,” and the practice of divining has been around hundreds of thousands of years, and can be seen in many different ancient cultures.

Many different varieties of divination have been practiced by different cultures throughout history. For example, ancient Egyptians practiced meditation, oil scrying, and dream interpretation in order to better understand the present and to discover answers to particular questions. Greeks were fond of examining the liver and entrails of sacrificed animals for messages and answers, while Romans preferred to look to the skies and observe birds to predict the future. Other cultures that were in tune with nature, like indigenous peoples, Mayans, and Aztecs, used astral bodies and weather occurrences as forms of divination.

Classical divination—or in other words divination that is structured or has guidelines—is usually traced back to the I-Ching, a Chinese text and form of divination printed in around 1,000 B.C. that outlined eight trigrams (sets of three lines) that could be used to interpret the future. While the I-Ching itself wasn’t transcribed until around 1,000 B.C., evidence of the use of I-Ching date back to a tortoise shell from 7,000 to 5,700 B.C. that showed signs of its use. Since then, a variety of divination systems have emerged including palmistry (interpreting palm lines), numerology ( interpreting numbers and dates), tasseography (reading tea leaves), cartomancy (fortune telling using cards), and much more.

The main branch of divination that catches my interest, and the one that tarot and oracle decks are related to, is cartomancy, or the use of a deck of cards, even simple playing cards, to “foresee or foretell future events.” In its most basic sense, cartomancy relies on a set of developed guidelines that allow the diviner to understand the associations of each particular card. For this reason, all oracle decks come with some sort of guide and most tarot decks come with a small guidebook that gives you the basic meanings that have been around since tarot first came into existence in the 18th century, as well as some of the artists interpretations.

While tarot has a well-established history and is very structured—with each deck containing 78 cards made up of 22 major arcana cards and 56 minor arcana cards divided into four suits—oracle cards allow for far more diversity and creativity on the creator's part because you will seldom find two oracle decks that are alike. Despite their differences, tarot decks having universal themes while oracle decks each have a unique number and set of cards, both types of decks are used for the same thing—divination, obviously.

It would be simple to assume that cartomancy is solely based on card meaning and associations, or that it’s possible for any card to seem applicable to your life at any given time, but almost anyone who has had a tarot or card reading from a seasoned diviner will tell you that there’s something more to it.

Madhavi Ghare, a professional tarot reader of over 10 years, writes about what makes tarot more than just a game of card interpretation on her blog, Tarot-ically Speaking. “It is a well-known matter of fact that the cards popping up and telling us what is going on is just plain and simple ‘Synchronicity,’” Ghare writes. “Synchronicity can be defined as ‘the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection,’” she explains. In other words, there are no coincidences. Ghare also explains that cards tap into and express the unconscious minds of the people who are being read, they pick up on the energies of the reader and client, and guide both during a reading.

As with most things, there is a rhyme and reason as to why cartomancy and other forms of divination work; they have a structure, they have evolved over hundreds of years of practice, and they have the ability to connect with people. On the instances when I’ve done readings for my friends and family members, I have seen apprehension turn to awe as I am able to tell them specific details about events approaching in their life or decisions they are considering that I, personally, did not know. The most common question I get asked at that point is, “How did you know that?” To which I reply that it’s not me, it’s the cards.

What's in the cards for you?

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

23 Pandemic-Approved Date Ideas That'll Send Sparks Flying From Six Feet Apart

There's a safe way to date right now and yes, it includes masks.


While some people would rather opt out of dating altogether during the pandemic so they don't have to wear a mask on a first date, others are choosing to listen to both guidelines and their heart in order to find love during the time of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Should you be one of the individuals welcoming romance right now, there are pandemic-approved dates you can go on that still adhere to guidelines (and yes, you'll have to wear a mask).

Keep Reading... Show less

I didn't believe the notification when it came through to my phone: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died from complications due to cancer.

Keep Reading... Show less

In our patriarchal society, men hide from their feelings, but toxic masculinity is literally killing men. They swallow the pain and move on so that they can look, feel, and act "tough."

But, strength is derived from asking for help and voicing your struggle and, trust me, working on your mental health is one hell of a struggle. The real way to "man up" is to acknowledge the downfalls in unjust societal norms. Mental health problems do not mean that a man is weak, they are neurologically-based disorders that require professional treatment.

Keep Reading... Show less

11 Things Your Boyfriend Should Do Before He Drops $499 On A PS5

Let's start with spending less time gaming and more time with you.


Scrolling through Twitter this week had me rolling on the floor laughing as I read some of the hilarious tweets from ladies who, whether in a relationship or not, shared reactions to the news that PlayStation 5 is on its way

As this "buy your boyfriend a PS5" joke takes off across the internet, let's just say, there are a few things your BF should be doing before dropping $499 on the new gaming system — or, if the tweets are real for some, before you buy it for him as a gift.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Sorry, But 'I Don’t Care About Politics' Is Not A Valid Excuse For NOT Voting

The younger generation of voters is so crucial to the upcoming election because our vote is going to shape the world that we are about to enter as adults.


When I ask my friends if they are voting this term most of them respond with "no" followed by an explanation of "I don't care enough," "It doesn't affect me," or "I don't keep up with politics," etc. I get it, as a college student I know that there are many other things to be concerned about like school, relationships, work, and friends. I also understand that keeping up with politics can seem like trying to keep up with an over-exaggerated reality show that has way too many seasons. Not to mention most news stations and websites are biased so it's hard to decipher if what you hear is true or fake.

However, despite all of this annoyance, as the next generation of Americans, we have to remember that we owe it to ourselves, our families, and to our futures to care.

Keep Reading... Show less
Tasia Sli

Tasia Sli and Anna Yang met in quintessential New York fashion at a chic rooftop event, inquisitive Yale grad Anna gravitating towards model/entrepreneur Tasia.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Anna Hernández-Buces

"Do you have big parties on Cinco de Mayo?"

Keep Reading... Show less

Two of my favorite things in life are reading and books. Obviously, they go hand-in-hand. In my life, I've realized that there is nothing better than learning about the current world or getting fully immersed in another world. Reading can inspire, teach, and entertain you.

For me, the feeling of opening a book and smelling that fresh book smell can't compete with anything else.

Keep Reading... Show less

Expecting mother and wife to singer/songwriter John Legend may have accidentally slipped up and revealed the gender of her and Legend's third baby today on her Instagram story.

Keep Reading... Show less

20 Books About Latin And Hispanic Heritage Absolutely Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf

Any ally of the community needs to be reading these incredible reads.


I go through phases when it comes to what I like to read. I am typically reading two books at any given time: one serious nonfiction and one escapist fiction novel to have on hand and open up depending on my mood.

What remains consistent, however, amongst most of my fellow bibliophiles is a desire to try new and different authors and genres. I, as an Indian woman, have been partial to reading books written by fellow Indian and Desi writers since I first got a library card.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked 46 Women What They Thought About The Term 'Plus-Size', And Here's What They Had To Say

It's 2020, where change is inevitable and norms are not only questioned, but challenged.


We live in a world where it's become customary to push boundaries, break rules, and question standards upheld by society. Though try as we might, some of these standards are harder to conquer than others — body image is one of the top contenders.

For years, the body positivity movement has pushed for the acceptance of all marginalized body types not represented or celebrated in the media. Recently, we've gotten better at appreciating and accepting all body types, but one thing that's still lingering is the stigma of body image in the fashion industry — more specifically, the term "plus-size."

Keep Reading... Show less

Many popular TV shows are holding off premiers until spring, so most people are relying on their television subscriptions to get them through a socially distant fall semester.

Thankfully, Netflix was busy filming this past year because there is a ton of new original content coming in the near future. From mysteries to romances, here are some of the best new shows you have to check out this year:

Keep Reading... Show less

Taylor Swift Sang 'betty' At The ACMs And It Was The Perfect First Live 'folklore' Performance

I guarantee that Inez is spreading rumors about how fire this performance was.


The Academy of Country Music Awards were last night and the performances were wonderful, but Taylor Swift's live version of "betty" from her newest album "folklore" really took the cake for me.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

9 Reasons I Unfollowed All The Fitness Influencers On My Instagram Feed

I don't need to feel bad about myself because of who I follow on social media.


Throughout quarantine, something that a lot of us picked up on was working out. With all the free time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on that "dream bod" you've been wanting for years, or to just feel good about yourself.

A common way to stay motivated and keep yourself on-task is to follow fitness influencers on various platforms. For some people, yes, this can be a healthy and helpful way to keep your drive. In other cases, however, this can do more harm than good.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments