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I have spent the past two years obsessed with the Petit Lenormand cards, a deck of 36 fortune-telling cards created in Germany in 1846, based on an earlier multi-purpose game called the “Die Spiel der Hoffnüng” created by Johann Kaspar Hechtel in Nuremburg in 1799. The Petit Lenormand appropriated the name of the Parisian Mlle Lenormand, the most famous fortune-teller of her age, who died in 1843, shortly before the newly incarnated deck appeared. I’ll write more about these cards later.

I am announcing here for the first time that I have found an earlier set of 32 fortune-telling cards that are the undoubtable forerunner of both the “Spiel der Hoffnüng” game and the Lenormand cards. My source is a 1796 book in English in the British Museum entitled: “Les Amusements des Allemands, or The Diversions of the Court of Vienna, in which the Mystery of Fortune-Telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup is unravelled, and Three pleasant Games, viz.: 1. Fortune-telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup. 2. Fortune-telling by laying out the cards. 3. The new Imperial Game of numbers are invented.

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The work is based on an Austro-German set of cards from 1794. An introduction to the book states:

“These entertaining games first made their appearance at Vienna, in 1794, where they still are the favorite amusement of the Empress of Germany, and the Imperial Court. They have since been diffused through all the fashionable circles in that country. The Editor, therefore, has to hope that, in a country where the liberality and curious discernment of its inhabitants is so conspicuous as that of Britain, they will not be held in less estimation.”

While there are only 32 cards, most of them are exact forerunners to Lenormand cards. The few variations, like Lion, have close replacements as their Coffee-ground meanings indicate. For instance, “Lion, or a ferocious beast” has the same meaning as the Lenormand Bear.

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It’s been thought for several years that the Lenormand images were derived from Coffee-ground fortune-telling or Tasseomancy. This work is the missing link that proves this theory. It has been curious that several of the Lenormand images were not found in the old lists of coffee-ground emblems, but now we know that several cards were added to the original set. The reason for the expansion of the deck to 36 cards probably came about when Hechtel decided to combine “Les Amusements des Allemands” with the German 36-piece playing card deck, which was then more popular than either the 32-card Piquet deck or the 52-card deck.

The Empress, for whom these were a ‘favorite amusement’, was probably Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily (1772–1807), the last Holy Roman Empress, first Empress of Austria and mother of nine. She was described as:

so jealous that she does not allow him [the Emperor] to take part in social life or meet other women. Vicious tongues accuse her of being so passionate that she exhausts her consort and never leaves him alone even for a moment. Although the people of Vienna cannot deny that she is gifted, charitable and carries herself beautifully, she is disliked for her intolerance and for forcing the Emperor to live isolated from everyone. She is also accused of interesting herself in unimportant matters and socializing exclusively with her lady-companions. With them she spends her evenings singing, acting out comedies and being applauded.

Could the “unimportant matters” mentioned above include her use of fortune-telling cards?

Here is the full British Museum description of the book:

A sequence of 32 playing-cards bound (at the British Museum) as a small book, having on them emblematic designs of various character, and below moral apophthegms to which the designs have reference. Each piece has a number at the upper left-hand corner answering to certain explanatory and descriptive tables given in a book of directions which accompanies the cards. The title page of this book of 31 pages bears the following lettered inscription: “Les Amusements des Allemands, or The Diversions of the Court of Vienna, in which the Mystery of Fortune-Telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup is unravelled, and Three pleasant Games, viz.: 1. Fortune-telling from the Grounds of the Coffee-Cup. 2. Fortune-telling by laying out the cards. 3. The new Imperial Game of numbers are invented”, and “London: Printed for Champante and Whitrow, Jewry-Street, Aldgate, and may be had at every Booksellers and Toy Shop in the Kingdom, 1796.” Engraving and letterpress Backs plain (according to Willshire) 1796.

Bent Sorensen has offered this list of the 32 Emblematic Fortune-Telling Cards, according to the numbers found on the cards:

1. Crossroads/Fingerpost
2. Ring
3. Clover
4. Anchor
5. Snake
6. Letter
7. Coffin
8. Star
9. Dog 
10. Lily
11. Cross
12. Clouds
13. Sun
14. Moon
15. Mountain
16. Tree I – Labor, Pains, Long Effort
17. Child
18. Woman
19. Man
20. Rider
21. Mouse
22. Birchrod/Whip
23. Flower
24. Heart
25. Garden
26. Bird/Turtledove
27. Fish
28. Lion
29. Tree II – Money (the result of one’s labor)
30. Worms or Vipers (“Bugs”)
31. House
32. Scythe

Perceval Wand Horse

Thursday: Tarot Webinar with Mary K. Greer – Secrets of the Rider-Waite Smith Minor Arcana, part 1

Join me as I present the most exciting work I’ve done in Tarot in the past few years. Tomorrow’s class will cover the suit of Cups and Wands – the Grail and the Lance. You’ll never see the Minors in the same way again. Bring your cards!

Class begins at 9pm EST and 6 pm PST. Or you can pre-order the recording. Sign up for it HERE.

Those interested in the Masonic influences on the Minor Arcana will definitely want to attend next week’s class, Part 2. Please pass on the information to anyone you know who might be interested. 

Tarot of the Magicians cover

Best Book 2012

I’m proud to announce that The Tarot of the Magicians by Oswald Wirth (RedWheel/Weiser), with an extensive introduction by me, won the Award for the Best Book of 2012 from TarotProfessionals. This is a classic work by one of the great French occultists of the late 19th and early 20th century that should be read and re-read by all serious Tarot students. The book also contains the first reproduction of Wirth’s original 1889 Tarot (only 350 produced), on fine card stock—ready to be cut out and used. If you get only one tarot book in 2013, it should be this. Please share your impressions of this outstanding book.

Join me for a two-part webinar with Global Spiritual Studies

Live: January 24 and 31, 2013 or available to view later or purchase as a DVD – info here.

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Who actually designed the Rider-Waite Tarot cards? Did A. E. Waite unfairly take too much credit for the deck illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith? In this two-part webinar we’ll examine the evidence. It seems pretty clear that Waite had something very specific in mind for the Major Arcana, so are the Minors exclusively Smith’s?

It turns out there may have been a specific purpose behind the illustrations to the Minor cards. We’ll closely explore a couple of stories that show an uncanny resemblance to Smith’s Minor Arcana and determine where the Minor Arcana images and meanings came from. But mostly we’ll see how the stories behind the Waite-Smith Minor Arcana can inform your own readings and card interpretations.

Join me for a bit of historical detective work as we seek to make the cards richer and deeper. This pictorial journey through the cards and peek into the lives of Waite and Smith will increase your own appreciation of the deck and enhance your work as a tarot reader.

pcs-Hill of Hearts Desire

Have you ever noticed that after seeing some films you are snappish or silent, yearning or ponderous, giggly or jumpy, and that the affects can last for minutes, hours or even days, abducting us from our normal means of perception?

I was reading one of my all-time favorite books Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram and came to the part where he describes his own growing awareness that certain movies and books would “surreptitiously enter into my bloodstream, like a contagion . . . a curious spell that my organism was under.” He further characterizes these effects as a “capacity for being drawn, physiologically, into the terrain of certain stories—abducted into another landscape that would only belatedly release me back into the palpable present.” His description is reminiscent of being stolen away into the land of fairy.

I recently experienced such a state after going to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild”: my friends noticed that I couldn’t speak after the movie and that I refused their ride so I could walk home alone. I realized that Abram’s insights provided a second part to my established practice of active reading and movie-viewing, in which I draw cards before partaking of the work so as to sharpen my perception and enrich my understanding and appreciation of the work. Based on Abram’s commentary I’ve designed a spread that assists us in seeing how a work ensorcells us, temporarily coloring our perceptions and feelings and even influencing our actions.

Place the first six cards in a clockwise circle, beginning at the top, with the seventh card in the center.

1. What feeling tone colors my general outlook after seeing the film (or reading the book)?

2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things?

3. What fears does it stir?

4. What longings awaken?

5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently?

6. What do I need from those around me? And, once I’ve answered that: How can I give this to myself?

7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me?

I went to see this movie because some friends had invited me, based on the recommendation of another friend. Before going I knew nothing about it and couldn’t even remember the title. So, I thought I’d try out the Petit Lenormand cards as a prediction of plot. I got Lilies-Clouds-Snake-Scythe-Whipall of them Court Cards. Turns out it was pretty darn accurate for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It’s a coming-of-age mythic fable about a little girl, Hushpuppy, and her father who live on a fragile island, the Bathtub, south of the Louisiana dikes in the Gulf. It also features other people who exist in these unbelievably harsh conditions (all the Court Cards). There’s the dying father, a huge storm, a wise female teacher (as well as a dream-like encounter with a mother-figure), the poisoning of the creatures on the island, breaking through the dike, lots of arguments, and the inhabitants battle with the authorities. It’s an emotionally wrenching film with incredible acting – especially by the young girl and her father. 

I drew five cards: 

  • Lilies -Family (also innocence and Father)
  • Clouds – the Storm 
  • Snake – Poison/Wise Woman (at the center)
  • Scythe – Decision to stay on the island; Death and Destruction 
  • Whip – Arguments, violent activity

An even better way to read Lenormand is in pairs:

  • Lilies+Clouds – disfunctional family or problems with the father.
  • Clouds+Snake – bad mojo, lack of clarity regarding a woman.
  • Snake+Scythe - cut off from a woman; a treacherous decision; a poisonous death.
  • Scythe+Whip – violent cutting, a decisive battle. 

I was prepared for what could be a very dark, tragic film. It almost was, but something else broke through. My strongest thought during the intermission (they have to change the reels at our local art theatre) was, I couldn’t live like that! Several people left.

I later did a reading with the Mary-El Tarot to help me explore my conscious and unconscious reactions, responding directly to her images. I’ll only mention a few brief highlights of what I saw.

1. What colors my general outlook? 5 of Wands. First thought on looking at the growling red lion: “red-in-tooth-and-claw”. I had a very visceral reaction that touched on my most primitive fight-flight-freeze physiology.

2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things? 10 of Wands. This shows a warrior with bow and arrows on a horse. Flight. But I also wanted to be a defender of the movie to those who were repelled by it.

3. What fears does it stir? Page of Disks. This image of a sleeping baby with marks like nails surrounding it arouses my protectiveness. I fear that something primally innocent – the exquisite nature of the sentiment in the film – might be harmed. I also fear that I might slumber when I should awaken.

4. What longings awaken? Knight of Disks. The next stage of maturity: Knight as protector of the Page/Baby of Disks. This immediately reminded me of the scene shown in the lead photo above. I long to stand up for and to what might otherwise overwhelm us.

5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently? 7 of Disks. I see a split, like two separate meteors. I am aware of the lack of words when I feel drawn out of myself.

6. What do I need from those around me? How can I give this to myself? The Tower. Strong words and opinions. Instead, both I and my friends retreated into silence. I can give myself the words, the surpressed fury, the burning to act on this film in some way.

7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me? Ace of Wands. That some creative spark can be birthed out of this fiery angelic torment. The reading is all Fire and Earth.

Words still fail me. Please let me know what you thought of the film and/or your experience in reading cards for enhancing your experience of films and books.

Don’t miss The Tarosophy Tarot Convention 2012

Dallas, October 20th-21st 2012

Barbara MooreSteampunk Tarot, Tarot Spreads, Tarot for Beginners

Mary K. Greer21 Ways to Read a Tarot CardWomen of the Golden Dawn

Carrie ParisSanta Fe Tarot & incredible teacher of Tarot

Ellen Lorenzi-PrinceTarot of the Crone

Robert M. Place, Alchemical Tarot, Tarot: History, Symbolism & Divination

Marcus KatzTarosophy, Around the Tarot in 78 Days (with Tali Goodwin), Tarot Professionals

with even more – we will be offering many additional evening Tarot workshops by:

*NEW* Rana George on Lenormand Card Reading

Enrique Enriquez

Katrina Wynne

Paul Nagy

Dr. Art Rosengarten

Jaymi Elford

Mike Hernandez

and others …

and deck presentations/classes by many Tarot artists

Beth Seilenon

GUEST M.C. Dan Donche (“Inappropriate Tarot” & new Darkana Deck)

After-Dinner Speaker James Wells!

Information Here.

 

This PPT talk and presentation is now available as an online recording or a DVD. It’s excellent for those who are wondering what all the excitement is about regarding the Lenormand cards. Additionally, it goes into the surprising history and origins of the deck. It demonstrates several ways of reading the cards, with an exciting example of how a Grand Tableau spread saved me from a major travel disaster that would have cost thousands of dollars and no end of troubles. Purchase info at Global Spiritual Studies.

 

The song in English:

Fashion is constantly changing
But as long as the world exists
The Gypsy with an old pack of cards
Will have at least one client…
Someone longing for bizarre miracles
Will knock on her door
And she will lay out in front of him
Those noble kings of hers…
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future

Card-reading can foretell happiness
Or an unexpected blow of fate
Imprisonment and a long journey
Or everlasting faithful love…
Old cards will spread out like a fan
On a shawl decorated with fringe
And suddenly the Gypsy herself
Will believe her noble kings…
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future.

Time destroys granite castles
And covers towns with sand
But years don’t mean anything
For those cards in the Gypsy’s hands…
The heart melts as the fortune-teller speaks
And at all the crossroads of the world
The noble kings are telling lies
With the same expression on their faces…
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future
What can I say? What can I say?
All humans are just like this -
They want to know, want to know
Want to know the future.

Translation from around-lyrics.com.

Didn’t think it could get any better? Watch this version:

I’m happy to announce that I will be presenting, in webinar format, my recent slide-show on the Petit Lenormand Deck. It was showcased at the latest San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium to great acclaim. Of course a few things will change (to make it even better), and I’ll have more time to explain the concepts shown. Here’s the description:

Webinar with Mary K. Greer 

“Introduction to the Petit Lenormand Deck”

Discover the 36-card Lenormand deck via this 64-slide visual feast covering the history, variety of decks and a brief overview of reading methods and traditions. What’s so special about the Lenormand deck? Where did it come from? What does Mlle. Lenormand have to do with it? How is this deck different than or similar to Tarot? What can it do for me and how do I read with it? Learn how the Lenormand cards clued me into something that saved a trip from certain disaster. Discover what the hoopla is all about and get a look at these 212+ year old cards that have exploded onto the divinatory scene in the last three years. Join me in exploring one of the most practical and precise divinatory tools in existence.

*The DVD or Internet access to this pre-recorded talk now appears  here.*

This webinar will be followed by two Lenormand training webinars with Caitlín Matthews whose new deck and accompanying book will be out next year.

In the meantime, here are some great online resources.

I recommend the series of youtube videos by Claire (from Germany but in English) that introduce each of the cards. While each country has its own variations there are still enough commonalities that share core meanings, and Claire is good at presenting these (click on the youtube link).


Additional Resources

I also recommend the list of basic Lenormand card meanings found at Helen Riding’s blog, MyWingsofDesire. And don’t miss out on her other great Lenormand pages and the links on her site.

Donnaleigh de LaRose has a whole page of media-based Lenormand Lessons from her blogtalk “BeyondWorlds” radio shows with Rana George and Melissa Hill, as well as her own youtube videos.

Andy Cerru’s excellent free course, Cartomante’s Cabinet, is available again. Highly recommended but requires a commitment to do the work. See also:

Here’s an interesting video on different methods of fortune-telling found today in Taiwan. The bird technique is found all over the world and is sometimes used with tarot or cartomancy decks in which case the bird picks the cards.

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

© 2007-2013, Mary K. Greer All material on this site is copyrighted. If you use anything, be sure to include my name and a link back to this site. Thank you.

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