By the beginning of the 19th Century, Mademoiselle Marie-Anne Adelaide Lenormand had become the premier prophetess of Paris. Known as the Sybil on Rue de Tournon, she welcomed rich and poor into her salon/bookstore for more than fifty years. She predicted King Louis XVI’s violent death, as well as Napoleon’s eventual defeat in a wintry foreign land. Her specialty was reading 36 small-sized playing cards (a deck known as petit jeu) upon which she had scribbled drawings. It is said that there never was one, definitive Lenormand deck created by Mademoiselle. Rather, observers noted that the images on the cards changed often. What stayed the same was the accuracy of her readings and the fame which it brought her.
After her death in 1843, there was no shortage of people trying to figure out how to capitalize on her name. A German deck of 36 small-sized playing cards with illustrations on them, known as The Game of Hope, began to be marketed as Petit Lenormand. Soon there were Lenormand decks around the world, each with its own imagery and system of interpretation, all claiming to carry on Mademoiselle Lenormand’s successful legacy.
With the current revival of interest in oracle/divination decks, Lenormand decks have once again gained popular success and begun to spawn variations of themselves with increasing speed. Tarot afficionados in particular seem to be feel the need to explore Lenormand, even though Lenormand is traditionally read with literal interpretations based on the card image and its placement in a spread. (Tarot is best used as a guide for intuitive musings.)
Creators of modern Lenormand decks are finding ways to add layers of symbolism to each card within the limitations which traditional Lenormand demands. The smaller size of the cards is a challenge for illustrators, but many readers find them easier to work with, especially for large spreads. The latest craze is to find interesting ways to use both tarot and Lenormand in the same reading.
Most of us found that once we opened a Lenormand deck, just to see what all the fuss was about, there was no turning back. There is something undeniably dynamic about the system. Opening a well executed Lenormand deck can fill the room with scenes of Victorian parlors and mysterious women reading tea leaves and coffee grounds — perhaps with the spirit of Mademoiselle herself.
I’ve become a fan. Let me introduce you to some of my favorite Lenormand books and decks.
The Complete Lenormand
Reading the Language and
Symbols of the Cards
Matthews confidently walks readers through the intricacies of reading the less complex illustrations and fixed meanings of the Petit Lenormand. Chapter Two provides detailed information for interpreting each card, including key combinations with other cards, as well as the ways in which Lenormand symbolism differs from tarot symbolism. Each subsequent chapter adds another layer of nuance. By the end of the book, readers will be thoroughly schooled in the advanced subtleties of this complex divination system. Throughout, Matthews encourages readers to develop their own techniques and to make the cards their own.
Butler begins the companion book for this deck and book set by acknowledging that the deck was spuriously attributed to Mlle. Lenormand after her death. but suggesting that she was first and foremost a masterful showwoman who would relish the fact that it has so successfully continued to enhance her fame. In updating the Petit Lenormand images, Butler does not believe that he is passing on the secrets of one of the greatest fortune tellers in history. Instead he intends to pay homage to her memory and her legend — and this he does brilliantly. The cards are modern, edgy, and visually stimulating.
Fairy Tale Lenormand
Art by Lisa Hunt
Written by Arwen Lynch
U.S.Games Systems, Inc.
To ask Lisa Hunt to illustrate a traditional Lenormand deck was really throwing down the gauntlet. But she rose to the challenge and created a deck which is straightforward enough to satisfy the most demanding traditional cartomancer, but also contains the tiny embedded symbolism her loyal fans look forward to. Those who choose to look closely, will find that the lady in Clover seems to have a blissful secret the rest of us cannot see. We expect the face emerging from the trunk in Tree but what about those roots reaching out like octopus arms to grasp the ground. Arwen Lynch does a superb job of linking an appropriate fairy tale to each card and explaining how the archetypes in the tale lend themselves to the Lenormand symbolism. This is a lyrical and captivating addition to the Lenormand library.
Fairy Lenormand Oracle Cards
Created by Markus Katz
and Tali Goodwin
Artwork by Davide Corsi
The Lenormand phenomenon moves to a new level as the 36 cartomantic images enter the realm of enchantment. The Fae Folk add their own special magic to the cards and Davide Corsi’s lush illustrations capture that special energy as the fairies combine with woodlands, wildlife, flowers, ritual tools, ornate vessels, and secret cottages. Exquisite creatures appear in carefully detailed, exotic environments as each traditional card image is brought to life in a new and dynamic way. The companion guidebook provides traditional meanings for each image plus tips and hints for reading with the cards. If you read intuitively, you’ll find that the images are powerful triggers for a flood of astral information. This deck, which is as much about the fairy world as it is about Lenormand, is a treat for the eyes (be it two or three) no matter how you use it.
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Edward honors traditional Lenormand with highly creative, updated versions of the original 36 cards, then adds 16 additional cards in order to end up with a standard 52-card deck. The result meets the needs of those who do readings with standard playing cards and those who are wedded to the Lenormand images. Readers can work traditionally by using just the first 36 cards. Novices can do the same to get a sense of how Lenormand readings work. The more adventurous can throw caution to the wind and use the whole deck with its eclectic add-ons to see what the fates will say. The 72-page, full-color companion book in this beautifully-designed box set contains instructions for reading Lenormand, and for using Lenormand’s classic Grand Tableau spread. Altogether it’s a wonderful gift for those who read, or want to read, Lenormand — or for those who want an interesting, artsy deck to play solitaire with.
Wisdom from an Ancient Empire
Created by Nefer Khepri
Channeled from ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, this 41-card deck combines wisdom from the ancient world with the popular Lenormand system of cartomancy. Created by artist, mystic, and Reiki master Khepri, the illustrations are highly animated. If you hold them for awhile you will begin to sense a slight buzzing surrounding them. The energy which Khepri has instilled in them can be activated for healing or for ritual/manifestation work. The 176-page companion book contains full-color illustrations of each card along with in-depth interpretations of its meaning and uses in healing and magical workings.
Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand
Created by Edmund Zebrowski
U.S. Games Systems Inc.
Comprised of illustrations from the Rider-Waite tarot and The Green Sheaf, this 36-card petit Lenormand pays homage to Pamela Colman Smith. Fundamentally a series of collages pieced together from Smith’s artwork, they add layers of meaning to the simple Lenormand images. For those who are familiar with Smith’s work, each card is a little mystery to be solved and built upon. Fun, thought-provoking, and already a sensation on the web, this small deck is a treat for beginners and seasoned diviners alike.
Quick Answers to Everyday Questions
Marcus Katz & Tali Goodwin
These oracle-deck afficionados take us on a tour of the classic Lenormand deck with spectacular results. Using the traditional 36 cards, they start at the beginning and show novices and experienced diviners alike how it’s done.This is a fun and comfortable way for everyone to get acquainted with this historic deck. The 150-page companion book spells it all out, clearly and specifically. Best for people who don’t already have a relationship with the cards, readers can start at the beginning and work their way up to professional, gypsy-style parlor fortune telling. Fun for everyone, if you’re not afraid of the truth!?
Dreaming Way Lenormand
Artwork by Kwon Shina
Written by Lynn Araujo
US Games Systems, Inc.
Kwon Shina has added a new dimension to the very popular Lenormand divination system. I loved her Dreaming Way Tarot deck. She’s delivered once again with this quirky, lyrical interpretation of the 36 Lenormand cards, advancing their power as an oracle. The accompanying 96-page booklet adds insight for those who are still new to Lenormand interpretation. Seasoned intuitives will most likely just open the box and let these powerful new illustrations take them to new heights.
Gilded Reverie Lenormand
U.S. Games Systems Inc.
Ciro Marchetti has wedded the Petit Lenormand images with Madame Lenormand’s fluid approach to cartomancy and reverently created this superb divination deck. The images are stunning — reminiscent of elaborately illustrated children’s books. The evocative imagery produces nearly tangible sensations as one looks through the deck, pondering the layers of symbolism contained within it. The 48-page companion booklet offers Marchetti’s expressive, personal insight into the meaning of each card. A beautiful deck, beautifully packaged.
Under the Roses Lenormand
US Games Systems, Inc.
Visually, this 39-card version of the Petit Lenormand echoes old-fashioned illustration and border design, but the use of soft color with vibrant highlights adds a distinctly modern-day edge. The energy emanating from each of the pictures is palpable and dynamic.The 56-page companion booklet contains brief introductions to Sub Rosa and the Petit Lenormand, keyword interpretations of each card, sample spreads, and advanced techniques for working with the cards. There are esoteric layers to each of these cards. Once novices have built up confidence doing card readings, they will move to the inner realms to communicate directly with the cards and — perhaps — with the Madame herself.
Pagan Lenormand Oracle Cards
Gina M. Pace
Artwork by Franco Rivolli
This innovative deck combines the ritual, nature-based spirituality, and inclusiveness of paganism with the traditional imagery of a Lenormand deck. That imagery has been updated without sacrificing the long-standing symbolism of Lenormand. Readers will find potato chips, koi, and a Book of Shadows. My favorite card is 29-Garden with its magenta labyrinth. This deck is a terrific tool for learning about paganism and experiencing Lenormand cartomancy.
Read more of Anna’s reviews as well as her weekly and monthly Tarotcasts™ on TarotWise.com.