Previously: The Little Finger Game.
Although I’m not sure how long this particular Playing Card Game has been around, cartomancy — the practice of using a deck of cards for divination purposes — has existed for centuries. Tarot is probably the most well-known form; however, you don’t necessarily need a tarot deck in order to practice this type of divination. Indeed, it’s believed that cartomancy kicked up shortly after playing cards arrived in Europe, circa the late 14th century — that is, no tarot was required. For this game, you can use a deck of plain old Bicycles (or whatever your standard, 52-card playing card deck of choice is—just make sure it’s got the four suits in it).
This Playing Card Game is similar to the Ouija; once you’ve summoned your spirit, you can (politely) ask it questions, which it might choose to answer via the deck of cards. Unlike the Ouija, though, this method doesn’t have a way to spell out answers — you’ll have to stick to yes or no questions.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Whatever you ask, though, make sure you really want to know the answers first. Once you’ve learned something, you can’t usually unlearn it.
As always… well, you know how it goes.
- At least one principal. Additional players may take part as well. If there are two or more players, designate one player the First Principal.
- A deck of playing cards. This deck must be a standard, French-suited deck of 52 cards, although a specific brand is not required. Discard the Jokers.
- A candle.
- A lighter or matches.
- A dark, quiet room.
- Begin at any time.
- Go to the dark, quiet room. If it is daytime, draw the curtains. Bring your supplies with you.
- If there are two players, sit opposite each other. If there are three or more players, sit in a circle.
- Place the candle near you and light it.
- Place the deck of cards in front of you. If there are two players, place it between the players. If there are three or more players, place it in the center of the circle.
- Sprinkle a small amount of salt on the cards.
- Shuffle the deck of cards thoroughly. If there is more than one player, have each player shuffle them: Begin with the First Principal; then pass the deck to the player opposite you (if two players) or around the circle clockwise (if three or more players).
- When the cards have returned to the First Principal, deal out the first 18 cards face down in front of you, between the players (if two players), or in the center of the circle (if three or more players). The cards should be arranged in three columns, with each column containing three rows of two cards each. (See Additional Notes for diagram.)
- Have the First Principal ask the following question: “Are the spirits willing to speak with us tonight?”
- The First Principal should then hold their hand over the dealt-out cards, hovering over each card for a few seconds in turn. When the First Principal feels heat emanating from one card, they should turn that card over.
- If the card is a Heart: The answer is “Yes.”
- If the card is a Spade: The answer is “No.”
- If the card is a Diamond: The answer is “Maybe.”
- If the card is a Club: The answer is “I don’t know.”
- Depending on the answer to this first question, proceed along one of the following paths:
- If the answer is “Yes”: You may proceed. Remove the card that was just turned over from the playing field and deal another card face down in its place. Continue to The Conversation.
- If the answer is “No”: Do not proceed. Continue immediately to The Farewell.
- If the answer is “Maybe”: Proceed with caution. Continue to The Conversation, but be on your guard. If, at any moment, any players begin to feel apprehensive, hear anything unusual, or experience a physical touch of any sort, continue immediately to The Farewell.
- If the answer is “I don’t know”: Proceed with caution. Continue to The Conversation, but be on your guard. If, at any moment, any players begin to feel apprehensive, hear anything unusual, or experience a physical touch of any sort, continue immediately to The Farewell.
- If you do not feel any heat emanating from a card: The Invitation has failed. Continue to The Farewell. Try again another time.
- Each player may take turns asking questions, alternating players (if two players) or moving clockwise around the circle (if three or more players). Each player may ask only one question per turn.
- After the player asks their question, they should hold their hands over the cards as in The Invitation: Step 10. When the player feels heat emanating from one card, they should turn that card over. The answer may be interpreted according to suit as previously described.
- After a question has been answered, the card which answered that question should be removed from the playing field. Deal out another card face down in its place before proceeding to the next question.
- Note: If a question is asked and the player feels no heat emanating from a card, the spirit has chosen not to answer. Move onto the next player. (In this event, there is no need to remove or replace a card in the playing field before asking the next question.)
- Players may proceed in this fashion for as long as they desire.
- Note: If, at any moment, any players begin to feel apprehensive, hear anything unusual, or experience a physical touch of any sort, continue immediately to The Farewell.
- To end the game, have the First Principal speak the word, “Goodbye.”
- Blow out the candle.
- Gather up the cards and sprinkle a small amount of salt over them.
- Have the First Principal shuffle the cards thoroughly.
- Do not use the deck of cards again.
You may begin the game at any time; however, nighttime is recommended.
You may use any type of candle, although it is recommended that your choice be in some sort of holder. A pillar candle in a glass jar is recommended, as there is little chance of it falling over.
The cards should be dealt out in the following formation:
If you reach a point where question after question goes unanswered, consider that your cue to end the game. Proceed to The Farewell.
An alternate version of this game may be found here. This version is more elaborate, but may also be slightly safer due to more safeguards being put into place during the set-up.
Concerning the Deck of Cards:
As an extra precaution, considering burning the deck after The Farewell has been completed. This will ensure that it is never used again.
Should the deck be used again, even by accident…
You don’t want to know what happens if you do.
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[Photos via IIIBlackhartIII/Pixabay; Lucia Peters/The Ghost In My Machine]