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Linda Marson: Internationally renowned Tarot author and teacher, Mary K. Greer, whose interest in the deck has led her down the path of teaching Lenormand, is a firm believer in the value of the traditional method. She’ll be teaching classes in Lenormand and the Tarot Court in Brighton UK, June 17 & 18, 2017. Click here for information.

Here I talk with Mary about the difference between a traditional and intuitive approach to reading the cards. First up, a reminder of where the cards originated.

Mary K. Greer:  The Petit Lenormand is a deck of 36 fortune-telling cards featuring simple images like a dog, house, and anchor. It first appeared in the 1790s in Germany, and was redesigned in 1845, soon after the death of the French fortune-teller, Mlle. Lenormand. The German publisher simply co-opted her famous name for promotional purposes as was common with occult and fortune-telling works. Although Mlle. Lenormand used a variety of card decks, she never created her own nor did she pass on her reading methods. Used primarily in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and France and known in the United States in the 19th century, Lenormand cards didn’t achieve the wide-spread popularity in English that Tarot did until very recently.

Linda: What is traditional Lenormand?

Mary:  The Lenormand deck originally came with a single sheet of instructions containing specific card meanings and a single spread using all the cards. Translated into half-a-dozen languages, this sheet was included with every deck until quite recently. The pictures are emblems with specific meanings, rather than symbols with infinite ones. Thus, the meanings and method are clear, well-known and still used today. These meanings focus on general areas of danger and difficulties and of pleasure and success in one’s mundane life with no metaphysical content. They best address questions about what has, is, or will happen, like the plot of a story. Among other things, they can also help with describing people and finding lost objects through identifying particular clues to look for.

Tarot, by contrast, was originally a card game. Divinatory meanings, techniques and occult symbology were added nearly 350 years after its creation. There are significant variations according to different authors. Each symbol on a Tarot card can have an infinite number of references held together by a broad, allegorical theme. Tarot is used as much or more for spiritual guidance and personal development as it is for fortune-telling.

Linda: I’ve heard a lot about so-called traditional Lenormand versus intuitive Lenormand. What’s this all about?

MaryAt heart is the idea that one can either read the cards by following a rigid system or by using the cards as a trigger to one’s own intuitive impressions or psychic messages. Psychic messages come from an external, non-physical source. Pure psychic (extra-sensory) information doesn’t need an external tool, except, perhaps as a focus, so one isn’t really “reading Lenormand.”  Traditional and intuitive approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. The best traditional readers are intuitive!

Intuition, which is based on an instantaneous leap or perception of a meaning or pattern based on the sensory evidence and experience, benefits from knowledge about the tradition, which limits possibilities and lends precision and concreteness to an answer. Personal assumptions, bias and opinions can easily be taken for intuition, so a cross-check mechanism is beneficial. Intuition works best when it perceives patterns in the data laid before one; prior knowledge helps you see relevant meaning in those patterns. Like learning a foreign language, at some point you forget the rules and individual words and find yourself speaking fluidly.

GrandTableau
Cards from a Russian deck: the Lilac Twilight Lenormand.

Most traditional readers are very intuitive. Once you know the meaning and methods of the cards you can see at a glance what the cards are saying, plus you can double-check your insight by briefly reviewing the roots and, in larger readings, checking other cards related to the question to see if there are counter-indications. Furthermore, other traditional readers are likely to draw the same conclusions—you speak the same “language.” I saw this happen when a friend and I were looking at her Grand Tableau at a conference. Over two days we asked several different Lenormand readers (who had learned independently of each other) what they saw, only to have them report almost identical observations.

I’ve followed hundreds of personal readings in on-line study groups and found that the majority of interpretations reported as accurate were by traditional readers. Whereas those who confessed they were just saying what they “felt” were rarely spot on. Additionally, these “intuitive-only” readers often answered predictive questions (“Will I pass the exam?) with advice rather than a prediction, a teaching rather than a description. For instance, instead of seeing indicators of whether the querent would pass the exam or not, the intuitive reader might say, “I feel you’re over-stressed and not getting enough sleep. Have some camomile tea tonight and know that you’ve done everything necessary to get the result you really want.” It’s nice advice, but it doesn’t answer the question, and may have little or nothing to do with the traditional meaning of the cards.

The traditional method of reading Lenormand is to read all 36 cards in a layout known as the Grand Tableau. Modern traditionalists often use shorter layouts that are segments of the Grand Tableau, allowing one to focus on a very specific question, using a specific syntax for clarity. Cards modify other cards according to explicit rules. Intuitive-only readers tend to go with their “impression” of whatever strikes them most strongly. Or they may favor Tarot-like spreads where each card is interpreted separately in terms of its position meaning. There’s a tendency to see the good in negative cards and to seek a positive outcome or perspective. Traditional Lenormand, on the other hand, can sometimes be quite harsh, telling one definitively what he or she didn’t want to hear.

Linda: Can you give me an example of a traditional interpretation?

MaryI’ll go one better and compare three approaches. I’ve posited the querent as a man who wants to know “Should I hire this particular applicant for a job opening?” Three cards were drawn at random:

8-Coffin – 15-Bear – 28-Man

From Madam Morrow's Fortune Telling Cards (New York: McLaughlin Bros., 1886).
Madam Morrow’s Fortune Telling Cards (New York: McLaughlin Bros., 1886).

Original Tradition Reading

The Man card always refers to a male querent. (If the querent is female, Man is her significant other). The first card on the left is the subject. Coffin means illness, financial loss, endings. The nearer Coffin is to the person (Man) the more serious the situation is (here it is very near!). Bear means good fortune but cautions against envious persons. Being right next to a strongly negative card of loss (Coffin+Bear), Bear says the querent should be cautious of an envious person who has recently experienced great loss. We look at the cards both as a sequence, in terms of what modifies what, and also as three pairs:

  • Coffin+Bear: sickness; envy and jealousy. The applicant may have experienced his own loss: of a former job, money or health. 
  • Bear+Man: the querent’s good fortune creates envy in another (Bear is modified by a negative card). 
  • Coffin+Man: a recent loss on the part of the querent. Coffin could indicate a simple “no, don’t hire the person” but might also point to the fact that the loss of one employee has necessitated the hiring of another.

Answer: “No; you are cautioned against hiring this person.”

Modern Tradition Reading

Modern referents have been added to the traditional ones in order to fill in the gaps and make the cards a little more concrete. But, while some variations occur, the core meanings should always show through.

Man is still the querent. Cards to the left of Coffin show what is lost (money, health, etc.), while cards to the right may indicate a new beginning. (Modern thinking has added the meaning of box or container to Coffin but that’s not applicable here.) Bear has accrued meanings of strength, power, authority and stored money (invested or saved), while keeping the warnings about envy and jealousy. He appears “hungry following a loss.” Additionally Bear can indicate one or both parents or grandparents (among other authority figures). Given a different question these cards might point to the loss of a parent; it’s worth checking. The subject is still Coffin; the next card modifies the subject, like an adjective, indicating financial loss or loss of strength. The Man (querent) needs to be careful as this new applicant is not a good risk. At worst, he might embezzle money from the firm or try to overpower the querent (be “overbearing”).

Answer: “No; this applicant could cause problems for you and the company.”

From the Piatnik Lenormand Cartomancy Deck
From the Piatnik Lenormand Cartomancy Deck

We can see that the modern traditionalist has a little more latitude for interpretation and the possibility of richer details of which an intuitive person can make much. Someone who really knows their core meanings can easily check the story they’ve intuited against the original meanings for verification.

Intuition-only Reading

This could go so many different ways, yea or nay depending on the story being told, so here’s just one possibility.

Answer: “Since the company lost an employee (Coffin), you now have an opening for someone new (Coffin is in the past). Bears are strong, powerful and this applicant has appeared at just the right time to fill the opening. Bears can be very protective and take care of their young. He’s authoritative and, since Bear means money, he will bring lots of money into the firm. He’s a good investment for you. It’s like you’re closing the door on the past and someone strong is coming in. See, your losses are over. We see him (Man) at the end arriving at the office for his first day at work.”

This person knows some meanings for the cards but not all of them; it’s kind of hit-or-miss, but once a story element is discerned it tends to be elaborated upon; subsequent elements are fit into that original scenario, like the wicked step-sisters trying on Cinderella’s shoe. Emphasis is on the cards by themselves in past, present or future positions, rather than modifying each other. At times the card’s art is scanned for symbolic possibilities. The tendency is to “over-answer” the question and try to convince with too many details.

A traditional short reading requires a quick survey of card keywords, integrating them into fresh concepts according to a syntax or structure, to determine a succinct, specific, concrete answer to the question. In addition to a full Grand Tableau, Lenormand works well as an adjunct to Tarot where a quick Lenormand layout can clarify things that came up in the Tarot reading.

Linda: How does one become a traditional reader?

Mary There are both websites and online study groups at Facebook (search on Lenormand) and several recent books in English (check Amazon for books and decks). Or, best yet, take my introductory course in Brighton UK on June 17!  

Finally: practice, practice, practice.

Agatha Christie’s detective, Miss Marple, said she solved crimes by recognizing the characteristics of people she knew well from her own small village.

Come to my June 18 class on the Court Cards to hone your skills (details at the end of this post).

What if each of the Court Cards was a suspect in an Agatha Christie murder mystery? Why don’t we call it, Murder at the Tarot Symposium! Sixteen is a lot of suspects, so let’s whittle down the possibilities. That’s easy because it’s one of the Court Cards who’s been killed. I shuffle my deck and the first card off the top is the Queen of Cups reversed. Sorry, Isabella Donati. It seems you fell down a steep flight of stairs (3 of Pentacles is the next card), right in front of two of the Court Cards, the Queen of Wands and Knight of Swords who were standing at the bottom of the stairs. They saw a hidden figure stick out a booted foot forcing the lovely Ms. Donati to fall. That leaves thirteen suspects.

IMG_1762

Four teenagers, the Pages, who were newbies at this symposium, were at that moment being admonished by the Queen of Swords for bad-mouthing one of the presenters (9 of Swords). So that’s five more who are out, leaving eight.

The King of Cups reversed was in the bar – drunk as usual, telling his maudlin story to a High Priestess. Meanwhile, the Knight of Cups tried to extricate himself (8 of Swords reversed) from a lecture on the “true” history of Tarot by the argumentative, know-it-all King of Pentacles (5 of Wands). 

IMG_1764

That leaves five.

The King of Wands is followed by the Ace of Cups. He’s a passionate man who carried a torch for the beautiful and dreamy Queen of Cups, although she hardly deigned to take her eyes off her tarot deck to look at him. Hadn’t he offered to get Ms. Donati a cup of water?

The King of Swords, described by the 6 of Pentacles, was dispensing his definitive opinions to the vast unwashed masses via a podcast, so he’s out, isn’t he, or was the podcast pre-recorded? He didn’t like that students preferred Ms. Donati’s intuitive skills to the logic of his teachings.

The Knight of Pentacles reversed is a tee-totaler (4 of Cups reversed), supposedly off meditating in the retreat room. But I think a gift he’d brought Ms. Donati had been rebuffed.

The Queen of Pentacles reversed was doing voice exercises (Judgment) before her presentation on coming out of the closet as a tarot reader. Hadn’t she called out the blond-haired Ms. Donati in the past for being too blatantly revealing?

Last of the 16 and represented by the final two cards in my shuffled deck, the Knight of Wands, although young and impulsive, had considered Ms. Donati to be his special mentor (Hierophant). He had recently run off when he found her tutoring others. 

Who do you think murdered Ms. Donati, the Queen of Cups? And why?

I’ll be teaching workshops in Brighton, UK on 17-18 June, 2017, including a Court Cards class and a Lenormand class. If you are in England at that time, you won’t want to miss these experiential sessions where we seriously learn as well as have fun! I hope to see you there. Sign up now at GlobalSpiritualStudies.com

Beggar - 4 views - Version 2Jester, pilgrim, mendicant or child?

Will the real Fool please step up?

Does the Tarot Fool bring up the rear in a long parade of triumphal figures, a warning about what will happen if one fails on the spiritual path? Or does he appear at the beginning, full of trust and hope, setting out on a new adventure?

Is the dog his faithful companion or a wild beast that threatens to tear him apart or ludicrously expose his privates?

What dangers does the Fool face?

Fool - Blind man 17th c - Version 2

crocodile

When the Fool turns up do you feel excited and ready to venture forth? Or do you fear your decisions are stupid and that others will think you ridiculous?

At the end of the 19th century, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn turned the Tarot on its head, depicting the Fool as a small child and putting it at the head of the Hebrew alphabet. The Waite-Smith card, published in 1909, pictured an image that came to epitomize the 1960s San Francisco flower child. How did this happen?

Fool-World Ships of Fools

Does the Fool carry the World on his shoulders (or, perhaps, in his knapsack)? There are hints that it is so. The Fool can indicate absolute trust in Spirit or the ravings of a madman or idiot. Learn to cultivate divine nonchalance. Discover what’s needed to take a leap of faith. Explore hidden meanings in the symbols on the RWS Fool.

Over the next couple of years, I plan on teaching what I’ve learned about each of the Major Arcana in a series of webinars, randomly ordered and spaced. I’ve already taught The High Priestess (and will be presenting it again), and I’ve written in depth about the Lovers (see Tarot in Culture, vol. 2). I will be presenting The Fool, live on May 16th, for three hours to a limited number of participants (a recording will not be available). Information available at Thelesis Aura or on Facebook. 

Dog-Liliac Twilight

Dog-Liliac Twilight

Sign up NOW for my 2-part Lenormand Webinar (March 3 & March 10), designed to benefit anyone with a basic knowledge of the Lenormand deck.

Do you know what the Dog card means? Or the Lilies? Can you read them as a pair or in a three-card reading? If you know at least this much then you are ready for my more advanced class.

The focus is on telling a story with longer line readings and applying your story to the rows of a Grand Tableau. Plus we’ll explore traditional Near & Far meanings – so you can apply them painlessly and effortlessly. Learn how to answer specific questions in 15 minutes or less with a Grand Tableau – guaranteed! You’ll also practice using Houses to add more depth to your readings. 

Come one, come all. Improve your Lenormand skills!

Take the webinar live so you can ask questions and get feedback on your practice readings OR purchase access to the webinar on-line or via DVD to study at your own pace.

For sign-ups or information, click on the link below:

http://globalspiritualstudies.com/petit-lenormand/mary-k-greer/advanced-lenormand-course/

Natural Grand Tableau

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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