The Fortune Teller's Deck

Jane Lyle and Neil Breeden

[Front of Box]

St. Martin's Press

[Joker][Back of Cards]The Fortune Teller's Deck is Jane Lyle's conception and creation, a variation on the theme of telling forunes with a poker deck. The system is, like many others, comprised of a set of themes and definitions for the cards themselves, followed by a series of spreads a reader can use to actually take readings. Lyle describes the card symbolism she uses as based on the traditional meanings of cards as shown in her researches into the field, updated to make sense to a modern reader. And indeed, there are some familiar cards in her deck: the ace of diamonds, for instance, is still the familiar "Letters and Documents." And of course, there are cards which are completely different from all the other systems I've seen, but that's par for the course in this field.

The book itself is a nice collection of a number of different card-reading techniques, offering essentially a distillation of a variety of more or less standard approaches. There's nothing completely new or earth-shaking, which is how it should be. The text is quite readable and reasonably engaging, and will give the beginner or dabbler a good starting point for excursions into the art. The book also offers a short introduction to the history of cards and cartomancy. The early history of cards is foggy at best, and conflicting evidence contributes to the controversy. Lyle tries to be circumspect, and mentions a number of competing theories. She also offers an entertaining history of cards, games and nobility in the past few centuiries, and even mentions Mme. Le Normand, the person purportedly responsible for the Gypsy Witch deck.

From the introductory paragraphs of the two main sections:

The Cards and Their Meaning
Each card in The Fortune Teller's Deck has a distinct divinatory meaning. These meanings are based on the traditional interpretations used by cartomancers for centuries. Where necessary, I have updated or expanded upon them so that they make sense to a modern reader. Obviously, an eighteenth-century gypsy's view of the world would have been somewhat different to our own. However, mankind's heartfelt dreams and darker fears have changed very little through the centuries - questions concerning health, wealth, love and happiness continue to be timeless concerns.
Reading the Cards
Fortune telling with playing-cards can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. In Part Two, you will find diagrams and step-by-step instructions which will enable you to lay out the cards in the traditional manner. As you become familiar with the deck and its meanings you will probably discover favourite spreads which you will want to use time and time again. Until then, do try them all.
Lyle's book and system are interesting, but there aren't any real surprises in it. Neil Breeden's cards, on the other hand, are stunning, moving, and unique. I supose my prejudices may be showing, though, since I am, after all, a collector of playing cards, not a cartomancer - it is the cards than enchant me rather than the spells. But I don't believe I have ever seen playing cards produced in this way before, and perhaps that is part of my strong reaction to them. But I find them finely crafted, subtle works which draw together very different senses and feelings to make a real work of art.

Breeden is an artist, living in Sussex, England, who prefers to paint on wood. He feels that it enhances the "period" feel of his work. The cards in this deck are each individual works of art, painted on wood and photographed for the final production. This approach allowed Breeden to do something truly unexpected - for the aces and the face cards, he added a third dimension to the works, including frames and elevating the pips. This simple addition creates light, shadow and life in the cards, where they might otherwise be the flat and static images of other decks. The wood he uses as his base is lined and pitted with grain as well, giving subtle texture and shadow to each of the works. I've included five cards here, and I wish I coukld show all of them. Each one is an individual thing of beauty, and the combined effect of all of them is striking. If any of the original works should ever come up for auction in the States, woe to anyone who comes between me and them.

All images © Neil Breeden 1995, displayed here for commentary, analysis and appreciation only.

Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades

Seven of Hearts

Seven of Hearts

Jack of Diamonds

Jack of Diamonds

Queen of Clubs

Queen of Clubs

As stated before, each of the cards has a detailed interpretation, even the joker shown at the top of the page. Included below is the description of each individual card. There is also meaning in the suits themselves, and the numbers across the suits. But I'm not going to just copy down the book. The deck is currently available for sale, and, in my humble estimation, is well worth the price.


The Joker, Fool or Jester is a mysterious figure. He is found in the Tarot, where his number is zero, and symbolizes all the ending and beginnings that make up the intricate journey of life. He is truly a 'wild card', and it is up to you whether you use him in your readings. if you do use him, only one joker is necessary. Place it in the deck before shuffling and keep the other to the side. The Joker is essentially an unknown quantity. The Fool enjoyed a special place in medieval courts, his humorous persona frequently masking a worldly-wise individual. The saying 'Many a true word is spoken in jest' encapsulates his essence perfectly.

Interpretation: When it appears in a spread, this enigmatic card heralds unexpected events and sudden inspirations. He brings eccentricity and freedom to a reading, and may foretell breathtaking coincidences which have the power to upturn an ordinary life. He is neither fortunate nor unfortunate, for his nature refuses to be defined. He represents, above all, the transformational spirit of anarchy and the impersonal forces of destiny. We are foolish to believe we can totally control our own or other people's lives, he says.

Ace of Spades:

Essence: Karma. Manifestation: Imposing buildings, the authorities, institutions.

Interpretation: The Ace of Spades is known for being baleful and sinister, and there is certainly some basis for this reputation. It's essential meaning links it with the ancient concept of karma and destiny, however. Certain things must come into being, or pass away, for they are part of the larger pattern decreed by fate. In the ancient Greek worlds the three Fates (atropos, Clotho and Lachesis) answered to no one, but sat spinning the thread of destiny over which even the gods had no influence.

Similarly, the Ace of Spaces cannot lightly be dismissed. In its most positive manifestation it promises worldly power and influence, but at a price. Generally, it augurs a challenging phase ahead, in which obstacles must be overcome by the power of positive thinking, faith in oneself and, if necessary, a stoic acceptance of present difficulties and reversals of fortune. This is not a good time to initiate any kind of legal battle, nor to expect a favorable outcome to any kind of dispute.

Reversed: Fundamentally, the Ace of Spades reversed warns of negative thinking, depression, and lethargy in the face of apparently insurmountable obstacles. A serious reassessment of life is required if the damage is to be limited and curtailed. Unexpected difficulties and hidden enemies may surface at this time. Caution is advised in all things; this is a time of decay. However, do not worry - decay is eventually followed by renewal and regeneration.

Seven of Hearts:

Essence: Potential. Manfestation: Romantic and artistic confusion.

Interpretation: The Seven of Hearts augurs tremendous potential for personal happiness, romantic opportunity and creative inspiration. A joyful phase filled with movement and energy is at hand. Do not expect to resolve anything during this period: you are being offered a series of possibilities, a selection of pleasures. Any attempt to confine this exuberant energy will fail, as this is not the right time to make rigid decisions. Note down any unusual ideas, meet as many people as you can and enjoy yourself. You can focus clearly and make final choices later. For now, cosmic confusion is the order of the day.

Reversed: This card warns of a fickle friend of lover. Just for the moment, do not be too trusting or invest time and energy in someone special. Your hopes of happiness are likely to be dashed, your trust betrayed and your judgment called into question. These strictures apply mainly to new contacts but can refer to old friends who unwittingly betray you or act against your interests. Bide your time in business matters and do not sign binding agreements, as they are likely to have hidden flaws or drawbacks. Tempting get-rich-quick schemes or projects involving financial risk should be avoided now as they are doomed to failure.

Jack of Diamonds:

Essence: Communication and news. Manifestation: A fair person's thoughts; a near relation.

Interpretation: This Jack brings movement and energy with him, usually in the form of letters, visits or telephone calls. There may be unexpected visits or spontaneous social events connected with him. As a person, he symbolizes an outgoing young person or child. This character is lively, with a bright mind and optimistic outlook. Often, the Jack of Diamonds will appear in a spread with the King or Queen of his suit; in this case, he represents their thoughts, which should be described by the accompanying cards. Sometimes, he symbolizes a child belonging to the man or woman who appears in the spread, or whose significator is the King or Queen. When this is the correct interpretation, he will appear beside the relevant court card.

Reversed: Discontent and dissatisfaction convey the essence of the Jack of Diamonds reversed. This card may describe an individual whose plans are failing to come to fruition, or perhaps someone who is trapped in the wrong job or on the wrong subject course at school or college. When symbolizing a young man, the Jack of Diamonds is reversed position reveals someone who still has not managed to find his true path in life.

Queen of Clubs:

Essence: A sensual woman. Traditional Colouring: Medium to dark hair; green or brown eyes.

Character: The Queen of Clubs is a down-to-earth, security-conscious and pragmatic. She works hard to create an inviting home and is often successful in her working life. Money is important to her and she is rarely without a savings account or investments of some kind. She takes a practical approach to problems but dislikes open confrontation. In relationships she seeks stability with a successful partner. Comfort and, often, luxury are important to her, so she looks for someone with whom she can share a high standard of living. Her warmth and sensual nature are very appealing and she enjoys indulging herself with her friends and loved ones.

Reversed: The Queen of Clubs reversed traditionally denotes a troubled friend or relation. Her worries are usually connected with money, property or practical matters, but can also stem from difficulties in a long-term relationship. This interpretation is generally clarified by the cards found either side of the Queen, which will offer more detail and focus on the exact cause of her distress.

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