Jumping to Conclusions

In a recent conversation I described the art of cartomancy as “inspired guesswork with prompts.” Anyone with finely-tuned intuitive sensibilities can do it with a little exposure to the theory and practice behind it, although mastering its nuances is another story. This nonchalance is nowhere more evident than in the curious concept of assigning special significance to cards that “jump” or fall out of the deck while shuffling. In my opinion they are purely accidental, the result of carelessness on my part; I don’t even look at them and stuff them back in the deck without another thought. But then I’m a literalist, while the more impressionistic (I daresay impressionable) among us believe in an “invisible hand” of spiritual guidance that shakes the correct cards loose. Whatever, that’s not my purpose here.

I just came across the notion that so-called “jumpers” can reflect the initials of an unknown individual who may be involved in the matter at hand. Since I don’t attach any importance to them, this idea never occurred to me. I suppose the way it would work is to take the first letters of the words in the card’s title as the first letters in the person’s given name and surname (middle names would generally be ignored). In practice, for single-word titles the first word would obviously be “The,” so there would be a fair number of “T’s” in the mix, perhaps not inordinately so but we shall see. Since so many questions put to the cards involve some kind of human interaction, this could be a useful tool (for example, “Who will my next lover be?” or “Who killed Mary?”). Another intriguing possibility would be to apply the nature of the card to the individual’s overall appearance or character (e.g. the Page of Swords could be a small, slender, dark-haired youth who is a bit devious). Warming up to the idea, I produced the following model:

With the 56 “suit” cards, the last-name initial would be limited to “W” (Wands), “C” (Cups), “S” (Swords); and “P” (Pentacles, since “Coins” would introduce confusion). Among the 16 court cards, the first-name initial would be one of four: “P” (Page, since “Knave” could also be confused with its follower); “K” (Knight); “Q” (Queen, obviously a rare occurrence); and “K” (King, there’s no way around this redundancy). The 40 minor cards Ace through Ten would yield a first-name initial of “A” (Ace); “T” (Two, Three and Ten); “F” (Four and Five); “S” (Six and Seven); “E” (Eight) and “N” (Nine”). There would be quite a few gaps in this series (no “B” or “J,” among others), but something is better than nothing at this rarefied level of conjecture. A few examples would be “PW” (Page of Wands); “KP” (Knight or King of Pentacles); “AS” (Ace of Swords); “EC” (8 of Cups). Note that I’m eliminating the middle “O” as too limiting.

The 22 trump cards get more particular, and in some cases a bit unlikely: The Fool would be “TF;” The High Priestess could be either “HP” or “THP;” the Magician becomes “TM;” The Empress and Emperor “TE;” The Hierophant and The Hermit “TH;” The Lovers “TL;” The Chariot “TC;” Strength “S” (take your pick of which name to apply it to); Wheel of Fortune “WF” or “WOF;” Justice and Judgement “J” (again, pick one); The Hanged Man either “HM” or “THM;” Death “D;” (you know the drill); The Devil “TD;” The Tower “TM;” Temperance “T” (your choice); The Star and the Sun “TS;” The Moon “TM;”  and the World “TW.” Quite a few “T-names” actually, so you might want to just omit the first word of the title, “The,” and go with a single-name initial. Alternatively, you could reverse the order of the letters to double your options (“TF” or “FT,” etc). If you’re using the Tarot de Marseille, you would have the French titles to work with as well. Another approach would be to consider the trump cards as “A” (Fool) through “V” (World), with W, X, Y and Z as outliers. At least it’s a place to start, and arguably better than a dartboard.

My previous technique for puzzling out the initials of shadowy participants in a crime scenario involved identifying the Hebrew letters assigned to the trump cards and transliterating them into the letters of the modern English alphabet. But what I’m proposing here is more flexible even if it does leave some potential combinations unrealized. In thinking about it, I’m not sure I would limit this approach to jumpers since any card appearing in a spread position related to the involvement of another person (for example, in the Celtic Cross) could furnish a hint as to identity. But jumpers inject an element of serendipity that, at least in this narrow capacity, I find appealing. Of course I would have to start shuffling sloppily to use it, which goes against all my instincts.

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