These days I find myself returning to playing-cards with a vengeance.

If old cards don’t pop up in all contexts independently of my soliciting them, then friends post images of forgotten ones here and there.

On rare occasion the Jost Amman deck is doing the rounds, just in waves, as not many are keen in reading with this deck, I’m reminded of my early days in Romania.

I have this vivid memory of myself as an 8-year old watching on TV the famous gymnast Nadia Comaneci in Montreal in 1976, while my inveterate card-players parents (both dead, alas) play cards.

And why do I remember this? Well, simply because it was a great joy for me to be allowed to stay up all night and watch games, both athletic and cartomantic.

My parents used the Amman deck. Nadia, the beam.

For a reading with this deck see my essay I Prefer Not To


Speaking of dead people, and doing a grand tableau today, I realized that although we talk about cards that can conjure death in Lenormand, such as the Coffin, The Scythe, or The Cross, I find that these are not nearly as interesting as the house of Man into which such cards can also fall.

As Vonnegut says about death, ‘so it goes’.

There is as much death around as there is life.

So it goes, indeed.

In the Master Method, the method associated with assigning the 36 squares in a tableau different ‘meanings’ than we assign the cards as such (see also Sepharial’s Book of the Cards, P.R.S. Foli, Fortune-Telling by Cards (1906), and Papus, The Divinatory Tarot (1909)), the square number 28 (the card of Man) is the house of Death.

I think of this house as a black hole.

I think of this house as the only house that annihilates all meaning.

If the Coffin falls into this house, it disappears. There goes the end.

This means that if an ending is desired, it won’t happen. If an ending is avoided, it will still come and go.

So it goes.

If the Sun falls into this house it will also disappear. The energy goes. The Sun freezes into the abyss.

So it goes.

One can think of the consequences of having a card disappear where the surrounding cards are concerned. If the card of the Mouse falls into the house of Man, all the stolen things will be irrecuperable.


The Letter to the left will tell you to forget about it. The Coffin to the right will tell you that it’s all the better.

You are rewarded with thinking about all things transitory.

Gone, gone, gone.

The fact that you can’t even mourn anymore is what brings about a sense of sorrow.

But this sense is all an illusion.

The black hole knows no sweetening of the matter of fact.

Some authors borrowing the Master Method want to see this house associated with sorrow (Jonathan Dee).

Why this resistance to the plain death, one might ask?

The good news about the house of Man is that it is akin to Zen, or Schrödinger’s box in which the cat is both dead and alive.

This is not a house that invites to embracing karma, or being nice in the face of hardship, or at unison with the universe.

Such nonsense.

The house of Man as Death, as a black hole, teaches us the lesson of rising above ambivalence.

For what does it mean to be all-embracing? That you might also be the opposite?

Such nonsense.

Next time you do a grand tableau allow yourself to fall into this house.

It will feel both good and right.

Good luck.





There’s a much more ample discussion of houses in my essay, Lenormand Houses.


Jost Amman, 1558, a 2006 facsimile reproduction by Rose & Pentagram Design.

The Lenormand Oracle: Erwin Kohlmann / Oswin Volkamer, Verlag fuer die Frau, Leipzig 1982.

BOOKS: Courtesy of the K. Frank Jensen: First edition books from his private collection. The hands on the books are mine and his.


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11 thoughts on “LENORMAND DEATH

  1. Fortune Buchholtz says:

    Camelia, as you focus on house 28, I wonder if you have a moment to explain other aspects of it – for example, some people also attribute timing to the house, etc.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Fortune, card 28 is associated with April. So there’s an element of unpredictability there. “April is the cruelest month”, Eliot said. If you are asking about the timing of the house in the sense of indicating ‘when will this or that happen?’, I’d take that unpredictability into account. Like death itself, we never know when it hits us, unless, of course, we premeditate our own suicide.

  2. Valerie says:

    Great post! May I ask, when you read with the Amman or Flotner deck, do you read the illustrations in some way? And if so, intuitively? Or do you know what they’re meant to represent? Or do you treat them like a normal playing card deck? I’m just curious what you do personally.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Valerie, I don’t read with either of those decks. May family owned them, and as far as remember they were only used as playing cards. However, if I were to read with them, I’d take into account the images. Then, I would combine some traditional fortune-telling with playing-cards rules with my own commonsense. Hearts good, clubs maybe, diamonds maybe not, and spades bad. Then there’s the numerical value. Often 10 is for journey or dispersal of problems, 9 crisis, 8 bewilderment, 7 action, etc. In principle one can read with any deck whatsoever. Always ask yourself why one interpretation is more plausible than the other, and use your commonsense. If you have a trained mind, your ‘intuition’ will never go against your ‘rationality’. A trained mind doesn’t make those distinctions. Good luck.

      1. Valerie says:

        The cards are beautiful and I thought it might be fun to try to read with them if there are inexpensive reproductions available and if I respond in some way to the illustrations, though they probably allude to politics or cultural events I may not understand. But “a trained mind” is the best point! That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it, training our minds and intuitions. Thank you! I will keep my eye out for a deck of this kind of illustrated playing card.

  3. Melancholyaeon says:

    Valerie, you can buy the Amman deck from Piatnik or from the indie house Macgregor. These repros are fairly priced. Note the suits are ink jars, ink pads, wine cups & books. The visual metaphor of the deck’s genre scenes are printing & printed materials in daily life. The deck would have been used for games like Landknecht.

    1. auntvalerie says:

      Thanks so much! I love the printing metaphor. Does the Piatnik Amman have a name? The website only shows the box. Is it called Tyrolean, or Early German Biedermeier? This is in google translate to English.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      I like to think of ‘nothing’, Katrina. And what it gives us in spite of itself. As few of us can live according to Zen and thereby expect nothing, expecting something from ‘nothing’ makes our waiting more challenging and interesting.

  4. jmk says:

    Very interesting post and a refreshing insight into the reality of Death. I’d heard of this method but hadn’t investigated it yet (so much to learn, so little time), but I have Sepharial’s book and… yes, there is the method. Must delve into this deeper. (I have Foli’s book, too – my bibliomania is vindicated!)

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Good luck with it. I’m pretty certain that you will find it more interesting and challenging in a good way than what we have around these days pertaining to the houses in Lenormand.

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