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Playing Cards, Spades 2

February 1, 2012

Seven of Spades. – Loss of a friend, attended with much trouble.
Seven: Loss of friendship or loss of a friend. An unexpected burden. A warning against losses and sorrow.
7: Sorrow and quarrels. Avoid arguments with friends. Let them “win” for now.
7 of Spades: Advice that is best not taken; loss. There is some obstacle to success, and this card indicates that obstacles may be coming from within the querent.
7: a warning against loss of friendship, quarrels with friends, bad things.
Madeline Montalban – Seven: Tedious advice. Restrictions in action. Reversed – Failure through hesitation or doubting your own powers.
Hilda Marie – Seven: Removal, annoyance or delay.
Gypsy – 7: Suspense, decisions or arrangements to be made.
Minor Arcana – 7: Quarrels with friends, and many troubles as a result.
Etteilla – Seven: Hope, Expectation. Reversed: Sage Advice, Good Counsel.

Waite’s ‘Loss of a friend, attended with much trouble’ is mirrored in the ‘sorrow and quarrels’ and ‘quarrels with friends, bad things’ found in other entries. Other delineations embroider this, though hardly ever do two of them agree. ‘Avoid arguments with friends. Let them “win” for now’ says one. ‘There is some obstacle to success, and this card indicates that obstacles may be coming from within the querent’ warns another. It may just be possible that the obstacles denoted by the card are behind the ‘Suspense; decisions or arrangements to be made’ of the Gypsies, where, one may imagine, hindrances barring progress cause the inquirer to pause and take stock. But with no clear link between the two delineations, nothing can be said for certain on this point.

It appears that the 7 of Spades is subject to several, unconnected, interpretations. Madeline Montalban seems to be relying on one tradition, Hilda Marie on another; it may be that the Gypsy meaning stems from a third. That said, I have been unable to trace any of the three back in time so as to establish that they are indeed linked to some pre-existing tradition.

Miss Montalban’s ‘restrictions in actions’ aligns with my hypothesis that ‘obstacles’ is a valid keyword for this card, but her ‘tedious advice’ is at odds with the ‘advice best not taken’ found on another list. Tentatively, I put forward the idea that possibly both come about as a result of inverting Etteilla’s meanings Sage Advice, Good Counsel which he assigns to the reversed card. The logic might have been that, if in reverse the card indicates good advice, upright it should signify bad advice, or at the very least sound advice boringly delivered. The tentative nature of my approach is due to the fact that Etteilla’s meaning for the card right way up has had no effect on the upright meaning of the 7 of Spades, plus the fact that Etteilla’s meanings in general rarely color those attributed to playing cards.

Six of Spades. – Wealth through industry.
Six: Small improvements.
6: Much planning but little result. Hard work, without much profit. Discouragements.
6 of Spades: Small changes and improvements.
6: an improvement in the person’s life, use perseverance to make your plans work.
Minor Arcana – 6: Only perseverance will enable you to bring your plans to fruition.
Etteilla – Six: Journey. Road, Voyage, Messenger. Reversed: Declaratory Act, Discovery, Exposure.

At first sight, it looks as though we are at last about to review a Spade card with positive implications. For some commentators assign it meanings such as ‘Small improvements in life’ or ‘Small [fortunate] changes.’ Sadly, as one digs deeper, certain negative undercurrents are revealed.

Although for some the card may forecast small (fortunate) changes, to other diviners it is a less auspicious omen. True, Waite avers that the card indicates ‘Wealth through industry’, but this turns out to be a positive spin on ‘Only perseverance will enable you to bring your plans to fruition.’ Elsewhere the implications lurking behind the second of these statements are voiced more negatively: ‘Much planning but little result. Hard work, without much profit. Discouragements.’

Etteilla’s Journey. Road, Voyage, Messenger has had no effect on the divinatory meaning of the 6 of Spades. He has, however, had great influence on the way the Tarot’s 6 of Swords is interpreted. The Golden Dawn reading of that card, as recorded in Book T, contains the phrase: ‘journey, probably by water (shown by cards near by).’ Metaphorically, by extension, the 6 of Swords is presumed to indicate the safe navigation of troubles lying in the inquirer’s path. Paul Foster Case and Crowley, both of whom received a Golden Dawn training, give ‘passage from difficulties’ as a meaning for this card. Sepharial (1910) stays even closer to Etteilla’s keywords with: –

Travel, a voyage, or a messenger – someone who has travelled. Reversed, it shows a surprise.

The reversal is an adapted form of Etteilla’s Discovery, Exposure.

The Complete Book of Fortune (1931) follows suit, the reversal undergoing yet further revision.

A voyage or the arrival of a traveller or messenger. Reversed, a gain from an unexpected quarter.

Five of Spades. – Shows that a bad temper requires correcting.
Five: Happy home but interference from other people. Reversals and opposition but eventual success.
5: Success in business or love, after much time and hard work.
5 of Spades: Opposition and obstacles that are temporary; a blessing in disguise. Sometimes indicates a negative or depressed person.
5: anxiety, setbacks, interferences, success in business, harmony in partners
Minor Arcana – 5: Success in business, harmony in partnerships – but only after obstacles have been overcome. Beware ill-temper and discouragement.
Etteilla – Five: Loss, Waste, Degradation. Theft. Reversed: Mourning, Grief, Despondency.

The 5 of Spades is associated with triumph over adversity and clouds that have silver linings. One commentator offers the meaning ‘Reversals and opposition but eventual success’ another, writing in the same vein, has, ‘Success in business or love, after much time and hard work’, while a third gives the variant, ‘Opposition and obstacles that are temporary; a blessing in disguise.’

On a lower arc, presumably when the 5 of Spades is besieged by cards brimming over the benignity, it signifies anxiety, setbacks, interferences. It can also be a symbol of discouragement. Thus one practitioner says that it ‘Sometimes indicates a negative or depressed person.’ The tendency to become discouraged is at times yoked with an ill-temper. Waite has the card represent only ‘a bad temper that requires correcting’, but another commentator bids the querent ‘Beware ill-temper and discouragement.’

One source only suggests that the card signifies ‘a happy home, but interference in domestic matters by outsiders.’ One other entry speaks of ‘harmony in partnerships’, but on reflection, ‘happy home but interference from other people’ is simply ‘Success in business or love, after much time and hard work’ confined to the field of domestic happiness.

The keywords supplied by Etteilla have had no influence on the meanings given to the 5 of Spades in my opinion, his Mourning, Grief, Despondency for the reversed card notwithstanding.

Four of Spades. – Sickness.
Four: Illness. Business and money worries. Broken promises.
4: Minor misfortune: A short illness, a temporary setback.
4 of Spades: Small worries, problems. Financial difficulties, personal lows.
4: jealousy, business troubles, sickness, minor misfortunes delay project.
Minor Arcana – 4: Sickness, financial embarrassment, jealousy – all sorts of minor misfortunes which will delay any project in hand.
Etteilla – Four: Loneliness. Solitude, Retreat. Reversed: Economy, Good Management.

The implications of the 6 and 5 of Spades have been less malevolent than those of Spade cards with higher numbers – the 10 and 9, for instance. We should not, however, be lulled into thinking the Spade cards denote less serious events as the numbers decrease. The 4 of Spades is closely associated with illness and the 3, as we shall see, with misfortune in love or marriage, with a split in partnership probable.

A key meaning for the 4 of Spaces is sickness, albeit that some practitioners hold that it denotes only a short illness. Similarly, most sources have the card signify money worries or business troubles, with occasional dissenters stating that it specifies merely that ‘minor misfortunes delay a project’; or, where the query concerns monetary problems, that it forecasts nothing more than ‘financial embarrassment’.

The card may also denote a variety of minor misfortunes, such as personal lows, broken promises and problems caused by the jealousy of others.

Etteilla’s Loneliness. Solitude, Retreat do not equate directly with sickness, but it seems they are the seed of that interpretation, a seed that blossoms in both the world of fortune-telling by playing cards and the realm of Tarot divination. For not only does the 4 of Spades signify sickness but the 4 of Swords often bears that meaning too, though often it is limited to the card’s reversed manifestation only. Golden Dawn teaching regarding the 4 of Swords adopts an optimistic view of the situation with its: ‘Convalescence, recovery from sickness, change for the better.’ Of course, should the card be reversed (or in G.D. parlance ‘afflicted’), it could well predict the start of an illness, the severity of which must be judged from the type of card doing the afflicting.

Three of Spades. – A journey.
Three: Unfaithfulness and partings. Be wary in partnerships.
3: Unhappiness: Misfortune in love or marriage. A loss of pride and hope. Do not dwell on these things, move on in life.
3 of Spades: Breaks in relationships. Sometimes indicates that a third person is breaking into a relationship somehow.
3: partings due to faithlessness, journey, bad things in love or marriage
Minor Arcana – 3: A journey, misfortune in love or marriage.
Etteilla – Three: Separation. Estrangement, Departure, Absence. Reversed: Distraction, Error, Miscalculation. Loss.

Three commentators assign the 3 of Spades the meaning ‘journey’. Though presented neutrally, one wonders if this journey might come in the wake of the ‘partings due to faithlessness’ also mentioned. This would fit an interpretation of Etteilla’s ‘Separation. Estrangement, Departure, Absence’, should the Separation element be taken as being ineluctably conjoined with the Departure element.

Then again the ‘partings due to faithlessness’ might as easily form part of a set of meanings centered around ‘misfortune in love or marriage’, which would also encompass ‘Breaks in relationships. Sometimes indicates that a third person is breaking into a relationship somehow’ as well as the admonition: Be wary when dealing with partnerships of any kind.

The 3 of Spades is also singled out as a card of unhappiness, loss of pride and loss of hope, though these seem lesser or tangential meanings.

Two of Spades. – A removal.
Two: Separation, gossip and deceit. Difficult changes.
2: A complete and forced change. Sudden change of location or in a relationship, or a death. Bound to make a big difference in the coming months.
2 of Spades: Breaks in relationships; deceit. A break in an important process in the querent’s life. If the question concerns a particular romantic interest, this is considered a warning card – infidelity or separation is quite likely.
2: scandal, gossip, danger of deceit, change, removal, loss of home, division.
Minor Arcana – 2: Change, removal, loss of home, separation.
Etteilla – Two: Friendship, Concord. Reversed: Falsehood, Imposture, Duplicity.

Just as the 3 of Spades’ meaning ‘journey’ is tarnished by its association with keywords like Separation and Estrangement, the 2 of Spades’ ‘removal’ takes on a more sinister hue when set beside ‘loss of home’, and ‘sudden change of location.’

The 2 of Spades is card of separation just as the 3 of Spades is. The entries above reveal that the separation in this case is caused possibly by death; but ‘breaks in relationships’ gets a mention too (as it did in relation to the 3 of Spades). Another word used in this connection is ‘division’, and the card is said to predict ‘A break in an important process in the querent’s life’. It seems more and more likely that the ‘removal’ signified by the card entails ‘loss of home’ or a pressing need for the querent to change location.

This interpretation is backed up by other meanings given to the card: ‘changes that are difficult to deal with’, or a ‘drastic change that is forced upon the inquirer’, along with the slightly less threatening ‘changes bound to make a big difference in the coming months.’

The card may at the same time denote scandal, gossip and/or deceit.

The areas of separation or break in relationship on the one hand and deceit on the other fuse to produce specific delineations like: ‘If the question concerns a particular romantic interest, this is considered a warning card – infidelity or separation is quite likely.’

Unless Etteilla’s keywords for the reversed card – Imposture, Falsehood, Duplicity – have somehow colored the modern upright meanings – Deceit, Infidelity – then his hand is not to be found touching the 2 of Spades. At the same time, the Tarot’s 2 of Swords does show the influence of Etteilla’s Friendship and Concord and of his reversed meanings too upon the card.

The delineation provided by Sepharial in The Art of Card Fortune-Telling is little more than a condensation and reworking of Etteilla’s keywords:

Friendship. If reversed, it shows lying and deceit.

Twenty years or so later, the author of The Complete Book of Fortune dilates on Sepharial’s basic idea thus:

Amiability and friendship; probably a former enemy will profess friendship for the inquirer, and may tender a peace-offering. Reversed, do not trust his advances, which are founded merely upon deceit and guile.

Even the Golden Dawn has an interpretation for the 2 of Swords carrying resonances of Etteilla’s Friendship and Concord: ‘Quarrel made up, and arranged. Peace restored.’ Paul Foster Case, a one-time member of the G.D. gives ‘friendship’ as a meaning for the card, further highlighting the debt to Etteilla.

  1. Dear Auntie,
    You mention some Golden Dawn meanings of the Tarot cards in your post. I desperately want to use these meanings because they fit so well with pictures on the Rider-Waite tarot drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith. But the Order Paper on the Tarot has a lot to say about the spot cards and I can’t keep all that info. in my head. I’m attempting to memorize the ‘brief meanings’ for these cards but some of these don’t say very much. For the 8 of Pentacles, all it says is ‘Skill, prudence, cunning.’ I don’t know how to apply that to a divination.
    The brief meaning for the 7 of Swords is ‘Journey by land, in character untrustworthy.’ It can’t always mean journey by land, can it. And when it doesn’t show a journey then the other meaning, untrustworthy character, isn’t especially helpful either.
    Also sometimes the ‘brief meanings’, which are given in two places, don’t match. In an early section of the Paper, the 3 of Swords has the meaning ‘unhappiness, sorrow, tears.’ In a later section where all the brief meanings are listed in one place it now stands for ‘disruption, separation, quarrelling.’
    Same with the 3 of Wands. First it represents ‘Pride and arrogance, self-assertion.’ It’s a meaning that has no predictive aspect to it. But later the meaning has changed to ‘Realization of hope. Completion of labor, successful struggle.’ This is better for divinatory purposes – but which meaning should I favor? Or is it permissible to use both?
    I’m hoping you can help me, and I thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer.

    • Hi Walt,

      You raise a couple of valid questions. I’ll try and help you out. Keep an eye peeled for a response on the blog, hopefully later today.

      Best wishes,


  2. Hi
    I was checking the meanings of the cards I drew for myself as a general week.

    Ace of hearts- 3 of spades- 8 of hearts.
    I’ve got a feeling it wont be a good journey somewhere but I’m not sure.
    How would you interpret this spread?

    • Sadly, this isn’t a site that gives readings or deals with the interpretation of individual’s spreads.
      Tony Willis

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