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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition

Playing Card Oracles - Alchemy Edition - by Charles J. Freeman and Ana Cortez

A provoking new edition of oracle playing cards based on original oil paintings by Charles J. Freeman (1941-2010)

A book of stories, unbound

the four Aces

Above: in games Aces are sometimes high or sometimes low. One is a special number. Aces are like storehouses or energy sources for the suit they represent, like seeds ready to grow.

the four 10s decpicted as ladies

Above: one of the very nice components of this deck is the four 10s decpicted as ladies, restoring the male-female balance in the court cards and providing a partner or counterpart for the Jacks. Terrene (10♠) is a sturdy, hard working girl who nurtures others. Bethany (10♥) is sensitive and romantic, relentless yet changeable like the tide drawn by the moon. Fortuna (10♣) is a woman of many personalities, but identifying with none. Séraphine (10♦) is a seer, using her natural inner vision to perceive beneath surface appearances.

Charles J. Freeman was interested in the history of playing cards and fortune-telling. He wrote: “There is probably nothing with such widespread cultural significance we know less about than the playing cards”. He noted that the regular playing card deck has the same structure as a natural calendar based on 13 lunar cycles spanning one year of 52 weeks. Furthermore, the four suits, numbers and images lend themselves perfectly to the art of divination, as though this is what playing cards had been invented for. Following these ideas, this oracle deck also contains 52 paintings from the artist’s imagination which enliven each card with a story and depth of meaning. Charles Freeman was a collector of the unusual, a natural mystic and student of the occult. He was unconventional in every way, eternally curious, unfathomable by most. He loved rare and strange books with fantastical imagery, and collected unusual statues and curiosities. All this no doubt fed his fertile imagination, but the concepts and essential imagery in the paintings were his own. He would visit the astral world then return to waking state and draw what he had seen.

Fata Morgana - Morgana’s Spell. Behold the reflection of a hag!
The Guardian of all things precious

Above: Fata Morgana - Morgana’s Spell. Behold the reflection of a hag; how easy for the restless heart to go astray. The medium for the original paintings is oil on canvas. The majority are 42.5” tall by 30” wide. The Aces and the images for cards of the number 6 are on smaller canvas, 18” x 24”. Also the sword for the 7s and The Wand (3 Clubs) were on a smaller canvas, somewhere in between the two sizes.

The new deck fits comfortably with the already published Playing Card Oracles and accompanying book “The Playing Card Oracles, a Source Book for Divination”. All layouts, including how to use the deck as a calendar, suit and number associations, geomancy applications and the other essential information in the book all work with the new deck. Even some of the images between old and new decks are similar, and the basic building blocks remain the same.

Decks contain 52 cards + 2 Jokers and are available in two sizes: normal and large.

The book and decks are available from: www.anacortez.com

Above: the practice of naming the court cards is a useful idea in card reading and is found in early French decks. Once they have names the cards take on character and are no longer just numbers. The Kings typically represent men of advanced age, experience or responsibility. Queens of the same suit share the throne, completing the Kings and creating strong leadership.

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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