Category Archives: cartomancy

On Community

"The Homecoming", Norman Rockwell, 1945

“The Homecoming”, Norman Rockwell, 1945

I often see people using the terms “Lenormand community” or “cartomancy community”, with the implication that we shouldn’t fight, we should be in solidarity, i.e., unity or agreement of feeling or action among individuals with a common interest, and mutual support within a group. Being in a community with someone doesn’t mean you have to do that. If you’ve ever had neighbors from hell, you can understand this.

And let’s look at the word “community” itself, shall we? from Merriam-Webster:


Pretty irrelevant to reading cards, isn’t it? All we have in common is cards. It’s like saying “the soap community” or “the makeup community”. Nobody says “You need to be nicer and more supportive of John Wayne Gacy, he used soap and makeup, too.”

Should we be supportive of Sylvie Steinbach just because the woman has written a crappy Lenormand book? She denies the Holocaust, FFS. Or Donnaleigh de la Rose, who equated being denied access to a facebook group to “perpetuating the Holocaust”, thereby trivializing the pointless suffering and deaths of millions? Or Christiana Gaudet, who writes hate blogs about the Roma? Why lower ourselves and give tacit endorsement to the hate by making nice with people like that?

Fuck antisemites and fuck racists. May they rot in hell.

As for the Rockwell painting at the beginning of this post, it’s a picture of what an actual community might look like. And I hope that soldier killed lots and lots of nazis.

Tacheles Wahrsagekarten


This is an old deck belonging to the Gypsy Witch/Whitman family of almost-Lenormands-with-extra-cards. This version, Malkiel Rouven Dietrich’s Tacheles Cards, has been renumbered to follow Lenormand more closely. There are, however, differences, and I prefer reading this deck as a reduced Gypsy Witch, rather than as an expanded Lenormand. Lenormand really doesn’t need extra cards, and IME they tend to fuzz up the picture. Still, I find the familiar Lenormand numbering helpful for things like house positions.

There is no Bear in this deck. Malkiel has assigned the Rose to #15, titled “Die Heiße Liebe”, “the hot love” – a natural progression of the Gypsy Witch “beauty and rugged health” and logical for red roses, but with no Bear card you’re going to have to look to other cards and combos for the meanings you normally assign to the Bear.

The image for the Cross is actually a medal, almost identical to Gypsy Witch’s Order (“Honor and recognition of labor” – pretty close to the Lenormand Moon, actually.)

The other extra cards are the Train, Lightning, Cats, Pig, Broken Mirror, Amor (Cupid), Crossed Swords, Bride, Clasped Hands, Money Safe, Wine, and Flames. All of these have their counterparts in the Gypsy Witch deck, and, with the exception of Wine, the Whitman.

As for the insets, it’s been suggested that they’re Tironian notes (though none of the people doing the suggesting have offered to translate), and while some of the squiggles may be based on those, there’s a lot more going on there including tree branches, planetary glyphs, a clef note, and a seahorse/dragon. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to decipher them, they were obviously added for looks. I suppose an unscrupulous reader could make things up, but I’d suggest being straight with your clients and telling them it’s for show. It’s a very snazzy-looking deck, obviously old, and brightly colored.


“Tacheles” is a Yiddish word for “straight talking”, I think. And it will do that, whether you read it as a Lenormand or a Gypsy Witch. It’s the PERFECT deck for those of us who love GW, but are put off by those dorky purple witches on the backs, or just don’t like using cards with printed meanings on them for client readings.

It’s available from Lauren Forestell here

Andy’s “Thirty Six Cards – An Introduction to the Petit Lenormand” – don’t miss this!

36 Cards

If you want a solid foundation in Lenormand reading (and not a lot of misinformation that you’ll only have to unlearn later), don’t miss Andy Boroveshengra’s Thirty-Six Cards: An Introduction to the petit-Lenormand. It gives you clear explanations of card meanings, attendance, distance, spreads (up to and including the Grand Tableau) and exercises. It’s geared towards beginners and intermediate students, but there’s so much solid information here that it would be worthwhile for even the most seasoned reader to keep a copy close at hand.

You can get the Kindle edition here:

Or in pdf format directly from Andy here:

OOPS! (some common mistakes)

 photo _57_zpsbed40ae8.jpg

Learning Lenormand requires sifting through a lot of information, and most of it is very flawed, to say the least. So to (hopefully) save a few people from making these common mistakes, I’m going to list a few things people are prone to falling into.

Everything the cat dragged in

In the very early days, I walked right into this one. I collected meanings from various websites and countries. My early readings were mud, and I had to unlearn a lot of stuff. So…don’t.

Start with ONE set of meanings, any set that makes sense to you – French, Dutch, German – and stick with it. Get a SOLID foundation. After a few years when you’re familiar with the symmetry of the system, you can expand it a bit, add more secondary meanings, more nuance.

Borrowing a meaning from a region other than the one you’re using can throw the whole thing off. For instance, I use German, where the Bear tends to be male. Other variants see it as female. But if I go so far as to call the Bear “mom” and I already use the Snake for that, where is mom in the GT? It would be like jamming extra, incompatible parts into a car. The only way to make it work would be to totally switch over to those meanings and scrap mine.

Lenormand is perfectly balanced. It’s genius – don’t screw it up. :D

You have all the meanings inside you

That one makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Images of dogs and houses and fish may evoke ideas, but that’s not the Lenormand method. PAMs (personally assigned meanings) will ruin your accuracy. I see this every day in groups, a lot of people INSIST on PAMs. They get their interpretations from “intuition” or “guides” and they “don’t rely on canned meanings”, but their readings SUCK.

The thing is, Lenormand will work if you stand back and let it, and don’t get in the way. Accuracy comes in inverse proportion to PAMs!

Lenormand “schools”

There are no Lenormand “schools”. There’s a Lenormand METHOD, with regional variations, like dialects. Where I live, a Coke is a “soda water”, but in Massachusetts it’s a “tonic”, and I think it’s “pop” in the midwest, but that’s all considered “english”. Not “schools”. Same with Lenormand. The work cards might vary a bit from place to place, or there might be more or less use of Distance, but there’s not enough difference to say there’s different “schools”. This has been explained 1000 times, at least.

Not learning the Method of Distance

I fell into this one. When I started with Lenormand, I had a Blue Owl with a LWB and those horrible english poems, lol. And I went online and found a yahoo group in english, with a german lady who had taken some courses. So I started asking things like “How far is ‘far’?” and she said “Oh, nobody pays attention to that” and introduced me to combo reading. It made sense at the time – aren’t Tarot LWB’s a joke? Nobody uses LWB’s. And she wasn’t trying to mislead me. Distance reading isn’t that common in Germany. She answered the question to the best of her knowledge.

The years went by and I found more sources, all combo readers. I eventually started doing paid readings. I ‘knew’ Lenormand. And it worked, I predicted stuff, it was right, I got paid.

Then Andy got me interested in Distance, and I’m liking it more and more, it’s decisive. Often, with combo readings, I have to sit and consider various meanings and how best to combine them, and sometimes, even after all these years, there’s a bit of “uhhhhh…”, lol. Distance reading is sharp and precise, like a scalpel. Sometimes it actually makes combo reading feel clunky. I wish I’d learned a long time ago. :D

Small draw with the Grand Jeu

It’s been awhile since I posted any Grand Jeu, so here’s a short reading I did. Sharing with permission from the friend/client who is also a reader (identifying information removed, of course), so I’ve used some abbreviations: SI is “small illustration”, LI is “large illustration, and of course there are abbreviations for the playing card insets: 10H, 2S and KH.

Grand Jeu readings are available here:


Forecast for January, 10H, 2S and KH. Looks good, Hearts are in the majority and referring to home and emotional matters, but with a rough patch about midmonth from the Spade. It’s a low-ranking Spade, though, and not all that powerful. You have a mix of Marriage, the Trojan War, and the Unexpected cards here, so no overarching theme. Fortuna Minor, however, does appear twice and this is important. Small good fortune, things happen quickly. You’ll have to work hard, but it promises a good outcome. Possible abuse of power, but if you’re queasy about bad luck, don’t be, you’re protected. Help from other people amid all the changes.

Your first card is an alchemy card, talking about relationships, your guy. He’s looking at the retort and seems very satisfied, he’s happy with you. You can see the gold forming in the retort. The SI Right shows a lady embroidering, he admires your industry and your artistry. 10H with the 2S, he respects your wisdom, too, and comes to you with his problems. I don’t like the way the embroidering lady is sitting by the SI Left on the 2S, though. That’s about spite and revenge, the Saturn talisman is no joke. So it could happen that somebody tries to cause problems in the relationship out of malice. With the LI, the Greek princes consulting Calchas, seek advice if this happens. (Calchas was a seer, by the way, so seeking advice from the cards would be appropriate.) This is the spite referred to by Fortuna Minor. You can overcome it, but it will take some effort on your part.

The 2S, again, is central and underlines the importance of sound advice during this period. (It looks like an exceptionally accurate phase for readings, too – don’t hesitate to go with bold predictions.) The shield, swords and spear on the SI Right says again that someone is hostile towards you. With the Laws of Solon on the SI Left of the KH, the situation will be resolved fairly (if you’re not familiar with the Laws of Solon, read up on them here ). With the LI, the old scholar, wisdom and prudence will carry you through in business as well as personal matters. And KH in the results month.

I don’t see anything in this spread relating to children and so don’t foresee any pressing issues with your son, things should be OK there.

Your constellations are La Coupe, Castor, and Le Triangle, respectively. La Coupe is a cup, or crater (some people associate it with the Grail), with a hydra guarding it from a dishonest crow. So it’s a very nice constellation, but with a warning to keep things on the up and up:


Castor and Pollux are Gemini – that might be relevant. Castor is the mortal twin famous for his skill in taming and managing horses. (The immortal Twin is Pollux.) Now if you consider horse training, it’s about getting an animal that weighs a couple of thousand pounds to do your bidding. I think this says that “size” (or power) can be bettered by smarts. Good to keep in mind when dealing with bosses or bureaucracies.

Your last constellation, the Southern Triangle can be interpreted as the Trinity or the Three Patriarchs, with the scholar on the large image and next to Calchas on the neighboring card, it shows you’ve got some intelligent and somewhat powerful men looking on you favorably. Good for dealing with authority. The alpha star of the constellation is called Atria, suggesting an atrium, a hall or entrance, or large open space in a building, usually with a glass roof. This could be referring to a literal atrium, or it may just be suggestive of being able to come and go, and a big place full of sunlight that’s still protected from the elements, in other words, the best of both worlds. I think this spread ends well.

The flowers, according to Didier, are violet, seringat, rose of May, sempervivum, ribes, melostoma, lily of the valley, marshmallow, cherry leaves and fruits. I’ve read that Mlle. Lenormand used to prescribe the flowers in much the way a rootworker prescribes workings with various herbs, as something to rid oneself of bad conditions and draw good ones. So it would be beneficial to keep some of these around, wear them as essential oils, etc. during this period. Of course I don’t know that Didier has identified them all correctly, but some of them do seem to match, particularly the cherries.

Photoessay: Why Most Study Groups Aren’t Conducive To Learning


This is from the Tarotholics group on facebook, but they’re by no means the only ones – Aeclectic Tarot, Lenormand Cards Study Group, and numerous smaller places all follow a predictable pattern. Here is a classic example. (I’ve blacked out all the names for privacy reasons, but I’m the one with the yellow Benny Lava profile pic.) Observe:

First of all, a noob posts a seemingly innocuous question. In this case, it was “What crystals will greatly assist learning the Tarot?”

This is generally answered with common sense – in this case, several of us said that none of them do, you can only learn things through study and practice.

Then the new agers predictably start to roll up and express butthurt that anyone dare suggest that rocks can’t teach people how to read cards. At this point, if you don’t allow them to cow you, banning is probably a matter of minutes, so have fun with it and go down in a blaze of glory:

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Here comes the “MEAN” and “RUDE” accusations. PM’s are flying by now. “THEY QUESTIONED MY DELUSIONS!” You can’t see it, but they’re PM’img their friends to come dogpile you, they’re PMimg admin saying how you hurt their widdle fee-fees.

Image Hosted by

Often, their lingo needs a bit of translating:

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

If you haven’t noticed, no one has shown any substantial evidence that Tarot can be learned from rocks. All I’ve seen is insistence that there’s “no right or wrong” and variations on “If you don’t agree, STFU.” :lol:

Oh, wait, here comes the “LALALALALA NOT LISTENING” ploy!

Image Hosted by

Ah, here comes the censorship board to stifle the voice of reason, lol:

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

After that, she attempted to turn it around by saying “DID YOU JUST TELL ME TO STFU?” (This is the person who was just bragging about their reading comprehension). I saw it in my notifications, but when I tried to click back over to the group, I already had my cool ban jacket:

Image Hosted by

And that, my friends, is why you can’t learn anything at most of these online forums. They’re OK for sport if you’re bored, but people who are functionally sane and actually know how to read cards are usually long gone from these venues. :lol:

The Ultimate Dondorf Lenormand

Le Fanu's Lilac Dondorf Lenormand by Lauren Forestell

Le Fanu’s Lilac Dondorf Lenormand by Lauren Forestell

I like decks made by readers.

There’s reasons for this. You’ve probably heard it said many times that beginners should learn Lenormand with a traditional deck. But as the years go by, you’ll find yourself relying on certain conventions. You’ll probably find yourself preferring a deck with workable facing directions, and you’ll certainly find it easier to locate a card in the Grand Tableau if the images are uncluttered. Maybe you’ll want the playing card insets long after you’ve learned which are the people cards, because sometimes you feel like using Etteilla’s multiples. I still prefer traditional decks. I always will.

Most of the people making self-published decks aren’t really readers, and so they can’t produce a deck that functions as a reading tool. It’s all about THEIR “innovation” and “creativity”, i.e., their own little ego time, and this, coupled with the fact that most of them are novices (and will remain novices, due to willful ignorance) makes for some extremely dysfunctional decks. The big publishers aren’t immune to it either. People on amazon are saying that Lo Scarabeo’s latest Dondorf reproduction has roughly the same dimensions as a Tarot deck. I won’t be seating clients on the floor in order to read their Grand Tableaus, and so won’t be purchasing that one. Ever.

The older Lenormands are small and for the most part, very readable. I love reproductions, and I’m starting to see them with those wonderful linen (cambric) finishes that make them handle like my beloved Bulldog Squeezers. The first linen repro I got was the Vintage Altenburger. I like it, but it’s kind of murky, and the whole deck has a nicotine yellow tint like the walls in those downtown saloons where the old farts play dominoes. I much prefer it to the saccharine-twee crap that’s vogue these days, but the images don’t really pop. It’s a lot better than those collage things, but it still takes a couple of extra beats to locate a card in a GT.

I’ve always liked Dondorf. I’ve worn out a couple of copies of “French” Cartomancy and a Königsfurt, and my current purse deck is Lauren Forestell’s Purple Dragon. (For months, I resisted it, until I was sure there were no licensing issues with her Game of Hope Lenormand. And I’d like to publicly redact and apologize for anything I may have written during that time. The rumor started when some clown at the British Museum who was not involved the transaction fueled Katz’s attack on her. I have since been satisfied that she DID purchase the rights. I’ve also been informed that Katz never apologized. He’s apparently content to smear someone’s rep KNOWING that it’s bullshit, and make an ass out of everyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt. Well, I won’t be falling into that one again. Kamp Katz, take note.

I like my Purple Dragon a lot. But I’ve been lusting for after a linen finish Dondorf since 2005 or so – if only somebody would print it!

Le Fanu’s Lilac Dondorf Lenormand by Lauren Forestell delivered the goods and more. It’s standard Lenormand size, and the print quality is so good that you can make out the dark side of the Clouds. Prior to Lauren’s repros, you needed an actual antique Dondorf to see that. Dondorf lithography is the stuff of legend. The Lady has been flipped so that she can face the Man (or not), it’s a copy of the FIRST Dondorf with the old color scheme – Rider on a grey horse, etc., and the backs are just stunning. It even comes in a tin printed with the back design:


The only nod to “new” Lenormand would be the extra Man and Woman cards, which of course can be removed if you use the Rider and Snake as the male and female lover cards, respectively. And it’s a small gesture of support in a backwards era that still denies gay people basic civil rights, so this is the one modernization you’ll never hear me griping about.

 photo 1012f5e4-6248-4ce2-af3c-6e08723cb355.jpg

There’s a story behind this deck, it all started when Le Fanu (who has some kind of amazing juju, or an eagle eye that brings him the most awesome things from virtual junkyards like ebay and flea markets) acquired a Lilac Dondorf, Variation #1.

Later (probably when the shock wore off, lol) Lauren tweaked the images and printed a small run of decks. She has a great instinct for what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be left as is.
She READS LENORMAND, so she understands that form can be beautiful, but it has to follow function.

The Lilac is a limited edition, and alas and alack, it’s sold out now. But her next one will be the C.L. Wüst, and she’s taking pre-orders. You can also find other great decks, all repros, some in both standard and mini sizes, and some ace tins. Her online store is HERE. And it rocks. :D

 photo 2fd26f36-5606-4f27-a4b3-5c8df7b7ea98.jpg