Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlin Matthews.

Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

Saturday, 22 March 2014



What is the best kind of deck to learn from? There are so many on the market that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choice: painted, photoshopped, photographic, thematic, traditional packs, clip-art and trade-advert packs. With such a range of decks to choose from and with some of these being produced privately and more expensive than the commercially available ones, you want to spend your money wisely and well.

(Just a selection of decks: L-R, from top: Lilac Lenormand, Blue Owl, Melissa Lenormand, Britta’s Wahsagenkarten, Postmark Lenormand; bottom: Magisches Lenormand, Victorian Lenormand, Ryder’s Lenormand)

Everyone has their own aesthetic response to artwork, of course, and this is often how beginners proceed: by appearance alone. But if you use the same criteria as for choosing a tarot, you can soon lose the plot in Lenormand. Tarots often have a lush imagery, so that it’s like choosing 78 very beautiful or charming pictures for your art gallery, but sheer proliferation of loveliness or whimsy will not help you in Lenormand. Think of Lenormand decks as you do of font that you read. If I switched to italic script, the clarity is immediately lessened: it might be fine for a short greeting, but pages of this would do your head in. However, if I chose to write for you in Walbaum FrakturEF, which is a thick historic German font, I wouldn’t blame you for leaving this page immediately. We need unfussy Lenormands just as we need clear font.

The criteria for leading your search include these questions:

• Are the cards crystal clear so that you can understand the image quickly?
• Can you easily distinguish Bouquet from Lily, or House from Tower?
• Do the cards come with a clear playing card or suit and number?
• Do the cards have a running sequence of numbers 1-36 printed on them?
• Are they are a good size for laying out all 36 in a Grand Tableau (regardless of the fact that you aren’t reading one of those just yet?)

1. Choose a deck where the images are clear at a glance.
If it is overwhelmed with astrological emblems, words, lush images or heavily loaded with photo-montaged cut-outs, you will never be able to steer your way through a Grand Tableau without confusion. Simple images enable your mind to make the connections between cards: complex cards delay that process. Here are two decks that show what I mean. The top one is Dream Inspires Lenormand by Flick Merauld who is a great photographer: I like the art a lot but, for a beginner, these two cards are unclear. The flower, if you know your horticulture, is a Lily, but because the number 30 has faded away into the white background, you can’t see this quickly enough. The card beside it is the Star, but it also depicts an owl, which could easily confuse a beginner with the Birds card. It’s also got a fire in it, which might take your mind elsewhere, away from the essential clarity and precision of Star’s meaning.


In the row beneath, we have a Russian Lenormand which gives us few clues as to the cards’ identities. I chose these three cards purposely, because they are only identifiable by their suit which, if you don’t speak Russian, could be problematic in itself on the first card. The first card is a diamond, but what does it signify? This is the Paths card and the Russian D is for Dama, Lady or Queen, in this instance. The middle card shows a cross but, no, it isn’t the Cross, because the suit tells us it’s a 9 Diamonds – so it’s actually the Coffin card, but it doesn’t actually depict one! The last card is 9 Hearts, so we know it’s the Rider, but because the horse is stationary, it could be mistaken for the Gentleman card. These cards are confusing to read with and, even though I’ve read for years, I cannot use this Russian one at all except in small layouts!

2. Do They Have a Playing Card or Suit Symbol on them? Some people feel that the playing card part of a Lenormand card is just extraneous, because they themselves haven’t ever used them. The traditional packs came with them because Lenormand or Petit Jeu (Little Oracle) decks derive from piquet (reduced 32 card) cartomancy. When Lenormand cards received a pictorial image, it was the playing card that helped people remember what the card’s divinatory meaning was about. But it was the German values of playing cards and not the French ones that ended up on Lenormand cards: in the German system it is Clubs which is the challenging suit and not the more usual French Spades.

Above we have, on the left, the Cartamundi Petit Jeu cards of Child, Sun and Mice; this is a later 20th century version of the c1860s Belgian Daveluy cards on the right.

 Here is a  larger card from the Daveluy: it has the playing card of Queen Diamonds, the text that enables the reader to interpret it and the actual image of the Paths below. Knowing that the Paths is also Queen of Diamonds is helpful to the modern reader who can indeed read the card as ‘choices, decisions, crossroads in your life or alternatives’ but it can also be read as ‘an ambitious or career Woman who knows (or thinks she knows) where she is going.’ As we saw in point two above, sometimes knowing the suit and number of the card is simply helpful for identification purposes. Combinations of cards which we read by juxtaposition with each other can also be read, as a secondary process, as combinations of suits, telling us a lot more about our cards. I will be teaching this in my forthcoming book, the Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook, see below.

3. Do they have a Numerical Sequence of 1-36?
The traditional numeration of Lenormand cards is the same whatever you pack you choose. Some packs will often have a title as well as a number, but some will have just a number. Those without numbers are less quickly read when you are learning. There are some fine decks without any such numbers, but they are less easy to read or identify. The pack below is one of my first non-traditional Lenormands, the mini Postmark Lenormand by Melissa Hanney. I have the ordinary sized deck and know it well, but when she made the mini, Melissa left off any numeration or suit-designation because of space considerations – as you can see, I’ve included my own notation here. For me this is fine, for a beginner it would be another story, perhaps? It is clear deck to work with at the ordinary size.

4. Is it Possible to lay out a Grand Tableau with them? In your considerations, bear in mind that when all 36 cards are laid out in a Grand Tableau, it is the cards’ simplicity that will count. If you have chosen the lushly illustrated Hawaiian Pineapple Lenormand (I just made that deck up!), it won’t matter how beautifully painted it is if you can’t, at a glance, tell the difference between the Tree and the Garden, or between the Dog and the Fox, or if you aren’t certain which equivalent Lenormand cards the Volcano (The Mountain?) or the Surf-Board (Ship?) are supposed to represent! I’ve seen many people try to read a GT and heard them say, ‘the Bouquet is over Lady card so that means you have a gift on your mind – oh, sorry, that’s the Lily, isn’t it? So - is your dad ok? This is not the kind of impression you want to give!

This is also why size is a consideration: you will notice that most Lenormand decks are very small, some even smaller than poker size playing cards. Don’t be put off! There is a good reason for this: if the pack you choose has very large cards, then you will need an enormous table when it comes to laying out all 36 of them in a Grand Tableau! I bought a pack a couple of years back which was nearly as big as an original Visconti Sforza tarot card (for which you need jazz pianist, Fats Waller, hands!) To have spread 36 of these cards, I would have needed a double bed-sized table and arms like an orang-utan! I gave them away finally as impossible to work with.

My personal choice for laying a Grand Tableau is a traditional mini deck, because I have a small table and am often travelling to teach, so that I’m reading cards on a small hotel table for clients. 36 mini cards still make a square of about 18 inches or 45cms. As you can see from this picture, the cards of this facsimile Game of Hope (the first Lenormand from 1800) entirely fill my small table. I can easily navigate between the cards because of the pale backgrounds.

I personally use a range of cards that are variations of the traditional packs, with both the playing card and the traditional image upon them, or with the playing card marked in the corner and the images in the centre. If you are learning, then you will need at least one such traditional style deck to start with. People ask me all the time what is my favourite deck and it’s very easy to say the Mertz, which is super clear and unfussy. It’s the deck that lives beside my computer and when I’m skyping with someone, I can take it in hand and ask it anything. As you see, it ticks all the boxes: against the white background, we have numerical sequence number, playing card and clear image.


Here is the Purple Dondorf deck, a facsimile made by Lauren Forstel, taken from Le Fanu’s collection. (You can get ordinary editions of the Dondorf very easily for a small cost.) It’s slightly less clear than the Mertz because it has painted backgrounds to the subjects, but it’s still very good to work with.

Below is a Grand Tableau using the c. 1890s Stralsunder Lenormand: again, this is a mini deck that hasn’t been cleaned up in any way, so it’s not as clear as a new Stralsunder I’m currently expecting in the post, but you can see immediately how each card has to really do its work if you are to read along the lines and make a joined up interpretation. The pale background enables smaller objects to leap out clearly: the cards with more painted backgrounds are not as easy to see unless you are sitting close to the cards. Unfortunately, many of the antique decks are very rare and mostly unavailable, although Lauren Forstel, see below, has brought some wonderful decks back into circulation by her clear reproduction.

But what if you don’t want to read cards with old-time people on them? Well, there are still very clear, bright modern decks that you can read with also, like the Magisches Lenormand by Gabriele Büttner and Sandy Plütsch. You still get numeration, playing card and a very clear image. Some clients like this deck because it has a very friendly, open feel to it and isn’t full of serious,or historical subjects.

Thematic decks are ones that follow a particular theme, mythos or concept. You can go onto using these after you have laid down the basics of learning the meaning and order of the cards. Once you have your bedrock of skills, a thematic deck isn’t going to throw you. Like learning basic acoustic guitar, within time you’ll be able to pick up another kind of guitar and learn what it can show you, because you already have that skill in your hands. Cultural decks are very nice if you have already laid down a base line by learning all 36 cards, but they can also mislead beginners into reading Lenormand more like a tarot card again. If the (non-existent) Hawaiian Pineapple Lenormand has assigned a circle of hula dancers to the card of the Ring, your mind will create associations with the Ring that are symbolic of dancing rather than of ‘agreements,’ which is one of the keywords of this card. In this way you will inevitably bring a whole host of cultural and metaphorical associations that finally detract from or cloud the core meaning.

Here we have Nepher Khepri’s Egyptian Lenormand which shows a sarcophagus for Coffin, the god Thoth for Moon and the Djed Pillar for Cross – I can read this pack without any problem because I have a knowledge of Egyptian myth and symbology: it doesn’t give me problems, but you might be tempted, as a beginner, to fuse the thought ‘Mummy’ with Coffin or ‘writing’ with the Moon, which wouldn’t help you. Below it are the mini deck version, to give you a sense of scale, of Carrie Paris’s excellent Lenormand Revolution, which is based upon the French Revolutionary theme: Lady is manning the barricades, Tower is the Bastille being stormed on 14th July and Gentleman is Louis XVI, still with his head on. These are not so easy to distinguish when all the cards are down, but, as a deck that a strong theme it works for me. A beginner is going to struggle to see the images quickly enough until they have the basics down.

Paris de Bono’s Japanese Lenormand deck pursues a cultural theme: the images are clear and the only point of unclarity for a Lenormand reader is that he has also intended them to have an alternative playing card use as well as a Lenormand one, so there is an upsidedown keyword which has nothing to do with Lenormand interpretation, but everything to do with the playing card meanings. Most beginners would find this off-putting. Tower has nothing to do with escape, of course! But if you wanted a ‘two for one’ deck, this might be helpful to you.

My own deck, the Enchanted Lenormand Oracle, with art by Virginia Lee, is somewhere between a traditional and thematic deck, as it is largely based upon themes in folk stories. Although the frame - by which the cards join up with each other - is busy, the central image is clear and the crystal ball images stand out when set side by side in tableau.

A lot of people decide make their own Lenormand: for your own use, a self-made pack is fine but, unless you have fine art skills, it may not be to everyone else’s taste. I’ve seen many home-made and marketed Lennies that I would rather not use because they are artistically not to my taste nor clear enough in execution.

One of the most charming self-made decks that still ticks all the boxes for me is by the youngest Lenormand creator: Ryder, the 8 year old son of Lenormand teacher, Rana George. It is eminently clear, well-drawn and identifiable. I use the mini deck myself and it’s lots of fun.

Every December I receive a lot of Christmas cards; a couple of years back I made my own Lenormand by cutting up the cards: you may recognize Ship. Tower, House, Rider, Lily and Scythe, but I made these just for fun and won’t be inflicting these upon you at any point, I assure you!

The cards I’ve selected here reflect my own preferences and tastes, of course, and I’m sure your own aesthetic is very different. But I’ve also chosen them to reflect the difficulties and help that cards can bring to the beginner who is taking up Lenormand for the first time. Every deck I’ve mentioned by name is usable and I mean no slight to any creator: I trust they understand that I’m not slating their work, just showing what is helpful or not so helpful for beginners. Lenormands, like cars, are vehicles and you want to chose the best model for the job. My first car had a racing engine and absolutely no insurer would insure me to drive out in it, as a new driver: you might also want to consider the CC of your engine power and find a good run-about Lenormand that will serve you while you are learning how to drive as well as navigate at the same time! You can aspire to faster, sleeker models as you learn.

Many of the traditional antique decks on this blog can be obtained from http://gameofhopelenormand.bigcartel.com/ This will include the forthcoming new and cleaned up edition of the Daveluy Lenormand, from the original cards in my possession, coming soon. Some decks will be easily available on Amazon, but others will have to be bought from overseas. Some self-published decks are no longer in print.

Coming in October 2014: The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook; Reading the Cards, their Symbols and History is a generic book on learning Lenormand. It has 416 pages and over 100 pictures, and includes a progressive way of learning based on practices, spreads, case histories. It is a stand-alone book and quite separate from the Enchanted Lenormand Oracle.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Plough Monday

Plough Monday is the first Monday after Epiphany, traditionally the day that agricultural labourers returned to the land after the festivities of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  They knew that unless you sought a blessing on the beginning of your working year, that you not doing yourself any favour.  In Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, the Straw Bear goes around the streets with the ploughwitch teams. Before the Reformation, the plough teams collected money to maintain the 'plough lights' or votive candles in the local church where the work was blessed by their patron saint.

We all need a helpful spirit to bless our work, which is why I am not getting on so well today,  perhaps?  I have set lights in front of my Black Virgin and on my Epona shrine for a  better beginning tomorrow.

This is a poem I wrote for Plough Tuesday, the day after Plough Monday, a few years ago.  It was colder then than it is now, but some parts of the world are still pretty cold and in other parts, many of us are having difficulty getting back to work in a concerted way. It ends with a little charm for the year that is born but not out of swaddling bands yet. The image is from my trip to Northern Iceland in 2012 and shows the Svarfadalur range with some empty play frames in front of it: we are also from our play and back to work, but westill need the blessing to start us back up.

                       by Caitlín Matthews

It is the bird-quiet hour,
The midday contemplation of the sun.
On this bleak day, when no sun shines,
What wraps the birds in silence,
What power blankets their song?

They neither sing nor eat,
The shrouded blackbirds.
Crows cluster on chimney-tops
In sad communion.
Wrens roost, gulls wheel,
Even the starling tribe
Have ceased their stuttering.

For what purpose are they still?
Clutched by a grief or memory
Too potent to be borne?
Is it a mourning for the absent sun,
Too long circling from its zenith?

The unkind kiss of ice
Weakens their wings.
The pin-wheeling prick of snow
Steals their song.
They shelter in death's shadow
This new-born year
As the plough turns a fresh and icy furrow.

So it is for them I sing
This tight-folded Tuesday,
When the earth's iron-hard
To my heart's coultar,
When the white and unremitting page
Echoes the ice-sheets
Clamping the green world grey.

Out of need,
From heart's glead,
Kindle the gladness,
Banish this sadness.
Turn back the glebe-land,
Plough of my screed-hand.
Make glad their feathers,
In bright, warmer weathers;
From midwinter's burrow
Send light down the furrow;
Come forth, hidden sun,
For the year's work's begun!

Whittlesey Straw Bear on Plough Monday

May your year begin with a blessing and continue with a song!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Omen Days: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas Eve has come and now I can truly rest. Every year we try to have the Twelve Days of Christmas as a complete holiday, though a copy editor came near to spoiling that this afternoon by giving me work ‘to be handed in on 6th January.’ I’m afraid I just turned it round very quickly, completely unwilling to extenuate a piece of rewriting through my precious quiet time. 

As we approach the next few quiet days from work, this is a good time to refresh how we can really prepare for the year ahead of us through the medium of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which in this household are well kept. 

In the medieval liturgical calendar, the festival of Christmas Day stood alone by itself as a supreme holy day, and so the counting of the twelve days began from 26 December which is the 1st day of Christmas until the 6th January which is Twelfth Night, or the 12th day of Christmas.  What has this got to do with anything?

Well, in Brittany and in Wales, the Twelve Days of Christmas, which mark the intercalary days of the year, are called ‘the Omen Days,’ and they have a special purpose. ‘Intercalary days’ are really the days left over from reckoning up the solar year and, in calendars throughout the world and at different times, they are special because they are considered to be ‘the days out of time.’  It is in this interval between the ordinary count of days that gods are born or conceived in many different mythologies, including the Irish one, where Oengus Og, Young Angus, is conceived, grown and born at Brúg na Boinne within this time, all in one day, by the magical workings of the Dagda.

Brúg na Boinne

Within these twelve days lies a wonderful secret that those dismissive of the Christian tradition might well miss, for each of the twelve days is assigned to a month of the coming year, with the first day of Christmas the 26th December as symbolic of January, the second day or 27th December representing February and so on, right through to 6th January which represents the December yet to come.  It was the custom of many to go out on each day of the Christmas festival to observe the signs in nature and divine from them the state of the year to come. The omens experienced on each of the Omen Days indicate the nature of each month in the coming year.

The divining of oracles from nature has a long tradition in Celtic lore.  The Scots Gaelic tradition of the frith or the augury from the signs of nature is well established. The listening to bird’s calling was a critical part of druidic lore, as was the movement and behaviour of other animals.  Some of these auguries have come down to us, like the little white book of meanings in a tarot pack: some people used them, but others did not.  The real skill is to read the signs in accordance with your understanding at the time, and as it relates to the question that provoked the augury in the first place.  I’ve been teaching this skill for over 25 years and not yet found anyone who couldn’t do it, as long as they first asked a well-framed question.

                                        Omen in the Sand, Bay of Scail, Orkney

In this case, you treat each day of Christmas as the opportunity for an augury for the month it represents in coming year.  This might be experienced during a daily walk, or perceived in the nature of the day itself and how it falls out. Personally, I like to make a frame for each Omen Day, by asking to be shown an augury from nature and allowing the next thing I experience, see or hear to be the sign I am expecting.  It helps to find the right place to do this on a walk, to close your eyes, to spin around on the spot and then be attentive.

Many of my students have been doing this for a while and last year I shared it with an online group of Lenormand Card readers, who are now using the Omen Days to divine for the year ahead, choosing one or more cards each day to discover the nature of the months of the year.  There is no right way to do this, only by the unique interaction you have between the world that is seen and the world that is unseen, but just as real.

That the Twelve Days of Christmas have kept their assured place at the heart of Celtic divination is one of those wonderful instances of double-decker belief that are scattered throughout folk tradition worldwide. The Russians have a good word for this kind of thing, naming it dvoverie  or ‘double-belonging,’ a word originally coined to cover those who had an earlier belief running alongside a later one.  Wherever a newer tradition has come into a country, the older one doesn’t just die or go away, but becomes fused with the newer one, so that the traditional continuity can be enjoyed by us all.

Whatever your beliefs, the Omen Days continue to offer the opportunity to understand the year ahead so, forget the ‘year’s round up of news’ and the ‘look-back specials’ on the tv this Christmas and look ahead to a year full of promise!

I wish you and yours joy, health, love and peace! 

The Green & Burning Tree from 
Celtic Book of the Dead by Caitlín Matthews, 
art by Danuta Meyer

Caitlín will be teaching Celtic methods of divination from nature on 15-16 February 2014 Celtic Visions: Seership, Omens and Divination from Nature  This non-residential course explores the realm of Celtic divination and vision that was once the preserve of the druidic seers of the Celtic world who used subtle perception to reveal nature's truth and the soul’s knowledge.  Caitlín has made a special study of the oracular and sacred traditions, finding simple, practical ways by which these methods can illuminate the present moment. Participants will learn how to read the omens of the natural world, using traditional seership methods, including 'the Three Illuminations' - ancient Irish modes of oracular divination by incantation, resonance and shamanic incubation - and 'the Augury of Brighid' which was employed by the ancestral freers of Gaelic Scotland.  There will be opportunities to give and receive oracles and auguries, by means of the dha shealladh or 'the two seeings' and by other traditional methods.
Participants need to bring a wooden staff or wand, OR a small smooth stone, a covering for their eyes, and a small personal object which should be one whose history is known to them and that they don't mind other people handling – it will return home with them. NOTE: we will be spending short periods outside regardless of weather.
Fee: £175, send £75 deposit payable to the Clophill Centre, or directly into the account of Richard Diss, sort code 09.01.28 a/c 40762541 Enquiries to Clophill Centre, Shefford Road, Clophill, Beds. MK45 4BT. richarddiss1950@tiscali.co.uk or 01525 862278

If you can’t come, then this course generated a book on Celtic seership called, Celtic Visions: Omens, Dreams and Spirits of the Otherworld is available from her at www.hallowquest.org.uk or from all the usual sources.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


This year John and I celebrate our 28th annual December gathering at Hawkwood College, which has become our midwinter mystery school, open to anyone who wishes to deepen their experience.  Hawkwood College is a gracious Cotswold house in the limestone hills above Stroud in Gloucestershire. It has been an adult college since 1948.  With its own grounds, mature trees, and a spring, it has a wonderful atmosphere, with comfortable rooms and nourishing food. It is our second home and the place of gathering for many of our friends and students because it has been the venue for an eclectic mystery school over many years.

Hawkwood College 
Every midwinter here we present a different topic on a never to be repeated weekend, so it becomes a unique experience for everyone.  We do this every year, honouring a trust that passed to us in 1985 by Gareth Knight. 

Gareth Knight

From the late 1970s onwards, the writer and ceremonial magician, Gareth Knight, held open magical weekends at Hawkwood College for anyone to attend. Looking at these events from the perspective of 2013, it may not seem like a big deal, but back in the 1970s, any rituals were generally performed in private and only among the initiated.  Ritual work creates a container where the spirit of these mysteries is focused and then mediated out:  normally performed by people who have trained in the mysteries, rituals that were open to all attenders at these early courses offered everyone a chance to encounter the spiritual heart of the Western mysteries. Gareth Knight explored many aspects of the mysteries, including the work of Dion Fortune and Charles Williams,  Atlantis, Alchemy and the Rosicrucian mysteries. Just as the Rosicrucian Manifesto specified that members meet together once a year, rather like the knights at Camelot, so too it has been the tradition for those who are on the path of the Western Mysteries gather here.  So it was that Hawkwood College became a beacon that, like the hermit’s lantern, shines so that others can follow their spiritual path.

                                                R.J.Stewart & John Matthews c.1980

These early weekends were a proving ground for many notable magical teachers,  including R.J.Stewart whom Gareth invited to share his foundational work for the first time in public.  No-one who was present at R.J.’s Underworld Initiation would ever forget the sound of his unique 80 string psaltery.  Friendships that we made at Hawkwood continue to this day, making us colleagues in the Great Work with many wonderful teachers, singers and artists.  In 1985, Gareth handed over his December weekend over to us to continue the work, which we have striven to do: keeping an open mystery school for anyone to attend, as well as working at a deeper level with the myths and mysteries of the land.   We have explored both the hermetic and earth traditions, opening doors and exploring pathways that lead to the threshold of the mysteries and beyond. 

Left: Brian & Wendy Froud, who joined us for Within the Hollow Hills in 2004.

Below: Caitlín & John Matthews with Rev. Mark Townsend at the well after the gnostic ritual that concluded Jesus and Myth, 2011.

We have been very fortunate in our special guests who have helped us, including Brian and Wendy Froud,  Professors Ari Berk & Ronald Hutton, Philip Carr-Gomm, Marian Green, Mark Townsend, and this year, actor and tarot-creator, Mark Ryan, who will bring his own woodland skills with bow and tarot to Hawkwood. 
Mark Ryan

This December we will be exploring the different traditions of tarot – how it is read, what wisdom it has to reveal to us, how we carry the flame of its mysteries onward -  from the perspectives of the court, the temple and the wildwood, with lots of opportunities to play with your tarot cards.  Tarot has survived in all these ways and places as gaming cards, oracle and window for meditation.  It is an evolving living tradition that many practice. The images below are from the Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews & art by Will Worthington, but we will be working through the medium of whatever tarot you bring along.

The Hooded Man 

                        The Wanderer 
The Seer

The underlying purpose of our Tarot Landscapes weekend is to acknowledge that everyone who uses tarot keeps alight the lamp of the Hermit, pursuing as seeker the path of the Fool in order to arrive at the unlocking of wisdom that the High Priestess offers. Each of the 22 figures of the tarot is a living archetype who invites us to look through the window to otherworlds. Whichever tarot you use, you will find their wisdom.

What happens at our Hawkwood weekends?  After dinner on arrival, there is an opening ceremony and introduction, where we set the scene and get to know each other. Then on Saturday, we  teach the chosen topic, with lots of interaction and dialogue, practical implement of our divination skills, as well as touching base with the underlying principles of tarot.  Saturday is the day where we assemble what needs to be mediated on Sunday, but before that, on Saturday night, we have a ceilidh where everyone who wishes to takes a turn to sing, read, recite or perform around the fire, while refreshments are served. On Sunday, we conclude our work by a group ritual in which everyone takes part: it is especially written for the course and never repeated. This year we are walking the Paths of the Wildwood where the cards will give their own oracles and where everyone will have a chance to mediate what they have gained in the ritual to both the seen and unseen world.
Card from Christmas Stories Storyworld
You are very welcome to join myself, John and Mark for this special midwinter gathering for an unforgettable weekend.  No special skills are needed: it is open to all people who enjoy the tarot.The atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and celebratory, since it is so near midwinter, where many people come to reconnect with their spiritual family, the Company of Hawkwood.  Please bring at least one tarot pack, an optional robe/garment for the ritual, and some nibbles & drinks to share at the ceilidh. 

Tarot Landscapes: Court, Temple and Wildwood,  runs from  6.30pm on Friday 13 December - 1pm on 15  December.

BOOKING: Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034)  or info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk  quoting course  491. http://www.hawkwoodcollege.co.uk/courses/tarot-landscapes-december

SHARED £270, SINGLE £300, NON-RES £225. Fees include fees, handouts, ritual and full accommodation. Note that single rooms are limited and that most rooms accommodate 2 people sharing.  Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) quoting course Tarot Landscapes. Enclose an SAE for map & confirmation.  Stroud is on a mainline train station, and the college only 5 mins drive from the station.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Of Night and Day: Samhain Eve

Grandmother Wisdom, open the door,
Grandfather Counsel, come you in.
Let there be welcome to the ancient lore,
Let there be welcome to the Winter of the Year.
In cold and darkness you are travelling,
Under crystal skies you will arrive.
May the blessed time of Samhain
Clarify the soul of all beings,
Bringing joy and wisdom to revelation.
From the depths to the heights,
From the heights to the depths,
In the cave of every soul.
- Threshold Invocation for the Festival of Samhain
(to be said at the front door of the house on the eve of Samhain, 
 in the evening) from Celtic Devotional by CM.

Samhain (Gaelic for Summer's End and pronounced SOW'hen) begins at fall of dark on 31st October, tonight. Why the eve? Because a period of 24 hours began for the Celtic peoples at dusk, not dawn. This is confirmed by Julius Caesar in his The Gallic Wars (Caesar, DBG 6.18): 'All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids. For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night.'
          This manner of seeing night as the first half, and day as the following half of a 24 hour period was retained within the Catholic Church wherein the eve of a feast day is still celebrated at fall of dark.  We see similar celebration of the Jewish Sabbath, which has many laws to help one determine when the Sabbath actually begins, so that the devout do not violate the commandment to rest and not work. All Celtic festivals have the same occurrence: they initiate only at fall of dark, not at dawn.
          But who was Dis Pater? His name literally means 'Rich Father.’ He was an independent Roman god of the underworld who later was taken under the general umbrella of Hades or Pluto. Due to interpretatio romana, by which the Romans associated any other people's god with one of their own, we can only know that this Gaulish divinity was ‘like Pluto,’ but we don’t have a Gaul name, only this Roman title because Caesar made an association between the divinity he knew and a Gaulish one.
          Why would a god of the underworld be ‘a rich father?’ The ground beneath our feet is full of ores, minerals, gems and so, by association, any underworldly divinity, the Romans understood, would be bounteously wealthy. We might make our own native association between Dis Pater and the being in the Grail legends known as the Rich Fisherman, or the Grail King, who presides over an otherworldly feast at which the sacred objects or Hallows are processed.  Taking the theme of the perpetual ancestral feast further back, we arrive at Bran the Blessed, the titanic hero of the second branch of the Mabinogi, Branwen ferch Llyr, who oversees a feast that goes on for many years.  His wounding in the thigh leads to him becoming a deeper divinity who moves into the underworld, keeping the Entertainment of the Noble Head.  This same back projection happens to Arthur, who also removes to the otherworld in a condition of woundedness but not death. In many senses, he takes over from Bran as the one who is host at the ancestral feast.
          Several Celtic scholars have attempted to identify Dis Pater within Celtic pantheons: the Irish god of the dead, Donn mac Miled whose residence Tech Donn (House of Donn) is at the extreme westerly end of the Beare peninsula in South West Ireland where the dead live with him.  Caesar himself associated Cernunnos with Dis Pater: he certainly appears to preside over the dead upon the Gundestrup cauldron, itself an emblem of extravagant feasting, where the perpetual feast of the dead is upkept.
          How do we maintain honour and respect for this feast? A clue is given to us by Tertullian in his De Anima, from the writings of Nicander of Colophon of the 2nd century BCE. He tells us that, ‘it is often alleged because of night-time dreams that the dead truly appear, for the Nasamones receive special oracles by staying the tombs of their parents… The Celts also for the same reason spend the night near the tombs of their famous men.’  This communion with the ancestors is a real vigil whereby we sit overnight at the tombs in order to frame questions for divination or else to commune with the spirits of our forebears.           Going first to the sources of strength and honour is what gives us strength. In all spiritual work, it is the very first thing we do: to fill up our own cracks with the loving power of those who have not only survived as names and presences of honour, but who have undergone the sufferings of life and transmuted them into wisdom.
          So I wonder, this year, is it possible for us to celebrate the living ancestors and not to have a gore-fest over dead remains of ancestors? The horror genre does not belong to this festival and only arose due to the Reformation when we stopped praying for the dead in Europe.  Ancestors are like us. They loved, hoped, sat round the hearth, mourned their dear ones. Excluded ancestors can be scary because their pain overlaps our own lives: however, when we invite them to our hearth shrine, we begin to feel less abandoned ourselves.  
            It is the unmoving, lingering pain of ancestors who are stuck out of time that causes the horror and so why not do something about it? In his book, Images of the Soul, Dutch shaman, Daan van Kampenhout suggests this prayer whenever we encounter the pain of forebears: ‘Your pain is from the past. All that caused it has stopped now. Behind these tears is the pure strength of your soul. The soul is healthy and free, the suffering was only there when you lived, and now you live in spirit, so the pain has ended.’ Unless we actually address the excluded ancestors, then dawn will never arrive for them or for us.
          Let's try a different way and see what changes this Hallowe'en so that we can say this prayer with heartfelt joy:

           I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
              I am the bright releaser of all pain,
           I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
          I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
             I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
           I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
            I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
              I am unending wisdom's golden thread.

                             - Song of Samhain from Celtic Devotional by CM.

Saturday, 12 January 2013


I am aware that these two words in one sentence may create disquiet, but I regard prayer as something pertaining to all people everywhere and not just the province of one kind of person or belief. Since my engagement with tarot has always been a relationship with the wisdom of the oracle, I do not see any dichotomy in it for myself. During the last few weeks I’ve been very tired and scattered due to the circumstances around me.

Both within my own family and among those near to me there’s been a lot of upset, fear and disturbance. My response to this is always to spend more time in prayer, by which I mean centre deeply in the bedrock of the earth and engage with the powers of the universe. I bring to mind the person or situation and make witness to those powers that they may uphold, strengthen or help as best they may, without my interference on my part. This kind of prayer means not dictating a solution to difficulty as part of the prayer but just a general ‘help them at this time according to their needs,’ which, of course, I cannot fully know or understand.

This Midwinter I was given the ultimate set of Rachel Pollack’s wonderful Shining Tribe Tarot, reproduced in a large, limited edition. I’ve been going through each card every night. Last week, I decided to pray with them. This way of prayer is a dialogue between our question about the mystery and the answer that each card can reveal. From each card, a new question is suggested from some image or juxtaposition on the card, and another card is drawn to answer it. Sometimes there is a practical action from the card, sometimes it is just a statement of what is. It is not for us to alter or fix things, but to support and witness. If you would like to try this, then take your time, give it space and quiet, don’t try to lead the prayer but rather follow where it leads you.

My elderly father over the course of these last weeks has sunk to a state of semi-consciousness in hospital and it’s hard to know what is best for him. Holding the cards loosely in my hands, sideways as if about to open the pages of a book, I asked the first question, ‘What is medicinal for him?’ I allowed one card to show itself. It was XIII Death, the ultimate medicine for life’s ills.

Shining Woman’s Death is a red being behind whom is a box which opens and from which ribbons stream out. I sat with this for a while until I noticed the two little roses making a barrier between the viewer and Death itself, so I asked, ‘Whom does he meet at the threshold? I drew one of the 5 extra cards of this limited edition deck, entitled the Sphinx in Eden, which is related to the suit of Rivers or Cups. (This is not in the published editions.) It shows a very restful sphinx seated beside the Tree of Life, while a shining spirit appears above it. This figure reminded me of my mother who died a few years ago. Those who met the Sphinx usually had to ask a question, so I asked, ‘How does my father answer?’ In answer, I drew 8 Trees (Wands), which shows a woman leaping clear of a burning house with poise and grace. This is the card which often comes up when someone realizes that they need to leave a situation that’s become untenable or dangerous. It’s a card of freedom and survival for those who are enduring the unendurable.

This led me ask ‘Into what freedom does he leap?’ I drew Place of Rivers (Page of Cups) Marvellously, this depicts the same woman seated contemplatively at a pool situated at the confluence of two streams, while on the hillside above is a dolmen tomb or monument. The peacefulness of this place was refreshing, I could feel. It was a place in which my father could release the last doubts and just be himself. I finally asked, ‘What is the blessing he finds there?’ My next card in response was 4 Trees (4 Wands) which shows a house guarded by four trees. Two grow to the eaves of the house itself while the other two lead the way, arching over. A grain of wheat stands between. The blessing he finds is the way home, where the simple gifts of being wholly himself are welcomed. Last night I prayed again, since my father is having problems making the last step. I asked ‘What does my father need now?’ I drew V Tradition (Hierophant). It shows five red presences meditating around a central flower. My eye fell on the little fish looking out of the water. I realized that my father needs to know that there’s a way over and that there is someone to receive him. He doesn’t have any formulated belief system, having come from a family that has no church-going habit or curiosity about other states of being, so this is a hard step for him.

So I asked, ‘How do I help him know that?’ I drew 3 Rivers (Cups) This shows three streams of blood flowing from one bowl. By remembering the ancestors who have gone before him, my father can be emboldened to step into the mystery of death. I will speak about ancestors tomorrow when I visit him again. With his sister, he is the last of the older generation still alive. ‘How will the ancestors assist him?’ I drew 2 Rivers (Cups) where two fish make a circle and where one fish leaves and two come into the ocean. I liked the way in which same mountains, sea and fish reappeared here from V Tradition, and also the fish from the Death card of the prayer above. It seemed to me that the ancestors offer a unique space for him in their deep mountains.
I then asked, ‘What does he need to complete his journey? And drew VI Lovers, two beings conjoin over the mountains. It reminds me that my parents hardly ever spent a night apart the whole of their lives. This is a reunion that is much longed for, but it requires vulnerability and acceptance to enter the embrace of death itself. ‘What frees him to make his way?’ Speaker of Birds (King of Swords) is an African figure with a bird upon its brow. The quiet but insistent pecking of the bird has begun to remind of his heritage and give him authority to inhabit the space of the living waters that the fish in 2 Rivers invite him to enter. It is a passage that is utterly out of my hands. A PRAYER FOR MY FRIEND I have a friend who is very lost at present. This richly gifted man has been sunk in depression and has been causing great anxiety to those who know him. He has almost closed off from seeing people. While our practical assistance stands ready, none of us can help if it can’t be accepted. Prayer is the only way of witnessing this friend.

Holding the cards loosely and allowing each card to reveal itself as a result of my questions, I first asked ‘What will help my friend?’ 5 Birds was drawn: it shows a person with five circling vultures overhead. The stark answer was ‘acknowledging and confronting the situation.’ So I asked, ’What power arises from this acknowledgement?’ and drew Speaker of Rivers (King Cups). It shows a shoal of fish following a greater fish on which is written the words of a line from the storytelling Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, ‘And on the way I told a tale of such power…’ the continuation of which is ‘that all who heard it had thoughts of repentence.’ It shows the power of the storytelling imagination, and has the confident power of creation flowing through it, which is how we all used to see my friend. I asked from this, ‘What story will he tell?’ and drew VIII Strength. The Lion stands upon a mound, fierce in defence. His story will be about the struggle that many artists and creators go through in order to defend their sacred craft: this is what is at the heart of his present depression, that there is no acceptance of his deepest gift.

I asked, ‘What will the story bring?’ 9 Stones shows someone independent and at ease with their craft, hawk on wrist. To train up a hawk is no easy matter. You must wake and watch with your bird and not sleep or do other things until it is ready. It is a demanding thing to follow any craft, but ultimately satisfying for the one who gives themselves in this way, so I asked ‘How will he be satisfied?’ XIX The Sun was the answer. The ultimate return of joy is through the means above. When everything flows as it should, there is the happiness of satisfaction. This prayer was offered sincerely for my friend. It enabled me see him in a way that is helpful rather than as a helpless or depressed person. His creative mainspring, this prayer reminds me, is not gone from him but is still struggling to be the thing that heals him. As long as we witness to his craft, his struggle and remember him as the man he is, rather than identifying him with his condition, he will be supported better by us all.

Anyone who is interested in purchasing a copy of this limited edition of this powerful deck from Rachel, please visit http://www.rachelpollack.com/index2.html. The standard edition of the Shining Tribe Tarot is still available from Llewellyn Books at the time of writing in 2013.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

    by Caitlín Matthews

The mystery of how men and women relate to each other is central to the work of the diviner: why does he treat me this way?  when will she notice me? how can we get back together? are common questions that clients bring to the cartomant or tarotmancer, who often find him or herself acting as an intermediary or interpreter of romantic relationships. However tempted, diviners must keep their neutrality while Eros aims his arrows indiscriminately.

The publication of John Gray’s popular relationship psychology book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus  in 1993 seemed to throw an original and quirky light upon the differences between men and women. But, in actuality, the connection between the feminine with Venus and the masculine with Mars has been established in cartomancy since the era of Etteilla, an 18th century French cartomant and tarot creator, and also of the unknown person who created the Petit Lenormand system – who may not have been Mademoiselle Marie-Anne Lenormand.  What follows is the mystery of the piquet deck, which I’ve chosen to pursue by investigating the footprint of Venus and Mars in the cards.

                                   Above: Petit Etteilla cards. Below: Mertz Lenormand

Etteilla was the professional name of Jean Baptiste Alliette Jeune (1738-1791), who lived at 48 rue de l’Oseille, Paris (now, rue de Poitou in the 3rd Arrondissement.)  Etteilla, whose calling card proclaimed him as ‘professeur d’alegèbre’, no doubt a cover for his esoteric activities that were proscribed under French law, was greatly inspired by the arcane writings of Court de Gebelin.  In 1770 Etteilla published a book called ‘Etteilla, ou maniere de se récréer avec un jeu du cartes par M***’ (Etteilla, or A way to entertain yourself with a pack of cards by Mr ****).  This system of divination was based upon the common 32 card or piquet deck that was used in France and Italy at the time, but with Etteilla’s unique spin.  A piquet deck is one in which the 2-6 cards have been removed, as was used in the playing card game, piquet.  

The playing card game of piquet, in which Ace is high, was mentioned by Rabelais in 1535, and was well established by the mid 17th century.  The aim of the game is to ‘get over the Rubicon’ by gaining 100 points in a partie or round. When players receive a hand containing no court cards, they may call ‘Carte Blanche’ and receive 10 points.  With only 32 cards, it makes a fast game in which concentration and counting are requied.  Etteilla obviously knew it well.

In his fortune-telling piquet card system, Etteilla assigned a 33rd card to the questioner, making a Significator card which Etteilla called ‘the Carte Blanche,’ obviously drawing on the game of piquet. Petit Etteilla cards also had upright and reversed meanings, at this time when double-headed cards had not yet been invented. He revealed a number of ways in which the cards could be laid in subsequent editions of a book called Etteilla, ou la seule manière de tirer les cartes (Etteilla, or The Only Way to Read the Cards) in 1773.

The Spread called ‘Coup de Etteilla’ from La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes of 1773, using an ordinary 32 piquet playing card deck with the Carte Blanche shown at position 2 in the top right hand corner.

In his Petit Etteilla, Etteilla’s ascribes Ace of Spades to Venus, with the meaning of ‘a trifle,’ while to Ace of Hearts he gives the meaning of ‘the Present.’  When the card appears next to his Significator, which he modestly entitled the ‘Etteilla’ card, Ace of Spades signifies neglect, while Ace of Hearts means suspicion. The only other card assigned to a planet in the Petit Etteilla is the reversed 9 Spades: always an unlucky card in cartomancy, 9 Spades is assigned the meaning of ‘Illness’ in this system and is under the aegis of the unfortunate planet, Saturn. 

Why did Etteilla ascribe these cards to Venus and Mars?  Spades is not the first choice if you are looking for a card of Venus, unless you are exploring her Erisian tendencies.  (Eris was the Goddess of Discord.)  Mars is similarly not commonly associated with Hearts – it’s almost as if they have swopped suits!  Furthermore, Etteilla had already assigned the colouring and characteristics of people to the court cards, with the Heart suit representing blonde individuals, and the Clubs suit representing dark haired people, with Diamonds and Spades furnishing the professions and ages of different kinds of people.

If we peer back into the mists of time, we discover other more obvious depictions of Venus and Mars in cartomancy and tarot.  In 15th century French cartomancy, we find the Queen of Hearts is called Venus in the 1493 pack designed by Jehan Personne, master cardmaker from Lyons.   (Editions J-C. Dussiere.)  This pack assigns Queen of Diamonds to Helen of Troy, Queen of Clubs to Melusine and Queen of Spades to Jeanne la Pucelle.  Venus as Queen of Hearts seems entirely fitting, while the martial virgin, Joan of Arc, takes on the role of Queen of Spades.

Dame du Coeurs from Jehan Personne's Playing Cards of 1493

 We can also see from the Mantegna Tarot of c.1465 that Mars and Venus resemble the major arcana tarot cards of VI Lovers and VII Chariot, with Venus rising from the sea, the element of Hearts or Cups, flanked by Cupid and the three Graces as her handmaids, and Mars sits on a triumphal car like a returning war commander with his sword – the emblem of Spades. These are fitting emblems of the divinities of Love and War, belonging to the sequence of cards depicting the planetary gods.

Venus and Mars from the Mantegna Tarot c.1465

The association of Venus and Mars with the Ace of Spades and Ace of Hearts reappears only in the 36 card Petit Lenormand decks of the mid 19th century, as we can see from the early Lenormand Mertz deck shown at the top of this blog, dating from about 1848-50s.  The Woman and Man cards in the Petit Lenormand system represent the Significator: female and male clients have a dedicated card whose appearance in a tableau spread, where all the cards are used.  Wherever the client’s cards fall in the spread, those cards nearest to it are significant and have strongest effect: those further from the Significator are weaker and have less effect. A female client’s Woman card is examined, as well as the position of the Man card, since it may show how she and her significant other are associated. 

This system of cards is named for Mademoiselle Marie-Anne Adélaïde Lenormand (1772-1843) and is known generically as the Petit Lenormand; it has 36 cards, which is a piquet deck of 32 with the addition of the four sixes.  Lenormand rose from humble origins in Alençon to become ‘the sibyl of the salons’ in Paris.  A gifted diviner, she used many different methods to predict or envision her clients’ fortunes.  Besides coffee grounds, and the inspection of heads, faces and palms, she undoubtedly used the Petit Etteilla cards, German-suited playing cards (with their acorns, leaves, bells and hearts) and cards of her own devising that had constellations upon them.  (These were not the cards now known as Grand Jeu de Mlle. Lenormand or Astro-Mythological Cards which were produced by Grimaud two years after her death in 1845.) 

Lenormand wrote many books and, with her following, would surely not have been diverted from producing cards, had she so wished, just as Etteilla had done before her.  The production of such cards would not have proved impossible, given her immense income from celebrity clientèle.  It has been proved that Etteilla’s proactive publishing has its roots in his own experience as a print-seller: this would have brought him into close association with printers. With an eye to the main chance, he saw ways of benefiting from this association by creating books and card systems of his own. He invented not only the Petit Etteilla cards but two tarots: but is the piquet deck that interests us here.

In actual fact, the Petit Lenormand deck images derive from a German game called Das Spiel der Hoffnung, published in 1800 by G. P. J. Bieling-Dietz of Nuremberg. This was a board game in which 36 cards were laid in a square while competitors raced to be the winner; it was played by two dice to determine how one advanced around the board.  Like Snakes and Ladders, you might advance or retreat if you landed on particular cards.  The cards have the same numeration and images as the Petit Lenormand cards, conclusively proving that this was the origin of the images and their ordering.  The accompanying leaflet to the game also suggested a simple question and answer whereby 32 cards laid in eight rows of four might answer questions. (Compare the Coup de Etteilla spread above, which is an early form of tableau reading.)

Many people are astonished that this seemingly French system has a partial German origin. This game and the French method of fortune-telling with the piquet cards was evidently married together to create the Petit Lenormand style cards, in a Mars and Venus style marriage.   A close comparison  of the divinatory cards that appeared over the period from the late 18th century to the mid 19th century and beyond show a distinct trail back to this marriage of piquet and a German game.  Yet, despite Lenormand’s name being associated with this divination method, she did not necessarily invent it. The game called the Le Grand Jeu, published by Grimaud in 1845, appeared two years after her death and was merely a way of cashing in upon the Lenormand name.  Le Grand Jeu is a pack of 52 cards with classical images as their main picture, and so it is not a Petit Lenormand pack.

If we look at traditional Cartomancy, Ace of Hearts is associated with the establishment of house and home, settling down with a partner and with romance.  On the contrary, the Ace of Spades is most commonly considered to be ‘the death card,’ or which, at its very least, signals a call to change or an unwelcome development.  Yet, Mademoiselle Lenormand, after whom the Petit Lenormand cards are named, saw herself as ‘the Ace of Spades,’ a strong, healthy but hardly beautiful young woman who achieved celebrity status as a diviner to the Empress Joséphine.  Lenormand survived the Terror, to become  ‘the sibyl of the salons’ during the Napoleonic era and the subsequent Bourbon restoration.  Her survival of several terms of imprisonment for illegal divination is testimony to her toughness: she remained a life-long spinster, cultivating a sibylline appearance, wearing a black dress and a black wig which accentuated her dark eyes. 

Was it Lenormand who determined that the Ace of Spades, following Etteilla’s ascription of Venus to this card, should stand for all women, and Mars for all men?  Possibly – we cannot conclusively tell.  Whoever prepared and invented the Petit Lenormand cards followed Etteilla’s strange cross-ascribed suits and found them suitable.  Might the heart of a single woman looking for a man to complete her happiness  assign the Ace of Hearts to the male Significator? I leave it to your judgement.  In doing so, the Petit Lenormand inventor certainly pre-empted Jung’s concept of anima and animus by a good century, in the cross-ascriptions of Mars to the Ace of Hearts and Venus to the Ace of Spades!  

The Petit Lenormand style of oracles spread extensively and speedily through Europe, but most particularly into Germany where it has had its fullest expression.  This was partially been due to the draconian laws against divination that obtained during Lenormand’s own lifetime and into the present age.   Parlour oracles which married images to cartomancy, featuring playing cards upon them, resonate still with the Petit Lenormand system, especially the Sibylla Cards and Gypsy Oracle cards, which have a 36 card layout (though more modern or reproduction Sibyllas lack the cards these days.)   German Kipper Cards, which do not feature playing cards, also retain a 36 card format.  All of these cards stem from the piquet deck.

Etteilla and Lenormand remain the god-parents of the piquet deck fortune-telling cards that we know as the Petit Lenormand system. They are the Mars and Venus of piquet: a self-promoting dandy of an Ace of Hearts, and a plump and unlovely diviner who thought of herself as the Ace of Spades.  Their marriage of ideas has brought us a system of divination that many are rediscovering with wonder today, as conventional tarot exposition begins to pall, and the call of early cartomancy is reawakening.  As with any meeting between love and war, Venus and Mars still engage with their own brand of romantic dissention, but it is a fruitful edge whereat we may find the essential tools of divination.
Here is a Petit Lenormand spread for those who still wonder what Venus and Mars hold for them in relationship terms.  You will need a Petit Lenormand pack or else an ordinary pack of playing cards, if you are a cartomancer.  Place your Woman or Venus (Ace Spades) card to the left of position 5 and your Man or Mars (Ace Hearts) card to the right of position 6 and read away!

                           1.                                             3.
      WOMAN       5.                    7.                      6.            MAN
                           2.                                             4.

1. What's in her mind?
2. What's in her heart?
3. What’s in his mind?
4. What’s in his heart?
5. What she gives/withholds
6. What he gives/withholds
7. Where they meet.

Read cards 1 & 2, and 3 & 4, 5 & 6 as a pair. Then read 1,5,2 and 3,6,4  as triplets which show the disposition of the individuals in the reading.  Finally read 5,6,7 as a triplet to determine the nature of  the relationship at this time.

This article is extracted from Caitlín’s Enchanted Lenormand Oracle, with 36 cards illustrated by Virginia Lee, appearing in 2013. The book accompanying the cards gives background to the Petit Lenormand origins, a full list of meanings, guidance on how to read Lenormand cards (which are read very differently to the way in which we read tarot cards), as well as  practices and spreads that will help beginners deepen their experience.   
See http://www.hallowquest.org.uk/ for more details.