Written by Asterion
Translated by Camelia Elias
According to popular knowledge, cartomancy is divination with cards, or fortunetelling, and a lot more complex than assumed. The majority of people attribute the practice of cartomancy to charlatan fortunetellers, and although cartomancy has also been used to cheat others, there is more to it than the prejudice surrounding it.
Cartomancy as an esoteric discipline and mantic science has nothing to do with the way people use it, and not everyone using it must be put in the same basket with fortunetelling conmen. Just as we cannot accuse chemistry of also preparing poisons, or the press for always delivering lies and gossip, we cannot judge cartomancy by criminal standards or by the methods employed by some to manipulate others for personal gain. We must study the problem more attentively, and look at the history of cartomancy and the function of divination and fortunetelling.
As we’ve already seen in the first essay of this series about runes, divination rests on simple mechanics. We can say that our superior Self offers our inferior Self access to information that’s manifest in images and symbols. In order to better understand the premise for divination and the process involved in the art of divination, we can say that divination operates with how we acquire different types of knowledge of the three kind: rational, irrational, and divine.
Each kind of knowledge taps into specific information, and the one using this information subscribes to a specific typology. The rational way is used by many in their mundane life and is the way that opens the gate to science. The rational way is based on direct experience, logical deduction, and proof. This is the way that forms the predominant knowledge and is seen by most as the only way leading to truth, whatever truth is. The one using this type of knowledge is the Rational type.
The divine way is the most elevated among the three types of knowledge and is present in people with who have a marked spiritual inclination. However, not all who are evolved spiritually have access to the divine type of knowledge, and not all who have access to this knowledge are also necessarily evolved. The ones endowed with the gift of prophesy and clairvoyance, or what we call, foresight, are the ones who can access the divine in a direct way. Yet not all the saints we know of had clear sight/clairvoyance, and not all who had clear sight have been canonized. Not all the saints were prophets, and not all the prophets made it to sainthood. The few who have benefited from direct knowledge of the divine are called mystics. In most cases, mystics don’t seek divine knowledge. Divine knowledge reveals itself to them. Most who have had the gift of divination have also felt this as a burden, leading to suffering. Joan of Arc is an example among many. The ones who have direct access to divine knowledge are often people who have an important mission. What they personally think of their gift and their will power to use it is of no importance compared to this mission.
The irrational way is the way of the Oracle represented by the one who has access to divine or universal information, though not all the time, and not always in conscious ways. What facilitates this knowledge is the inferior Self, often through code. In order to better understand this we can use the analogy of a man on a submarine. He is deeply immersed underwater in a heavy vehicle, isolated from the world on the surface, and separated too from the pure world of absolute and real knowledge. This person can receive messages from his superiors on the surface via the Morse code. Likewise, he can also receive messages from his superior Self, his Higher Guardian Angel or some other code. Usually this code is vast, yet reduced to symbolic language. For instance, in the case of Runes, Fehu represents cattle, signifying possession and wealth. For the Nordic medieval man, associating cattle with wealth was normal: the more cattle, the larger the wealth. Thus Fehu is a sign of prosperity. The same with oniromancy, the art of dream interpretation. The symbols people are competent to recognize in dream can be seen as tools for divination, or as tools through which the inferior Self can communicate just the information we need.
In cartomancy, we have a similar situation. We can assume that the ones who designed the Tarot cards as tools for divination, imposing a symbolic system on the cards, and implicitly the playing cards, didn’t do it at random. The magical symbols, for instance via the kabbalah and numerology, had a strong hold on the inventors of the system. It is this force that has been transmitted through generations, together with various significations attributed to the cards. How this was done will be investigated in following essays.