Early Cartomancy in Germany


Das Carneval gelehrter Phantasien:
Oder Sammmlung einiger kleinen Schriften zum Nutzen und Vergnügen
Schäfer, 1763 - 148 pages, by anonymous
https://books.google.de/books?id=L9...r_esc=y#v=onepage&q=wahrsagung karten&f=false

A chapter about "Wahrsagerei" ... one page notes cartomancy and coffee reading as new divination techniques, which replace older techniques as "Tacht eines Lichtes, Feuerbrandt und Eyweiß". The techniques are described in the article, cartomancy only rather short (but with enough text, that one can recognize forms of complex cartomancy). According these remarks, Cartomancy is known in the Netherlands and in Germany (in 1763), especially to the ladies. The author expresses himself, as if he addresses already a larger fashion (though it seems difficult, to find evidence for this).

As far I know this is the oldest known evidence for "advanced cartomancy" in contrast to one-card reading or very primitive forms of divination by cards. The author writes "against divination" as most other sources about early card divination.

The relevant page:


Earlier forms of primitive divination involving playing cards I found in texts for the years 1636 (preaching against sorcery), 1700 (card reading can replace dowsing - "Wünschelrute") and 1736 (cards used to find thieves) beside the well known text of 1505 (Mainzer Kartenlosbuch), which just imitated a known lot book of an earlier date (1487).

Further ...

1766 card use to find thieves (again) in preaching text

Bibelkrankheiten, welche im alten Testamente vorkommen:
Nebst Augustin Kalmets Benedictinerordens Abhandlung von dem Aussatze der Juden, Volume 5
Christian Tobias Ephraim Reinhard
Günther, 1768 - 244 pages
https://books.google.de/books?id=mY...r_esc=y#v=onepage&q=wahrsagung karten&f=false

Poem to the new divination techniques (coffee reading, cards are mentioned before):



Most interesting it becomes with ...

Abhandlung der Physiognomie, Metoposcopie und Chiromantie
Christian Adam Peuschel
1769 - 401 pages
... a Lutheran pastor with a lot of esoteric interests, but cartomancy he considers as "töricht" (stupid).
He is called a "Wolffian", which means, that he followed ideas of Christian Wolff, a German philosopher.








The author Peuschel died one year after finishing the book (1770).
Lavater (in contact with Herder and many others) in 1772 took intensive notice of his work, he wrote himself about Physiognomy (1775), an influential work.

In Nicolai's important "Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek" (a magazine in book form running quarterly from 1765 bis 1806) appeared in 1770 an amusing commentary to the book, which is signed by "H", possibly meaning Johann Gottfried Herder, who participated intensively at the production of the magazine from 1766-1774.

But ...
(Bd. 13)
... claims, that the author was A.L.F. Meister

The passage to Cartomancy (by "H"):



The article appeared in the last part of 1770. At that time Herder was in Strassburg, having bad teeth and being in a longer medical treatment. The young Goethe (20 years old) visited Herder (25 years old) at this opportunity and the meeting became a big event in the chronic for German literature ("Straßburger Gespräche"; Goethe much later: "das bedeutendste Ereignis, was die wichtigsten Folgen für mich haben sollte").
The interesting point is, that the author of the Cartomancy passage notes "Strassburg" and "Kehl" (very near to Strassburg, just at the other side of the Rhine), and he seems to know (possibly), that divination cards (or only playing cards ? the passage is not totally clear) are produced in Strassburg (and likely imported to Germany, cause Strassburg had special rights for import to German countries and could avoid custom taxes).

"H" thinks in a negative manner about Peuschel and his work, but he praises with some irony (he notes own "Ober- und Unterkleider"), that Peuschel proposes Ober and Unter (German court cards) for divination and not foreign court cards (Queen and Jack).

Very old divination cards are very rare items, so perhaps this passage has some (though insecure) importance.

Peuschel's text (1769) is one year before Etteilla's first publication. I guess, that this and also the note of 1763 should be part of the Etteilla Timeline, possibly also the note of "H" (1770), as it gives a sort of hint to Strassburg's role in the production of divination cards. Etteilla also had some time in Strassburg (1777 till possibly 1781; DDD p. 82-83).

You can find an earlier (expanded) article to this theme with "trionfi village cartomancy"
at the common search engine.


Thank you, Huck. This information is so valuable.

Any chance of getting an English translation of the earliest card meanings and technique?

Note: the 1730 British play - Jack the Gyant-Killer references a multi-card layout and its interpretation - saying that coffee and card divination had recently arrived in England. (Thanks to kwaw who first discovered it.)


I see I also have a note concerning a possible lead for an earlier German work:

1672 - A book in Latin on Occult Sciences written by Schwabergen, “in which he shews that in addition there are favorable hours, and that no divinatory operations (whether by cards or otherwise) should be undertaken when it is too foggy, stormy, raining or windy. A calm sky appears to him an essential condition.” quoted in Poinsot, The Complete Book of the Occult and Fortune Telling, p. 223.

Not much to go on, I'm afraid and it may only be a one-liner.


Worldcat is totally negative about an author Schwabergen.

Google knows this passage:



... which mentions a "Jean Meibomius" as a friend and the publication location Helmstadt (? = Helmstedt) and the year 1672. The title of the book is not given.

Helmstedt had a university then, likely with a good name. In Helmstedt was active Henricus Maibomius, otherwise Johann Heinrich Maibom (Johann = Jean in French).

worldcat has for "Helmstedt 1672" 2 published works, both from Maibom
http://worldcat.org/identities/nc-helmstedt 1672/

The university Helmstedt was then (? at least till 1650) known as a hardliner in the question of protestant witch persecution. Perhaps the addressed text had something to do with it?

"Schwabenden" leads to nothing, as far I can see this. Perhaps a result of a name transformation from German to Latin. Close names in Helmstedt are Schraderus or Schrader or Schwabe. Perhaps the text existed only as a manuscript?

Generally the word cartomancy didn't exist in this time.


Thank you, Huck.


Schwabergen seems to be the name of a few hills (50 m) between Senzke and Pessin (c. 50 km distance to Berlin in NW direction in the Havel-region). Pessin once (1608) had been the location of 8 different living places for knights (a sort of record), seven belonged to one of the Knobloch families and one to the family Bredow.
The distance from Helmstedt to Pessin might be about 200 km.

Possibly once a Knobloch or Bredow called himself additionally "von Schwabergen", cause he had a house on such a hill? However, I didn't find a professor with such a name in Helmstedt in the relevant time.

Meibom had a son-in-law, Philipp Christoph Schwartzen. He was active in a book project, but not in 1672.


Christoph Schrader was indeed a colleague of Maibom in Helmstedt, and indeed he published there in 1672. However, I don't recognize a book with "occult science".


Worldcat has about 180 publications from him, 2 of 1672 (both are not "occult science")

I give up on this ... :)


I found in ...
Wahrsagekarten: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Okkultismus
Detlef Hoffmann, Erika Kroppenstedt
Deutsches Spielkarten Museum e. V., 1972 - Fortune-telling by cards - 191 pages
... a note about a Kartenloosbuch in 1543 by Jacob Cammerlander. John Meador had noted it once years ago.


Biography of the printer Jacob Cammerlander:

Description by Bolte (noted in the text of Hoffmann)
https://books.google.de/books?id=o-...e&q=Wir sein aus Karten Satyri worden&f=false

Another reference in a modern book to either another Loosbuch by Cammerlander or the same book:
Jörg Wickram
Walter de Gruyter, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 268 pages
Wickrams "Losbuch" (1539), das diesen Titel erst seit 1559 fuhrt, ist eine Parodie auf die beliebte Gattung der Losbucher und in seiner Art ein bemerkenswertes Zeugnis der Buchkultur der Fruhen Neuzeit. Uber 25 nachweisbare Auflagen bis ins fruhe 18. Jh. bestatigen Beliebtheit und Erfolg der Konzeption. Die vorliegende wissenschaftliche Edition bietet den philologisch-kritisch erarbeiteten Text und eine umfangreiche Dokumentation der Textgeschichte. Die Ausgabe folgt in notiger Umsetzung den Intentionen der editio princeps und enthalt samtliche Illustrationen und deren Varianten.
Die Ausgabe unterscheidet sich in struktureller Hinsicht und in den mitgeteilten editorischen Beigaben von der alten Ausgabe, die seinerzeit Johan von Bolte veranstaltete. "
https://books.google.de/books?id=D0...=onepage&q=jacob cammerlander losbuch&f=false

Wickram's Losbuch described at:
https://books.google.de/books?id=nc...jAC#v=onepage&q=wickram kurzweil 1539&f=false

Added later: I found a version of Wickram's "Kurzweil" of 1550 (later called "weltlich Losbuch") ...
... and it seems to be not identical to the Kartenloosbuch of 1543.


The book (Hofmann/Kroppenstedt) also contains a list with cartomancy expressions, as they had appeared in 17 different systems, mostly from 19th century. I took the care to translate the expressions to English, hopefully meeting the intended meaning.

List of used decks (numbers refer to the deck numbers used in the book, which is the catalog of an exhibition). Totally the catalog has 118 numbers.

4. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 36 cards, Germany begin 19th century (1813 ?), producer unknown
6. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 52 cards, Germany begin 19th century, producer unknown
7. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 32 cards, Stralsunder Spiekartenfabriken end 19th century
8. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 32 cards, F. Macchi in Praha, end 19th century
10. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 36 cards, F. Bognato in Udine begin 19th century
11. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, sheet with 20 cards cards, notes in German, French and Italian c 1830, producer unknown
12. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, sheet with 32 cards, notes in Dutch, English, German, French and Italian c 1830,, producer unknown
13. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 32 cards, Stralsunder Spiekartenfabriken begin 20th century
14. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 30 cards, Germany or Austria mid 19th century, notes in 7 languages, producer unknown
15. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 35 cards, Wilhem Tiratscheck in Breslau 1st half 19th century, notes in German and Polish
16. Wahrsagekarten "Sybille" with notes and pictures, 32 cards, J. C. Jergel Nuremberg c. 1870
17. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 24 cards, Germany end 19th century, notes in German, French and Italian, producer unknown
18. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 20 cards, Germany or Austria end 19th century, notes in German, Hungarian and Czechian, producer unknown
19. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 32 cards, Germany or Austria end 19th century, notes in 7 languages, producer unknown
21. Zigeuner Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 36 cards, Piatnik in Wien 1963/64, notes in German, French, English and Italian, producer unknown
22. Fr. Kippers berühmte Wahrsagekarte, Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, 36 cards, Germany c 1900, producer unknown
32. Wahrsagekarten with notes and pictures, German suit, 36 cards, Industrie Comptoir in Leipzig c 1830






The following text includes Wickram's lot book of 1539, the editio princeps (starts at page 1)

It's not identical to the Kartenloosbuch of 1543, from the printer Jacob Cammerlander, about which Hoffmann/Kroppenstedt reported. This text is also online and it's here:
Kartenloosbuch drinnen aus H. schrifft vil laster gestrafft und heylsamer Leeren angezeigt werden (etc.)- Strassburg, Kammerlander 1543

As author of the Kartenloosbuch 1543 is suspected Jacob Vielfeld, who often cooperated with Cammerlander ...

Author of Wickram's Losbuch is Georg (Jörg) Wickram ...


What a wonderful thread, and so much information! When I'm in Germany for the next time, I'll buy some German playing cards and try to follow some of these instructions. What a pity that my grandmother's old German cards were thrown out after her death, I always loved to look at them when I was a child. I'd love to have a group here with German playing cards (or Floskaartjes but they're really hard to come by - I should probably print my own!).

Some months ago, a user asked for a deck recommendation suitable for her heritage (wendish-sorbian), and I referred her to German decks by Altenburg and cited from Fontane's novel "Vor dem Sturm" where old Hoppenmarieken uses German playing cards for divination.


I wonder where Fontane took the knowledge about cartomancy for this scene. Poor old Hoppenmarieken lays out the cards again and again because she is frightened of the Schippenbube (jack of spades). She knows to whom this card refers. Manipulating the cards doesn't help, she meets her end at the hands of a man... and the reader understands it must have been the dreaded Schippenbube.

Either Fonate knew someone who used cards or he read one of those books.

Very interesting, Huck, thank you!



The book (Hofmann/Kroppenstedt) also contains a list with cartomancy expressions, as they had appeared in 17 different systems, mostly from 19th century. I took the care to translate the expressions to English, hopefully meeting the intended meaning...

Thanks for the list Huck, and translating the meanings -- I have just been compiling such a list myself from a variety of decks at the BnF and BM and good to see one already compiled.