Known variously as Square of Nine and le tirage en carré, the 3 x 3 is a well-known pattern in classical cartomancy. Although the nine-card variation has become a favoured size, carrés exist in various sizes. Casanova’s memories tell how his Russian mistress used a 5 x 5 to uncover his unfaithfulness.

The 3 x 3

Due to perennial status, numerous variations of the 3 x 3 exists with differences not just in the mechanics of reading, but also laying the cards. Some cartomantes prefer to remove the Significator and place it in the centre. Others let the Significator remain in the pack, but always put the first card dealt in the centre.

For myself, I prefer to leave the Significator in the pack and deal the cards left to right and top to bottom:

Although it has become fashionable to divide the 3 x 3 into a past, present, and future scheme, the present author rarely does so. If I do, I prefer to lay the cards left to right bottom to top as shown below:

For me, the past is beneath us, as archaeology attests, rather than what is to the left.

I only use the past, present and future variation if context demands it. If someone is just interested in a snapshot of the coming few weeks, or if love is on the horizon, you do not need a time division. If, however, someone is asking about an existing problem or situation then the past can be useful.

If needed, the left column (1, 4, 7) can advise on difficulties or where to forebear in the matter in question. The right column can show the reverse, e.g. help and action to take.

Example Reading:

In June 2017, I read for a client who asked a far from unusual question. What does she have that I don’t? Who gets your love when I couldn’t?

Our querent had invested five years in a man who refused to countenance either marriage or children. Less than one year after separating, this man had become engaged into another woman with the marriage due to be solemnised in Spring 2018. The indignation felt was palpable in her question:

“What does the ‘she’ offer the ‘him’ that I couldn’t that makes him want to settle down.”

The question concerns the client’s ex’s fiancée. Consequently, the fiancée will be signified by the Lady, not the client. The ex-partner takes the Lord card, as the fiancée’s partner. Our client, an indirect player within the question, receives the dame de tréfle: the Serpent. Some cartomantes will always automatically give the client the main significator. Such practices, however, ignore the function of significators and the question itself. We are concerned with what the fiancée offers; the client is not the significant party.

The cards as they fell:


The Moon, a card that provides a glimpse of how we appear to others, shows that she both fascinates and enchants him. That gives her real power over him, even if she sometimes uses it to censure and scourge him (Bear and Birch Rod, via the Moon). He loves it when she dominates him.

The Lady offers him a chance of escape (the Cloverleaf mirroring the Stork) his background or confines (the House reflects the Tree) to realise his desires (Cloverleaf – House – Stork). He also receives less stress through her intervention (Stork knights to the Tree and Child – Tree – Birds). The king and queen of hearts falling together references the relationship between the seeker and the Lord.

From the columns, interestingly, we see the little Cloverleaf and the Child flanking the big Bear. She offers a chance (Cloverleaf) to make a bold (Bear) fresh start, which he seizes blithely (Child). She offers him a chance of escaping the tension if he follows her rules (Storks over the Birch Rod and Birds). The House and the Tree flanking the Moon describes a sense of genealogical status, too.

Overall, she offers him a chance to change his stresses for a carefree life (four corners). Through her, he feels safe, albeit in a strict parental sense (middle row), which suits him nicely (House and Tree via the Moon).

Finally, what she offers that you cannot, is making him see himself as doubly blessed (Cloverleaf – Moon – Birds), and living his dream (Storks – Moon – Child), even if it is a double-whammy (Birds crowned with the Birch Rod).

The surprise, quite appropriately, was the Flowers. At the crux, what she offers is something that looks and smells more beautiful than what was known previously, including whatever you offered. Sorry.


What she offers him that you cannot is hypergamy and the resulting sense of status and standing.

Context and Function:

The seeker took the reading on the chin. However, she asked me an interesting question. Why didnʼt I interpret the Tree as inertia or habitual companionship?

My answer was quite simple: we read according to context and function vis-à-vis the cards. Hence the importance of essence.

Our context is what is offered that makes the Lord want to commit. The Tree is crowned by the Moon, a card of fascination (boredom does not inspire fame), and knights to both the Cloverleaf and the Storks, cards of chance and change respectively. As something that is offered, this will not be inertia.

A lot of people misunderstand the Tree card. Three key functions of trees are the production of mulch (via leaf fall), soil improvement (through the roots and rain dispersal), and oxygen production. It is, for this reason, why we associate the Tree with health rather than sickness. That is the essence. Healthy life is not always the most exciting, hence the inertia in some but not all cases.

As such, we cannot jump to a negative conclusion. What the Tree offers, here, comes via the Child and Birds. A reduction of stress, resulting in a more peaceful and quiet life. And the Moon shows this quite desirable.

The cards do end on a coy note. The last card is the Birds who are crowned by the Birch Rod and knight to the Bear and House cards. There is always a payoff. Hence why I referenced the double-whammy. But Iʼll leave that to you to work out.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020

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