Lenormand is the cartomancy system that emerged from the heart of the 19th century continental Europe. The Lenormand cartomancy or divination system was named after Madame le Normand, the most celebrated clairvoyant and fortune-teller of the Napoleonic era. Notably though, the Lenormand decks that are used today for Tarot or cartomancy readings had only come into existence after the death of Mlle. Lenormand.
Born in Alençon, France in 1772 (although there are some disputes about the birth year), Mlle. Lenormand is perhaps most famous for her association with Empress Josephine. The latter had high regards for Lenormand’s divinatory powers and the celebrated fortune-teller made her way to the boudoir of the empress on many occasions. According to later biographies of Madame Lenormand, Napoleon himself was not directly involved in these confabulations although there are suggestions that he, too, eventually came under the spell of the impressive divinatory powers of Lenormand.
Ironically enough, this did not bide too well for the celebrated clairvoyant and once when she revealed dark forebodings for the emperor’s future to his wife, this actually landed her in prison. However, this incident also gives us a good insight into the method of Lenormand. According to various written documents by a number of madame’s clients, we find that Lenormand was always frank in her dealings with her patrons. She neither followed a conciliatory approach or tried to smooth things out during making her predictions, nor did she try to arouse or excite anxiety and fear in her clients. Evidently, she had firm belief on her powers and never felt as if she had any need to prevaricate on any matter under discussion. Apart from the French royal family, the list of her other famous clients include Tsar Alexander I as well as many famous leaders of the French Revolution such as Robospierre, Marat and St-Just.
Now, as for her cartomancy techniques, little is known about that. Although there are conflicting accounts on this, Lenormand most likely used decks of regular playing cards during her divinatory sessions. However, it is known that she almost always asked her clients their age and their favorite color and number.
Later in her life, Madame Normand wrote almost a dozen books. But these books were either memoirs or were written on themes like chiromancy, astrology, etc. But in none of these books, she reveals her techniques for card-reading.
Madame Lenormand passed away on June 25, 1843.
Cartomancy and Lenormand Combinations
The first deck of cards bearing the name Lenormand was to appear just 2 years after her death and this deck, published by Grimaud in France and named “Grand Jeu de Mlle. Lenormand”, contained 54 cards bearing different symbols in the manner of Tarot cards. Not long after, a 36-card deck version named the “Game of Hope” was brought out at Germany. This multi-purpose deck was based chiefly on an earlier running game.
According to the experts in the field, these combinations had little to do with Madame Lenormand’s techniques. It is however known that Lenormand used a 36-card deck during her sessions and she also offered either a “grand” or a “petit jeu” to her clients.
As for the Lenormand combinations and Lenormand reading offered by card-readers of today, there are different variants. And the latter also often reflect the personal philosophy and attitude of the practitioners towards cartomancy and tarot reading. For example, many present day practitioners of Tarot and other forms of cartomancy maintain that these are not only divination tools but are also ways of gaining self-knowledge and that they aid in one’s self-development and spirituality.
Be that as it may, today the most prevalent form of Lenormand cartomancy reading or system uses a 36-card deck (containing pictures and symbols) and consists of five different combinations. These are:
- Grand Tableau: Here all 36 cards are used and they are laid out in a 4X9 grid for interpretation. Sometimes, the cards are also placed in a 4X8 grid with the bottom row containing the remaining four cards in its center.
- Decision-Making: In this combination, you draw seven cards and the 7th card represents the chief theme or influence of the matter. The cards 1, 3 and 5 provide clues to future development whereas the cards 2, 4 and 6 predict what might happen if your question remains unanswered or if you get a negative answer.
- The Cross: A simpler combination where four cards are drawn and they carry the following meanings. Card1-Theme; Card 2- Right Way; Card 3- Wrong Way; and Card 4- Destination.
- Present, Past and Future: Three cards drawn in this combination serve to illuminate the pattern of temporal development of a particular situation.
- Day, Week and Month: This is by far the simplest of Lenormand readings. According to this system, you draw a single card only for either daily, weekly or monthly consultations.