Prompted by the inspiring questions formulated also as a way of very positive feedback to my sample reading of the Grand Tableau done recently (see the link), here are a few ideas about how to use the houses, not only in the Grand Tableau, but also for smaller spreads.
At the bottom of the post you find a list for house, health, and time associations.
My primary sources come from the French and Romanian contexts of fortunetelling. Colette Silvestre of France has written numerous books on fortunetelling, which I warmly recommend. She is a no-nonsense woman who doesn’t ‘invent’ things.
In my own readings I’m inspired to do what she does: trust the creative impulse, but also develop it the rational way – that is to say, develop it according to my own god given common sense.
If we can agree that we are here to serve, then we can also agree that it is not useful to be imprecise about our messages to the ones who bother to come to us for an answer to their problems. We owe people to be coherent, to the point, and able to argue where what we see comes from, logically speaking.
Again, my own mantra here is this: evidence, evidence, evidence. You can only combine your analytical sense with your creative impulse if you can find evidence for what you’re saying in the visual material you are working with.
The best is to get neither emotional nor smart with a sitter. Your task is to listen and see things clearly.
The other source comes from the Romanian context. Among other orally transmitted traditional reading methods, there’s a little known book by Madame Clara, Secretele Tarotului LeNormand, unfortunately not available in print and not translated.
What I want to offer here is a concatenation of traditional meanings for the houses combined with what I believe is useful.
Since I am at it, I’ll offer as well health and time associations. If people ask health question, I prognosticate, and ofter deliver statements such as these: ‘It looks like it’s hormonal’ (Lily), or ‘the hips are not all right’ (Anchor), ‘act now’, or ‘wait a month.’
While I take my point of departure in tradition, I also have a rule: When in doubt, think of the function of the primary elements represented in each card.
Thus, before I think, ‘hallelujah, marriage!’ when I see the Ring, I think first, ‘hallelujah, it’s a circle! And what is the function of the circle? To unite separate ends. And how is this unification done? By the melting of points. What’s the consequence of this melting? That I won’t be able to see where the beginning or the end is.
So, while the Ring can mean marriage, or a contract culturally speaking, it can also mean that you’re in a rut, going around in circles and unable to break a pattern, psychologically speaking. Since you can’t distinguish between where your shit begins and where it ends, go figure how you’re going to solve that one.
This latter situation of melting is often not nearly as good as the first, unless, of course, the marriage thing can also turn out to be an awful thing instilling is us one desire only, manifested in a desperate cry: ‘Get me the scissors to cut this dreadful bond with.’
FIRST THE HOUSE
Now, how do we see the houses in the system of reading with the Lenormand cards?
To give a concrete example, let’s take a snippet of a conversation I had with Mary K. Greer, a historian and writer of books on the Tarot. She asked me to elaborate on the 4 cards at the center of the tableau referred to at the beginning of this essay. See this link. I reproduce here just the 4 cards.
Says Mary: “You talk about reading the four cards at the center of the spread – 12+13 plus 20+21 – and examining them through cross-mirroring. How do you see these four in terms of their houses: Birds+Child and Garden+Mountain?
It’s interesting that these four refer to size and amounts: Two/Small/Many/Big. Could they express what’s worrying (Birds) when Children (new, creative ideas) go up against (Mountain) being expressed out loud (Birds), i.e., publicly (Garden)?”
My answer to her was this: “I see the houses in a dynamic process that tells me, for instance, that that which IS, BECOMES something more than IS. So it’s a being/becoming dynamics.
For instance, I see the card of the Birds as that which IS (a medium for distributing news, therefore also unstable, always in movement) BECOMING something else (in this case news about possessions and investments, which Birds as a house means – at least in the system I’m using).
So, sure, this example is a bit special, as the card of the Birds falls in its own house. But next to the card of Fish in the house of Mountain, I see the idea of a heavy investment done in good faith but not thought through emerging (the Dog above in the house of the house of Child).
This reading is made even more unambiguous, as the Letter in the house of Garden puts us on a track of considering the idea that some public statement, although flowing with the stream, seemingly, in under duress. (Fish in the House of Mountain).”
I liked Mary’s observation that we’re dealing with houses that emphasize sizes. But I also emphasized that I would not read the houses first and then the cards in them. Mary clarified that what she was asking was about the house meanings of the four cards at the heart of the spread.
She wanted to know if, insofar as the cards in house positions 12, 13, 20 and 21 can be read together, they can also “suggest a certain group “theme” that would color the cards appearing in this “heart-of-the-spread” quartet.”
My take on this is that houses could mean something as a group, but given the general context in which we think ‘house’, I’d say that each house represents its own set of rules.
Here, I urge everyone to think of the function of house. It has walls, it has rooms, it has doors, it protects. Given this premise, logically speaking a house would not mean a collective – unless we’re in a kibbutz.
So, I’d say that what makes the houses different from the cards is also this aspect, that they are intangible, and above all stable. In other words, a house will not come together with other houses, as it were, to form anything together.
I think there’s a lesson in this, namely, that while the cards and what they represent can be flexible and change in what they mean next to other cards, the houses cannot. At least, that’s how I tend to reason when I ponder this relation.
Thus, while the houses are fixed in their meaning, they do color the meaning of the cards landing in them, so that at the end of the day, there’ll be a synthesis of meaning based on the pairing of the cards – as they are now colored by their houses.
My point is that we don’t get the meaning of the houses first, before we make up our minds as to what the individual cards mean – also already in connection with the other cards we want to pair them with. Think of the house as the foundation we don’t see.
First we look at the house, how it appears and where it is, its setting – we look at the neighbor – and then we ask, for instance, how is the Anchor in the house of the Rider, also underneath? But we do all this speculation after the first impressions we get from the cards.
The houses are the place we can go to. For me, the first house is about the querent’s project, so in the context of my reading sample, the house enforces even more the idea that the people involved in this reading are working on stability.
For instance, also in this context, the house of the Coffin is seen primarily as a form of ungratefulness, and even envy, and not ending – this is not a house that’s being demolished, finished, as that would defy the point of having a house – so here we can see how using the same meaning for the card of the Coffin – Coffin as ending – as for the House is not very useful. Coffin as a card, signifying ending is one thing, and coffin as a House signifying ingratitude is another thing.
In other words, if we look at the Child card in the house of Coffin we might say that one of the things preoccupying the people involved in the topic discussed, apart from hanging on to their phony marriage, is managing their difficult and spoilt-rotten children (quite literally, one does rot in a coffin).
So, again, looking at the function of houses first and then at the symbolism tagged to them is crucial in the Lenormand grand tableau.
Depending on the different systems devised by regional differences (I myself use a concatenation of the French and Romanian) the houses, more often than not, differ in significance quite markedly from the cards they represent.
As in the example of the Coffin above or in the case of the house of the Fox being associated with love, or the house of the Key with negligence, it actually makes a lot of sense in a reading to have these ‘contradictory’ houses run counter to the meaning of the cards.
Try some of these meanings, try to see the house of Man as associated with sadness and negative events, or the Key with not paying enough attention to things that deserve attention, and see how far you get.
THEN THE LAYOUT | TIRAGE-EN-LIGNE
But let us have a quick look at a tirage-en-ligne, or a draw of a line of cards, rather than the more popular among some people, the carré of 9, for which we can use the house system. Here, however, I should mention that the houses are only primarily relevant in the context of the grand tableau where you use all the cards and where the houses are fixed in numerical order from 1-36.
But for the sake of saving time, I’m going to do what others have called key’ing (see Tali Goodwin and Marcus Katz’s, Learning Lenormand). Draw 5 cards at random and designate them as houses, and then draw 5 cards for the main story. You need two decks for this.
Traditionally I can mention that the tirage-en-ligne is also a preferred method among routined Lenormand folks. The reason for this is that they simply prefer the linking method to the pairing method.
Again, as emphasized in the sample reading that prompted this ‘method-theory’ post, linking cards and looking at what patterns emerge is a more efficient method.
In my opinion, the secret behind any good reader is found in efficiency and simplicity, rather than inventing random, and often not so inspired, synthetic blends. In my own teaching, I keep preaching: keep it simple.
Basically what this means is that instead of teaching keywords and set phrases that fall neatly in someone’s correspondence boxes, I teach people to think.
I’m not interested in diagrams, tables, and endless charts packed with meanings. Too righteous for my taste.
My second mantra is this:
Look at the function of the thing represented.
Start with that.
Then make logical inferences about connectors. But don’t stop there. We can all make inferences, hundreds of them, even by using fancy formal reasoning, but without evidence all our inferences can turn out to be wrong.
If you can’t find evidence for what you’re saying, then don’t say it. Drop the first thing inferred and move on the next.
THE SIMPLE READING
So, let’s look at a simple tirage (a draw of 5 cards). Here I haven’t chosen a significator, and I do the reading from left to right. In the final analysis, however, I aim to see all the cards from above, as it were, and forming a central message, almost as a well rounded full stop.
But, according to your own wishes, you can do this with a significator, which you can place at the center of the line and then read thus: left of the center card is the place where the querent comes from (her thoughts and intentions) and right of the center card is the place where the querent moves towards.
You can also have 2 or 3 significators in the same line, all according to the nature of the question.
The context and the question here is this: a teacher wants to know what challenges she is up against if she takes on private students.
I draw these cards, again, left to right.
First the houses: The Cross, The Moon, the Anchor, The Sun, The Snake.
Then the cards: The Birds, The Heart, The Ship, the Moon, The Key.
Remember I use 2 decks for this. Yet I’d insist that if you want to make the most of your Lenormand experience, plunge into the grand tableau and read randomly falling cards into the houses as these are arranged in their numerical order. Great orchestral work!
At first glance the answer is this: what you put your heart in will be talked about far and away in recognition of your talent. Ergo, no major challenges.
Here, before I plunge into a more elaborate discussion, let me make a point about time: if you can abstain from making any kind of pairing, and lose time with that, you will arrive at your answer in one second flat, as I did here. Guaranteed. Try it. This is a good exercise that teaches you the art of brevity and simplicity.
Now, since this is a post about houses, let’s say something about how the cards fall into them. So, let’s try again, now with tagging the cards to the sentence:
What your put your heart in (Heart in house of Moon) will be talked about (Birds in house of Cross) far and away (Ship in house of Anchor) in recognition (Moon in house of Sun) of your problem-solving talents (Key in house of Snake). (This takes me another second.)
Now we can think of the deeper implications here with the help of the houses. I say deeper because I think of houses as that which contains something beyond of what we see on the surface, the façade.
So we say it again:
What you put your heart in (House of Moon as financial prosperity) materially speaking (usually a private tutor is paid for her work) will be talked about (Birds as first card indicating the future in a reading from left to right).
Even though there may be reservations due to anticipating ‘professional mishaps’ (the house of Cross is traditionally associated with professional accidents), what you’re doing comes from afar and will go far (Ship from exotic lands comes in) being well anchored in tradition and skill (the house of Anchor stands for influence and power and how to use your talents best).
As your good intentions stretch widely (here we link the Moon with the Ship and the Heart), the fact that you may not be able to anticipate fully what the outcome of your collaboration with private students may be (here we link the Moon to the Key) will not hold you back, as there are possibilities here for reciprocal inspirations (the Moon in the house of Sun indicates existing opportunity for creative exchanges).
The deeper learning can also come from making mistakes (the Key in the house of Snake). (This takes me 5 seconds.)
We can go on, but I think that this illustrates the way in which houses as stable entities enter into relation with the more flexible cards. We can also pair the cards, but in my opinion it’s not necessary (not for this short string).
I bet you’ll arrive at the same conclusion if you did that. However, if you have a different take on this, you are welcome to let me know.
A NOTE ON TIME
As you can see from this 5-card line, the only card that indicates some speed is the first one, the Birds. As the Birds are roaming in the church or the cemetery, we can make the inference that what they bring, or announce, is a matter for the Heart to decide.
One thing is clear: The Birds are spiritually grounded in spite of what they bring, or what the heart chooses to see.
Culturally speaking, as we associate the Heart with something romantic, we can infer that next to the Ship, the Heart does not know necessarily where it is going. If it’s sailing towards the Moon, then we can be sure that whatever the Heart’s project is, it’ll take some time.
Thus, if there’s a challenge here that our teacher may meet, then it is one of time. The Key lost in the winding path of the Snake may take some time to be found, but perhaps, given the nature of the project, to teach on a private basis, taking your time is in fact also the greatest luxury.
Not having to rush through wisdom, but being allowed to bathe in creative and illuminating light may just be the thing that a romantic heart wants.
So, you can see that by looking at the cards also in this way, you can arrive at yet another layer of interpretation that says more about the pragmatic nature of almost all questions.
About reading with the Lenormand cards in general, I always think of large spreads as going to a concert. But not to sit and listen.
Think of conducting. If you know the score, all you need to do is dance with the instruments.
Think in terms of going in and out of the cards. They each have a tone. Try it next time you get a grand tableau on the table. You’ll get a very clear sense of when it’s called for pairing the cards and when your narrative will fly if you go with linking them. That’s what I love about it.
Where small spreads are concerned, my advice is, don’t waste your time. Let the narrative flow all based on what story the cards themselves tell, independent on what symbolism we may have imposed on them at any one time.
Here’s a list of tentative meanings of houses. This list is based on my derivations from traditional meanings that I’ve encountered along my Lenormand ways, or the meanings we sometimes encounter in clever or ‘inspired’ books, here in the works by the two madames, Clara and Colette.
To each of the houses I’ve added a ‘slogan’ that emphasizes the function of the house in an ironic and irreverent way. We must remember that playing with cards is fun, fun, fun, and more fun.
THE LIST: HOUSES, HEALTH, AND TIME ASSOCIATIONS
1. Rider: The present, what is in the querent’s mind, his projects. ‘Ride on high!’
- Health association: Knees, legs, locomotive apparatus. Indicates recovery from all illness.
- Time: 1 day, 1 week, soon.
2. Clover: Realizations, what can be achieved, based on present wishes and thoughts. ‘Sparkle in the grass and be found!’
- Health association: Stomach. Small indigestions.
- Time: 2 days, 2 weeks, soon.
3. Ship: Recognition of own’s efforts and realizations. ‘Sail and wave!’
- Health association: Liver, pancreatic problems, incontinence.
- Time: 3 days, max. 3 months.
4. House: Anticipation, that which one is waiting for to happen, but it doesn’t necessarily happen. ‘I’m here now’!
- Health association: The whole body as a house, or temple. Indicates the general state of vitality.
- Time: 4 days, 4 weeks, 4 months, up to a year. It’s not too fast.
5. Tree: Speculations, risks, especially financial. It shows if a person is lucky or unlucky. ‘Stand tall, screw them all’!
- Health association: The Brain. Indicates the general psychic state, but also physical, depending on what other cards are around it.
- Time: 5 days, 5 months, May.
6. Clouds: Wishes, dreams, and hopes for the future. ‘Now you see it now you don’t!’
- Health association: Respiratory system.
- Time: 6 days, 6 months, June.
7. Snake: Mistakes, injustice, and unfairness. ‘Talk ruins everything!’
- Health association: The colon, the digestive system, the veins.
- Time: 7 days, 7 months, July.
8. Coffin: ungratefulness and envy, including that of the querent. ‘I’m playing dead!’
- Health association: The psyche, spine, heart.
- Time: 8 days, to 1 year. Things stagnate.
9. Flowers: Contacts. Work, relations with colleagues and business partners. ‘Scent of a woman’!
- Health association: Face, hair, ulcer, tumor growth, allergies.
- Time: 9 days, 2 weeks, spring.
10. Scythe: Losses, but also obstacles that can appear. ‘Off with their heads’!
- Health association: Fever, surgery, accident, skin eruption, dental problems, iron deficit.
- Time: 10 days, 1 month, autumn, the past.
11. Whip: Personal problems, but sometimes also financial. ‘Snap it up and leave a mark!’
- Health association: Throat, tongue, muscle, hands, nerves, joints. Chronic and painful illness.
- Time: 11 days, 11 months.
12. Birds: Possessions, but also investments. ‘Give us an alphabet!’
- Health association: nervous system, legs, and varicose veins. Shifting moods.
- Time: 3-10 days, October.
13. Child: Joy that will come soon. ‘Child’s play, magic play!’
- Health association: Germs. Childrens’ diseases.
- Time: 13 hours/days, 9 month (if a pregnancy), soon.
14. Fox: Love. ‘I’m watching you!’
- Health association: Throat, nose, ears, smell and hearing. Get a second opinion for hidden or potentially wrong diagnosis.
- Time: 2-8 months, December, now is not the time.
15. Bear: Wellbeing, prosperity. ‘Come to papa!’
- Health association: Obesity, stomach, baldness (or too much hair).
- Time: 6 months.
16. Stars: Marriage or long-term relation. ‘Make-believe, or I told you so!’
- Health association: Pigment, complexion.
- Time: 4-5 months.
17. Stork: Worries and concerns. ‘Migrate, oh, migraine!’
- Health association: Legs.
- Time: 20-55 days, February.
18. Dog: Harmony. ‘Wherever you go, I go’!
- Health association: Vocal chords, larynx, throat.
- Time: 2 weeks, July.
19. Tower: Winning the lottery. Inheritance, or money received from others. ‘Sometimes a device for containing fair maids with really long hair who wish to escape through a window!’
- Health association: Spine (illness difficult to diagnose).
- Time: 19 days to 1 year, or more. Sometimes it indicates the past.
20. Garden: Fraud. ‘The grass is still greener on the other side!’
- Health association: viruses, all contamination from the exterior (through water, air, food).
- Time: Immediately. 1 week.
21. Mountain: Opposition. ‘Climbing to the stars to see the moon – what moon?’
- Health association: Bones, skeleton, skull, rheumatism, arthritis
- Time: 5 days to 2 months, January.
22. Ways: Gifts. ‘The gift of choice is like looking into the horse’s mouth!’
- Health association: Circulatory system, veins, cholesterol, lymph
- Time: 22 days to 8 weeks.
23. Mouse: The one close to you in friendship and affect, love/hate. ‘What else can we eat?’
- Health association: Digestive system, stomach, vitamin deficit, parasites infections, nerves.
- Time: 1-5 months. Right now.
24. Heart: Personal evolution. It shows what can be done to better a situation. ‘I say yes!’
- Health association: Heart and circulation.
- Time: 7 days to 4 weeks. August.
25. Ring: Cooperation. It shows relations of dependency. ‘What goes around comes around!’
- Health association: Lymphatic system.
- Time: 1 month to 1 year.
26. Book: Long term initiatives and projects. ‘When you’re done reading, don’t just sit and stare!’
- Health association: Brain, undiagnosed illness.
- Time: 2 weeks to 6 months. Marts.
27: Letter: Possible circumstances for change. Advantages and disadvantages. ‘The postman always rings twice!’
- Health association: Hands and fingers.
- Time: 2-15 days, max a month.
28. Man: Death, sadness and negative events. ‘What’s up with the patriarchy?’
- Health association: Male sexual organ, erection problems.
- Time: April
29. Woman: Recognition of one’s own work. ‘I did it!’
- Health association: Female sexual organ.
- Time: May
30. Lily: Disgrace, or quarrels with the negative person in your life. ‘Rhizomatic learning!’
- Health association: Endocrinological and hormonal problems. Sexually transmitted disease.
- Time: 6 months, immediate departure, winter.
31. Sun: Existing perspectives. ‘Warm adventures!’
- Health association: The eyes.
- Time: Summer.
32. Moon: Financial prosperity. ‘Cold thinking, condensed thinking – but it’s beautiful.’
- Health association: The psyche, menstrual problems.
- Time: 11 months.
33. Key: Negligence, or that which is not paid enough attention to. ‘Blue Beard in the Castle! Rustle’
- Health association: The breasts, vitamins deficit.
- Time: November, 3 weeks.
34. Fish: Gain as a result of own work. ‘Life Aquatic!’
- Health association: Urinary problems, kidneys, drugs and alcohol related problems.
- Time: 34 days, 10 months, less than 4 years.
35. Anchor: Influence and power or how to use your talents best. ‘Underwater digging!’
- Health association: Hips.
- Time: 10 days to 3 months. September.
36. Cross: Health, illness, or possible accidents, professional or otherwise. ‘4 winds, some witches are out riding, or some other such fated events!’
- Health association: Shoulders, arms, joints, inter-vertebrate discs.
- Time: 15 days to 6 months.
Please remember that such a list here is absolutely worthless without the context of the question. The question and the context lead the reading, not a random list.
Some of the above makes sense. Some of it doesn’t. So it is with received oral wisdoms. We take what is useful from them, and never just repeat words from a list for the sake of appearing authoritative. The only authority is your common sense as it aligns with what is possible and plausible.
Note on the decks:
The Lenormand Oracle: Erwin Kohlmann / Oswin Volkamer, Verlag fuer die Frau, Leipzig 1982.
The Original Lenormand: facsimile reconstruction by Tarot Professionals (Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin; art direction: Ciro Marchetti), 2012.
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