LENORMAND’S FLOWERS: A lily for your sex

I often hear that the Lily card in the Lenormand deck is associated with sex, supposedly delivered, more often than not, by a distinguished gentlemen who takes his sexual organ seriously (and not in vain). The cartomantic value of this card, is, after all, also associated with the King of Spades. The man of no mercy, the ruthless, who never even thinks about the consequences of his being a slave to his so-called rational mind.

This is all very good if we buy whatever argument there is behind the equation of Lily with sex. Often there is no argument, but we’ll skip this debate now. What modern diviners do in terms of getting the validity of their cards tested is not for me to judge, but if we look at the historical context, we notice that we never come across sex as the meaning of this card.

Lily is not a sign for sex, according to these sources, but a sign for good ambiance, mutual respect, and above all, tandresse. Even the King of Spades himself needs something soothing to counter his rigidity. As sex doesn’t interest him, unless he sees it as part of a conquering strategy, he settles for some doucer if there’s nothing else to gain. So, Lily equals softness.

The other thing that bothers me about the Lily being associated with sex is the fact that some people see it as associated with the phallus. But botanically speaking, if the flower is anything then it is a receptacle, so by that very definition it should go with the female organ, rather than the man’s. Again, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to wondering where the idea of ‘an elderly, but distinguished gentleman oozing of sophisticated sex appeal’ comes from.

Be that as it may, we all believe what we must. To me, here’s the deal: First, we’re dealing with images, not concepts. Second, we’re dealing with context, not memory. So, I look at the Lily card. What do I see? A stem with 3 big white/yellow flowers on it. Do I think of sex when I see that? No. End of story.

The Flowers, or the Bouquet card is less ambiguous in Lenormand. Here we plunge straight into that sweetness that lacks the Lily’s tandresse. Flowers are joyful. Unless, of course, we see the flowers in the context of the haute bourgeoisie that marked the time of the inception of the cards.

In Victorian times, let’s just say, as most people are more familiar with that term than the French or the keiser und kirche concepts, the flowers are never ever given without a purpose, not even for joy. The most immediate and noble significance of flowers in this context is one of appreciation.

Flowers can be a token in return for an invitation. You get invited to tea in the 19th century, you bring flowers and chocolates. Given this context I have a hard time seeing how the flowers can connote grand happiness, love, and undying devotion (as some modern sources have it). The man with the flowers has an agenda.

Just think of Edith Wharton’s great work, The Age of Innocence. There, the countess Olenska, the ‘immoral’ and wicked, free thinker, gets a huge bouquet of flowers every day from men who want one thing only from her: Sex. So, the Flowers card may be a yes card, but don’t’ get too excited. One way or another, you pay for the flowers.

Now in context. Here’s a snippet of a reading of a grand tableau that shows a man’s horizontal line to indicate what he has recently gained (here also indicated by what’s ahead of him; the houses are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 respectively).


If we go with the considerations above we would say the following:

The man makes an offering of a gift (Flowers) in exchange for the promise of all things bright (Star), yet his problems (Key) can only be solved according to certain rules (Lily). Here we could say that what the man has gained is a negotiated peace.

Now let’s try to see how this would sound according to the meanings that other readers impose on the cards, the ones that I’m suspicious of.

A lovely man (Flowers) is ready to show (Star) his sexual prowess (Lily) to a woman who sees his sticking his Key into her hole as the answer to her problems. (Note here that a reading can also take place reading the cards from left to right). In this line we could say that what the man has gained is a renewal of his sexual confidence.

Hmm. So here we have it again. The cards create certain situations and it is left up to us to exercise the power of narrative. All we need to do in return is recognize what’s happening (in the cards), and bow to how it makes us feel.

I go ask my man which reading suits him best.

Enjoy your Lenormand flowering.

calla_149Photo: Imogen Cunningham


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12 thoughts on “LENORMAND’S FLOWERS: A lily for your sex

  1. ana says:

    Hi! thank you for making me think more about this intriguing card…Every time I see lilies in my reading, I usually think about a situation that is in progress, that will take some time to develop and foremost that the ones involved will learn something, since it is a process going on….since to me is a card that lets me know that whatever is going on will go slowly…
    Hope it makes sense…

    1. cameliaelias says:

      Hi Ana, yes it does make sense what you’re saying. Especially if we take into account the other Lenormand details associated with this card, namely, timing and anatomic relations. The Lily indicates a time span of 6 months and winter. It also refers to the endocrinological and hormonal system. So, the inference we can make here is that as we grow older, we change, and as we change, we learn something, if not about our mental capacity, then certainly about our physical limitations.

  2. ana says:

    Thank you for your reply! I am having such a great time with your blog! I am now making a grand tableau using more information you provided about spades, clubs and hearts…to give me more info about if it´s a yes or a no! Thank you again for such great blog!!

  3. Valerie Starr says:

    Great article! But as I understand it, Lilies were an ancient Greek symbol of sexuality that evolved in medieval Christian symbolism into “purity” or “virtue.” I have seen the card’s meaning as “virtue” a few times, maybe in the older LWBs, I don’t remember, but it was probably a popular Victorian meaning, and so has found its way back to “sexuality” for some. And that’s why, sometimes, also “family.” As in, the result of sexuality, and perhaps the use of the “fleur-de-lys” in family coat of arms. Here I also see the “mutual respect” aspect or “rules” of your meaning. I’m never saying that one meaning is better than another – I’m just pointing to other traditional symbolic meanings of Lilies.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      All correct, Valerie, where the symbolism of the Lily is concerned. I could add to your list a few more meanings myself. My point here, however, as often elsewhere in my writings on cards, is to suggest that we would be better off in some cases to work with the image at the level of the image beyond symbolism. It’s not always useful to jump at the first symbolic meaning that comes to our minds, when it is clear that another meaning all together arises if we do the job of merely describing the card. A symbol is never more obvious than the direct image, nor the context which defines it and in which it appears.

    1. cameliaelias says:

      No, a cigar is never just a cigar. Insofar as everything is the result of mediated representations, we can never escape the symbolic order. But we can become better at recognizing what patterns go and what don’t. We can get better at distinguishing between the narratives we create ourselves and the ones that narrate us.

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