Healing with the Playing Card Oracles

Making the cards

a self-made ceremonial version of PCO Alchemy

Going back to the Playing Card Oracles (PCO) has become a tradition of sorts for me. It occurs naturally. Without me thinking about it. When my mind is overwhelmed, preoccupied, uncentered, or when I’ve been over-saturated with other decks and perhaps even with clients, the PCO slides into my hands with  familiar certainty and the repair begins.

Divination is my calling, and cartomancy specifically is a bit of an obsession. I love researching historical decks while supporting new and emerging artists by investing in their art. I enjoy learning new systems of Divination, while always honing my skills. I even experience a sensory, ASMR-like enjoyment from shuffling and handling certain decks.

Although I’ve been reading cards for over 25 years now, I took a sabbatical of a few years, after suffering a massive burn injury while being three months pregnant with my daughter. (Actually I’ve just celebrated my eighth burniversary last week!!!)

BURN-HOSPITAL-FINGERSThe injury itself had nothing to do with my ability to read or shuffle cards. My hands, thank Goodness, weren’t damaged by the fire. Outside of 75% of my skin that was compromised — either due to third-degree burns or because it was used for skin grafting — it was my trust in the Divine that overnight was burnt to ashes, transforming into a rage against everything spiritual I held on a soul-pedestal before the accident.

While I began the long process of rehabilitation, my collection of cards was packed away, per my request, and most of my spiritual possessions given to friends and colleagues.

The following years were spent in healing, both physically and emotionally. Mostly it felt like I was given an infernal membership in a special kind of hell, taking private dance lessons with my demons, as I taught myself how to walk again in real life. The learning curve was steep: from learning about who I really was skin deep, to the fluctuating loyalties of the world around me. I even discovered that it’s possible giving birth in compression garments! (Sorry, burn survivors’ sarcasm.)

However, it is when I saw my daughter for the first time though — a healthy, chubby bun of divine light, with a head full of thick black hair — that I realized inside my chest still existed a heart overflowing with hope, even during the darkest times with my own psyche setting itself on fire.

Fast-forward to a few years later, following a relocation from my beloved Bay Area to the Midwest; to buying a house, to attempting a new career. I was a different woman I thought. Then, out of the blue, I found myself shuffling cards again. I can’t recall how a that PCO deck got out of the trunk and into my hands. But it did. And with it many realizations.

I was aware of the sense of comfort spreading with, as I handled these loose leaves of paper. I missed card reading so much!. And these playing cards have brought an essential part of me back to life.

That fall I dug up the book that came with the cards, and taught myself Ana Cortez’ method. I found her YouTube channel, and later became a student in her online school.

In spring I was fully back to reading cards, rejoining Hoodoo Psychics and AIRR, a magical services organization which I helped founding.

The original PCO deck, as well as the Alchemy addition, hold a comforting sense of clarity to me. The story of my draws unfold naturally, taking shape in the spaces between the suits and the numbers, comparing and contrasting with the colorful characters. Meaning makes itself knows via questions like: “Is there a balance between the red and the black cards? Are all of the suits represented? Can the pips guard their ground against the assertive courts? Is this a prediction of a battle, or an idyllic fairytale of love?”

It’s 10 am, and it is gloomy in Lombard, IL. I woke up with a heavy heart due to dreams of financial crisis and unfinished business. As I sip on fragrantly thick coffee my partner has brewed for me, I instinctually reach for a deck on my nightstand. I shuffle with the intention to make meaning for my state of mind. Is it something external that’s coming at me? Is it spiritual in nature? (In my business witch-wars are as real as gang activity.)

The deck I’m using today is a small PCO Alchemy deck. I’m comforted by the familiar, black and white constellation of the backs, and the way the wholesome paper-stock feels to my fingers.

I draw a vertical, four-card spread — pulling three Clubs and one Spade. The lack in red suits reflects the heaviness of the gloomy weather outside. A confirmation that the cards, my Self, and the world around us is in tune.

Playing cards oracles - alchemy edition

daily draw

The majority of Clubs places a significant emphasis on the Air element, which corresponds to the Thinking Mind. It says loud and clear: “You’re in your head!”

At the top is Sir Galahad (9 of Clubs). He is the “proper” knight, always trying to do the right thing.

Next shows up The Wand (3 of Clubs), looking like an extension of Galahad’s trebuchet, shamelessly revealing my “bi-polar” state of mind. It stresses that I’ve been, without much success, attempting to juggle very positive and very negative thought patterns. If anything, this “Janus” energy is aggravating, and it’s making me slightly cray cray, which is highlighted in the next card, the 5 of Clubs — Wind Cape.

The cards shamelessly telling me that while I imagine my shit has been under control, the truth is that I’m “loosing it.”

Finally, The Sword of Destruction (7 of Spades), actually brings some solace. Even though it’s a a heavy card from a troublesome suit, its redeeming quality pierces at the foot of the spread; a placement where Earth, an element represented by the Spade suit, is dignified. In a way it grounds the other three Air cards. It helps me stay functional, by offering an “out of the self-mindfuckery jail” ticket.

In other words, the cards suggest that accepting the erratic moodiness my current state of mind generates is the first step for healing and stability.

The more I meditate on this, the more the draw makes sense.  After all Mercury just went Retrograde, and the Moon is in Gemini.





Madame Nadia is a hereditary diviner, a celebrity psychic, an initiated Palera and Macumbera, and a co-host of Fit+Foxy podcast. For spiritual consultations and magical tutoring: www.madamenadia.com/readings

A Divination Altar


Madame Nadia’s Divination Altar

Last week I finally    got to accomplish a spiritual task I was planning for a long while. But due to a busy schedule — conjure clients, a masters degree, a family, and all that jazz — I had to wait for a summer break in order to build a divination altar. It took me about 5 days from the point of starting to clean and prep the area where I was planning to erect it, to actually having a functional sacred space for devotion and inspiration. 

Madame NAdia is reading the Deste at the Hoodoo Heritage Fest, photo courtesy Coastside Conjure

Madame Nadia is reading the Deste at the Hoodoo Heritage Fest, photo courtesy Coastside Conjure

I was taken by surprise when, after posting a picture of my newly constructed fortunetelling shrine, I got many questions about it from folks over social media. After thinking about it I realized that indeed I haven’t seen many images of divination before. 

What I call a divination altar is a space dedicated to the Spirits I work with when I read fortunes. By honoring my Spirits regularly, my connection with them deepens, and my divination skills improve. Not every one works with Spirits, or knows their Spirits, or is aware of a presence of such energies while divining — and it’s perfectly fine. This is just the way I do it, and how my practice had unfolded throughout the years. In fact, now that I think about it, building this shrine in a first place was a mission given to me by my Spirits of Divination. 

Building altars has its own aesthetic. Every one does it their way. And my technique, even if originally my intention was keeping it clean and functional, turns into a sensory overload painted in the colors of a bordello. Really, I shouldn’t even try fighting it anymore. lol


Carnivalia Sign

The pieces on the altar are images, photographs and statuary that has special meaning to me or to my Spirits. For instance, last May, while teaching at the Hoodoo Heritage Festival, I was presented by the sweet, Coastside Conjure, with a beautiful shingle sign made by Carnivalia. Since I am not reading in person, I knew I wanted this large beauty to be the backdrop for my altar. I also keep a few beautiful containers with graveyard dirt — one of them contains dirt from Mlle. Lenormand’s grave site, another precious gift I received from a talented colleague and friend, Balthazar Conjure.


Graveyard dirt and other delights

A cool water container, glass

In addition, I keep a few card decks and other, special to me, divination and magickal tools either on display or hidden. One of these is my first Thoth deck that also happens to be the oldest reading deck in my possession (as opposed to the vintage decks in my collection). The only deck I owned prior to the above mentioned cards was a Rider Waite Smith I purchased at the age of 15. However, these cards were left at Ma Kali’s feet as part of my initiation offering some 10 years ago. And of course, there are candle holders and an incense brazier placed securely among bones, furs, shells, magickal goodies, and a central piece — a glass for water. I must boast that this cool container is also a present from a friend and a student, Dean from QuickSilver Conjure. I do have awesome friends! ❤ 


A playing cards – themed water container between two shells

The purpose of this post was more to share my thought process and approach to altar building and fortunetelling, than giving you an instructional bulletin. I hope that some of you find this information meaningful, and apply it to your own fortunetelling practices. 

If you have questions, please post them in the comments section or on my Facebook page


Madame N. 

Need a reading? No problem! You can book one here

All images and text Copyright Madame Nadia 2014

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

If you missed the Hoodoo Rootwork Radio Show last Sunday

If you happened to miss the Hoodoo Rootwork Radio Show last Sunday, here is an archived recording of the show. Along the hosts, who were using the RW tarot, I was divining with the Lenormand cards & Ana Cortez‘s fabulous Playing Cards Oracles.

The show was loads of fun, and I can’t wait to do it again. Though I was very nervous, since it was my first radio appearance.

I absolutely love using the Lenormand and playing cards for conjure-type readings and for Spirit work. I find both systems to be very practical, and give not only accurate predictions, but also naturally offer natural suggestions for rootwork and magical remediation. After all, two-headed doctors from the old South often used playing cards as their divination tool, along with bones, and scrying.

Do you use your Lenormand or another deck, other than tarot, in any type of Spiritual work?


I’ll be on the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour this afternoon!

ImageI wanted to make sure y’all knew I’ll be today’s guest on the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour on Blog Talk Radio.

The hosts, catherine yronwode, ConjureMan Ali, and yours truly — Madame Nadia of AIRR — will provide 90 minutes of free readings and conjure consultation, while offering an education in African American folk magic. The Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour will air at 3pm PT, 6pm ET.

Please tune in online, call in by phone 818-394-8535, or ‘Click-to-Talk’ via a computer interface. Join in chat using a registered account.

For all of you card lovers, I am planning to use the Lenormand system and Playing Cards Oracles, by Ana Cortez.

I am über excited! And I hope to connect with all of you this afternoon!!!!

Madame Nadia

In the Works: Ana Cortez’s New Deck

I am so excited to share these awesome news with all of you! My mentor and friend, Ana Cortez, the author and co-creator of the Playing Cards Oracles is raising funds to publish a  second deck.

I find this upcoming project very exciting, and am planning to support it personally as well. I thought I’d share the information with you, so you too might participate in the manifestation of this new and brilliant playing cards deck.

Read more about this extraordinary project on Ana’s site.

And if you just want to go and get you a few decks, or buy an original painting, here’s the link to Kickstarter: The Book of Knowing

Weekly Draw for 4.29-5.6.2012

For this week’s forecast I laid out the Grand Tableau, using my vintage Carta Mundi deck. I also drew 4 cards from the Playing Cards Oracle deck, and cast some bones.

Here’s what I got:

Bones — from closest to farthest:

Abalone (open); John the Conqueror; Blocked Cowrie (coconut top); Cowrie (upside-down); Buckeye; Wiesel Jaw (facedown).

Formation resembles the Hebrew letter Gimel.


PCO cards (From top to bottom):

Ace of Diamonds — Ignita

4 of Diamonds — South Wind

Queen of Clubs — Leah

Lady (10) of Clubs — Fortuna

“When will I get married?” A Relationship Video Reading

Recently I divined for Katie; a young lady who desires to settle down. She had her share of flirts, relationships, and heart aches. Now she’s wondering whether she’ll ever get married. And if so, when?

Also, an old flame — now a father to a young child, and soon to be a divorcee — is back in her life. Katie wants to know if he is a candidate for a solid relationship.

In this video reading I am using playing cards, The Victorian Romantic Tarot, French Cartomancy Lenormand, and The Victorian Flower Oracle.

Lets take a look:

Here are the 2 links I mention in the Video:

Andy’s Journal of a Cartomante blog, and Evgenia’s YouTube Channel

A Sample Reading Using Multi-Oracle Spreads

For a while now I have been planning on updating my YouTube boudoir with a current video. Mainly, I wanted to share my approach of using multiple divination systems with one sitter, during a single session.

An example of a multi-oracle spread using the Secret Dakini Oracle, Mary El Tarot (1st ed.), Playing Cards Oracles, & Bones — all used in one divination session

Recently, I received a request from a delightful young lady who wanted to have her fortune read regarding a relationship concerning her ex-boyfriend. I took this opportunity and recorded the reading, demonstrating the incorporation of three different systems of cartomancy — the Silent Tarot, Playing Cards Oracles, and ARLO Lenormand — into one, very potent, divination consultation.


Playing Cards Oracles & Lenormand Forecast for April 1st – April 15th, 2012

My Playing Cards Oracle teacher, Ana Cortez, challenged us to produce our own Oracle Forecast for the next two weeks, and then to compare it with the one she will be broadcasting tomorrow.

I drew four cards from PCO, and two cards from Postmark Lenormand. Here is my take on the upcoming energies, shifts, and vibes that will influence us a whole in the next two weeks:

6 Spades (Rx) + King of Clubs + Jack of Spades + 3 Diamond from the Playing Cards Oracles. Key + Path from Lenormand.

When shuffling the cards and trying to connect to the energy of April, I kept seeing in my mind’s eye images of black and fertile earth. How dark and potent is the ground right now, as we rise from Winter months into the renewing glow of Spring? What has been planted previously, what has been consciously attended to, is ready to bud and blossom and shine.

But what about the deep bare holes, the lingering wounds we left unattended during the winter months? I feel that the reversed 6 of Spades — The Ruin — speaks about these wounds. And how they will be rising to our conscious mind, demanding attention and resolution. This is where Sol, the King of Clubs, is going to be in his element, sharing dark feelings and emotions in a most adequate way. I like seeing him in the throat position. I like to know we’ll have the right tools to communicate pain and voice disillusionment, so we can heal and move on.

But I won’t lie to y’all. The energy of the next two weeks will feel heavy and dark, like the fertile earth. Things we wanted to keep under the rug will be floating into plain view, no matter how hard we try to keep it all contained. Loyal Pampero will help addressing and navigating these touchy feely spheres of personal experience in a most detached manner and impersonal way. He will ensure we can actually deal with this stuff,  while not turning it into unnecessary drama.

In the end of these two hard weeks of emotional journey into the underworld, we will emerge victorious, adorned with the shining pearls of resolution, wholeness, and inspiration. Now we’ll be truly ready to walk our path in confidence, with spring in our step and hope in our hearts.

I feel that the Lenormand duo grounds the reading; shedding positive light and reassurance onto our efforts. The Key and The Path suggest walking guided by our destiny — being able to hear the message of our Higher Self and act accordingly. If you find yourself getting upset at the fates for having to deal with spiritual guck and debris floating in the air as you attempt to Spring Clean, remember it’s all part of the grand plan.

If you need to make room for that new sexy silk blouse in your closet, you better finally get rid of the atrocious christmas sweeter your aunt gave you in 1997. You’re never gonna wear it anyway. So accept the fact she’ll be pissed at you no matter what, cuz this is who she is and move on. It’s time!

Listen to Ana’s AMAZING forecast here