Books: Learning Lenormand

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This is the first of the long-anticipated new crop of english language Lenormand books to show up, the others being Andy Boroveshengra’s, Caitlin Matthews’ and Rana George’s upcoming works.

From my interactions online, I’ve seen plenty of extreme reactions to this book and its authors, ranging from virtual worship to a kind of seething resentment verging on pure black hate. I’d like to remind everyone of how quick Marcus was to replace their miscut and/or lost-in-the-mail greenies when the Original Lenormand was first published and there were all those problems with Gamecrafter. So I’m going to look at this book on its own merits or lack thereof and I’d like to remind people that Marcus and Tali are neither Hitler, the 1%, nor your corporate overlords. 😛

So be advised that this is about the BOOK, not my assessment of the authors on a personal level. It’s neither a personal bashfest nor a rave-up, and may well end up pissing off and/or alienating everyone on both sides. Oh, well.

The first part is a historical overview, and though I’m a little surprised there was no mention of emblem books, it’s solid. I’ve seen a good deal of the historical research before via Helen Riding, however. Of course Marcus and Tali did a lot of research as well, and could have uncovered much of the same info independently, but it was Helen who wrote the Wikipedia entry on Hechtel last year, found his portrait, etc. And there’s a short list of websites at the end with some VERY glaring omissions, like AndyBC’s course and blog, and Chanah’s blog. I think the best in the field are at least as worthy of acknowledgement as that lady who created a stick people deck.

The instructional part of the book has a lot of issues. The copy I have was gifted to me by a friend. From the beginning, there are key bits marked in highlighter pen. The last highlighted bit is on page 34, where the word “teamwork” is given for Mice and she apparently threw her hands in the air. Since then, I have had several other people offer to mail me THEIR copies. To be fair, one had several extras, but the others had a single copy that they purchased, and then decided that they just didn’t want it around anymore.

For me, it all starts to run off the rails sideways at the point where the historic stuff ends and the “how to read” stuff begins. They very clearly created their own reading method based on the Lenormand deck. I know how hard it is to write on Lenormand, since people have been after me to write a book for some time now, but I can’t think of a good way to do it without appearing to plagiarize my mentors. How many ways are there to say “The Rider brings news”, after all? All of us traditional readers read very similarly. And it’s possible that all the time and money they put into research came up drier than they had hoped, since Lenormand is essentially a folk tradition.

Of course they are free to create their own method, and people are free to follow it. I just wish this had been made more clear IN THE BOOK, since I now anticipate many years of explaining very simple, basic, vital things like the Clover being “fast luck” or “small luck” in traditional Lenormand, (like finding five dollars on the sidewalk or a decent parking spot) not any “deeper meaning” like “identity” the way this book says it is. I anticipate years of online headaches trying to clear things like this up.

There’s some jargon that’s peculiar to THIS book, that will probably end up in common usage a la Steinbach’s term “charged” cards for cards that signify a person or sphere of life ANYWAY. “L-space” (a Lenormand mode of thinking as opposed to a Tarot mode), and being told to “say ‘vignette’ not ‘layout’, and ‘sibyl’ not ‘reader'”.

(BTW, please don’t refer to me as a “sibyl”. “Fortune teller”, “cartomante” or “reader” will do nicely. Thanks.)

Strangely, not long before reading this, I was reading a discussion on slang vs. jargon on an internet forum. A couple of my favorite quotes from that discussion:

“Slang is shorthand, and a tribal marker. Jargon is a willful attempt to send bad signal, masked by obfuscation.”
– LMNO

and

“”I’ve done a lot more thinking about communication. I have come up with some conclusions that seem to be almost universal, at least with respect to the United States. Results may vary in other lands. First, some definitions/de-coded statements and words:

“But” –> Ignore every word that preceded this one.

“I understand” –> I didn’t listen to a single word you said.

“I feel your pain” –> Go spread your tale of woe elsewhere.

“I have some issues with that” –> I am butthurt and I’m done listening.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Language not used to directly convey information can be assumed to mean the exact opposite of what it seems to say. Contrast it with the following:

“This fucking thing is broken” –> This fucking thing is broken.

“I love you” –> I love you.

“We had to let Harry go this week” –> Harry doesn’t work here anymore.

Notice that the difference is that the first set of statements didn’t actually convey information, and the second set did. We can form a hypothesis here, and that is that humans will give you factual information and package it in factual statements. Humans will also feed you bullshit, and will package it in words that don’t actually say anything, but sound as if they do.

All jargon, I think, is based on this principle.”– Doktor Howl

I think (or at least I sincerely hope) that the made-up terms in this book may have been intended as tribal markers – like slang – and it should be very easy to pick out people using this method by their use of certain words. But it doesn’t have that informal, slang-y feel, IT READS LIKE JARGON and so, for me, sets off the same mental alarm bells that get triggered when I’m reading a credit card agreement or stuck in a bus station hearing Bill O’Reilly rant on FOX.

Some may argue that the jargon is intended to trigger the “L-Space”, but shouldn’t that be done by the sight of the cards themselves? Simply practice with them and your mind will automatically react to them. There’s a lot of unnecessary complication in this thing. And mistakes as well, like the statement that Kipperkarten have astrological signs on them. They seem to be describing the Mystiches Kipper, a contemporary deck that deviates a great deal from the traditional images (and I’m not even sure there’s astrological signs on THAT one), not the one that Frau Kipper is said to have designed, nor the traditional variations like the Salish and the Leidingkarten.

There’s a good amount of descriptive purple prose that reads almost like hypnotic induction, “…a ship sailing calm waters in a blissful winterless paradise”, etc. It’s all there but “deep cleansing breath…in…out…” The whole thing, for me, reads like someone trying to mess with my head.

There is a faction online who state that this book is what finally made Lenormand fall into place for them. But the usual response I’ve gotten from them when I question things in the book is shilling, to wit, “BUY THE BOOK! BUY THE COURSE!” rather than any clear explanation that shows they actually DID benefit from reading it. Again, I don’t think of Marcus as Jim Jones or L. Ron Hubbard, but the behavior of a lot of the people who have latched on to this thing is disturbingly cult-like.

There’s a smattering of solid Lennie information dispersed throughout the book, but the problem is that you have to be experienced to pick it out, and if you’re experienced, you already HAVE a method. What they’ve here is create their OWN method. I think that’s an important distinction to make.

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31 responses »

    • Thanks, Lynne. 🙂
      I suspect they rushed this book too much. There’s a 10,000 hour rule, or a 5-7 year rule – whichever – for becoming fluent with Lenormand. You’re essentially learning a language. And there’s been occasional talk of “is Lenormand here to stay?” etc. They probably gave themselves a time limit for this book, wanting to get it out before the bubble burst lest everything default to a half dozen of us hanging out at Kaph’s Lennie subforum talking Lenormand, the way it was a few years ago. Just speculating, but it looks like they were under the gun to produce something (while they were also busy with who-knows-what else) within a year or whatever, and they just didn’t have time to really absorb it.

  1. I certainly agree the book does appear rushed. I noticed a couple of instances in the chapter on L history where sections were repeated a bit further on, as if they had decided to move the information but forgot to delete the first instance, and the editor never picked it up.

    I have found a few helpful insights and, to be fair, I haven’t finished the book yet, but alarm bells rang when I got to the meanings section. The concept of L-space vs T-space may be useful but the “vocabulary” is laughable and, to me, the pages on the individual cards read a bit like T-space.

  2. An excellent review, loved your unbiased and objective take on the book! Myself, i think i will get it indeed, albeit i doubt i’ll adopt its method; still – based on your opinion – i’d say it’s an important work. I find Marcus to be charismatic and – aside the strong feelings on both ends of the spectrum that his work awakens – i think it doesn’t hurt having some strong personalities stirring up the cartomancy waters, at least periodically 😉

    • It IS important, in the sense that it’s a kind of overview of the ways the system can be misunderstood by perfectly perceptive and intelligent people. I’m trying to study it so I can EXPLAIN things better.

      On page 44, they counter Sylvie’s quote “The Fox is work” with a quote from Robert Anton Wilson’s “Quantum Psychology” and a lot of stuff about “e-prime”, saying that nothing “is” anything.

      The thing is, that for the purpose of reading, a particular card REALLY IS the set of keywords assigned to it. You’re not rattling off canned meanings, the stretchiness is in the combos and applying them to the context. It’s like the space BETWEEN the cards is where the intuition, or creativity, or whatever comes into play, but you need the boundaries of the so-called “canned meanings” to keep that on track.

      I have to think about this. I know what I’m trying to say, I just want to make it comprehensible.

      • Sweet, i totally get you… I am refraining from saying more until i actually read the book myself, but knowing how our judgement is in sync in 99% of the situations, i do doubt my opinion and take would differ even slightly from yours 😉

        It is possible indeed that the intent behind it is to establish an individual school of cartomancy thought – and whether it is to our liking or not – i love seeing it all raised up to an academic level (their text and your review). Regardless personal preferences, we do have some great minds pondering over Lennies – and that does make me profoundly happy.

      • I don’t know if we’ve gotten all the way to “academic” yet…but I have to admit, things are getting interesting! 😀

  3. “I know how hard it is to write on Lenormand, since people have been after me to write a book for some time now, but I can’t think of a good way to do it without appearing to plagiarize my mentors. How many ways are there to say “The Rider brings news”, after all? All of us traditional readers read very similarly. And it’s possible that all the time and money they put into research came up drier than they had hoped, since Lenormand is essentially a folk tradition.”

    YES.

    I haven’t read the book yet. And I couldn’t get a copy of the Original Lenormand because I didn’t want to join Tarot Professionals. :\

    Thanks for the review. Not sure I’ll pick it up, though I personally like the term “sibyl”. 🙂

  4. Great review and I was hoping to read some comments from those are much more experienced than me in the Lennie field. I have only gotten so far in the book and I have to say when I read Mice = teamwork I questioned that myself (I have many notations so far haha!). So far I do not like how much there is a compare/contrast between Lenormand and tarot so very much. I understand some tarot readers can be quite bullheaded (or at least that’s what I gather from this book and not from my own experience) but I also have to think “What if a person who wants to learn Lenormand card reading because they simply do not like or understand tarot therefore there is no compare/contrast relevant for them?”

    I would like to know what you thought about the different exercises they had in the book. Do you feel they could help/hurt a person learning Lenormand who wants to learn more traditionally but happened to read this book? I was thinking of the key word kaleidoscopic thing and I can see advantages of getting a person’s head into “L-space” but I certainly can think of some disadvantages there as well. :/

    • I think “L-space” happens on its own with practice.

      TBH, I don’t see any benefit in the keyword kaleidoscope practice. It seems to be a jumped-up version of simple combo practice with a lot of unnecessary stuff factored in. It might be OK for Tarot, but getting “realisation” for Mice + Moon is a pretty clear sign that something’s not working right. 😉

  5. This is the most brilliant statement to date:

    The thing is, that for the purpose of reading, a particular card REALLY IS the set of keywords assigned to it. You’re not rattling off canned meanings, the stretchiness is in the combos and applying them to the context. It’s like the space BETWEEN the cards is where the intuition, or creativity, or whatever comes into play, but you need the boundaries of the so-called “canned meanings” to keep that on track.

    I couldn’t agree more. I have read the book and found the irony of their distinguishing between L-space and T-space was that they were using T-space interpretations and even creating T-space methods (Shadowing? G-d help us…)

  6. Hi Fennario,
    I laughed my ass off when I read this article! Methinks “mental equivocation” runs amuck in this Lenormand instruction book, which if I am to understand it, is an extraordinarily ironic description of the book in this article. LOL!!!

    I saw this book online and searched it before I realized that it is a bunch of drivel, with just enough truth thrown in to completely confuse anyone who purchases it…

    Now, I just saw an interesting post online where the author, who swears she can read a GT in 90 seconds, thinks the House of Fox is all about the love life.

    Oh my.
    Best-
    Michelle

    • LOL.
      I think “Love” for house 14 is from the “Master Method”, which is something from one of those shady 19th century playing card reading books. You know, the kind of old books written under a nom de plume, that claim to be privy to the secrets of Mlle. Lenormand and the Gypsies. It’s a bunch of arbitrary house meanings that have nothing to do with Lenormand. Personally, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. 😀 But if they’re using the Master Method, there’s no reason to refer to House 14 as “Fox”.

      • Well you know more about this than me- all I know is that whatever master method that blogger was using certainly wasn’t masterful as her interpretation was very long, garbled, and ended up saying, “he is in a relationship but it has problems.”
        No shit Sherlock.
        If she read a “master Method” to do that, I think the Master was equivocating. :):)

      • I never did find that blog…started checking the usual suspects and said “Why do I do this to myself?” after about ten minutes, lol.

        “He’s in a relationship but it has problems”? I hope people don’t pay for stuff like that.

    • Yeah- I was doing a search a few weeks ago. I ran into it by accident and was very interested in the whole “I can read a GT in 90 seconds” claim. Well, I can read a book in 30 seconds but I will have only really read the back cover. I just tried searching it again and all I got was little exerpts from posts; I think the author thought she knew more than she actually did and then discovered they were a great deal more involved than at first. She has since then, over the course of a few weeks, seems to have made her blog private. You can enter the words “reading Lenormand GT 90 seconds” and you will see the blog, then be asked to log into google blogs, etc.
      Call me stodgy, but I don’t see the need to change something that is already working, like Lenormand. If someone wants to create new decks, do it. But please, just because you are unfamiliar with something is not a reason to make it different.

      • All I did was google image search this link. Plot synopsis: Exceptionally beautiful woman of noble ancestry is cast into poverty. She has one irregular and distinctive feature like weird colored eyes or extra long pinkie fingers. She falls in love with a two-dimensional characterization of a man, but at the same time there is an ugly, evil man who is trying to force her into marriage. That guy gets killed and she marries two-dimensional Fabio guy and her birthright is restored since somebody recognized her eyes or pinkie fingers. The end.

        There, I “read” it. LOL

  7. Pingback: From Fennario’s Weblog, “Books: Learning Lenormand” | michellelenormand

  8. Thanks, Fennario. Knew you’d have a clear-eyed view of the new books. Nice balance, too, overall. You could easily have just trashed it, but you backed up with details. And that bit about the stretch and intuition being in between the cards is an excellent idea to keep in mind. Yep, I’m working on my 10,000 hours (actually that applies to almost any skill set), and I can see this as a long process of practice and mental discipline to keep out of T-space, actually. I still have to work hard at keeping the meaning concrete, but when I see ’em that way, it’s a big ah-ha.

    I’ll save my pennies for Andy and Caitlin on this project. They’ve already shown that they’ve done their 10,000 and have gotten fluency with the system. Unless you want to pursue a book of your own. I’d definitely respect that. Being in a hurry is bad news with this oracle.

  9. I have become very skeptical of any “new” Lenormand authors I don’t recognize from online. If I can’t search inside it before purchase I won’t buy it. Made the mistake of buying anything I could get my hands on in English 3 years ago. Caitlin’s course is very good…haven’t seen Andy’s book, yet. Do either you or Joanne know if he finished it?

    • I’m not sure if it needs more work, or the delay is for some other reason. He’s offline until July or so, I’ll ask when he gets back and let you guys know.

  10. I couldn’t even get through it. I bought the Kindle version, and after slogging through the history portion, I got to the learning section, and did just throw my hands up in frustration. I love Lenormand for it’s rules. Rider is news, Clover is a little bit of luck. But the odd keywords and meanings in this book seemed way too Tarot-like for it to be Lenormand, and they did not make the distinction that this was their system as opposed to traditional systems. I was very disappointed.

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