The Cartomancer: Is Your Calling Big Enough?

The Cartomancer: Is Your Calling Big Enough? February 10, 2016
a photograph of two simultaneous lightning strikes
Lightning by Hansueli Krapf CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I say it again. A cartomancer without a question is no cartomancer. And because I insist, I say it again:

A cartomancer without a question is no cartomancer.

Cartomancy is not a science. It’s an art of reading visual text according to how a question is formulated. Without a clearly formulated question there’s no divination.

If you think of the oldest oracles, there’s no record of diviners reading signs out of the blue, or because they had nothing better to do. When the blind prophet Tiresias told Oedipus that he was going to fuck his mother and kill his father, he did not come up with this because he had a ‘feeling’ about it. His line was delivered as an answer to a very concrete question.

If you ever sit and wonder: ‘Must I have a question?’, the answer is ‘Yes, you must, if you want your reading of the cards to fall under the category of divination.’

But why do so many prefer to read without a question? Because questions are hard. Real questions are even harder. They require a great deal of brainwork, real emotional content not just sentimentality, and real discernment.

Some try to formulate a real question for years.

What is a Real Question?

Real questions tend to resist us, because their premise is often one that rests on the work of incorporating into our consciousness all that which we consider a limit, a frustration, a dark shadow. Acknowledging what limits us is always humbling, hence we resist. But without trying to bring to the surface the unconscious patterns that create drama in our lives there’s no triumph.

Dodging the real question has us bumbling in the dark. The consequence is a perpetual wondering about our purpose in life, our place in the world, and how to serve best.

Universal experience has taught us that finding out what we are good at, and serving that to the world, is directly proportional with the experience of fulfillment. It is a logical consequence that if we’re good at something, we then act from a place that’s informed by mastery, passion, love, and understanding.

Generally, if we serve the world mastery, passion, love, and understanding, the world responds accordingly. Deep fulfillment is not the same as the satisfaction of desires, hence, being on a path that brings us fulfillment is a lot more rewarding than giving in to the insatiability of desire. Fulfillment is tangible, desire is not.

Resist that Calling

So what path are we on? And do we like it there? Recently I’ve read an essay whose title caught my eye: Resist that calling. It’s probably not your purpose in life. The writer, Fred Swaniker, makes a good point about the significance of discerning between the calls we often hear when we’re at the crossroads, and the impulse to respond. He calls this the impulse to rise to the ‘moment of obligation.’ ‘If the calling is not big enough, then resist it,’ he urges us all, and then goes on to formulate three important questions related to how we may think bigger, if we contemplate a change in career, or we want to embark on new projects.

I’ve already adapted these questions to a reading of the cards in a layout following the square of 9, crisscrossing.

  1. Is it big enough? (Top row, from left to right; and first column, top to bottom).
  2. Are you uniquely positioned to make it happen? (Middle row, and middle column).
  3. Are you really passionate about it (i.e. does it pass the ‘sleepless night’ test)? (Bottom row, and last column).

Is the Calling to Start a Private School Big Enough?

Here is an example with the Lenormand cards on a question about changing careers, going from corporate work to solo entrepreneurship that involves the start of a private school (for a list of the basic meanings of the original cards, see my post, The Happy Marriage).

a three-by-three square of drawn cards
Maybe Lenormand, Prototype 1 by Ryan Edward (Photo: Camelia Elias)


  1. It’s in the works. The Rider is done with the dead relation, unless he brings forth the idea that starting a private school is deadly, or dead private (Top row: Rider, Coffin, Ring).
  2. With a little luck, as the clover foretells, the shift from corporation to private enterprise will prove to be as unique as every home, as no two homes are ever alike. Being familiar with the idea, the querent will find herself in the unique position to act from a place of cultivated passion, as the Lily is a sign of (Middle row: Clover, House, Lily).
  3. Passion finds manifestation in the Tower, where the fiddling with Key solutions, results in a lot of Book related activities. Culturally the Ivory tower has a reputation for housing the dedicated nerds, so we can easily find the idea of the sleepless nights being represented here (Bottom row: Tower, Key, Book).


  1. The Rider announces a sudden opportunity that makes us think of the calling to shift business as a tall order. Literally (Rider, Clover, Tower).
  2. A lid may be put on the manifestation of going private but as the Key to the House is secured and within reach, the querent is indeed uniquely positioned to make the private venture happen – and be as tight as a coffin about it (Coffin, House, Key).
  3. The passion is also engaged for sure through the bond between the Ring and the Book via the Lily. We could say that the passion is married to the word (Ring, Lily, Book).

More concretely, and as part of the method of reading the Lenormand cards, we can draw a diagonal line from the corner cards to create an X. As the X marks the spot, we can get a confirmation of how the underlying structure of the three questions here emerges to form a solid pattern of affirmation.

Ring to Tower: Official liaison. The venture goes formal or gets legalized.

Rider to Book: Learning is a driving force, an active body. The vehicle is the message.


The card that gives the best and most conclusive testimony here, or answers all the three questions, is the Key. The Key seems to overrule the notion that the idea, or rather the calling be of any particular size. Whether big enough or small, if the querent has the key in her hand, she can unlock doors, closed books, or find solutions to potential problems or hidden aspects. Holding the key to your own private learning institution supports the idea of being uniquely in the position to run such a place.

The last column is also a testimony to the possibility to participate in the cultivation of knowledge, and consolidate a partnership that’s lasting and honest. The Lily here is a very good omen.

When Big is Private

What I like about the series of the three questions is that it doesn’t begin with question number 2, about skills, or about how uniquely positioned you are to perform a task. It begins with a question about how big it is.

In relation to this idea of how big it is, the cards here suggest an interesting aspect to consider. ‘Big’ doesn’t always mean public, famous, or loud. Big can be tight, deep, extremely private, and cultivated. It can have size that is defined by domestic rule, familiarity with a unique solution, and a tall spine.

‘Big’ can be about a certain elegance of skill. It can be about process. The very idea of placing a big white flower on a coffin, because one must honor the dead, is big. A headmistress as a psychopomp is no small thing. Teaching others about death, so that they get better at living, is big.

Why do we read books? Because we want to hear about the writer’s experiences. What has life taught her? How big was the lesson?

When we pose real questions to the cards, the cards give us answers that have inherent value. An answer to a real question answers more questions; questions that we have no idea we want to pose, or must pose. That is already as big as it gets.


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