Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlin Matthews.

Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

All blogs are copyright Caitlin Matthews. If you wish to quote any portion of it, please ask my permission.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Alfred Russo's The Card Reader
The cartomantic mindset reads simply by juxtaposition and combining, seeing the overview through the medium of a tableau. Here is Alfred Russo’s painting of a cartomancer with her 32 playing cards laid out in a tableau. This French word just means ‘a picture,’ and it refers to a layout of cards where, instead of using positional meanings, the cards are laid out in ranks, edge to edge, and read in relationship to each other.

Enchanted Lenormand Oracle by Caitlín Matthews & Virginia Lee (artist)
This reading by juxtaposition is something that tarot has largely forgotten. It was the standard method that was used by Etteilla, Mlle. Lenormand and many unknown cartomancers of the past. For modern readers it seems daunting because it looks like a lot of cards: how can you possibily read them all?  In most instances you don’t, but some cartomancers did and still do, by relating one card to another. This array of closely set cards becomes indeed like a story map in which many different things can be read.
          Older cartomantic methods of reading like Lenormand use an exact knowledge of the cards’s keywords to help blend cards together when they are laid together like this.  Don’t get worried by laying lots of cards now: even the grandest of grand tableaux starts with smaller skills. Let’s start with some basic card pairing which is the foundational skill for this method where keywords lock together like lego bricks to help create the story.  By learning the basic keywords of each card you will be able to read whichever cards you lay down. 
          It is intriguing to me that, although the tableau (or ‘picture’) is a main Lenormand method of reading, it is the words that clinch the interpretation.  The cartomantic mindset is concerned with foundational meanings that, though they may be various or each card, their combinations with other cards create other meanings or express meaning more exactly.
          This means that there is no getting round learning the basic keywords of each card.  Many beginners take two or three cards each day and just practice with them in order to learn what each one stands for and how they combine. In Lenormand it is not usual to read just one card by itself, which is often how we read Tarot.  One card is like having a pencil without any paper. Two cards together makes divining possible.

Pairing Cards:  When two cards come together,  their individual meanings fuse together in a special way, creating an expressive or descriptive phrase. 

Pair reading is based on: CARD 1 (verb/noun) + CARD 2 (adjective, adverb) where card 2 describes card 1. This may have arisen from the cartomantic way of laying cards right to left, or it may be to do with the placement of adjectives in different languages, as in French where adjectives follow the noun as in la plume rouge (the red pen.)

                           Enchanted Lenormand Oracle by Caitlín  Matthews & Virginia Lee

    Bouquet (gift, surprise, invite) + Rider (news, arrival, speedy) = a gift is arriving; news of an invitation; a speedy surprise.
    Heart (love, affection, compassion) + Coffin (end, finish, illness) = the end of the affair; compassion fatigue; affection is ailing
    Letter (document, writing, communication) + Bear (powerful, strong, overwhelming) = a powerful manifesto; strong writing; an overwhelming communication
          Now pair two different cards from these examples together and see what you come up with: Letter + Rider is an easy one to start with, but what might you make of Coffin + Bouquet?  Cards elide into each other like two adjoining but different colours of wet paint, creating a third colour.
          Yes, there are many possible permutations using the few keywords I chose to mention here. Some people imagine that looking up specific card combinations in a Lenormand Dictionary will help them interpret, but such things are useless, because cards combine like words and you can’t look up every possible phrase, can you? So how can anyone possibly select the right interpretation?  I hear you ask


This is where the context is essential: we need the issue or question of the client in order to read the card helpfully. Many people have only a vague idea of what they want to cards to answer, but this is like getting in your car and driving aimlessly.  If you want to arrive at a new destination, you programme your satellite navigation device with the post code first before setting off: it is same with divining.  First ask the question in a way that results in a helpful answer for you.

Formats to avoid are:
         Yes/no questions – ‘Will I get to Siberia this year?’
           Either/or questions – Will I go to Siberia or Latvia?’
          ‘Should I’ questions – ‘Should I go to Siberia?’
          Nosy questions – ‘What is Nancy doing in Siberia?’

The first two are hopeless for understanding the cards easily, the first because you will have to decide whether the cards are telling you yes or no, the second because you need to do separate divinations for two topics. The third resigns responsibility and suggests that you are under the power of some compulsion or coercion (of whom is ‘should’ asked?) The fourth is a surveillance question about someone else’s business.

Useful question formats:
             Show me the outcome of (going to Siberia).
             What is involved in (going to Siberia)?
            What are the consequences…(of going to Latvia)?
             How can I best help/support (Nancy’s search)?
            What am I missing in this?

People are astonished at how easy it is to slip into a yes/no question, but you want the cards to provide real help, guidance or knowledge, as well as likely predictions based on the present circumstances.                

Look at the combinations of pairs I gave above and try answering these questions:

1. How will the crisis at work resolve?  
2. Will he come back to me?
3. Which style is best suited  to write my essay in?

Immediately you will understand how the question predetermines how the cards are able to answer it.  If you ever have problems reading your cards, always look back at the question.

Triplets: You can also read the cards in forward narration, as in this triplet reading, where CARD 1 + CARD 2 + CARD 3 is read across in order. Here are a few meanings for these three cards:
     Tree (health, long-term, growth)
     Child (child, young, new)
     Ring ( cycle, connection, agreement)

                                 From the Magisches Lenormand, with permission

Tree + Child + Ring read forward, card by card, could be, the health of the child is in accord.
          Sometimes it is a matter of good sense or grammar, so that the word-order or sense of the blend gives us a different combination: here I’ve given the same three cards in the same order but read, in turn, each of the cards as the sentence’s main object.

    TREE + Child + Ring = the child’s HEALTH is cyclic
    Tree + CHILD + Ring = the CHILD has a long-lasting connection
    Tree + Child + RING = COMMITTED to the child’s health

These triplets could come from any line in a larger reading.

Line of Five: Lenormand cartomancy often reads cards in lines. A  Line of Five is the most common, since it is a small and convenient number of cards for a small reading, but you can use 7,9,11 cards. They are usually odd in number because they will have a central card that acts as the hinge or focus of the reading.  In a Line of Five, which stands as the basic model for line reading, the most important card is the middle one which is the focus:

      Card 1 + Card 2 + CARD 3 + Card 4 + Card 5

You can pre-select your Significator or topic card to place here, but it’s often more interesting to randomly allow cards to be laid down, as happens in the example below.  One way in which you can read a line is:

          Card 3: what’s does it say about your question/issue?
          Card 3 described by Cards 2 & 4: tells us the nature of the topic
          Cards 1 + 2:  what has led to or influenced the topic
          Cards 3 + 4: what is the likely corollary?
          Cards 1 + 3: internal cross-checking
          Cards 2 + 4:    “          “
          Cards 3 + 5:    “          “
          Cards 1- 5: sums up the reading

You can also read any card with another to unpack more meaning if the line isn’t telling you much or you need confirmation.

Here Alan is worried about his tenure at work, since there seem to be mysterious undercurrents that he can’t interpret. Everyone seems jumpy. He asks ‘What is happening at work? and draws:    Anchor +  Moon + Rod + Tower + Cross

                              Daveluy Lenormand (mid 19th century Belgium deck)

Rod is the topic card here, telling us that the issue is about disputes or lay-offs.
Rod with Moon & Tower: layoffs determined by honour or seniority in this institution; it looks like they will layoff junior or recently joined employees.

   Anchor + Moon= Work stability.     
    Tower + Cross = Crisis in the office
   Anchor + Rod = arguing about obligations. 
   Rod + Cross = necessary layoffs
   Anchor + Rod = disputing security.   
    Moon + Tower =  official work practice
   Broom + Cross =  Critical talks.         
   Anchor + Cross = challenge to security.

Alan is right to be worried, it would seem. The office is forced by cruel necessity to make lay-offs.  See how by breaking down the cards into pairs and triplets you get the full story and how one card like Rod can be read differently even in the same reading.  The five cards read in forward narration like this: work security (is threatened by) layoffs (caused by) office crisis.  You will see how I made the sentence work by adding some linking words, given here in brackets. 


Reading cartomantically is like decoding an old telegram: because messages sent by telegram used to cost money per word, people contracted them to the bare minimum number of words, while trying to keep  the meaning:  e.g. ‘Baby boy. Nine Pounds. Mother well. Come quickly Queen’s Hospital.  Margaret.’ We immediately understand the gist of this and supply the missing words in our heads.  We do the same with car number plates:  BX345 EGS  reads like ‘box of eggs’ to the casual eye. We have to do the same when we read by the cards’ keywords, by adding auxililary words to make a sentence.

When you pair cards, it’s useful to try alternative prepositions – these are the words that tell you whether something is being done to, for, by, with, and, from, upon, towards a person or thing.  If a pair won’t read for you, try changing the preposition and see if that helps things flow. Sometimes putting in a likely verb helps.

In the next blog we’ll look at how touching cards affect a reading and how we discover the many layers that lie in wait when you combine your cards.

The Daveluy Lenormand is available in a new edition from http://gameofhopelenormand.bigcartel.com/product/caitlin-matthews-daveluy-lenormand-deck-c-1860 if you are in US, or from myself in you are in Europe. Please contact me via tigerna9@aol.com for details.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

THE CARTOMANTIC MINDSET 3: What Actually Happens When We Read Tarot?

          Of course, there are as many ways of reading oracle and divination cards as skinning a cat. Every new deck published brings its own methods and spreads but most cards are being read today from the perspective of modern tarot reading methods and not from the older, traditional cartomantic practice. In my study of the cartomantic mindset required to read Lenormand, I’m going to look at how we read tarot first, even though I know you know how to do this, because I want to show how we read Lenormand differently, so please humour me!

Reading from the Images   These three card cards are from Steampunk Tarot: Gods of the Machine  and I am purposely using this deck because you probably won’t know it so well,  it creates an even playing field for you to understand what I am getting at here.
          I am going to tell you nothing more about these cards other than that they are drawn for this question, ‘What does the new job entail?’ Yes, you can probably guess some equivalents with a standard tarot, but I am also not giving these cards any positions, so what is left to you?  Have a go at answering the question from looking only at the images, covering the paragraph below.

The Steampunk Tarot:Gods of the Machine by Caitlín & John Matthews, art Wil Kinghan.

How did you do? You might have come up with something like, ‘this new job is finely-honed machine into which you have to fit and be well-turned out.’  What you’ve been forced to do here is relate the images of the cards one to another, which is pretty much how an oracle with no fixed meanings has to be read.  Because I gave you no positions, you had to read the cards like a storyboard, which is how filmmakers plot out their shots in any scene, by making a cartoon strip of images.  You had to use the visual clues from each card to create metaphors. Above, I just looked at the Cosmic Blueprint card and saw ‘finely-honed machine,’ 9 Leviathans looked like ‘a tight fit.’ While Lady of Airships looked ‘well turned out.’  Anyone with no knowledge of tarot or divining could have done this. From a steampunk perspective, my answer could well be: get your main frame organized so that your can enjoy lazy days aboard your own dirigible.’ This is just reading from the images and in a steampunk context, ofcourse!

Reading from Knowledge of the Cards: However, most people know or have some idea of which what meanings these tarot cards represent. I can now reveal their equivalents, for which I give a couple of standard keywords from the Rider Waite Smith end of the tarot spectrum:

XXI World: Completion, perfection.
9 Coins: Accomplishment, self-assurance.
Queen Swords: a woman who is intelligent and decisive.

Modern readers also like to know what positions these cards are placed upon, so that they know how to apply these meanings.  For example, if I ask about my new job, I could designate the positions like this:

1. What does the job offer?
2. What do I gain from the job?
3. How do I need to change my working style?

Covering the paragraph below and using your own knowledge of these three cards, read them in accordance with the three positional questions and frame an answer.
          You might come up with something like, ‘the job offers a fully-rounded and fulfilling role. You gain self-assurance and independence. You need to sharpen up your skills and be pretty savvy.’  Using your knowledge of the card’s meanings, you’ve been able to state the main meaning and apply it to each of the positional questions.  Your knowledge of each card’s meaning was essential, wasn’t it? Without it, when you were forced to use the visual clues, you were just improvising.

Reading Even More Into the Cards

          Let’s just look at the equivalent RWS cards: how differently can we answer these questions? ‘The job offers you the world at your feet. You will gain lots of spare time. You need to become commanding and authoritative.’  Here I have read from the images again with a nod at the meanings: we hear more of this kind of reading today than the old cartomantic style.  It is a bit vague, isn’t it? So I might follow up by talking to the client about her mode of dress, based on the images here, or have an intuitive sense of her being alone a lot, since each of these figures is alone.. I can also note that the cards have three women in them, and that they become increasingly sedate in the sequence. I could also look at the directionalilty of the images and say that it’s no use looking back and now is the time to look forward. I could go on….. and on…..
           Some other tarot readers might also have waded in here, not just armed by knowledge of the card’s meanings, but by a whole slew of other knowledge that is supplemental rather than essential: for example that the World represents Saturn, and that, according to different systems, 9 Coins and Queen Swords are both cards of Virgo.  They might also point up the presence of the Four Holy Creatures  as my ‘guardian angels’ or note that the woman is carrying a hawk which connects with the butterfly on the Queen’s throne, both airborne creatures    Would this extend or aid our interpretation here? I think not. My question is about the new job, not about what the stars are doing. As a client, I don’t really care: I just want pragmatic advice and some sense of what the job will bring. I don’t want to know my past incarnations, I don’t need therapy, I just want clarity, and that is what cartomancy can give us.
          Don’t mistake me here: I love tarot, but I tend to read it in more cartomantic than modern tarot style ways these days, as well as using more traditional and historical Tarot decks.  Learning how we distinguish between what we are doing in Tarot and what we do when we pick up Lenormand is essential if you are not to create headaches for yourself later.
          Cartomantic reading style is very literal and pragmatic. There are no ‘Mercury is retrograde, so your communications with your lover will be bad,’ or ‘emotionally, you are psychologically feeling your way.’  It tells clients what they want to know.

In the next blog we’ll  see how the cartomantic mindset helps us read the Lenormand cards in primary pairing and juxtaposition.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

THE CARTOMANTIC MINDSET 2: Differences Between Tarot and Lenormand

10 Stones from The Wildwood Tarot and 10 Clubs/Bear from Daveluy Lenormand

First of all let’s look at the most obvious differences between Tarot and Lenormand, so that we can get a sense of what we are talking about:
Tarot                                    Lenormand
78 cards                               36 cards
Major and minor cards          Cards of equal weight (except Man & Woman)
Upright & Reversed cards      Cards always read upright
Read on spread positions       Read by proximity to each other
Esoteric                               Non-esoteric
Complex symbolism             Single image with additional playing card inset
Cards read by their images   Cards read by their keywords
Passive Significator              Active Significator/s left in deck
Cards speak floridly             Cards speak tersely

Cards of Equal Weight: In Tarot, trumps or major cards have an archetypal and pips or minors a pragmatic weight to them; Trumps will speak about major events or changes, while Pips discuss the small stuff.  In Lenormand, the cards have an equal weight to them: 34 of the cards  can equally contribute to the reading and are what I would call ‘speaking cards.’ The Man and Woman cards are ‘cards that are spoken of.’
          The other cards describe these two client cards by juxtaposition, as below, where Man comes out first far left, the card next to it speaks about it or describes it: here Man has Coffin beside him. (The cards are my 19th century Belgium Daveluy Lenormand. ) These cards came up in a larger reading about a woman’s husband, who is very depressed and who has recently been confined in a mental institution.  Coffin signifies endings and illness. The two cards together create a combination that says ‘sick man;’ the fact that he has been confined is also suggested by the box-like shape of the coffin, although if he had been imprisoned for criminal activity, we would expect to see Tower next to him.

Man & Coffin from The Daveluy Lenormand
 Some Lenormand cards have a more or less fortunate meaning attached to them. When any card falls next to a fortunate card it is enhanced; when it falls next to a challenging card, it struggles.  Neutral cards just describe.

    Fortunate: Rider, Clover, Bouquet, Stars, Dog, Heart, Ring, Sun, Key
   Challenging: Clouds, Coffin, Snake, Scythe, Rod, Fox, Mountain, Mice,         Cross
    Neutral: Ship, House, Tree, Snake, Birds, Child, Bear, Stork, Tower, Garden, Paths, Ring, Book, Letter, Lilies, Moon, Fish, Anchor.

Reversals:  Anciently, tarot cards were originally read upright or were being used for gambling in games like tarocchi  where reversals weren’t relevant at all. Over the course of time, as cartomancers became skilled in reading tarot, reversed cards suggested different meanings to them. Even today some people use reversals while other ignore them.  In playing card cartomancy, some readers use reversals, especially in 32 or piquet reading, as we’ve already seen with Etteilla.
          However, in Lenormand, there are no reversed meanings.  The multi-layering of how Lenormand cards are cartomantically read makes this process redundant. Recently, and in some countries, reversed readings have sprung up, but these are not traditional and are never mentioned in the 19th century Little White Books that accompanied the cards.

Positions;      In tarot you read cards that are laid upon pre-decided or named positions. Take a spread like the ten-card Celtic Cross, which is introduced by the reader speaking about all ten positions: ‘this covers you, this crosses you, this is beneath you, behind you, this crowns you, this is before you; one for yourself, one for your home, one for your hopes and fears, and one for what will surely come to pass.’ Each position is an essential part of the reading and helps define or frame how the card laid upon each position it is to be read. Here the positions enable the reader to speak about each card.                          

Lenormand cards work by proximity to each other, creating meaning beyond each individual card’s meaning, working by juxtaposition. This creates a more linguistic and non-symbolic method of reading. Just as we use different combinations of the alphabet to create different words, so too do Lenormand cards work together. If you come to Lenormand from Tarot,  you will  need to let go positional meanings  because we are going to be reading in pairs, triplets and lines, and by association and juxtaposition rather than by spread positions.  See below.

7 Cups, Thoth Tarot & 7 Hearts/Trees from Daveluy Lenormand
Esoteric Meanings & Symbolism:  As stated above, esoteric tarot only arrived in the mid 18th century: before this, the many esoteric meanings we attach to tarot today were not yet in consciousness.  To us, many of the Tarot cards seem esoteric because their symbolism is associated with medieval and renaissance symbolism which comes from a different mindset. However, we should remember that cartomants have always used the tarot pips just like the playing cards, because that is what they really are. (Go to Italy and you will understand this better!)  The trumps have arisen from a series of Classical sources (Hermit from Cronos as God of Time, Fortuna as Goddess of Luck), from the medieval executive (Emperor and Empress, Papesse and Pope), from everyday life (Bateleur or Magician as street conjuror) etc. 15th century Italian tarot users knew the symbology of the tarot.  They knew that the chariot was a triumphal float, that a man hanging from one foot was a traitor, that the wheel of fortune was what happened when you strove to get above your allotted position in life.  They knew that coins were money, that swords were strife, that batons were staves of office or strength, that cups were pleasure.  They didn’t worry about the esoteric meanings of tarot because they didn’t use cards for divination but for card games and for tarot appropriati where you made witty, poetic epithets with the cards, describing your friends.
          Lenormand depicts ordinary objects (Anchor, Book,Coffin), places (Tower, House, Mountain), animals (Fox, Bear, Dog, Stork), celestial phenomena (Clouds, Sun, Stars). No-one needs be mystified by anything shown here: these were everyday things in the nineteenth century and, although we don’t use rods on children or horses any more or harvest with scythes, we still know what they were once used for.
          Lenormand cards come with a playing card inset which is used by some readers as a secondary piece of information. So Clouds, which shows clouds with a dark or light side to them, also has an  inset showing the King of Clubs: this card can speak about confusions and muddles worsening or improving, depending on which side the dark clouds face,  but it can  stand for a confused or mentally ill man in addition.
9 Suns from The Nostradamus Tarot and 9 Diamonds/Coffin from Daveluy Lenormand 
Cards Read by Image or Keywords: In Tarot reading, the images are frequently used as clues or visual triggers that help create meaning, despite each card having its given meaning, as we will see in the example below. In Lenormand reading, the images on the cards are standard images and no matter how variously these might artistically appear or which Lenormand pack they use, the cartomant reads the cards exactly the same way, every time. This difference is one of the main ones that confounds beginners.
          When you come from Tarot, you’ve been used to buying and using the most aesthetically pleasing pack: while you know the standard meanings of the Trumps in a traditional deck, when you use a mythological tarot or a zombie tarot, you will automatically begin to associate meanings with that mythos  or genre. When it comes  to buying a Lenormand deck, many beginners are drawn to find an artstyle that they like best, using the same criteria as when they buy a tarot.  However, it is the consistency and clarity of each Lenormand image that enable you to read which is a traditional deck is best: plainness and simplicity is here a virtue.
          Many contemporary Lenormands have, for example, depicted the Coffin as a Sarcophagus: this immediately introduces a set of associations that are not actually present in the keywords by which we divine.  Coffin is about endings, finalizations, illness, not about embalming, Egyptian myth, mummies or hauntings, for example, but it is hard to stop the mind going there if the images give you cultural, historical or social visual clues. 

Sword Maiden from The Arthurian Tarot & Jack Spades/Child from Daveluy Lenormand
Passive and Active Significator: In Tarot reading, the Significator (a card chosen to represent the client) is often removed and left on the table while other cards are laid around it. It does nothing but represent them. In cartomantic and Lenormand divination, the Significator is generally shuffled into the pack and comes out as an active ingredient of the reading.  The cards touching the Significator (the Man or Woman card) are more significant and have stronger effect upon the client than the other cards. Some other cards can indicate other people in the spread also:

          the Kings: House,  Lilies, Fish, Clouds.
          the Queens: Stork, Bouquet, Path, Snake.
          the Jacks:  Heart, Child,  Scythe, Rod.

The court cards or ‘honours’ as they were once known, have always been used by playing card cartomants as ‘people cards,’ and this method is still used in Tarot as well as Lenormand.  Lenormand can also employ any of the 34 speaking cards as a ‘topic’ or a card that stands for the issue under question. So Fish might be chosen to stand for a client’s finances, or Book for their education.

Florid and Terse Oracles:  If you go to a university, you will notice that some tutors use very complex language constructions and can be voluable, loquacious, even poetic in speech. But if you go to a building site or street market, you will notice that people speak tersely and concisely. Tarot is more like the university lecturer while Lenormand is similar to a stall holder in a market: both can convey meaning to you, but one will take longer to do it than another. This creates a very different style of reading and interpretation.
With these basic differences in mind, the next blog will look at what we are doing when we read tarot, because you will understand better what I am showing here.

 THE DAVELUY LENORMAND is available to buy in a refreshed facsimile from 

To purchase copies of The Wildwood Tarot by John Matthews & Wil Worthington, The Nostradamus Tarot by John Matthews or The Arthurian Tarot by Caitlín & John Matthews see www.hallowquest.org.uk

In Autumn 2014, my One and Only Petit Etteilla Course will be coming from the same firm. http://www.cartomancy.net/en/courses/petit-etteilla

 In October my own generic Lenormand book will be coming from Inner Traditions: The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook. This has over 400pp and 100 illus. It takes you from foundation level with many practices, self-tests and case histories. It can be used with any Lenormand deck.

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Why and how Lenormand Reading is different
from modern methods of Tarot Reading 

If you are familiar with Tarot and are wanting to approach Lenormand for the first time, then this might be a helpful place to start, to understand why and how reading Lenormand is so different. If you approach Lenormand with a cartomantic mindset, you will arrive prepared.


Cartomancy is the craft of divining from cards. While it is a word often applied to playing card reading these days, it is a useful term for anyone who is taking up Lenormand reading for the first time.  Lenormand cards are read cartomantically, which is an older method of reading cards, which I’m going to outline here.
          Before Tarot went esoteric, before Lenormand cards were even born, people were laying out playing cards and reading them by juxtaposition with each other.  It is from this era that we inherit the cartomantic style of reading that is used in Lenormand.  
          The image below is Etteilla’s spread called le Coup de Douze  (12 card Spread – and yes, it does have two extra cards for ‘the surprise.’) This is taken from the very first published book which outlined practical cartomantic reading with a pack of 32 playing cards, The Only True Way to Read the Cards, published in 1773. 


Etteilla read the cards from right to left (most modern cartomancers read left to right today and that is still the case with Lenormand cards) and used reversed cards (which Lenormand reading does not). We see that the carte blanche (the blank card that acted as the Significator) is centrally placed here. The cards either side of it, which touch the Significator are King Hearts and 10 Diamonds, signifying a Blond Man who has an abundance of money, respectively.  The line is read by pairing card 1 with card 2, card 2 with card 3 etc.  until the line is read. This method tells the story as cards blend together. Many years later this same Coup de Douze  spread was taken up by the Golden Dawn and translated into the fiendishly complex Opening of the Key spread, which takes several hours to lay and read.
          Here is the case in point: cartomancy is simple, pragmatic and non esoteric.  It doesn’t depend on a knowledge of astrology, it doesn’t require you to know which phase the moon is in, you don’t need to know numerology.  This is one of the reasons why Lenormand is non-esoteric in nature and why we read in the ways that we do now: because the reading style dates from before the esotericizing of tarot in the mid-late 18th century, which was begun by Court de Gebelin and Comte de Mellet, and to which Etteilla himself contributed, though not before recording his own cartomantic methods.  

          The older style of cartomantic reading is one that is nowadays only used by playing card readers and cartomancers who use small oracles like Lenormand.  It comes from a different mindset and, without taking this on board, it’s easy to try and read  Lenormand like Tarot, which won’t help you at all. The art of reading a line, combining the cards as you go, is where this kind of reading began.

In the next blog of this sequence, we’ll look at the specifics of how Lenormand and Tarot are different and how this affects the style in which we read. 

For those who like to read with traditional, historic decks, I thoroughly recommend the cards produced by Lauren Forestell: these facsimile  decks are printed on good linen cardstock, with clear images.  http://gameofhopelenormand.bigcartel.com/

The One and Only Petit Etteilla Course
by Caitlín Matthews

Etteilla (1738-1791) wrote the first self-instruction manual on cartomancy in 1770, enabling readers to divine with a piquet deck of 32 playing cards.  Written before the impact of esoteric tarot, this influential book revolutionized divination.  Its unique methods of reading have remained largely unexplored by readers who have been deterred from studying them because his work was written in 18th century French or not available in English.  Now for the first time, his book can speak directly as you learn to read Petit Etteilla for yourself.

On the One and Only Petit Etteilla Course (so called in echo of Etteilla’s own style of writing!) you will create your own Petit Etteilla Deck, learning how to apply his 18th century meanings in a more helpful modern way.  The complete text of his book is translated and explained clearly so that you can read for yourself how his methods work. 

Throughout his book, Etteilla gave many spreads outlining the case history of one woman for whom he reads sequentially. He invites you to lay out the cards for her, just as he has done, so that you can learn his methods quicker. The original illustrations from his 18th book are included so that you can follow him. 

The text is arranged over several lessons, so that you understand the source material for yourself and how it is applied in practice.  This is supplemented by my explanations, examples of spreads and case histories so that you begin to learn the methods by daily practice.  I also provide smaller spreads that can be practically used on a daily basis.

The course enables you to learn cartomantic combination from Etteilla’s keyword meanings. This precise method of reading is very different from the interpretations of Tarot reading but, because all the meanings you will ever need are already written upon your cards, you can immediately read and combine them without the need of memorization. By building up your reading from simple pairing and short line spreads, you will gain confidence and soon be reading Petit Etteilla for yourself and others.

Features of this course:

  • The first complete English translation of the revised 1773 edition of La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes by Etteilla, fully annotated
  • Side by side original Etteilla and modern applications of the meanings
  • Learn to read using Etteilla’s meanings and spreads
  • Practise your skills using case histories 
  • Learn cartomantic combinations
  • Gain confidence in reading for clients
  • Create your own Petit Etteilla Deck
  • Illustrations of Etteilla’s Original Spreads, including The Wheel of Fortune, the Spread of Twelve, Spread of Fifteen, Etteilla’s Spread, The Dovetail Spread, Horoscope Spread.
  • New, shorter spreads for everyday divination

Available from http://www.cartomancy.net/en/courses/petit-etteilla

Sunday, 15 June 2014

In the Future, You Will Be Raped by Brigands! or How Not To Interpret For Your Client

‘In the future, you will be raped by brigands!’  is probably the worst line ever to fall from the lips of a cartomancer into his client’s ears.

These deathless words make us wonder what was the reaction of the lady for whom Etteilla was reading? He uttered them  as part of his interpretation of the Petit Etteilla cards in the Dovetail Spread in his book of 1773.* 

Dispute des Brigands after Alexandre Marie Colin, 1829
 Etteilla reports this spread at breakneck speed, summarizing his findings from the cards like this: ‘In brief, it says in the future you will be raped by brigands. You will decide to change your behaviour, but this won’t succeed. Among those who have made this attack on you will be a light brown man. Advantage for your husband.’ Even if you or I saw such a thing in a spread, today we would not speak this aloud so baldly!   

When you read for others,  you also  have to express what you understand in words to a client and that means you need to become fluent in interpreting cards aloud as well as for your own benefit on paper or in your mind.  As you read for others, each client’s own needs and concerns bring you to engage with areas of interpretation you had not previously considered. 

Not only do you have to read the cards in context with the question, but you also have to express what you understand in suitable language. If you read for an engineer you will use very different metaphors than when you read for a young English student or an elderly artist.  It’s helpful to keep your metaphors and comparisons general and understandable, without jargon.

The way we read is not only about presenting what the cards say,  it is about the tone and tenor of your interpretation too.  You will communicate the import of the cards more sensitively with a man still reeling from being dumped by his girlfriend than you might with a tough businesswoman who wants you to tell her the absolute truth about her trading prospects this month.   It isn’t that you will hold back on the truth, just that you will handle and express your findings in well chosen language without brutalizing, spooking, bewildering or upsetting your client.
What you do not say aloud is also responsible cartomancy. Sometimes you see things in a spread that should not be disclosed unless the client first speaks about it. Only the other day I was reading Lenormand for a female client who was worried about her husband’s long absences: when  I discovered Man on the house of Woman and Bear on the house of Lilies in the same Grand Tableau,  my immediate impression was that her husband could be a secret cross-dresser but, since this was information that might cause offence and had not been flagged up by her as a possibility, I kept my own council. These combinations could equally indicate that she and her husband simply cross-polarise the usual male and female roles between them.
You may get a sense that there is an undisclosed matter hanging over a reading that might be revealed, but creep up on it, introducing a topic only if it is appropriate for the client.  Crashing in with, ‘I see that you were raped,’ or ‘your clandestine affair is revealed here,’ is not what someone comes to be told; however, if they come in order for you to read about the rape or about their affair, then that’s another matter.  

Very few of us would get away with a pronouncement like, ‘in the future, you will be raped by brigands!’ But sometimes you may indeed read something troubling that is coming up or has already happened to the client.  Predicting future difficulties for a client may make him fearful or superstitious, while lingering on past problems may retraumatise him. So what do you do?

Here is a line of Petit Etteilla that would suggest such a possibility:
My own Petit Etteilla cards with the Joker as the Etteilla or Significator card :   K  + A +r8 + 8 + Etteilla  
 It literally reads, right to left, ‘In solitude while abroad enjoying yourself, a striking man…,’ as a line and then the two meeting cards at either end (King Hearts and 8 Spades) complete the sentence with ‘ …is abusive.’  The sense is clear: the woman is abroad and lets down her guard while enjoying herself.  Etteilla (the Significator card) pairs with the 8 Spades to give us ‘Solitude,’  and 8 Clubs gives us ‘distant or abroad.’ The Venus card of Ace Spades is one of sexuality, so while it might be about her general enjoyment, it could equally be about a sexual assault.  King Hearts has some physical characteristic and could well be a blond or fair-haired man as well.
In terms of reading about the past, my rule of thumb is, has the client already mentioned a traumatic issue like being sexually assaulted abroad?  If she hasn’t, I don’t go into detail but merely say, ‘there was some kind of attack while you were abroad.’  If the client confirms this, that’s enough. If she wants to say more, she can. Otherwise, we pass on without more comment.

But in terms of a predicted future event, like an assault while on holiday, that is shrieking on all frequencies to you, the responsibility is to warn or caution. Let’s say the client is a woman of the world, with good confidence,  I might say, ‘When you go abroad, I’m sure you’re going to have a pleasurable time, but you need to watch out for a particular guy, especially when you’re alone. He might be someone who looks like he would be a good lay, but he’s got an abusive streak in him. Just be careful.’

Had the client been someone who couldn’t receive that news without going into a melt-down, or a much younger woman whose confidence isn’t so great, then my approach would be different. I might say, ‘When you go abroad, it would be best to go round the sights and the shops with another woman. Avoid being alone, especially in remote places or down-town.’  This would invariably bring up a question from the client, in response, ‘What do you see?’ To which I would reply, ‘the cards are saying you should be careful not to be alone in case of some opportunistic man taking advantage of you while you’re out enjoying yourself.’  So she asks, ‘What kind of man?’ I reply, ‘He’s got some facial or other characteristic that makes him distinctive – could be a scar or a tattoo or a broken nose, something like that nature.  He’s the kind of guy who’s out for a good time, but at your expense.’ She is warned, but less explicitly.

When it comes to broaching the full extent of a reading, we cartomancers have to avoid becoming the brigands ourselves. Cartomancy is not about shock and awe, or scoring points, it is service of guidance along a path that the client is currently walking, sometimes rather shakily.  The job is not to knock them off the path or to lose them, or make them fearful of their journey, but to orient them until they come to the next clear signpost or into familiar regions again.


Il Sentiero dei Briganti or the Brigand’s Path is a mountainous route stretching from La Monaldesca to Vulci in North West Italy

Ask these questions of yourself while you read:

- What kind of client are you reading for? What is their state or condition?
- How are you conveying the information of the cards?
- Is your tone of voice appropriate to your client?
-Are you using language that they understand?
- Can they hear and receive the difficult messages that you read from their current standpoint?
- What are the most important points to summarise from the reading for the client to implement?
- What in the reading enables the client to go home with some hope and confidence?

Kindness and consideration for your client is the respect by which you honour them.  Speaking intelligently and in context to their condition enables their understanding of what you find, however hard the message.   

*Etteilla’s La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes of 1773, has finally been translated into English as part of the One and Only Etteilla Course which will be available in September from http://www.cartomancy.net/en/courses/petit-etteilla

The One and Only Petit Etteilla Course
by Caitlín Matthews

Features of this course include:

  • The first complete English translation of the revised 1773 edition of La Seule Manière de Tirer Les Cartes by Etteilla, fully annotated
  • Side by side original Etteilla and modern applications of the meanings
  • Learn to read using Etteilla’s meanings and spreads
  • Practise your skills using case histories 
  • Learn cartomantic combinations
  • Gain confidence in reading for clients
  • Create your own Petit Etteilla Deck
  • Illustrations of Etteilla’s Original Spreads, including The Wheel of Fortune, the Spread of Twelve, Spread of Fifteen, Etteilla’s Spread, The Dovetail Spread, Spread of Thirty-Three, Horoscope Spread.
  • New, shorter spreads for everyday divination