Counting Out the King of Pence

Counting, yes I do
Counting, counting, counting, counting, counting
Ooh-hoo-oo, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve… et cetera

Dusty Springfield, I Start Counting

In 2019, I parted with 90 % of the cards I owned, retaining only those used or for study. Other than the occasional replacement decks, card purchases are rare.

But in the autumn of 2020, one small tarot deck caught my eye: The Tarot Fortune Cards, commonly referred to as the Thomson-Leng Tarot.

Of course, I had both heard and seen the Tarot Fortune Cards – it is a coveted collectors’ item. It was also the deck of choice for Madeline Montalban. But never having been a collector, it was one that I had never felt drawn to own. However, that changed in 2020. Tarot Collectibles issued a facsimile which Stella Waldvogel, a cartomante par excellence, purchased and shared. It was the first time I seriously looked at the deck, and I was intrigued. I held out for a week, but I found myself fascinated by both its iconography and unusual genesis. I purchased the facsimile (highly recommended) and now also own originals, too.

The Tarot Fortune Cards were published as a give-away, in December of 1935, with My Weekly, a British women’s magazine. That itself is pretty unusual. It was bridge sized and printed on very good linen card. But the little deck’s uniqueness is that it draws from continental influences such Jean-Baptise Pitois and, more importantly, Eudes Picard. Whoever oversaw this deck was knowledgeable of both the tarot and esoteric practice.

Picard’s influence is seen in the pip and court cards: cups and swords correspond to air and water, respectively. As some of the pip cards are based on Pamela Colman Smith’s designs, this can be lost. However, by tracking elemental dignities in readings for the last five months, the cards themselves have confirmed their elementary attributes: rods are fire, pence are earth, swards are water, and the cups are air.

On researching the deck, I corresponded with the archivists at Thomson-Leng. Unfortunately, their records are incomplete, and so are Waddingtons (who now own the original printer, Universal Playing Cards).

Having worked with them now for several months, I am still enchanted.

As part of my studies I have offered an additional reading for feedback to regular clients. Both questions and general reads are done. Such readings allow me to see varied facets of the cards, not just in context but also in differing circumstances.

Mia has been a regular client since 2013. She came to me with a career question as the coronavirus pandemic had made her wonder if it was time for a change or rather a career progression. Also, she agreed to let me do additional reading to see what was going on in her life in general but also love.

La méthode des Treize

La méthode des Treize is a classic cartomantic draw. It appears in several texts by the well-known French author, Colette Silvestre, including the brilliant Le Petit Lenormand. Madame Silvestre is one of my favourite writers on divination and fortune-telling.

After shuffling and cutting the deck, the cartomante draws thirteen cards and arranges them as below:

Rather than interpreting the cards in sequential order the cartomante instead employs a count of five. Counting was a common feature in classical cartomancy, particularly “French.” Once a card is selected, it is read as ‘1,’ with the next card being ‘2,’ the next ‘3,’ and so forth. When the cartomante reaches the designated number of the count, that card becomes the new ‘1.’

The counting concludes when the cartomante returns to card from where she commenced.

In the thirteen card draw, the client chooses the point of departure. Depending on your preference, you can ask the seeker to select a number from 1 – 13 prior to shuffling. Otherwise deal the cards face down and have them indicate a card.

Each card counted will elaborate on the card beforehand. It will also be influenced by its attendee or encounter cards (those either side). Consequently, one builds a narrative. For this reason, the thirteen card draw can provide a description of unfolding events.

Mia’s Reading

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we had to conduct the reading via telephone. Mia has just turned 30, and her significator would be the Queen of Rods. It is left in the pack. Before shuffling, I asked Mia to pick a number between one and 13. She selected seven.

The cards as they fell:

The first card is the King of Pence. When a person-card is the trigger card (the first card dealt or read), that person is first or foremost in the seeker’s mind or situation. So, Mia is thinking about a man. Flanked by the Hermit and the Knight of Cups (air which is contrary to earth), he is not in a good light. The two cards on either side indicate he is both older and has copper-brown or dark blonde hair. He is a shady figure, not one to trust.

Counting five, we reach the Six of Rods, reversed, which confirms that he has hurt her or lost her trust in the past (the Six of Cups = past and Swords (water) on either side). I felt this was an ex. Mia confirmed this.

Counting again, we find the Ten of Swords. I felt that this was where Mia stood now. Her relationship with the King is over. It is sad, and she has been hurt. But all tens indicate a change, which is further emphasised by the Judgement card falling next to the Ten of Swords.

Five cards onwards, we reach the Hermit card. In love, the Hermit often appears when we have been hurt. It also shows that nobody will be on the scene, immediately. Mia is bruised and reticent to trust. What happened with the King (and it seems financial, which Mia confirmed) can be put down as a hard life lesson.

The next card is the Six of Swords, flanked by the Star card and the Six of Rods, reversed. Going forward, Mia will find her life calmer. The presence of the Six of Rods indicates it will not be all smooth sailing. But she is turning a corner and the stepping stones for a happier life (the Star) are there. As she moves forward so will love options.

The Eight of Cups confirms happier pastimes after the upset (Ten of Swords), particularly those spent with a good female friend set to return (Queen of Cups).

However, at this time, the King of Pence may well encroach upon her once more. The Ace of Pence brings an increase in Mia’s finances. Unless she is discreet, this will also bring the King back into her life with his hands outstretched (Hermit and King of Pence on either side of the Ace). Has she learned her lesson?

The Star shows that Mia will realise her present career goal (validation of the first reading), thereby increasing her finances. At this time, she will also receive an invitation (Knight of Cups and Six of Swords) to visit the Queen of Cups, who she has not seen for some time (Queen flanked by the Six and Eight of Cups).

In this reading, there are several references to travel (Six of Swords, 10 of Rods, Knight of Cups). So Mia has a journey ahead. Traditionally, the Ten of Rods is somewhere unknown (which once a common tarot meaning, once). But it is touched by the Judgement card, so I felt that it was somewhere she had not been for some time. It also warns that her new job role will bring some baggage she will be left to sort out.

At this time, she will meet with the Knight of Cups. He will ask her out on a date. Looking at the cards, he will be the same age or younger than Mia. He will be honey to Venetian blonde. The memory of the King of Pence will make her wary, but the Star card offers her reassurance which is confirmed by the Six of Cups. After initial hesitancy, she will find this man quite different, and the Queen will have her corner.

In doing so, the final vestiges of the King of Pence will be vanquished. Judgement flanked by two tens shows her moving on in her life and things will change for the better.

So there you have the thirteen card draw and the Tarot Fortune Cards. As you can see, it gives a lot of information. There is a man on the cards, but it seems quite late on.

Mia’s reading was done in January. Silvestre states that the spread can cover the next three months.

On looking through the cards, I found the Queen of Rods (Mia) looking at the Seven of Rods. In the timing system that I use, that is the first week of May.

Thus far Mia has secured a new job, in the same company she works for, and has ben in touch with a friend she has not seen due to coronavirus for over a year. She plans to visit her soon. The Knight is still awaited.


The Circlestead © abCartomancy 2010 – 2021

Cards: The Tarot Fortune Cards (Original, 1935 edition).

Featured Image: Frederick Warne, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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