Loving Lenormands

Imaginary reconstruction of Mme Lenormand reading for Robespierre

I am experiencing an upsurge of love for my Lenormands. I can’t explain why exactly. Perhaps it is because the 2nd edition of the Melissa Lenormand is iminent. Perhaps it is because I feel the need for something concise and to-the-point in my recent rather vague thinking. Perhaps it is because, in times of crises, Lenormands are cheap (compared to tarot decks and bumper Oracle sets and kits). Perhaps I need something pared down, free of excess, all divinatory fat removed; the symbol and nothing more. Whatever it is, I dug my Lenormands out of their shabby little trunk last week and took out my pocket sized (work in progress) journal of Lenormand meanings with a view to expanding on my ongoing notes. I also recently received (and read in an afternoon) Britta Kienle’s book Easy to Learn Fortune Telling using the cards of Mme Lenormand, which was useful in that it contains the first ever explanation of the Grand Tableau that actually made sense to me. Most accounts of this spread assure you “no, honestly, you don’t have to interpret every single card in the tableau” and then promptly go on to interpret every single card in the tableau.

Carreras Cigarette cards (1926)

But like any worthwhile cartomantic system, Lenormand cards will meet you wherever you are on your journey. They will make sense to you on a par with how you make sense of them. If you’re only up to one card draws, they’ll still deliver the goods. I personally  – compulsively –  do 3-card spreads (with any deck, tarot or not). I also like Britta’s recommendation to draw one card which will tell you an area of your life that needs light shedding on it. Then the next two cards do just that; shed light on it. Let’s face it, Lenormand cards need interaction. I’m all for one card draws, but these cards are like cartomantic grammar, you string your declarative sentences together and create a flow of meaning. They have their own lexicon, their own syntax, your Significator is the subject, and a Lenormand spread (of more than one card) has action, subject and object. That is what I love about Lenormands. Admittedly, I sometimes feel I might be way off the mark in my interpretation of meaning but there is always something direct about them and I feel they can relate to the trivial, non-spiritual things in my life, the tiny ebbs and flows of any given day. Card number 27, The Letter, could be a court summons or it could be a text message that made you smile. It’s true to say that Lenormands can deal with the cosmic and the futile without shirking. Here are the three male Significator cards from three favourite decks;

Left to right; Dondorf / Melissa 1st ed. / LoS French Cartomancy deck

These are the decks I use the most; the Konigsfurt edition of the Dondorf which has crisp images and stiff cardstock. Then the Melissa which I love for its layers of manuscripts, vintage photos and the sense that you have something which was found in the bottom of a suitcase from your great aunt’s attic (and of course has that lovely swimmer squatting on his haunches). On the right is the Lo Scarabeo French Cartomancy deck which I believe is a version of a Dondorf deck (who published various editions of Lenormand decks between 1873 and 1933). I don’t care too much for technicalities; I just wallow in the faded old world charm and – once you’ve dirtied the borders with shuffling – this one foots the bill. These three for me are the most beautiful, and I am very excited to see how the Melissa will be tweaked for the 2nd edition. I am very happy with the 1st edition and use it a lot (it is stored in an old leather cigarrette case from the flea market which always feels perfect for it). I also love how the Melissa has discarded the playing card inserts. I am of the new generation of Lenormand card readers; I don’t really need the playing card inserts. Really I don’t. I’m quite happy for that valuable space to be used for more of the illustration. Another deck which doesn’t have the playing card inserts and which I came back to this week is the Lo Scarabeo  Lenormand Oracle which is touted as a reproduction of an 1890 Lenormand deck, a detail I find odd as the clothes on the female significator card are not 1890 at all, but rather early 20th century (as are those worn in the male Significator card). Yet I have learnt to like it. The borders were much too glaringly white on this one so I trimmed it and rounded the corners. I love how it feels now, like old cigarette cards, a throwback to the Carreras Lenormand cards which came with cigarette cards in England in the mid-1920s.

There aren’t so many books published in English on Lenormand card reading, though for anyone who speaks German or French the avenues immediately open up. What is currently available in English suits me fine. There is enough to get a good understanding of how you want to interpret the cards (and there are differences in approaches) and then get to grips with the ways to read them and how they can be used differently from tarot cards and then – as with anything – it’s just practice. I’m still practising, but forever enchanted by these gentile symbols packing a punch.


About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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4 Responses to Loving Lenormands

  1. you just said, what I am thinking.
    it is also like to remove all the divinatory stuff from the lenormand cards. just the plain symbols. they talk by themselfs. no additives needed.
    this way you give yourself the best chance to let the cards pick you up, where you are in your life. pure and simple. thank you for your article.

  2. Sharyn/AJ says:

    Nice piece Roger. I sold all my Lenormands this spring and don’t miss them but I do enjoy seeing how people manage to use them without saying “a tall dark man” even once…the card inserts can add much with the use of numerlogy but that is perhaps a layer the “tall dark” people don’t need anyway.

  3. sapienza says:

    As always when I read your blog I’m inspired! Want to go get my Lenormands and hunt down a book so I can learn what to do with them. I’ve always loved the look of the Melissa but never got a copy. Might keep an eye out for the 2nd edition.

  4. Leelah says:

    Hello Le Fanu!
    What an insightful post! I am just now delving into the teachings of the Lenormand. My journey begins with Le Jeu du Desin Antique by Piatnik, but I am looking into purchasing the Blue Owl at a later date.

    I have been a professional tarot reader for a while now, but this is a whole new realm to explore! Perhaps what is so appealing about it is the concise manner in which the cards seem to speak.

    I really admire your posts on Aeclectic Tarot, and now that I have found your blog again, you can count on me coming back to check out your latest musings!

    Love and Light

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