divination, life

Reading Lenormand and Tarot — Together.

The end of October marks the beginning of a new year for me, and that means taking stock. I like to do this with something I jokingly call “the whole hog,” a single reading that uses tarot, Lenormand cards, Ogham, and oracle cards to give me as complete a picture as possible. It’s fun, interesting, accurate, and, once you’re used to it, surprisingly easy.

There’s really no reason not to combine whatever forms of cartomancy or sortilege you like best. I’m not suggesting you shuffle all of your cards together, of course (I mean, the differences in size and texture would turn that into a nightmare). There’s only one thing you have to keep in mind:

Each type of card is best suited to a certain type of question.

For example, you wouldn’t want to ask a Lenormand deck what energies you need to focus on for the coming year. (Coffin + Birds + Woman + Lilies + Bear will tell you a lot, but not that.) Similarly, you don’t want to ask an oracle deck what will happen if you make a specific decision, because drawing a card that tells you, “Remember, you are enough” isn’t going to be… well, enough. Combining decks is more of a holistic approach to a question or problem, allowing you to explore it across multiple dimensions.

What’s the difference between tarot reading and reading Lenormand cards?

Lenormand is very specific and concrete. A basic reading might entail asking something like, “What will happen if I accept this job offer?” You then shuffle the deck, then fan it out and look for the signifier relating either to yourself, or the question at hand. (Personally, I usually choose a signifier related to my question.) The two cards in front of it, the card itself, and the two cards behind it are the reply. They’re able to give you very detailed information, like, “A woman will deliver you a message related to your career, which will result in a social engagement and creative opportunity.”

Tarot, I’ve found, is better suited for describing the energies around a situation. If you ask your tarot deck the same question, you may draw cards indicating celebration, growth, female energies, and even communication. It won’t necessarily indicate a specific situation that you may anticipate, but it will tell you how you’ll feel about it.

Tarot also has a lot of psychological and spiritual overtones, where Lenormand is all practical. Many tarot readers would bristle at the idea of tarot reading as fortune telling, but that’s pretty much exactly what Lenormand cards purport to be — a tool for telling fortunes.

This is a mixed blessing. Reading Lenormand is simple, though not necessarily easy. There are only a few spreads, and cards are always read the same way: in pairs, with their own set of grammar, the way one might read a sentence. For people used to the fluidity of tarot, where there are millions of different spreads, multiple interpretations of the same card, reversals, and a heavy emphasis on intuition, Lenormand can feel rigid. On the other hand, for people used to reading Lenormand cards, tarot can feel too vague and subjective.

So how do you put them together?

The trick is to choose your subject matter carefully. Remember, Lenormand is best suited for concrete answers to questions. (Think “What-ifs,” and things of that sort.) Tarot is best for exploring the energies, archetypes, and other less concrete aspects of a situation.

Combining the two goes something like this:

  1. Consider the situation you want answers about. What ways are there to approach it? Do you have a certain approach you favor? What specific steps are you planning to take in order to address it? Keep this in mind, or write it down.
  2. Next, consider how this situation extends beyond the physical world. Imagine that you have questions about a romantic relationship. Outside of this relationship’s impact on your daily life, what kind of effect will it have on your highest good and spiritual growth? What’s do you need to know about what’s happening beneath the surface?
  3. Formulate a set of questions based on this information. One should be a straightforward “What-if” based on the approach you plan to take. Another should be related to how this situation will impact you spiritually and mentally.
  4. Choose a signifier in your Lenormand deck. If you identify as a man or woman, this can be the Man or Lady cards. If you don’t identify as either, feel that another card is more appropriate, or are reading for someone else, choose a signifier that relates to the situation. (For example, the Tree card is often used as a signifier in health-related readings.)
  5. Shuffle the deck. Keep your “What-if” question in mind.
  6. Fan the deck out, face up. Look for the signifier you chose.
  7. Read the two cards in front of it, the card itself, and the two cards behind it. This will describe a chain of events. (Remember: No future is set in stone. This tells you the outcome if all of the people, energies, and other factors remain the same as they are right now.)
  8. Write your interpretation down.
  9. Next, shuffle your tarot deck. Keep your second question in mind.
  10. Read your tarot cards using a spread of your choice (or draw the top card, top three cards, and so on).
  11. Write this interpretation down.

You now have answers that cover two different aspects of your question. One tells you what will happen purely in the physical realm, the other tells you the mental, emotional, and spiritual impact it will have. Put together, you can develop a pretty accurate (and very helpful) picture.

This isn’t limited to Lenormand and tarot cards, either. As I mentioned, I’ve done something similar with Ogham staves, oracle cards, and more. The only thing to keep in mind is that each type of divination has its strengths and weaknesses. None are inherently superior or inferior, they’re just different. Think of them like cardiologists and plumbers — both are professionals in their fields, but you don’t necessarily want them to have to do each other’s jobs!

A set of driftwood Ogham staves spilling from a turquoise and grey pouch.
divination, Witchcraft

Ogham Staves from WillowsPaganShop.

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the sellers and products I mention. These allow me to earn a small “finder’s fee,” at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to support artists, artisans, and this site!

So, I’ve been working on learning a new system of divination — Ogham staves. I used them for this week’s divination, and I’ve been trying to see where else I can incorporate them into my practice.

Many types of wood have their own specific magical and spiritual properties, so choosing a set took me awhile. I also prefer to find tools that are “neutral,” in an energetic sense; I don’t like using wood that’s been cut down, if I can help it. Windfall and reclaimed woods are more my jam.

That’s why I was so happy to find these driftwood Ogham staves by WillowsPaganShop.

A set of driftwood Ogham staves spilling from a turquoise and grey pouch.

I love the size and shape — a lot of the other staves I looked at were thinner and more rounded, which I thought might make it more difficult for me to draw them the way I’d like to. The texture is nice, too, with the velvety-softness of sea-tumbled wood. They’re also a very good weight, neither too light to keep from blowing away outdoors, nor too heavy to carry comfortably in a purse or crane bag.

I keep them in a lovely crocheted pouch by Neeedles. It’s just the right size, and gorgeous colors. The crochet is nice and tight, too, so I’m not worried about the staves stretching holes in the stitches and slipping out. At about $15, it was a very reasonable price for a handmade bag, and the craftspersonship is really, really nice. I’m considering getting more of them for my other supplies, they’d be great for carrying a few stones, vials of herbs, and tealights for mobile ritual-doing.

Now I just have to learn the meanings. Fortunately, I have a lot of opportunity to practice!

divination

Learning the Tarot of Marseilles

Following Tuesday’s post using the Tarot de Maria Celia, I wanted to talk about actually interpreting this deck.

I admit, the first thing that drew me to the Tarot de Marseille was its visual appeal.

I spotted the Marshmallow Marseilles deck, and fell hard for the colors and imagery. It seemed a little daunting, sure — I’m experienced at reading your fairly standard interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks… But one with no illustrations on the pip cards?

I’ve talked a bit about how I interpret and familiarize myself with decks before, but it’s a technique that relies on there being images to interpret in the first place. This is something that Marseilles-inspired decks lack by design. Where the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was intended for divination, the original Tarot of Marseilles was a deck of playing cards. Still, I’ve never been interested in anything because it was easy, so let’s go!

Numbers, Cycles, and the Pip Cards

First, I’d like to briefly mention that there are a number of wonderful books on interpreting the Marseilles tarot. That said, I don’t have any of them, and wanted to try to see how the cards “felt” myself before engaging with someone else’s experience.

It seems there are two ways for me to go about interpreting the pip cards:

  1. Apply the same meanings given to the Rider-Waite-Smith cards of the same value.
  2. Look at only the information presented by the card — the suit and the value.

Not gonna lie, the first way involves way more memorization than I feel like doing. With a Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired deck, the images provide a visual cue. Without that, this angle seems, to me, to be more trouble than it’s worth. (Also not discounting the fact that I have access to plenty of RWS-inspired decks — if I wanted that kind of interpretation, I could easily use one!)

So that leaves me with the cards themselves.

Numerologically, there’s a lot going on here. Every suit has ten pip cards — the Ace through the Ten, the beginning through the end. Each suit is a cycle, easily divided up into smaller, three-card cycles within. The Ace to the Three, the Four to the Six, the Seven through the Nine, with the Ten as the ultimate culmination.

Interpreting the pip cards in the Tarot of Marseilles is an interesting combination of the meaning of the suit, the ideas suggested by the numbers themselves, and their position within these cycles. The artwork is completely decorative — there’s really not much information to be gained there, and the imagery is very consistent through each suit. The Five of Coins looks like the Three of Coins, just more of it.

Really, I kind of enjoy the freedom.

Interpreting a more art-based tarot deck is a fun challenge, but ultimately becomes a kind of find-the-hidden-image search. It’s a game of seeing what jumps out at you, what details you notice, and what meaning you can assign to them. Strength depicts someone wrestling with a lion, what meaning do lions have symbolically? Red is the color of passion, blood, and fire, how much red is in the artwork, and where? Are there alchemical symbols? Heraldic? On top of all of that, what overall “sense” do you get from the image?

With a purely suit + number interpretation, it’s free association in a pretty basic numeric framework.

Look at the III de Deniers, for example:

  • It’s the suit of Coins (or Pentacles), so it relates to wealth, money, security, and the Earth element.
  • It’s a three.
  • It’s the final card in the first cycle.

As the final card in the first cycle, the number following two, and three, specifically, Three is the manifestation of the creative joining of the Two. The pollen meets the ovum, the Two come together in a fertile, creative union, and the fruit, a third entity, is produced. As the suit of Coins, it’s the first manifestation of something monetary, economical, or physical — the result of the first effort represented by the Ace-Two-Three cycle. As the end product of the first cycle, it’s an encouragement to continue working hard and moving toward the ultimate goal represented by the Ten.

Reading them is a lot like unlearning the way I usually read tarot. I like it!