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Playing Cards – Diamonds 1

January 7, 2012

The Diamonds suit is thought to cover the areas of career, communications, travel, and politics. As such it is the counterpart of the Tarot suit of Rods or Wands. Politics seems out of place but it may have gotten on to the list as an aspect of career. Back in the days when the list was first compiled, career may have carried the secondary meaning of fame. At that time, people who were famous, known to all, were not the celebrities of today. They were either politicians or business magnates such as Henry Ford or Randolph Hurst, or Lords Nuffield and Beaverbrook in the UK. Those in the latter category may not have been professional politicians but they often were involved in politics in some way shape or form (with Nuffield and Beaverbrook being members of the House of Lords). As a consequence, I surmise, politics became an area associated with the suit of Diamonds.

At a later stage, perhaps through comparison with the Tarot’s Pence or Pentacle suit, Diamonds became symbolic of money and finance. Thus we find Madeline Montalban, in the 1950s, explaining that, where the majority of cards in a spread are Diamonds, the querent’s question is most likely concerns financial matters. But this does not seem to have been the original significance of the suit.

Ace of Diamonds – A letter – but from whom and what about must be judged by the neighboring cards.
ACE. A letter contains practical news of your current affairs, or news of a new love, is on its way. You will be well paid for past work.
Ace: A ring or present of jewelry. News about money. A letter.
Ace: an important message. A letter or package/gift arriving, the contents of which are very important.
Ace of Diamonds: Change; a message, often about money, and usually good news.
Ace: money, a ring, important message, or a valuable gift.
Madeline Montalban – Ace: An important document, letter or phone call. Reversed – the same, delayed a while.
Hilda Marie – Ace: denotes a letter.
Gypsy – Ace: Letter, gift, money, proposal of marriage.
Minor Arcana – Ace: An important message, or perhaps a valuable gift.
Etteilla – Ace: Perfect joy. [Birth]

Neither Etteilla’s meaning for the Ace of Diamonds (Perfect Joy) nor that he gives to the Ace of Clubs (Birth, Beginning) have affected the other meanings for the card set out above. However, in Etteilla’s instructions for divination with a piquet deck (which is like an ordinary playing card deck but with only 36 cards, those pip cards below seven being absent), he gives the Ace of Diamonds the meaning ‘a letter’. He published his book on piquet divination in 1770 and only branched out later, in the 1780s, into the more rarified territory of the Tarot. It is the 1770 meaning for the Ace that has stuck, all other commentators cited above giving ‘a letter’ or ‘message’ as the card’s significance. If not a message, it represents a gift or a package. At times the gift takes the form of a ring, which ties up with one of the Gypsy interpretations: ‘a proposal of marriage’. The gift is occasionally described as valuable, and money comes up several times also. The news may be about money or possibly the gift may be pecuniary, though no commentator expressly states that to be the case. One source mentions ‘change’; this may be an adjunct to the ‘news’ which is generally prefigured as ‘good news’, so that good news in areas of business or love are possibly seen as leading to pleasant or happy changes in a person’s life.

‘You will be well paid for past work’ comes from a list that frequently tags saws, homilies or upbeat remarks onto traditional meanings. On the whole, I think these additions can be ignored.

As a ‘red’ suit, Diamonds represent people of fair coloring. Most often Hearts court cards are taken to denote those with very fair hair, Diamonds courts those who are dark blond. Occasionally, those signified by the Diamonds suit are said to be fairer than those denoted by Hearts cards. Individual cartomancers clearly have their own preferences, but the logic of symbolism suggests Hearts as the fairer suit.

There are two ways of dividing the suits. The first is on the basis of color – whether a suit is ‘red’ or ‘black’; the former representing fair people, the latter dark people. The second ranks the suits, placing Hearts above Diamonds and Clubs ahead of Spades. Hearts and Clubs are then taken to indicate friends or people willing to offer aid to the querent; Diamonds and Spades stand for those who are less willing to help or who, in the case of Spades, may even be antagonistic towards the querent. Hearts are good friends, or possibly relatives, who will stand by the querent no matter what. Clubs are in a position to help the querent, but a request for aid is usually necessary before assistance is forthcoming. People denoted by Diamonds cards are harsher; they may be approached but one cannot predict what their reaction will be. In the upcoming entries, we will find that querent’s are advised to wait for the right moment before asking for assistance from the King of Diamonds. Spades people are generally represented as tricky to deal with. Gypsy meanings paint the King as untrustworthy and the Queen as either treacherous or malicious. Combining these two ways of viewing the suits, Hearts comes out top of the list – which should make it the fairest of the suits. (I almost wrote, ‘fairest of them all’!)

As I have said before, in a multi-cultural society it makes more sense to discard those aspects of a delineation that are based on coloring and concentrate instead on the psychological types ascribed to individual court cards.

King of Diamonds – A fair man, hot tempered, obstinate and revengeful.
KING. A light-haired or gray-haired man will help you, but take care not to approach him when he is in a bad mood. He can be harmful and competitive sometimes.
King: A stubborn and influential man. A very fair-haired man.
King: A bitter rival, a dangerous competitor, for women it can mean an abusive man or a deceitful lover.
King of Diamonds: Fair-haired or graying man, or a man with Earth predominating in his chart. A man of authority, status, or influence.
King: fair haired man, stubborn and powerful, vengeful, dangerous when crossed.
Madeline Montalban – King: Protection of a man of power and authority. Reversed – the same.
Hilda Marie – King: A very fair man.
Gypsy – King: Man with fair or grey hair, soldier.
Minor Arcana – King: A hot-tempered, obstinate and vengeful man, dangerous when crossed.
Etteilla – King: A Dark Man, Banker, Stockbroker. Reversed: Vice, Flaw, Weakness. [Man of the Country, Good and StrictMan. Reversed: Good and Severe Man.]

The divinatory meaning Etteilla gave to the King of Diamonds in the piquet deck was simply ‘a man’, whether the card was reversed or not. When, at a later date, Etteilla came to assign meanings to the King of Coins (Pence/Pentacles), he described a dark man who is a banker or stockbroker type. That meaning is in accordance with the King of Diamonds being king of the suit of Money – or Coins or Pence as it was known before the advent of the Waite-Smith deck which popularized the more recherché term Pentacles. Once the equation Pence is synonymous with materiality and the material is synonymous with the element Earth is made, the suit of Coins tends to be made to represent dark-haired people, often those who are dark-haired and dark-complexioned. Be that as it may, the King of Diamonds’ meaning seems more influenced by Etteilla’s delineation of the King of Staves (Rods/Wands), given above within square brackets. The ‘good and strict man’ evolves into ‘an influential man who can be stubborn and apt to be dangerous when crossed’. More than a dash of Etteilla’s reversed meaning (‘good but severe’) seems to have also entered the mix, resulting in some cartomancers describing this king as ‘a bitter rival, a dangerous competitor; for women it can mean an abusive man or a deceitful lover’, or something not too far from that; for instance, ‘he can be harmful and competitive’.

Madeline Montalban is alone is viewing the King of Diamonds as representing the ‘protection of a man of power and authority’ even when reversed. Evidently, there is no definitive tradition in existence regarding the personality of this king. He may consent or refuse to assist the querent; he may listen to the querent’s tale of woe with equanimity or he may blow his top. As to which of these diverse meanings a budding cartomancer should adopt, I have no better advice than that offered to me in similar circumstances: choose the one you feel most comfortable with and stick to it.

Queen of Diamonds – A fair woman, fond of company and a coquette.
QUEEN. Look out for an unfriendly, light-haired woman. She talks too much and is a flirt, but she gets things done.
Queen: A woman who loves to party and to gossip. A flirt. A very fair-haired woman.
Queen: A flirtatious woman, one who will interfere in plans. Gossipy, very attractive to males . . . able to get away with things and interfere in situations.
Queen of Diamonds: Fair-haired woman; or a woman with Earth predominating in her chart. A gossip.
Queen: fair haired woman, flirt, sophisticated, witty, interferes in other’s affairs.
Madeline Montalban – Queen: A frivolous, fair woman. A stranger. Reversed – Contemplates marriage. If next to the King of Diamonds, she has or will, marry him.
Hilda Marie – Queen: A very fair woman.
Gypsy – Queen: Fair woman who can’t keep secrets.
Minor Arcana – Queen: A coquettish woman, given to interfering in others’ affairs; scandal and rumor.
Etteilla – Queen: A Dark Woman, Opulence, Prosperous. Reversed: Untrustworthy, Doubtful.

The Queen of Diamonds, like her consort, the King, is likely to be unlucky for the querent. She is frivolous, flirtatious, a gossip and inclined to interfere in the affairs of others. She may do the inquirer unintentional harm through her indiscretion or she may harbor unfriendly feelings towards the inquirer and, prompted by these, willfully damage the querent’s reputation. Everything will depend on the cards with which the Queen is associated in a particular spread.

None of this sounds like an Earth-type personality; those born under the Earth signs are usually sober and more inclined to reticence in speech than loquaciousness. No doubt Diamonds have become associated in later years with the element of Earth because parallels have been drawn between the Diamond suit and that of Pence/Pentacles in the Tarot. The fact that the comparison derails so thoroughly in the instance of the Queen of Diamonds’ personality is a strong indication that the attribution is erroneous.

Knave of Diamonds – A near relation who considers only his own interests. Also a fair person’s thoughts.
JACK. A blond young man in some kind of uniform, either military or occupational. He has a good sense of humor, is fun to be with, but sometimes he brings bad news with him.
Jack: A relative. A very fair-haired youth. Watch out for dishonesty or unreliability.
Jack: A bringer of bad news. A selfish person. Not dangerous to male querents, but problems for a female one.
Jack of Diamonds: A youth, possibly in uniform. Or, a jealous person who may be unreliable. A person who brings news, generally negative, but relatively minor.
Jack: a relative, someone not really reliable, selfish or jealous, bad news
Madeline Montalban – No meaning given for the Knave of Diamonds.
Hilda Marie – Knave: A very fair youngster.
Gypsy – Jack: Young man in lesser position, may not be reliable.
Minor Arcana – Jack: A selfish or jealous relative; or a messenger bringing unwelcome news.
Etteilla – Jack: A soldier.

In his meanings for the cards of the piquet deck, Etteilla designates the Knave of Diamonds as a soldier. This affects those meanings above that put the Knave in uniform. In this day and age the uniform does not have to be military. One source says, ‘a blond young man in some kind of uniform, either military or occupational’, allowing the card to designate police officers, firemen, even postmen and male nurses.

It is widely accepted that the Jack of Diamonds’ nature is selfish, jealous, unreliable and possibly dishonest. On those lists where his character is not described, this Jack is presented as someone who brings bad news. Two of the entries above present him as a relative of the inquirer’s. The meaning that best covers his attributes is that which reads, ‘a relative; someone not really reliable, selfish or jealous; bad news’. There are really three meanings here: the card may indicate either a male relative, or someone not very reliable, perhaps selfish or jealous of the querent, or bad news – or more accurately the bearer of bad news. In a reading the card can indicate any one of these three things, and sometimes permutations of the same, as when a male relative is the bearer of bad news.

There are those who do not assign this Knave negative characteristics. In these instances he is described as a fair young man (Hilda Marie says ‘very fair’) with a good sense of humor who is fun to be with. Those who take the opposite view of the Knave of Diamonds declare that, while not a danger to a male querent, he is likely to disrupt the life of a female one.

A.E. Waite allows the card to signify ‘a fair person’s thoughts’. This is a meaning usually given to Tarot Knights, where the Knight of Cups will on occasion represent the thoughts of the King of Cups and so on through the suits. Only Waite makes this association, and he makes it in relation to one other Knave also, but so far as I can see it lacks the imprimatur of tradition.

Ten of Diamonds – Money.
TEN. A trip or change of residence for you. Enjoy new experiences and learn from them now.
Ten: Money and travel highlighted. Fortunate changes.
10: Money. Money being the driving force of a journey or partnership. Greed.
10 of Diamonds: A change in financial status, often for the better.
10: journey, changes usually bringing wealth, money as objective, maybe not result.
Madeline Montalban – Ten: An approaching journey. Reversed – Not a happy outcome, avoid it if possible.
Hilda Marie – Ten: A change of residence.
Gypsy – 10: Money, journey, change of home.
Minor Arcana – 10: Above all else, this card means money – but as the objective, not necessarily as the result, of your activities.
Etteilla – Ten: House, Household, Residence. Reversed: Lot, Fortune, Gambling. [Treason, Perfidy, Duplicity. Reversed: Obstacles, Hindrances, Vexations.]

While the Aces and 10s of all the other suits represent forcibly the nature ascribed to the suit as a whole, the Ace and 10 of Diamonds do not adhere to this formula. For all the suit is said to stand for career, communications and travel, judging from the meanings assigned to the Ace and 10 of Diamonds it seems that money, news and travel would be the better designation. The Ace emphasizes news, the 10 money; both underscore the possibility of travel. Two entries for the 10 of Diamonds cover its key areas comprehensively: ‘Money and travel highlighted. Fortunate changes’, and, from the Gypsy meanings, ‘Money, journey, change of home’. These delineations mark the card out as a harbinger of change – either fortunate changes are in the offing or a change of home is foreshadowed, the latter signification being connected, in a minor way, with the notion of travel – to a short journey from one part of a city to another or a longer one from one town to another. This concept is summed up by one entry as: ‘a trip or change of residence for you’.

The idea that the card represents ‘money – but as the objective, not necessarily as the result, of the inquirer’s activities’ accounts for ‘greed’ being assigned as one of its meanings (though avarice is correct term, greed implying glutony). The card can denote the querent performing some deed in the hope of monetary reward; this might refer to financial speculation, submission of a tender for work or any one of a number of scenarios. However, the 10 of Diamonds does not of itself predict pecuniary reward. It shows only the hope of such a reward; subsequent cards in the spread must be consulted in order to discover the extent to which those hopes will blossom.

Etteilla’s meanings, despite being the oldest among the collection above, have had no influence whatsoever on the meanings for the card as we have them today.

Nine of Diamonds – Shows that a person is fond of roving.
NINE. A message about money and a new undertaking will definitely succeed.
Nine: Surprise with money. New business opportunities. Restlessness.
9: Adventure. A move in the hopes of advancement.
9 of Diamonds: A new business deal; travel; restlessness; a change of residence.
9: opportunities and surprises, usually financial, taste for adventure, travel, changes.
Madeline Montalban – Nine: A new business deal. Reversed – It comes as a complete surprise.
Hilda Marie – Nine: A journey.
Gypsy – 9: Difficulties with wishes, sharp objects, firearms, sudden events.
Minor Arcana – 9: A compulsion to travel, a taste for adventure, the desire to see changes in one’s life.
Etteilla – Nine: Bill of goods. Result, Achievement. Reversed: Artifice, Fraud, Deception. [Delay, Waiting Time (waiting period). Reversed: Disadvantage, Misfortunes, Bad luck.]

Commentators and practitioners are split on the significance of the Nine of Diamonds. One faction sees it representing ‘a message about money and a new undertaking that will definitely succeed’ (finances and business). The other regards it as symbolizing ‘difficulties with wishes, sharp objects, firearms; sudden events’,  though admittedly this is the minority view. It may be down to sheer coincidence that this last meaning shares some ground with Etteilla’s meaning for the 9 of Coins as the similarity is marginal. More likely a process of making the whole set of 52 meanings symmetrical was instituted at some stage. The 9s of Hearts and Clubs are ‘good’ cards; thus, someone reasoned, the 9s of Diamonds and Spades must be ‘bad’ cards. The 9 of Hearts, as the Wish Card, is a better omen than the 9 of Clubs, which must mean that the 9 of Diamonds represents obstacles and hindrances that are not as damaging or frustrating as those foreshadowed by the 9 of Spades, for some readers the worst card in the deck: in the opera Carmen it is the 9 of Spades that is drawn to predict the heroine’s death.

To many the 9 of Diamonds is a card of change. Meanings allotted to it range from ‘a move in the hopes of advancement’, which may imply moving from one employer to another, through ‘a change of residence’ to ‘a journey’. Psychologically, it may denote ‘a compulsion to travel’, or as one entry baldy puts it ‘restlessness’. This aspect of the card is eloquently expressed in the meaning associated with the Tarot’s 9 of Pence/Pentacles: ‘A compulsion to travel, a taste for adventure, the desire to see changes in one’s life’.

Whether one chooses to read the 9 of Diamonds as an auspicious or an inauspicious card will depend on one’s innate personal bias. One cannot take one’s cue from tradition for no cue exists. Etteilla is no help as his meanings have been overlooked by cartomancers of later days.

Eight of Diamonds – A marriage late in life.
EIGHT. A short, enjoyable trip, probably to the country, may provide a new romance. You may win a small amount of money. You will be dealt with fairly now.
Eight: A marriage and travel late in life. Financial ups and downs.
8: Country life, travel and marriage late in life. The querent’s life is too hectic at the moment . . . a need to settle down and get away, but being unable to do so at the present time.
8 of Diamonds: New job; change in job situation. The young or the old may find love on a trip.
8: late marriage or new relationship, unexpected money, a journey.
Madeline Montalban – Eight: A big party. Reversed – A family gathering.
Hilda Marie – Eight: Secret love-making.
Gypsy – 8: Short trip, brief love affair.
Minor Arcana – 8: A marriage late in life; perhaps a journey; quite possibly a combination of the two.
Etteilla – Eight: Dark girl. Reversed: Lack of (Voided) Ambition. [Countryside, Amusement, Pastime. Reversed: Domestic Dispute, Regrets, Remorse]

There’s little agreement as to the divinatory meaning of the 8 of Diamonds. Some sources emphasize travel and romance: ‘short trip, brief love affair’. Others include financial gain among its meanings as witness, ‘new relationship, unexpected money, a journey’. At other times, the travel and love strands are wound together, resulting in delineations such as ‘a short, enjoyable trip, probably to the country, may provide a new romance’.

While a sizable number of practitioners hold the card favorable for fiscal matters (‘you may win a small amount of money’), it is viewed by one branch of the tradition as a variable force in that area, predicting ‘financial ups and downs’ ahead for the querent.

Madeline Montalban and Hilda Marie have left the beaten track to plow their own distinctive furrows. Miss Montalban gives the 8 of Diamonds the meaning: ‘A big party. Reversed – A family gathering’. For Hilda Marie, it signifies ‘secret love-making’. But neither meaning has been taken up by other practitioners.

The 9 of Diamonds’ restlessness bleeds through into the 8, it would seem. Thus we find the 8 of Diamonds graced with such meanings as: ‘the querent’s life is too hectic at the moment’. Or in some cases the emphasis is on change, which may be great – ‘a new job; change in job situation’ – or small, e.g. ‘a short trip to the country’, indicating nothing more than a break in routine. This last interpretation is possibly influenced by Etteilla’s keyword for the 8 of Diamonds, ‘Country’, a concept later expanded and transposed to the 8 of Staves (Wands) in the form ‘Countryside, Amusement, Pastime’. This in turn, apparently, mutated into ‘a short, enjoyable trip to the country’, and in one instance ‘country life’.

The late marriage and the similar meaning, ‘marriage and travel late in life’, possible belong to the tradition of making Life Readings on the turn of a card, a practice I have mentioned earlier in this series of articles.

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