When teaching reading with the Lenormand cards, I often hear students express apprehension about using the playing card insets.
I make an effort to instantly demystify the idea that one has to know everything about Etteilla or French cartomancy in order to make head or tails of it. Here’s a simple rule I apply.
For me, in the context of reading a grand tableau with the Lenormand cards in a snap, something like 2 minutes, thinking about the primary function of the suits helps. I hate dragging something that is not nearly as complicated as some make it out to be.
So, for a snappy and precise reading here’s what I do. I read first the grand tableau as I always do. Formulate a master sentence that gives me my answer, and then proceed to see how ALL the cards in the tableau support it.
The reason why I insist on this has to do with my desire to stay focused, as sharp as a razor, and concise. But, arriving at the master sentence can sometimes be a bit more challenging than otherwise, so I spend a whole minute on it, rather than a second. My rule of thumb for diminishing my hesitation is this. Look at the playing card inset and state loudly this mantra:
If it’s a heart, it’s yes.
If it’s a spade, it’s no.
If it’s a club, it’s probably no.
If it’s a diamond, it’s probably yes.
Now there’s a reason for this division, which, again has to do with where these meanings come from originally, namely from considering the function of the image. Just think a bit and activate your common sense now.
What do we know about a heart? What does it look like? What does it do?
A heart is a living body inside our warm body. It pulsates with life force. It says yes to life.
What does a spade do? Cut. It doesn’t stand for intellectual stuff or airy attitudes. A spade cuts. And when it cuts, it spills blood. Think of a duel. One of the opponents always dies. So, the spade says no to life.
What is a club? A branch of a tree with nods on it. If you cut the woods, you build a dwelling, or make books. Both are used for negotiating relations via hard work and discipline. ‘I’m in this house and if I have to make space for you, we’ll have to negotiate something.’ So the club says, ‘before we can hack it together, we’ll probably be hitting each other with a stick, and resist each other.’
What is a diamond? A polished stone that sells for a lot of money. But where do you get it from? South Africa? Hmm, these days engaging in diamond digging can be a risky business.
All money transactions involve a risk, and more often than not, when we gamble, we don’t always win. But we never ever gamble on the strength of the belief that we never win. Quite the contrary. We always say, I’ll probably win this hand. So the diamond says, probably yes. In other words, with a heart we love, with a spade we kill, with a club we build, and with a diamond we buy.
However, in traditional fortunetelling with playing cards you will also find different variations. In fact, you may even catch me assigning the clubs the value of ‘probably yes’, due to its negotiating quality, and also because of these other reading methods (see particularly the French school).
But since I prefer to be consistent with my own practice, let’s just say that mostly I follow the color rule in divination with playing cards. For instance, in following this method, I associate the Diamonds with the intellect and cunningness for trading, with fire and spring.
Being a red card that is close to the red of the Hearts suggesting passions and saying yes to life, the Diamonds card is assigned the value of ‘probably yes’ – the logical inference that we can make here is that if we can negotiate well, pretty much as in the case with the clubs above, then it is likely that we get the the desired outcome. (For more on the rule of color in divination with playing cards, see my intro here.)
So, when in doubt about a card in the reading of the grand tableau, especially when the card seems to contradict itself if it falls in a house that’s dubious, think about these relations. And perhaps forget about schools, traditions, and what have you.
For instance, many swear by their German method in reading with the Lenormand cards. In that system the claim is that the clubs are the worse, not the spades. Maybe so. But why not stop for a minute and think: could it be that the Germans got it wrong when cartomancy crossed the borders?
Things like this happen all the time. Could it also be that after one person got it wrong, generations of others also got it wrong because they weren’t thinking? Merely repeating nonsense is not conducive to knowledge.
Where traditions are concerned, yes, we can draw on them, but just because a tradition is called ‘tradition’, however venerable, does not mean that we have to take it to our heart without first exercising our common sense and critical sense. Generally speaking, the art of cartomancy is also the art of being able to say, at times, that you contradict yourself completely.
OFF WITH HER HEAD
So here’s a short reading, just a snippet of a grand tableau, where I used the playing card inset to get more precise information about an outcome.
Let us look at the Man’s diagonal near-future line upwards, the one that goes to the Scythe.
In a relationship context, it looks like he’s making an official effort to finish it off with a Snake woman of his heart. The Scythe card falls into the house of Clouds which in the Master Method stands for wishes.
Yes, clearly he wants her dead. But as it is with wishes, some come to pass and some don’t. So how would I know if he will have the heart to do what he wants? The card inset tells me: probably he will. We’re with the diamond here.
Thus, a man wants to finish it off with a Snake and he’s likely to succeed. Of course, with the Scythe, we don’t have a problem seeing that immediately, but if we continue with the geometrical reading, we may find it increasingly hard to believe that, especially if we just look at the intersecting lines of the Man’s present (his vertical line) with that of the Snake’s (her future line).
We note that they intersect in the Book (for him) and in the Ring (for her). So we can infer that since they are, sort of, fated – it is written in the stars (the Star above him) – there’ll be little chance for him to be able to break the connection. And yet. The Diamond inset tells us that he will.
Simple and neat. It can’t get any simpler. Just remember, in cartomancy, question everything and use your common sense. Never ever just repeat random words and meanings for the sake of appearing authoritative. There’ll always be someone out there who may pose this question to you: Really? Including the ones you fancy reading for. Good luck.
P.S. This can also be applied to reading pip cards in Tarot de Marseille. This, in addition to asking the following questions: how much difference does it make when I see 1 coin or 10 coins, 1 sword or 10 swords, 1 cup or 10 cups, 1 baston or 10 bastons? No mystery here either.
The deck: The Lenormand Oracle: Erwin Kohlmann / Oswin Volkamer, Verlag fuer die Frau, Leipzig 1982.
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