Pip Cards

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The 9 of spades pip card from an antique Lenormand style deck; the image of a sailor and anchor reflects fears for the safety of a loved one

In regular playing cards, the pips are small symbols on the fronts of the cards that determine the suit and the number of the card. A standard 52-card poker deck consists of four suits of thirteen cards each -- generally spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Each suit contains three face or court cards, the jack, queen, and king. The other ten cards are the pip cards and are numbered from one to ten. The first card in the series is usually called the "ace" rather than the "one;" the second is the "deuce;" and the third is the "trey." The rest are named sequentially, the "four," "five, "six," and so on.

In some, but not all, playing card decks the pip cards contain a code at the top left-hand and lower right-hand corners, called the "index." The index tells the person holding the card the numerical value of the card and the suit. The center of the card contains pips representing the suit, with the number of pips corresponding to the number of the card.

The arrangement of the pips is generally the same from deck to deck, to make for ease of reading the pips, but there are numerous examples of pip cards in which the pips are arranged almost at random, or decoratively with respect to a picture or image on the card. This is especially true of some tarot card decks. In the Marseilles family of tarot cards, the pip cards -- sometimes called the "minor arcana" or "lesser mysteries" (as opposed to the trump cards, which form the "major arcana]]" or "greater mysteries") -- are designed to interweave in traditional patterns. In the Sola Busca or Rider-Waite-Smith family of tarot cards, the pips may be superimposed over a pictorial image or incorporated into it, becoming almost as ornatelas the court cards and trumps.

Pictorial images on pip cards combine spiritual, astrological and numerological symbols to assist the psychic tarot reader's memorization of the meaning of the card. For example, the suit of spades tends to convey messages of harm, and the 9 of spades shown here carries an image that specifically warns of danger or death to a sailor or someone born under a zodiacal water sign.

The images on the tarot deck pips are much more complex. For instance, the Two of Cups often depicts a man and a woman offering cups to one another, while a caduceus (a symbol attributed to Mercury) emerges from their meeting point. Some psychic tarot readers interpret this card as new love relationship or betrothal. Likewise, the Ace of Pentacles depicts a heavenly hand emerging from a cloud holding a large golden coin inscribed with a pentacle. Psychic tarot readers interpret this as a new business or money investment, or as general prosperity. Another example, the Three of Swords, shows a heart pierced by three swords against a cloudy, rainy sky. Most psychic tarot readers interpret this as a relationship break up or heart break, which can also foretell physical heart disease.

Pictorial pip card images do have traditional set meanings ascribed to them, but many tarot readers allow their psychic abilities to freely interpret these images as they pertain to their client's case.


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