[Image by Pepi Valderrama licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.]
I was responsible for writing the text companion, also known as a little white book (LWB), which contains the following three sections:
A Short History of the Deck
Le Petit Lenormand Éclectique: A text companion by Helen Riding
A Short History of the Deck
The deck of 36 cards now known as the Petit Lenormand is based on a deck of cards originally designed for a parlour game by Johann Kaspar Hechtel from Germany and later named after the famous French fortune-teller Marie Anne Lenormand. While we have no evidence that Lenormand used this particular deck, the association with her name no doubt boosted the popularity of the deck and ensured its survival long after many other historical cartomancy decks have been forgotten. The history of the deck is outlined in the timeline below, with some possible Lenormand card associations shown in brackets.
1771: Johann Kaspar Hechtel was born in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany.
[Storks, Child, Man]
1772: Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand was born in Alençon, Normandy, France.
[Storks, Child, Woman]
1786: Lenormand left Alençon for Paris where she would become famous for reading cards for the elite of French society, including Joséphine de Beauharnais.
[Woman, Ship, Book, Moon]
1789: The storming of the Bastille prison in Paris by rioters on 14 July symbolized the beginning of the French Revolution, a period of political and social upheaval during which the French monarchy was overthrown and many people were executed by guillotine including the Bourbon King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.
[Tower, Garden, Whip, Man, Woman, Scythe, Coffin]
1796: Joséphine de Beauharnais married army general Napoléon Bonaparte.
[Woman, Man, Tower, Ring]
1798/9: Various works by Hechtel including Das Spiel der Hoffnung (The Game of Hope) were published by Gustav Philipp Jakob Bieling of Nuremberg. Das Spiel der Hoffnung is a parlour game that includes a deck of 36 numbered cards* illustrated with primary symbols and corresponding miniature playing cards from a French-suited deck and a German-suited deck.
[Man, Key, Book, Bouquet, Sun]
1799: Hechtel died aged 28 in Nuremberg during a smallpox epidemic.
[Man, Mice, Garden, Coffin]
1804: Napoléon Bonaparte and his wife Joséphine were proclaimed Emperor and Empress of the French.
[Man, Woman, Sun, Tower, Rider]
1810: Napoléon Bonaparte divorced Joséphine as she had not given him an heir.
[Man, Woman, Child, Coffin, Ring, Scythe]
1814: The House of Bourbon was restored to power in France.
[House, Tower, Coffin, Rider]
1814: Lenormand took up a second career as a writer.
[Woman, Crossroad, Letter]
1843: Lenormand died aged 71 in Paris.
1846: Reiff, a German publisher in Coblenz, took the liberty of using Lenormand’s name on a fortune-telling deck and many other European publishers later followed suit publishing similar decks. These decks have the same card numbering, primary symbols and playing card associations as the cards in Hechtel's Das Spiel der Hoffnung game, but the German-suited miniature playing cards are no longer included.
[Book, Moon, Sun, Whip]
*The deck has two uses in the game explanation:
1) when arranged in a 6x6 layout it was used with two dice for a race game, and
2) when arranged in an 8x4+4 layout it was used for fortune-telling entertainment. The name of the game derives from card 35 (Anchor, a classic symbol of hope) which is the winning position in the race game.
[Book, Crossroad, Clover, Whip, Anchor]
The Lenormand deck is based on a traditional German-suited deck with 36 cards equivalent to a French-suited deck stripped of the 16 pip cards numbered 2, 3, 4 and 5. The German suits of hawk bells, hearts, leaves and acorns correspond to the French suits of diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs respectively. The meanings of the Lenormand suits differ in some respects from the meanings of the French suits and are best explained by the historical meanings of the German suits.
The German suits have been associated with the social classes of the medieval feudal system as follows:
♦ hawk bells: nobility
♥ hearts: clergy
♠ leaves: agricultural landlords, burghers (free citizens)
♣ acorns: unfree serfs (peasants, labourers and domestic servants)
Traditional German-suited cartomancy systems include the following suit associations evident in the Lenormand deck:
♦ hawk bells: money and lottery winnings
♥ hearts: love and happiness
♠ leaves: joyful, pleasant events
♣ acorns: evil, illness
In this Lenormand deck we have used suit symbols which incorporate the shapes of the standard French suit symbols and colours associated with the corresponding German suit symbols. This hybrid suit system was inspired by the suits currently used in German Skat tournaments as a compromise between different decks used in different regions of Germany.
The meanings of the Lenormand suits may be broadly summarized as follows:
♦ diamonds (orange-yellow): enterprise, fortune and misfortune
♥ hearts (red): love, relationships and family
♠ spades (green): society, government and travel
♣ clubs (black): survival, hardship and trouble
The meaning of a card in a reading depends on, among other things, the possible meanings adopted for the card by the reader, the context of the question asked, the position of the card in the spread and other cards in the spread.
Lenormand iconography lends itself to interpretation in various ways and sometimes there are multiple layers of meaning in a reading. Apart from the literal and pictorial interpretation of a card, a card’s main symbol may be interpreted as a concept by traditional association (based on its symbolic meaning) and as an object or person of similar form (based on how it manifests). The court cards associated with some of the cards may also be used to represent or describe people in a reading.
Some possible card meanings by association and form of the card’s main symbol are listed below. Cards representing money, work and sex vary by system and these meanings are therefore included in brackets.
1 (9♥): Rider, Horseman, Cavalier
Catchphrase: "Breaking news"
Association: news, announcement, delivery, imminent change, renewal
Form: fast, uniformed, handsome, visitor, messenger, horse, bike
2 (6♦): Clover, Cloverleaf
Catchphrase: "Stroke of luck"
Association: luck, chance, opportunity, windfall, optimism
Form: fleeting, green, grass, herbs, health supplement, sweetener
3 (10♠): Ship
Catchphrase: "En route"
Association: journey, travel, adventure, distance, foreign location
Form: vehicle, open container
4 (K♥): House
Catchphrase: "Home sweet home"
Association: home, family, household, comfort zone, real estate
Form: square, small building
5 (7♥): Tree
Catchphrase: "Picture of health"
Association: life, health, health care, growth, development
Form: green, natural, family tree, religious symbol
6 (K♣): Clouds
Catchphrase: "Grey area"
Association: confusion, uncertainty, ambiguity, instability, gloom
Form: grey, smoke, dust, pollution
7 (Q♣): Snake, Serpent
Catchphrase: "Out of order"
Association: problem, complication, trouble, betrayal, rivalry
Form: winding, twisted, detour, scenic route, river, hosepipe, cable, plumbing
8 (9♦): Coffin
Catchphrase: "End of the line"
Association: ending, cancellation, emptiness, serious illness, death
Form: black, closed container, box, drawer, waste bin
9 (Q♠): Bouquet, Flowers
Catchphrase: "Sugar and spice"
Association: beauty, charm, joy, pleasure, gift
10 (J♦): Scythe
Catchphrase: "Clean break"
Association: termination, separation, result, danger, surgery
Form: sudden, sharp, metallic, knife, tool, weapon
11 (J♣): Whip, Birch, Rod, Birch Rod, Broom
Catchphrase: "Action drama"
Association: discussion, argument, discord, conflict, hostility, (sex)
Form: fast, loud, repetitive, cleaning equipment
12 (7♦): Birds, Owls
Association: talk, phone call, date, interview, negotiations
Form: couple, siblings
13 (J♠): Child
Catchphrase: "Kids’ stuff"
Association: baby, young person, student, beginner, immaturity
14 (9♣): Fox
Catchphrase: "Street smarts"
Association: trickster, detective, intelligence, resourcefulness, discernment, (work)
Form: small animal
15 (10♣): Bear
Catchphrase: "Brute strength"
Association: strength, power, brawn, protection, resources, (money)
Form: large animal
16 (6♥): Stars
Catchphrase: "By design"
Association: clarity, guidance, plans, destiny, talent
Form: silver, outer space, night sky, electronics, badge, medal, religious symbol
17 (Q♥): Storks
Catchphrase: "Going up"
Association: change, improvement, promotion, relocation, pregnancy
Form: thin, long legs
18 (10♥): Dog
Catchphrase: "Man’s best friend"
Association: friend, acquaintance, loyalty, support, advice
Form: domestic animal
19 (6♠): Tower, High Tower
Catchphrase: "The powers that be"
Association: authority, government, institution, corporation, rules
Form: tall, large building
20 (8♠): Garden, Park
Catchphrase: "Out and about"
Association: meeting place, public, society, group, party
Form: outdoors, green
21 (8♣): Mountain
Catchphrase: "Uphill battle"
Association: challenge, obstacle, struggle, delay, inactivity
Form: cold, grey, solid, rock, crystal
22 (Q♦): Crossroad, Road, Paths, Ways
Catchphrase: "Multiple choice"
Association: route, junction, alternatives, choice, decisions
Form: multiples, menu, vote, survey
23 (7♣): Mice
Catchphrase: "Toxic hazard"
Association: theft, loss, damage, nuisance, illness
Form: small creatures, viruses, parasites
24 (J♥): Heart
Catchphrase: "Object of desire"
Association: love, desire, affection, generosity, compassion
Form: central, vital, rhythmic, red, pink
25 (A♣): Ring
Catchphrase: "I do"
Association: marriage, partnership, contract, commitment, obligation
Form: circular, continuous, gold, jewellery
26 (10♦): Book
Catchphrase: "The full story"
Association: information, knowledge, education, secret, investigation
Form: report, project, newspaper, deck of cards
27 (7♠): Letter
Catchphrase: "You've got mail"
Association: post, message, correspondence, document, writing
Form: black-and-white, article, pamphlet, invoice, certificate, prescription
28 (A♥): Man, Gentleman
29 (A♠): Woman, Lady
Catchphrase: "His and Hers"
Association: Cards 28 (A♥) and 29 (A♠) are the main significator cards in Lenormand, traditionally representing the enquirer and the enquirer’s significant other. (Note that some decks include additional significator cards for enquirers in same-sex relationships.) These cards could however represent other people depending on the context of the reading.
Form: male and female
30 (K♠): Lily, Lilies
Association: peace, wisdom, maturity, tradition, elders, (sex)
31 (A♦): Sun
Catchphrase: "Rise and shine"
Association: victory, success, vitality, energy, illumination
Form: orange-yellow, electricity
32 (8♥): Moon
Catchphrase: "Work of art"
Association: emotions, creativity, arts, entertainment, fame, (work)
Form: cyclical, silver, religious symbol
33 (8♦): Key
Association: solution, answer, discovery, significance, certainty
Form: access, code, password, passport, visa
34 (K♦): Fish
Association: enterprise, commerce, business, transaction, exchange, (money)
Form: flexible, fluid, water, rain, alcohol
35 (9♠): Anchor
Catchphrase: "Safe haven"
Association: endurance, goal, stability, security, sea, (work)
Form: heavy, navy symbol
36 (6♣): Cross
Association: suffering, sacrifice, crisis, despair, faith
Form: religious symbol