SymTutor5: Practice Tool for
a Five-Zener-Card Spread

This page displays a simple, randomly-generated spread of the five Zener (ESP) cards (one of each symbol, in black), along with a brief description of a querent (the person for whom a reading is conducted).

This layout is intended for the practice of Zener-symbol-based “symbological readings”, as described in Doug Dyment’s Zenermancy (also in Calculated Thoughts).

To generate a new querent and card spread, simply click the “another reading” button. For maximum benefit, these practice readings should be spoken aloud, as they would be in a normal setting.

The classic set of “ESP testing” cards was created in the 1930s at Duke University (Durham, North Carolina), by perceptual psychologist Dr. Karl Edward Zener (1903–1964), who some three decades later would became Chairman of Duke’s Department of Psychology. The five symbols were designed at the behest of a colleague, Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine (1895–1980), a biologist by training, but best known as the founder of Duke’s parapsychology laboratory. More recently, it has been suggested that the pure, abstract nature of the Zener symbols are ideal for the delivery of divinatory readings to those who lack belief in—or are otherwise averse to—the more occult traditions.

The card images displayed above reproduce the symbol shapes of the first mass-produced packs created by Haines House of Cards under the auspices of Duke's parapsychology laboratory, with five copies of each of the five symbols (i.e., a 25-card pack). For this specific type of reading, only five cards are employed (one of each shape).

My own Zenermancy (The Deceptionary, 2011) offers an extensive explanation of the use of Zener symbols for divination purposes, including a full description of the “symbological reading”. The anthropological underpinnings of the “five universal shapes”, and the origins of what Angeles Arrien terms the “Preferential Shapes Test”, are explored in her book, Signs of Life, (New York, 1992).

… Doug Dyment