Perhaps, the correct title ought to be ‘How the Lenormand is Different to the Tarot IMHO’ because not all who read this will share my experience of reading with both these systems…
In the image above, you can see what the Tarot and the Lenormand have to say for themselves about how they each differ from the other. Feel free to comment with your interpretation of the answers below!
Learning to read the Lenormand cards is a very different process to learning to read the Tarot but once you have mastered the process, you realise that you can use your new Lenormand skills to enhance your Tarot readings.
A deck of Tarot cards consists of 78 cards (56 Minor Arcana and 22 Major Arcana cards) and there are only 36 in a Lenormand deck, yet the big attraction with the Lennies is how incredibly accurate they are for telling fortunes. Sometimes, less is more…
With the Lennies, suits become almost obsolete. Yes, the cards are based on a regular deck of playing cards minus the 2-5’s but the suits are not as significant and the playing card inserts seen in traditional decks are really only relevant for the ‘people cards’ where they provide additional information in case your psychic guidance tells you to read these as a person rather than an object or action. That said, if you want to work with suits and numbers of the original playing cards, you can – your psychic senses will tell you when this is appropriate, so it is never wrong to have a basic understanding… of, well… anything. The more you know, the broader a base you will have for your readings. The latter being true for the Tarot too, of course. But you don’t have to learn playing cards suit and colour correspondences to become a great Lenormand reader.
More so than the Tarot, the Lenormand cards are a tool for channelling psychic information. With the Tarot, it is enough to be intuitive but to get answers (although usually quite general) with the Lennies, you need to be full on psychic and willing to work with both your clairs and your guides. There are a lot of nonsensical books with lists of meanings for card combinations being put out there today… You do have to learn keywords for the cards but forget the concept of noun+adjective or the importance of a set grammatical order – many of the great ancient gypsy fortune tellers knew nothing about grammar and it certainly had no bearing on their ability to read the cards. Also, please forget any keywords that don’t resonate with your own understanding of the symbol in the cards, as you will never be using them.
Building your own keyword library is an important process and should always be the first step on your journey with these cards. By all means, use lists made by others for inspiration but make sure that they keywords are unique to each card; i.e. don’t use ‘deceit‘ for both fox and snake. The basic keywords need to be both specific and flexible because it’s on them you will add other meanings and correspondences relating to the same card. It’s a gradual process and you have to allow it to take time. Besides the basic meanings, any other meanings will be added by real life experience as you understanding of the daily draw expands thanks to real life facts and evidence.
It’s by doing a daily three card draw and keeping a journal that you will be able to learn to construct sentences from card combinations. Based on my experience, I find that a playful approach and curiousity will get you further than beating your head against the wall with trying to get the set combinations from any of the books fit with your own life experience. Most of the time, I work from the outside in with the daily draw – that’s the main advantage of working with such a short time span; when I pull the three cards for the day ahead, I think first about what sort of day I’m likely to have and then how the cards fit this context.
In the book The Game of Destiny – Fortunetelling with the Lenormand Cards, Mario Dos Ventos gives an elaborate ritual, involving rubbing different types of alcohol onto a doll (sic!), for connecting with the spirit of a gypsy in order to more accurately understand the meanings of the cards. I would not recommend this unless you have a family connection with the Romani people and/or feel very drawn to this way of working… but please get your own spirit guides and guardian angels on board – you’ll need their help at times and they are eagerly waiting to assist you!
The Tarot cards do not lend themselves very well to Spirit communication or mediumship but the Lenormand cards seem to almost beg to be used this way! The Tarot is a tool for personal development and spiritual pathworking, with fortune-telling as a possible bonus; the Lenormand cards are a tool for fortune-telling with spirit communication as a possible bonus.
Because the latter requires a lot of psychic protection, I would not recommend dabbling and the primary rule to bear in mind is: When in doubt or fear, don’t! Your intent and faith both have to be pure and strong. Unless you invoke divine protection and ask for only Spirits of love and light to come forth, you can open up a rather stinky can of demonic worms that you may need the help of an expert exorcist to clean-up. Poltergeist and other malevolent entities are real, so please – for the love of all that is good – don’t be careless!
There will be some people who will tell you that you are going to have to spend years learning the Lenormand before you can read the cards properly or start giving readings for others. That may or may not be true; it all depends on how hard you work, your confidence levels and how gifted you are. Someone who is psychic and used to allowing visual symbols guide them in their readings, may be halfway there already without having ever touched a Lenormand deck. If you notice that your daily readings begin to make sense, you may want to ask friends if you can start doing practice readings with them for feedback.
You don’t have to quarantine yourself for three to five years before you start reading for others. If you’re starting to ‘crack the code’ you’ll need to take the next step and that will always be to read for someone else. Just be honest and tell them that you are still learning and would really appreciate feedback.
Oh, and by the way, there is no rule that says you have to master the Grand Tableau before you can read for others! There isn’t even any evidence that Mlle Lenormand herself used this spread, as far as I know. The only painting I have seen of her doing a reading (for Robespierre?) is showing a 3×7 layout (evidence below). It really tickled me when I found this image, as I didn’t come across it until after I created my own first Lenormand spread the 7 Rulers Spread which has the same layout!
If you are looking for a good book to get you started on your Lenormand journey, I recommend The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook, by Caitlín Matthews. I also recommend hopping on over to Chloë McCrackens site, Inner Whispers. She is, among other things, the creatrix of the Celtic Lenormand (art by Will Worthington) and an excellent Lenormand teacher who offers webinars from time to time.