Cartomancy has a long history, throughout the variations of tarot, decades of playing card divination, and a variety of other styles. One such sort of cartomancy arose in the late 18th century, created by Marie Anne Lenormand. Her cards, styled in such a way to be an amusing parlor room entertainment, became well known after her passing. Carrying her name, Lenormand decks have become a popular form of cartomancy and are very easy to learn to read.
There are 36 Lenormand cards in a traditional deck. Lenormand cards are not like Tarot cards, where the meanings are long and involved. Each card has one symbol on it, such as a sun, a key, or a dog. These cards each have particular symbolism attached to them, but can also be quite literal. For example, the Dog can symbolize a friend, someone who aids you, or close relations. On the other hand, it could literally be referring to a dog you know. This takes practice to discern, but also makes Lenormand readings rather relatable.
Now, fair warning, but Lenormand can be a product of its time. Two of the cards, the Man and Woman, can be a little dated in their meanings. In general, they mean a man or woman close to you. However, sometimes they can be “signifiers” for the reader, presumably based on gender. In those cases, the other card is implied by traditional books to potentially be a “romantic interest.” This binary can be a little restricting in our more accepting society today. Some modern decks get around this by having a “you” and “your partner” card instead, but that makes the meanings very fixed in another way. If you use a Lenormand deck, it is something you’ll have to think about as you learn to work with the cards.
Pairings and Spreads with Lenormand
One of the most common ways to read Lenormand cards is in pairs. One card acts as the subject, while the second acts as a modifier. For example, if I pulled Man and Snake, I’d be on the lookout for a gentleman near me who might betray me, as snakes point to treacherous behavior. These pairings can be very literal, again. For example, if instead I pulled Garden and Snake, I would worry about a traitor in my social circle… but also literally be on the lookout for a snake while gardening!’
This concept of pairings makes for some interesting readings. If you pull an odd number of Lenormand cards, say five, you will usually apply each card to the one before and after it. If you are reading an even number of cards, such as six, you would usually isolate this to pairs, often using columns to keep the cards organized. This concept also creates interesting spreads. For example, a three by three grid where every card relates to the one in the middle. You can also, once you feel comfortable, look into the Grand Tableau.
The Grand Tableau
This spread uses all 36 cards in a Lenormand deck. It is a massive but entertaining undertaking. For this spread you do need to use one of those handy signifiers to stand in for yourself. However, by doing this, you almost get a charms reading-like effect. Where your signifier ends up in the spread determines a lot about how the spread reads out. If your card is surrounded by a lot of positive cards, but a daunting card is directly to the right, there might be an obstacle in your way. If you see the Dog card beside the Snake, and both are right beside you? You might not have the friend you think you do. Everything is taken into account with this reading, which means it is a good idea to have an idea what you want answers on before you go into this spread.
Lenormand as a Tool
As someone who picked up Lenormand out of curiosity, it has become one of the most unique and clutch tools in my kit. Lenormand does sometimes have a gossipy air to it, but it’s clear cut voice is one that helps me significantly when trying to identify entities and intentions. Nothing like pulling House and Rats to know I need to cleanse!
On top of that, Lenormand is how I learned to read between the lines on cards. The pairings of Lenormand create very unique interpretations, and you need to learn to think outside the box. If you are someone who has trouble moving away from the keywords of Tarot, Lenormand is a fantastic way to do it. Over time, you stop looking at the book and start trusting your instincts when you see certain combinations come up. Rather than cards, you start to see sentences. Those sentences grow into paragraphs, and eventually full stories. It’s one I have recommended to other readers and will continue to recommend. Hopefully you’ll find as much meaning from it as I have.