What My Mother Taught Me

Recently I have been immersed in the playing cards quite a bit. I think it’s all started after I spiritually committed myself to Ana Cortez’s upcoming deck — The Book of Knowing.

In contrast to other authors and deck creators, Ana has graciously allowed, and even encouraged, reproducing the paintings her father, C.J. Freeman, had channeled and manifested, to make a personal playing cards oracle deck.

I downloaded the images and mounted them onto a regular deck of Bicycle brand playing cards. And then, when my own version of The Book of Knowing was finished, I communed with the elements, circling under an Aquarius Full Moon, ritually dedicating myself to the cards.

A few cards of my own Book of Knowing deck

V. Erco 2012 edition

Since then, I have been obsessing over unique and vintage playing cards decks on eBay. Mainly, I got some amazing Russian and Ukrainian decks — while being especially fascinated by the wonderful art of Vladislav Erco and his Taras Bulba inspired cards.

Getting a hold of these papery treasures gives my heart an all-over fuzzy feeling. It reminds me of my mother laying her piquet cards over the kitchen table, fortune telling on matters of the pocket and the heart while her girlfriends sip Turkish coffee. Growing up, card reading felt absolutely normal — “What, your mom doesn’t read the cards?”

After following my own divinatory interests for many years, and spending a lot of this time in the intrigues of tarot, I came back to roots and requested my mother to teach me her way of reading the playing cards. She wasn’t very interested. “I don’t know how I do it,” she said.

“Well, how did you learn to read them to begin with?” I wondered. She couldn’t remember.

“I think I learned it from an old gypsy lady… Hmmm, maybe not. I really don’t know.” I wasn’t surprised. My mother’s memory is like Swiss cheese. After all, she can’t even remember what time of day I was born. “I think it was early afternoon, Nadyusha. Maybe it was late afternoon. Probably after 5 PM. Wait, maybe it was midnight.” It doesn’t matter really because my mom is an amazing reader. Or, as my dear Californian friends would say: She’s right on!

But here’s the deal — My mother’s style of reading is not psychological, Jungian, or archetypal. It ain’t based on astrology or the seasons. She uses very basic, pre-assigned meanings for each of the cards. She works within the permutations of these meanings, filling in negative space with brilliant intuition.

I am going to share with you the card meanings my mother has shared with me. For this purpose I’ve translated them from Russian. The intuition part, however, is your own business!







An unmarried young man / The Life of a an unmarried young man

An Official, a Lawyer, a Soldier, or a Boss / Life of an older man

A Male, a sweetheart (love interest) if read for a female / The Life of a client or of a sweetheart

A male. His Life


An unmarried young woman / The Life of a an unmarried young woman

An older female, often divorced, and older. Could also represent a female in an official position.

A female, or a sweetheart (if reading for a male client). Her Life.

A female. Her Life.


Worries of a young and unmarried individual

Worries in official matters.

Worries of the client or his / her love interest.

Worries of an individual.


Good financial news.

A tough love situation. A financial (official) interest.

Love of a “Hearts” individual.

Love of a “Clubs” individual.


A bed of an unmarried individual.

A sick bed.

The bed of a “Hearts” individual. A lucky card.

The bed of a of a “Clubs” individual.


Thoughts and conversations of an unmarried person.

Thoughts and conversations of official matters.

Thoughts and conversations of a client or their sweetheart.

Thoughts and conversations of a “Clubs” individual.


A meeting with a younger, unmarried individual.

A meeting with an official, or a much older person.

A meeting with a sweetheart.

A meeting with a “Clubs” person.


A path, a way of a younger, unmarried individual.

A path, a way of an official, or a much older person

A path, a way of a client or their sweetheart.

A path, a way of a “Clubs” person.


Great news in financial matters. Success (especially when combined with 10 of Diamonds)

An official structure (hospital, bank, office, etc.) Also a bad luck card, especially when the Spade is pointing down.

A client’s or their sweetheart’s home.

A home of a “Clubs” person.


As you can see, these are very basic meanings. Coming down from a tarot reading perspective, it is almost more complicated to be able to read such simplified combinations. There are more intertwined nuances my mother uses in her card reading, but this is the basic skeleton of information she follows.


Madame Nadia


10 thoughts on “What My Mother Taught Me

  1. Cardseer says:

    Hi Nadia,

    The Book of Knowing images are stunning and beautifully disturbing, and I believe there is something magical in fashioning your own deck. Your deck turned out fabulous! Sadly, I’m hopeless with scissors and glue, so I’m looking forward to when Ana’s new deck is published.

    Thank you for sharing your mom’s cartomancy meanings. I’m fascinated by traditional cartomancy, particularly by systems handed down by word of mouth, and not found in any book. Card reading was a normal part of my childhood too, and so I can definitely relate. 🙂

    We’re neighbors?


    • Madame Nadia says:

      Dear Kaph,
      I am not a crafty person myself — I am much better when it concerns the digital medium — though making these cards was a wonderful meditation not only on creating a personally magical tool, but also how to deal with one’s own imperfections.
      I am happy you’ve enjoyed this post. I am looking for an established system that is closely resembling these meanings. Preferably one that includes meanings for numbers between A and 6. I’ve recently won a Parlour Sibyl deck (that I can’t wait to play with). I am interested in it mainly because it seems like the meanings of the cards are somewhat similar to the system my mother uses. What do you think?

      For some reason I thought that you are located in Illinois as well? Maybe I’m mistaken… Hmmm…

      • Cardseer says:

        Hi Nadia,

        The Parlour Sibyl is one of my favorite oracle decks. I prefer a cartomancy deck with 52 cards. The artist, JJ Grandville, was a contemporary of Mlle Lenormand, and there’s speculation that the deck was based on her actual cartomancy method, but who knows? Much of the symbolism reminds me of the Italian Sibilla decks, and some of the meanings do appear somewhat similar to your mom’s meanings. I think you’re going to really enjoy working with this deck, and I looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

        No, I’m originally from NY, but now living in the Sunshine State of Florida. 🙂

  2. JJ says:

    I love your handwritten titles on the Book of Knowing deck you made.

    I’ve been collecting playing cards for several years and used to buy many titles from Roddy Somerville who unfortunately closed his web shop a year ago. I have lots of odd European and facsimile decks–63 in total so far. I find them irresistible.

    Years ago I was on Kaph’s forum for cards for a brief time. I still haven’t cemented a method for using them. I tired Deborah Leigh’s Personal Prophesy method for several years, and I use Ana’s methods and decks. I did my own titles on a Bicycle deck using her system.

    I was doing a monthly overview with her system which I enjoyed, but I keep forgetting to do it. Perhaps I’ll do one tomorrow–thanks for reminding me. I have a little chart I redo each month for the Geomantic figures. I find geomancy intriguing.

    • Madame Nadia says:

      Wow, your Art Nouveau titles are gorgeous! I had no idea Kaph ran a forum, but I adore his blog.
      I would be very interested to read your monthly overviews and Geomantic insights. Ana does a monthly read on her site, and usually it is right on.

  3. alice says:

    Thank you for sharing these meanings! I like them a lot, they seem…fluid.
    I would be very much interested to read more about her system. Can you also share some layouts with us? How does she read them?

  4. Iliana says:

    I am thrilled to read your sharing of your Mama’s card technique, because it is almost identical to what my grandmother taught me (in Russian) when I was eight years old!

    My great grandmother was a bit dreaded in her village for knowing everything about everyone because of her cards. When her husband came home from market claiming the price of his goods was down, she would simply hold out her hand. He would sigh, and pull out the drinking money he had hidden in his pazukha (front fold of the shirt.) She always knew.

    As for meanings for 2, 3, 4, and 5, we do not use them at all. We remove them from the reading deck.

    Beautiful Kokoshnik, by the way.


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