Friday, 15 April 2011

Cartomancy: Scopa cards and Playing cards.

I've spoke a little on tarot on this blog but I would like to talk about some other forms of cartomancy, tarot has always been my preferred method of divination but i would like to talk about some lesser known forms of cartomancy.

Scopa cards
(Italian 40 card deck playing cards)

Whilst writing this post and looking for pictures of scopa cards I suddenly learned there is more than one type of scopa deck, apparently different regions of Italy have different cards. However here I will be referring to the deck above, as this is the only scopa deck I have ever known, which is the deck used in southern calabria. I think this style of scopa may be called the Neapolitan deck as this style deck probably originated in 15th century Naples.

There are 40 cards in a scopa deck, 4 suits: Spade (swords), Bastoni (clubs), Coppe (cups) and Soldi (coins, though i have read on the Internet they are sometimes refered to as "denari", I have only ever heard of them being refered to simply as "soldi" which translates as "monies").
There are 7 cards in each suit that run from 1-7 plus 3 court cards: Fante (soldier), Cavallo (knight) and Re (king). There are no queens.
In divination the court cards do not have any overtly auspicious meaning, however the aces, the 3 of clubs, the 5 of swords, the 2 and 7 of coins are all considered to have overtly important meanings.

Any standard tarot spread may be used to read scopa, however a very traditional method that I would like to share involves laying the cards out in 4 rows of 4.
The cards are then read using a scrying method of free association, the diviner looks for cards that jump out of the arrangement, interpretting the positions of the cards freestyle, is an important card skirting the edge of the spread? then perhaps it is a situation the querent is trying to ignore or is unaware of. Does a particular card jump out representing the querent themselves? then what are the cards above it? is this a person/situation influencing their choices? what lies in front of them/behind them?

The horseshoe spread is another spread commonly used with scopa. 7 cards are spread out in a horseshoe shape. This can be read in one of 2 ways.

First method: (imagine the cards are numbered 1-7 left to right)

1. The past
2. The present
3. The immediate future, that which can be changed either by circumstance or action.
4. The querents attitude/mindset, also what is theirs to use
5. Other people, helpers and hinderers
6. Warnings
7. The ultimate outcome, fate.

Second method: (a simple, but fun variation on the above)

The centre card represents the querent or the querent's situation, cards to the right represent the future, further from the querent further they are into the future, cards to the left represent the past further from the querent card further in the past it is.

I shall be discussing more complex card spreads in more depth on another post.
Sample scopa card reading:

The querent is a young man in his early 20s wanting a general reading, here is a simple diagnostic 7 card horseshoe spread to highlight the issues currently in his life.

1. The two of swords.
2. 5 of coins.
3. 6 of clubs.
4. The soldier of clubs.
5. the king of swords.
6. 2 of cups.
7. 7 of cups.

from this little spread we can divine that one of the main currents in the querents life is that he has recently come out of a relationship and is distracting himself with work (the two of swords followed by the 5 of coins) however is likely to be tiring of this already and is planning a short break in the near future (6 of clubs laid in the third position).
Given that he has come out of a relationship and the soldier of clubs (a dark skinned young educated man) is in the 4th position (playing on his mind) then is there someone causing him jealousy? perhaps a certain someone who brought about the end of his relationship? The 5th position is the king of swords, he isn't overtly happy in his job, his boss is giving him flak. The 2 of cups in the 6th position suggests he needs to relax and remember he is young and to enjoy the sweet things in life, he has been neglecting the everyday fun pleasures of friendship and youth. The 7 of cups as his fate is a card of good omens, the querent should be reminded every cloud has a silver lining and his current troubles are merely a little blip in the great scheme of things.

2 clubs or 2 swords occurring in a reading can sometimes suggest a physical fight, since 2 swords AND 2 clubs appear in this reading coupled with the suggestion of a jealous rival, the querent should be warned to keep himself out of trouble if he hasn't already been in a scrap.


An interesting method of divination to use with playing cards is fusion divination, cartomancy and bone casting, the cards can be laid out in 3 rows of 3, this will be your base for casting your bones. Each column represents the past, present and future respectively, the top row cards represent fated influences, influences that are beyond the control of the querent and the diviner, the middle row represents the situations as they are, and the bottom row represents things that are under the control of the querent. Chicken bones can be cast upon the cards, paying especial attention to where and how they land, I recommend a rib bone (to represent things that are being held together), a wing bone (for travel), a leg bone (to indicate cards that represent sound foundations to the situation being queried) a skull (to indicate cards whose meaning require meditation).

Anyway, more on casting bones in another post.

Playing cards are also excellent for giving specific dates, a deck of playing cards is not unlike a calendar, there are 52 cards in a deck as weeks in a year, 4 suits like 4 four seasons, Red and Black like day and night.

Important cards:

The ace of spades, perhaps the most famous card of ill omen, also known as the dead mans hand, in a reading this indicates literal or metaphorical death, destruction, failure and ruin.

The king of hearts: Also known as the suicide king, he is an omen of self destruction and a downfall brought on by the querents own hand, he is suicide in all its forms.

The queen of hearts: fickle Lady Luck, she can fling you up to the stars or cast you down in the dirt..... depending on her mood, which is anyones guess of course.

Jokers: these represent the unexpected and unseen, they are the wild cards.


This suit tends to contain cards of good omen, they are usually associated with wealth and business.

These tend to be symbols of ill fortune and warning.

The meanings of the cards in this suit is varied, though they can centre around travel and business.

Its a bit of a no brainer to say what this suit is most associated with!

Sample playing card reading:

Here is a sample from a reading using a very simple 9 card spread (3 rows of 3) as a diagnostic spread to get the session started.
The querent is a woman in her mid thirties, who is in a relationship with trust issues, she wants to know if her new partner is being faithful.

The left column represents the past, here we have the ace of spades in the middle, crowned by the king of spades and the queen of spades in the roots. 3 spades so closely linked indicates a very unhappy past. Because the king of spades crowns the ace of spades it would suggest she has had very bad experiences with a man or men in general. The queen of spades crowned by the ace of spades is a classical omen of miscarriage and abortion, given the queen is in the roots position of the past this is indicative that this trauma is deeply rooted.

The middle column represents the present, in the centre of the column is the 2 of hearts which represents a new partnership, being in the middle of the whole spread this is what should be focused on throughout beyond the initial diagnostic reading as this is the most pressing current issue in the querents life. This is crowned by the 10 of clubs meaning the relationship came about either through travel or her new partner is someone from a foreign country, below the 2 of hearts there is the 9 of spades indicating the querents baggage from her past issues is spoiling her enjoyment of her new relationship.

The last column represents the future, in the middle there is a joker, stating her path is in a limbo state, crowning this is the 9 of hearts, in this context it is somewhat of a warning meaning her path to happiness could be ruined by jealousy and mistrust. Rooted at the base of this reading is the queen of hearts, meaning she should take advice from female friends and enjoy their support .

This is a simple diagnostic spread, but as you can see it sets the tone for the rest of the reading giving the diviner lots of avenues to explore, divine and discuss with the querent opening up dialogue.


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