Can Ordinary Playing Cards Reveal Our Purpose and Destiny?
In 1893, a peaceable druggist living in Grand Rapids, Michigan came out of the metaphysical closet. For decades, Olney H. Richmond had quietly studied esoteric practices from the ancient Chaldean and Egyptian mystery schools. He pursued “ear-whispered” knowledge; unwritten and passed from teacher to student by direct instruction. As the “Grand Mage” of the Ancient Order of the Magi, he authored the order’s premise; “we are students of a scientific religion that accepts nothing as fact until proven.”
After publishing the results of his work in his treatise “The Mystic Test Book,” Richmond became a reluctant object of curiosity. In an interview with the local Grand Rapids Daily Democrat, he described a system based on the laws of “astral magnetism” related to the symbols on ordinary playing cards.
Richmond explained that an individual’s entire life path, or “destiny,” could be revealed by examining the card associated with their birth date, as well as a “life spread” of additional cards. He said that this method, based on mathematical laws and methods from “Egyptian, Chaldaic, and Arabian Magi” was a combination of science and magic. The card system also incorporated astrology, astronomy, and numerology; Richmond believed the system originated in Atlantis and Lemuria.
Called the “Cards of Destiny,” this system was not a method of divination in the tarot card genre; each of the 52 cards had an associated, predetermined life spread indicating periods of prosperity and austerity, growth and stasis, and one’s location on the ferris wheel of fortune.
Chart courtesy of The Cards of Life.
Richmond also referred to the system as “The Book of Seven Thunders,” referencing the then known seven planets of the solar system. The “book” was the 52-card deck. Since then, the system has also been called “The Cards of Destiny,” and “The Book of Life.”
The Cards of Destiny had a quiet following for several decades, but was reintroduced by Florence Campbell and Edith Randall in 1947 with a privately published, spiral-bound text titled “Sacred Symbols of the Ancients.” Based on Richmond’s work, the text became the defining classic for the Cards of Destiny system now popularized by Robert Lee Camp’s publishing company, books, software, and website, 7thunders.com, and Gina Jones’ books and The Cards of Life website; both offer resources for birth card meanings, life scripts, etc.
The two colors of the suits represent masculine, yang (red) and feminine, yin (black). The kings, queens, and jacks, totalling 12, represent the 12 months. Thirteen cards in each suit correspond to the 12 signs of the zodiac plus the “sun behind the sun,” a reference to the creator or source. The 52 cards correspond to 52 weeks in a year.
According to Sacred Symbols of the Ancients, the deck’s “special” numbers are seven and nine. Seven is considered the “center” of each suit, and corresponds to the “original seven planets known to the ancients.” Seven also represents the sacred number of the soul of man.
Nine is the last single digit number, and is considered the universal number representing the complete cycle of human experience.
The Joker, associated with the Dec. 31 birthday, is in a class of its own. Corresponding to the fool card in the tarot, the Joker has all the characteristics of the other cards, and paradoxically none of them. According to Sacred Symbols of the Ancients:
“The initiate/teachers of old deliberately concealed much of their wisdom from the ‘profane’ by words or pictures which conveyed opposite, or distorted meanings to all but the serious students who, by meditation and visual impression, could see behind the veil and discover the truth.
“The fool of the tarot is the pictorial statement of the One Force, the NO THING (0) yet everything to all men — eternal energy, boundless, measureless and infinite. It is all seasons, all forms, and all activities.”
The Four Suits
Like tarot, the standard card deck is made up of four suits representing the four elements; earth, air, fire, and water. The suit and ranking of each card is indicated by “pips,” or symbols printed on a card. These are cursory definitions; much more detail is available online, or in texts listed in the resource section below.
Associated with the Fire element, the Hearts relate to love, emotions, children and childhood, and springtime. Hearts are ruled by Venus and Neptune.
The Clubs represent the Air element, and correspond to the intellect, education, curiosity, intuition, and the written word, i.e. literature. The related season is summer. Clubs are ruled by Mercury and Mars.
Corresponding to Water, Diamonds have to do with values, livelihood, security, responsibility, and entertainment. The Diamond season is autumn. Diamonds are ruled by Jupiter.
Related to winter, Spades rule old age, wisdom, health, and transformation. Their element is earth. Spades are ruled by Saturn and Uranus.
Below are numerical meanings in the broadest terms. For more information, see the resources section at the end of this article. All are taken from Randall and Campbell’s “Sacred Symbols of the Ancients.”
One, or Ace: Individualization, leadership, progress; can also indicate selfishness, dictatorship, and disregard for the needs of other.
Two: Cooperation, diplomacy; also indifference or dishonesty.
Three: Happiness, optimism and sociability; also jealousy, worry, or intolerance.
Four: Organization, self-discipline and service; also carelessness, restriction, or destruction.
Five: Adaptability, versatility, and change; also aloofness, superficiality, and restlessness.
Six: Responsibility, love, and harmony; also meddling, criticism, and anxiety.
Seven: Spirituality, mental agility, peace, and silence; also melancholy, cynicism, and coldness.
Eight: Power, material freedom, and philanthropy; also materialism, manipulation, and bullying.
Nine: Humanitarianism and universal love; also selfishness, emotionality, and wastefulness.
Ten: Universal ideals and progress and the divine spark within all; also exploitation, ambition, and self-promotion.
Jacks, queens and kings, also known as the court cards, also have general meanings.
Jacks: Inspiration and ideas; also laziness and immaturity.
Queens: Power and receptivity; also selfishness or martyrdom.
Kings: Principles and values; also fixation.
The system is far more complex than the scope of this article; below are resources for those who wish to learn more about the Cards of Life.
Face Value: Understanding the Evolution of Numbers in Playing Cards by Gina E. Jones
The Power of Playing Cards by Saffi Crawford and Geraldine Sullivan
Destiny Card Calculator click here.
Life Card Interpretations here.
Tarot's Inner Workings: Intuition, Empathy and Spiritual Growth
Every living being is a spiritual being, and we all have magical abilities and gifts. We can step into the other realms with a simple prayer, and we can invoke light, love, and magic at every turn. We are as powerful and aware as we desire.
The idea behind Tarot and other divination tools is to provide clear reflections of our life, relationships, and patterns in the symbology and images on each card. Upon our glance, if we allow ourselves to see correctly, a card’s image and symbols will open subtle doors in our minds and hearts, ones that lead to the answers to our most pressing questions.
“Magical practice offers everyone the opportunity to reinvent themselves from the inside out. Why? Because you are a sorceress who has already created the world you inhabit, whether you realize it or not. Magical practice and tarot give you the tools and opportunities to cultivate, explore, and expand that world, and its boundaries are infinite. Just like you.”
― Sasha Graham