IMG_8304I have written about the so-called Tironian Lenormand cards before, in connection with a lovely gift from collector K. Frank Jensen. On that occasion I suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that these mysterious cards, featuring strange symbols in the place of where we otherwise find playing-card insets, are actually monograms.

Today I’ve played with these cards for a bit when something struck me. As also mentioned in my previous post about this, the symbols, mostly Kabbalistic, are also found in the seals that come from an old grimoir, translated into English from the German in 1916, called The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses.

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Karl Eberhard Henke

As with the grimoir tradition, these magical books are intended to serve as collections of recipes for the successful conjuration of spirits, both from above and below. The symbols are generally a mixture of both planetary and alphabetical glyphs.

moses6-title moses6

To my knowledge, I haven’t seen anyone else making this connection before, so today I’ve experienced a twinge of excitement. People have been trying to locate a text to go with the Tironian Lenormand and that explains the meaning of the symbols on these cards, but no one has been successful. Occasionally one stumbles over people claiming that the meaning of these symbols are preserved in their family, and that they only intend to disclose them when they find it opportune, but I tend not to take such claims seriously. I prefer to speculate or offer a fairly intelligent guess, than to invent stories about cards that we cannot explain the historical way. So, here’s what I hadn’t considered at that time when I first talked about this deck, and which is the actual correspondence between some of the glyphs for these sigils and the images of the cards that mostly follow the Lenormand pattern.

Let’s have a brief look. First at the symbol that looks like the letter Z (for Jupiter) on the card called in the Lenormand pack, the Tree. The short-hand writing on the plate from the sixth book of Moses features this glyph twice. This is the first seal, and it deals with the finding of treasures that will surface all by themselves, if the conjuror takes the pains to bury the seal into the earth. The power of this seal is to make the treasure appear by full moon without the requirement of anyone’s presence.

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If we look at the way the Tree itself branches out, we find a similarity in the lines. Symbolically, the two flat planes in the horizontal lines of the Z connected by a slanted vertical line may well indicate the very hermetic axiom of ‘as above so below.’ Conjure up the spirits from above, have them work with the spirits from below, and before you know it, a treasure will emerge from the belly of the earth. Besides, as Jupiter stands for expansion, we can easily see that connection mirrored in the branches.


The second seal of Moses features some scribbling that resembles the ones on the card of the Sun. This seal is for carrying around. Its power manifests in the most fortunate form, and the book tells us that this is the reason why this seal is also called the ‘truest and highest seal of Fortune.’ On our card, we can almost see a door opening, with flashes of rays coming through it.

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On the card of the Stork we find the fourth seal of Moses. Especially the arrow, the sign for Mars, is interesting to pay attention to, as it’s also featured twice on the plate. This seal is made to protect its wearer from all misery, ensuring great fortune instead. Now I’m thinking of yet another correspondence. In the Lenormand parlance, the Stork is associated with changes, yet when the Stork acts as a house (according to the Master Method), then it’s all about misery and sorrow. A nice coincidence then, to find the arrow protecting against misery associated with the Stork.

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The final card that I want to use as an example is that of the Clover. Here we find mirrored the seventh seal of Moses. This seal also mirrors the first seal, in the sense that it also talks about the finding of treasures. Indeed, luck can be upon us, perhaps in a more concrete and immediate way, namely the Clover way in the Lenormand cards that associates the clover with instantaneous fortune or relief. Moses’ seventh seal, if placed directly upon the earth or more concretely on top of a mine, will reveal the exact location of the treasure. Instant gratification. Indeed, the very meaning of the Clover cards.

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I could continue, but suffice it to say, we don’t always need to wait for others to tell us something about their precious family treasures and secrets. We can either do our own research, stumble the good way, or simply use our common sense where the work of interpreting the cards is concerned. Almost everything that we claim is original in cartomancy is actually not. The only original thing we can claim is the way in which we actually read the cards. At least that’s what I’ve been aiming for with Taroflexions. To give people a taste for how they can think for themselves while considering old systems of thoughts, if they are available.

As I said in my first post about this, perhaps I should write my own book about cards and magic. After all, this is my interest and specialty.

Enjoy your speculations.


IMG_8312UPDATE: Since I got an interesting question after publishing this from my student Ryan Edward, pertaining to one of the cards that features a ‘weird’ sigil compared to the others on this pack of cards – as it doesn’t look anything like the others – let me upgrade here from the comment box the point I made, and which may have a degree of plausibility in the larger context:

First, here’s Ryan’s question: “The Safe card in this pack is still curious to me. All others are sigils and glyphs while the Safe, card no. 48, last in the pack, has a silhouette of a tree. Anything like this in the ole book of Moses?”

Ryan’s question is an excellent one. It made me think of the cherry tree, or the almond tree also standing for good fortune. There’s no ambiguity there, as far as I can see. Moreover, the symbol of Tu BeShvat in Israel is the almond tree blossom (and it very much looks like the Japanese cherry tree), so we’re still with that world thematically, the Kabbalist world, that is. Besides, the Archangel of Kether is Metatron, literally the almond flower. Graphically, of course, this sigil still makes no sense along the others. But I’ll think some more about it. Meanwhile, perhaps a connection may be found here:


Note on the deck:

franks-tironianThe Lenormand Fortune Telling Cards.

Facsimile of a German original c. 1880 in the K. Frank Jensen collection.

Roskilde, 2013. Number 1, and signed by K. Frank Jensen.


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  1. Camelia Elias says:


    Ryan Edward: Outstanding.
    2 hrs · Unlike · 1

    Marcus Katz: Certainly an interesting line of research – always good work! I always wonder though how deliberate such design choices were, and who the designers were – and what their knowledge of the symbols they were using. Again, fantastic research leads here …
    1 hr · Unlike · 1

    Marcus Katz: And Camelia, when is the book going to be written by your good self? I for one would be glad to promote it to all who might read and learn
    1 hr · Unlike · 2

    Odete Lopes: Bellissimo lavoro Camelia Elias
    See Translation
    1 hr · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Ah, Marcus. Thanks. You never know when I might just collect some thoughts in that form too. About the seals and other grimoirs, I’ve always suspected that most of what was put out there to begin with was for commercial reasons. We have solid historical evidence for this. The 17th and 18th c. were no less commercial than now. It is therefore that we don’t always find proper crediting and explanation of symbol work. But perhaps that’s why we get into this. Because it’s fun to speculate alongside what we know for a fact.
    1 hr · Like · 2

    Markus Pfeil: Excellent elicitation of those symbols correspondence Camelia. I do suspect that Grimoire, etymologically, stems from grime or ire, indicating the dirty and frustrating work of inking the things out…I would also think it very interesting to finish the analysis and then compare to other interpretations, probably to find they all come from a single source
    7 mins · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Indeed, Markus. What I want to look at is the structural hierarchy of archangels vis-a-vis the cards that open and the cards that close the gates, so to speak. We’re with the binaries here, that’s for sure, so it’s not so complex, really.
    2 secs · Like

    Daniela Abend: “The only original thing we can claim is the way in which we actually read the cards. At least that’s what I’ve been aiming for with Taroflexions. To give people a taste for how they can think for themselves while considering old systems of thoughts, if they are available.” Write your book Camelia Elias – I would love it. Great!
    16 hours ago · Like

    Camelia Elias: Thanks, Daniela. I’ll concoct something.
    16 hours ago · Like · 1

    Markus Pfeil: arch-angels would close gates according to genesis, no?
    16 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Ryan Edward: The Safe card in this pack is still curious to me. All others are signils and glyphs while the Safe, card no. 48, last in the pack, has a silouhete of a tree. Anything like this in the ole book of Moses?
    13 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Ryan, how about the cherry tree also for good fortune? There’s no ambiguity there, as far as I can see. The symbol of Tu BeShvat in Israel is the almond tree blossom (it very much looks like the Japanese cherry tree), so we’re still with that world thematically. Besides, the Archangel of Kether is Metatron, literally the almond flower. Graphically, of course, this sigil makes no sense along the others. But let me think some more about it. Meanwhile, perhaps a connection may still spring from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ahb4vsIJ1U
    a few seconds ago · Like · Remove Preview

    Ryan Edward: Aye, fortune. Makes perfect sense. It was the graphic aspect that really caught my attention. If anything, maybe it was a simple matter of information over form.
    2 hrs · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Indeed. I’ve upgraded your question to the body of the text, as I think it’s an excellent one. We can still think about it, as I’d like to get a better sense of why the Tree (of Fortune) is there in such a figurative rather than symbolic form.
    2 hrs · Like

    Markus Pfeil: The Safe could be Pandoras Box, the one different sigil that created all the others. The tree of knowledge that bore all the symbols, the box, that once opened expelled us lot from eternal free lattes.
    Then also the Z symbol on the tree points to the heavens for tree..at least today on the lake.
    Markus Pfeil’s photo.
    3 mins · Unlike · 1

    Camelia Elias: Lovely, Markus. Pandora’s box is always a treasure in itself. And I’m pretty sure that Zorro knows exactly how to open it.

  2. Emmy Moon says:

    Very interesting on how they included this with the lenormand cards. Thank you for the research. I know this shed some much needed light about these cards.

  3. Wendy Goodwin says:

    Why are the 6th and 7th Books of Moses accredited with these Tironian Shorthand symbols? Tironian Shorthand was used EVERYWHERE in the middle ages….by the elite, educated few who learned it, mostly priests. There were over 3,000 symbols and each correspond with a word in Latin. I think it would be far more helpful to get each Tironian Shorthand symbol on these Lenormand cards translated into it’s word in Latin. Mentioning random books that happened to have these particular symbols in them is like crediting a specific prescription with medical shorthand. We physicians write ALL our prescriptions in medical shorthand. Besides, the plates in the 6th & 7th Books of Moses have MANY Tironian Shorthand symbols in them.

    1. Camelia Elias says:

      My choice of referring to the 6th and the 7th Books of Moses was motivated by the factor of relevance. Not all shorthand that was popular at some point in time or other has a magic, grimoiric, or talismanic character. A medical receipt written in shorthand doesn’t have a magic character, even though it may look that way.

  4. Wendy Goodwin says:

    I was trying to come up with an analogy. My point was that Tironian shorthand was used everywhere by the educated elite during the middle ages – not only the 6th and 7th book of Moses. On an earlier post you likened them to monograms but this is not the case. This was shorthand. Like more modern shorthand, one symbol = one entire word in Latin. That is why priests used it to quickly take notes. These Tironian symbols didn’t COME from plates in the books of Moses. They came from Tironius. They were used ON plates in the books of moses, but that doesn’t mean they originated there. The same symbols were scribbled in the margins of countless books, or used to fill diaries, yes grimoires and all sorts of documents /casual papers wherever the writer wanted to joy them down. Reportedly there were about 3,000. So I feel it would be more fruitful to track down the meaning of each of those 3,000 and find the ones on these cards. There are scholars familiar with this shorthand. Twitter has an account about Tironian shorthand with several scholars that follow it. I have tried to find someone to translate but no one has answered me who could.

  5. Camelia Elias says:

    Wendy, thank you for your comment. It wasn’t on an earlier post that I likened the symbols to monograms. It’s right here in the first paragraph, where I also use the phrase, ‘tongue-in-cheek’. I maintain what I said in my previous comment to you, the idea that it’s interesting to consider to what extent these particular shorthand scribblings have a concrete ‘magical grimoir’ application. But since there’s no record of the motivation behind the design, there’s no way of knowing. It’s a shame the scholars didn’t come through for you. I wonder why. Good luck with the project of tracking down the significance of the symbols. It’s fascinating. If I have to venture a guess myself, I’d say that whoever decided to place them on the cards as insets was actually pretty clueless of any symbolic mapping, and they did it for the sole purpose of aesthetics. it looks good. The mysterious sells, and these being fortunetelling cards, it’s obviously better if you can make them look more mysterious than they are already. I think this must have been the motivation, rather than the systematic creation of actual mapping of symbolic correspondences.

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