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Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

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Sunday 15 June 2014

In the Future, You Will Be Raped by Brigands! or How Not To Interpret For Your Client

‘In the future, you will be raped by brigands!’  is probably the worst line ever to fall from the lips of a cartomancer into his client’s ears.

These deathless words make us wonder what was the reaction of the lady for whom Etteilla was reading? He uttered them  as part of his interpretation of the Petit Etteilla cards in the Dovetail Spread in his book of 1773.* 

Dispute des Brigands after Alexandre Marie Colin, 1829
 Etteilla reports this spread at breakneck speed, summarizing his findings from the cards like this: ‘In brief, it says in the future you will be raped by brigands. You will decide to change your behaviour, but this won’t succeed. Among those who have made this attack on you will be a light brown man. Advantage for your husband.’ Even if you or I saw such a thing in a spread, today we would not speak this aloud so baldly!   

When you read for others,  you also  have to express what you understand in words to a client and that means you need to become fluent in interpreting cards aloud as well as for your own benefit on paper or in your mind.  As you read for others, each client’s own needs and concerns bring you to engage with areas of interpretation you had not previously considered. 

Not only do you have to read the cards in context with the question, but you also have to express what you understand in suitable language. If you read for an engineer you will use very different metaphors than when you read for a young English student or an elderly artist.  It’s helpful to keep your metaphors and comparisons general and understandable, without jargon.

The way we read is not only about presenting what the cards say,  it is about the tone and tenor of your interpretation too.  You will communicate the import of the cards more sensitively with a man still reeling from being dumped by his girlfriend than you might with a tough businesswoman who wants you to tell her the absolute truth about her trading prospects this month.   It isn’t that you will hold back on the truth, just that you will handle and express your findings in well chosen language without brutalizing, spooking, bewildering or upsetting your client.
What you do not say aloud is also responsible cartomancy. Sometimes you see things in a spread that should not be disclosed unless the client first speaks about it. Only the other day I was reading Lenormand for a female client who was worried about her husband’s long absences: when  I discovered Man on the house of Woman and Bear on the house of Lilies in the same Grand Tableau,  my immediate impression was that her husband could be a secret cross-dresser but, since this was information that might cause offence and had not been flagged up by her as a possibility, I kept my own council. These combinations could equally indicate that she and her husband simply cross-polarise the usual male and female roles between them.
You may get a sense that there is an undisclosed matter hanging over a reading that might be revealed, but creep up on it, introducing a topic only if it is appropriate for the client.  Crashing in with, ‘I see that you were raped,’ or ‘your clandestine affair is revealed here,’ is not what someone comes to be told; however, if they come in order for you to read about the rape or about their affair, then that’s another matter.  

Very few of us would get away with a pronouncement like, ‘in the future, you will be raped by brigands!’ But sometimes you may indeed read something troubling that is coming up or has already happened to the client.  Predicting future difficulties for a client may make him fearful or superstitious, while lingering on past problems may retraumatise him. So what do you do?

Here is a line of Petit Etteilla that would suggest such a possibility:
My own Petit Etteilla cards with the Joker as the Etteilla or Significator card :   K  + A +r8 + 8 + Etteilla  
 It literally reads, right to left, ‘In solitude while abroad enjoying yourself, a striking man…,’ as a line and then the two meeting cards at either end (King Hearts and 8 Spades) complete the sentence with ‘ …is abusive.’  The sense is clear: the woman is abroad and lets down her guard while enjoying herself.  Etteilla (the Significator card) pairs with the 8 Spades to give us ‘Solitude,’  and 8 Clubs gives us ‘distant or abroad.’ The Venus card of Ace Spades is one of sexuality, so while it might be about her general enjoyment, it could equally be about a sexual assault.  King Hearts has some physical characteristic and could well be a blond or fair-haired man as well.
In terms of reading about the past, my rule of thumb is, has the client already mentioned a traumatic issue like being sexually assaulted abroad?  If she hasn’t, I don’t go into detail but merely say, ‘there was some kind of attack while you were abroad.’  If the client confirms this, that’s enough. If she wants to say more, she can. Otherwise, we pass on without more comment.

But in terms of a predicted future event, like an assault while on holiday, that is shrieking on all frequencies to you, the responsibility is to warn or caution. Let’s say the client is a woman of the world, with good confidence,  I might say, ‘When you go abroad, I’m sure you’re going to have a pleasurable time, but you need to watch out for a particular guy, especially when you’re alone. He might be someone who looks like he would be a good lay, but he’s got an abusive streak in him. Just be careful.’

Had the client been someone who couldn’t receive that news without going into a melt-down, or a much younger woman whose confidence isn’t so great, then my approach would be different. I might say, ‘When you go abroad, it would be best to go round the sights and the shops with another woman. Avoid being alone, especially in remote places or down-town.’  This would invariably bring up a question from the client, in response, ‘What do you see?’ To which I would reply, ‘the cards are saying you should be careful not to be alone in case of some opportunistic man taking advantage of you while you’re out enjoying yourself.’  So she asks, ‘What kind of man?’ I reply, ‘He’s got some facial or other characteristic that makes him distinctive – could be a scar or a tattoo or a broken nose, something like that nature.  He’s the kind of guy who’s out for a good time, but at your expense.’ She is warned, but less explicitly.

When it comes to broaching the full extent of a reading, we cartomancers have to avoid becoming the brigands ourselves. Cartomancy is not about shock and awe, or scoring points, it is service of guidance along a path that the client is currently walking, sometimes rather shakily.  The job is not to knock them off the path or to lose them, or make them fearful of their journey, but to orient them until they come to the next clear signpost or into familiar regions again.


Il Sentiero dei Briganti or the Brigand’s Path is a mountainous route stretching from La Monaldesca to Vulci in North West Italy

Ask these questions of yourself while you read:

- What kind of client are you reading for? What is their state or condition?
- How are you conveying the information of the cards?
- Is your tone of voice appropriate to your client?
-Are you using language that they understand?
- Can they hear and receive the difficult messages that you read from their current standpoint?
- What are the most important points to summarise from the reading for the client to implement?
- What in the reading enables the client to go home with some hope and confidence?

Kindness and consideration for your client is the respect by which you honour them.  Speaking intelligently and in context to their condition enables their understanding of what you find, however hard the message.   

*Etteilla’s La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes of 1773, has finally been translated into English as part of the One and Only Etteilla Course which will be available in September from http://www.cartomancy.net/en/courses/petit-etteilla

The One and Only Petit Etteilla Course
by Caitlín Matthews

Features of this course include:

  • The first complete English translation of the revised 1773 edition of La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes by Etteilla, fully annotated
  • Side by side original Etteilla and modern applications of the meanings
  • Learn to read using Etteilla’s meanings and spreads
  • Practise your skills using case histories 
  • Learn cartomantic combinations
  • Gain confidence in reading for clients
  • Create your own Petit Etteilla Deck
  • Illustrations of Etteilla’s Original Spreads, including The Wheel of Fortune, the Spread of Twelve, Spread of Fifteen, Etteilla’s Spread, The Dovetail Spread, Spread of Thirty-Three, Horoscope Spread.
  • New, shorter spreads for everyday divination


  1. What a precious post kind Caitlín!... How important indeed is to focus on Divination Ethics!...Ethics not only help us to maintain the practice over the years, but also let us solve the many challenges of reading for oneself and for others.

    If you wish to be an Oracle Card Reader you sould not only focus on different divinatory methods but also develop your inner intuitions, empathy abilities, and learnings, in order to be as wise enough to receive the energies and vibes from plants, animals, places, and querents. You should develop the way to perceive that you are receiving information from “somewhere else”.... I appreciate your kennings quite a lot...Keep up the sacred flame as always....Eternal bliss!.

  2. Is there a way I can get a scan of the translation of La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes by Etteilla, fully annotated, as well as a scan of your Etteilla deck?