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Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

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Wednesday 30 July 2014



If you have read to the end of this series of posts about the differences that are entailed in reading cartomantically, you may have many questions and impressions.  You may have been appalled at the pragmatic, even prosaic way in which cartomantic reading works, especially after the sophistications of 78 tarot cards.  But really, although Tarot and Lenormand are read differently, it is only by their results that we can judge them.  I don’t want to create any dichotomy between the use of both systems, since I use both systems, but I do want us to honour each system according to its merits.

Although Lenormands come in all shapes and sizes and may sit on the same shelves in the shop as various Tarots, they are not the same thing, nor can we read them the same way.  There are many modern, beautiful and useful Lenormands but, though the artwork makes them as pretty as a tarot, you have to tread carefully. I’ve written in an earlier blog about the pitfalls of choosing a Lenormand deck, so as to avoid unpleasant and irritating surprises: http://caitlin-matthews.blogspot.co.uk/2014_03_01_archive.html
Das Spiel der Hoffnung 1800, above.
Coffee Cards 1796, below. 
Things have come a long way since Etteilla gave his first method of cartomancy.  The tradition of Lenormand reading has been evolving since the late 18th century, from the ‘Coffee Cards’ or coffee ground-based readings of Les Amusements des Allemands of 1796 to Das Spiel der Hoffnung, from the distance or Near and Far method of reading of the mid 19th century through to the modern style of combination reading that has grown up from this method. The cards are still read cartomantically by juxtaposition, known by their core key-words meanings as well as their proximity meanings.

We cannot put back the clock and live as our ancestors did, of course. It isn’t necessary to only use an historic, facsimile deck in order to read Lenormand, but if we leave off the
Stralsunders c. 1860s, above,
Lenormand Revolution by Carrie Paris
and Roz, below
cartomantic mindset and bring in our Tarot sensibilities when reading, we will miss the main event of this small oracle. 
This older style of cartomantic reading offers a clear and honest way of interpreting for clients. 

Any craft that you pick up is best learned by taking the tools in your hands and using them practically.  When you do this your hands, your cells and your intelligence learn what is involved.  All of us involved in divination want to be more efficient and wise, to read better for our clients.  We all know that people can go onto a computerized internet site and receive an instant reading from a pre-programmed oracle, but that is not what we are after when we use the small oracles. We want to develop the hand, eye and mouth skills by daily practise, so that we can engage closely and helpfully with the issues that our clients bring. For our oracle has to be spoken aloud!

In my new book, The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook, I stress the importance of  speaking the cards aloud, since it is one thing to read quietly for yourself but a wholly different kettle of fish to read for a client.  ( I plan to do a short series of blogs on blending the vocal and interpretative skills necessary for this in the near future. ) When you lay your cards for a well-framed, try reading aloud, as if you were talking to a client: you will be surprised how much more precise you become in your interpretation.  

To step from Tarot into Lenormand is to step away from the era of esoteric mindedness into a pre-esoteric era where the jobbing cards do all the work.  It means imaginatively having to come from another place and not to create connections that are extraneous to what the card’s keywords represent. It means having to stop making pictorial connections.   This isn’t easy to accomplish, nor will it happen in one step. It took me several years.

Caitlín Divining in the Café
A cartomantic mindset in Lenormand reading grows by practice, over many years, so don’t feel that you will come to the end of learning any time soon. These guidelines will keep you on the road.

1. Read the cards according to their keywords only and not by their images or associations with metaphors, symbolism, cultural nuances or any esoteric add-ons.
2. Remember that Lenormand is more of a linguistic than a pictorial way of reading. Of course you see the images, but these are just triggers to keyword meanings.
3. Melding and blending individual cards together provides fresh meanings, when two or more cards come together like two pots of paint, creating a third colour.
4.  The cards that touch the Significator or topic card have an immediate or strong effect upon the client or their issue.
5. By speaking the cards aloud from their keywords, you will express the oracle that the cards are giving.
6. By permutating the cards in different reading processes, you uncover both the hidden meanings as well as the major or hidden dynamics of the issue.
7. The answer is always found in the cards: just listen to what they are saying and speak them out loud – then you too become an oracle.

As a little bonus for you persistent and patient readers, I’ve appended a little cartomantic practice that is borrowed from French playing card cartomancy. This is a quick, useful, little practice before you do your main reading for the client, and acts in the same way as the cut, giving you a few cards by which to see the lie of the land. If nothing else, it gives you a method of practising your pairing skills!
1.Shuffle your cards.
2. Turn them face up two at a time. You are looking for four cards that determine the following:    HOUSE for your home, MOON for your work, CLOUDS for your thoughts, BOUQUET for the surprise.
3. Select the card that comes paired with each of these four cards, discarding the others.
4. Sometimes you get two of the four target cards together, so decide which is speaking about what.
CLOUDS+ Tower = official thoughts
Enchanted Lenormand Oracle by Caitlín Matthews
and Virginia Lee

Snake + HOUSE = difficult at home
Clover + BOUQUET = a lucky surprise
MOON + Sun = confidence at work

In the example here, thoughts are about official matters; there are complex matters at work in the home; work is easy and successful, while the surprise is likely to be of a fleeting nature, such a small windfall. In the original Playing card Chien de Pique, you would select are Jack of Spades for the surprise, Ace of hearts for the home, 7 Clubs for thoughts and 9 Clubs for work.  

Have fun with your cards! 

Learning the older cartomantic ways of reading and understanding the newer ones is something that all good readers of Lenormand are keen to foster. So here is a place on Facebook for the serious student who wants to participate in and learn from this rich heritage, which belongs to the whole world.


This guest blog by bean feasa, Cáit Branigan, explores what it means to maintain and clear the environment where we live and work from a traditional Irish  perspective. How residues, intrusions, trapped ancestors and other factors impact upon our health and well-being is not well understood, but there are ways to bring them to balance that respectful, elegant and effective. 

Cáit Branigan
‘Formerly, great care was taken in Ireland in the choosing of a site for a house, and not merely for its physical attributes. If there was any hint that it might be on a fairy path, or track, it was sensible to avoid that place, and let them have free access to their accustomed route.’

from Meeting the Other Crowd by Eddie Lenihan with Carolyn Eve Green

From the earliest times, humans have sought to ensure the cleanliness of their living space, not only physically but also on an energetic level.  This tending of their space encompassed not only spiritual ‘hygiene’ (a word derived from the name of the Greek Goddess Hygeia, goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation), but also a deep understanding of their interaction with otherworldly forces and the deep flowing energies within the land.

From those times to these, humanity’s relationship with the land and life has evolved and, in some ways, altered radically.  However, beneath the modern exterior, which presents the picture of our life today, lies still the necessity for harmony with the land and through that, the manifest peace of our home.  The tradition of house-clearing in Ireland and Britain is ancient and still holds a strong place in the spiritual traditions of those lands. To begin with, however, I should address the term “house and land clearing” which is used to describe the practice about which I am to speak.  

Island of the Crystal Keep
by Danuta Meyer, from
The Celtic Book of the Dead
by Caitlín Matthews
The term “clearing’ is somewhat disingenuous as the practice is one of rebalancing, restoration and healing.  Yes, negative energies/entities are removed to give the sense of a ‘clear’ space, yet that removal is based on the grounding principles of shamanic/indigenous healing practices that are balance, respect and communication.  The most important skill of a practitioner involved in house or land clearing is that of listening, of witnessing what it is that the land has to say and, as a follow on from that, the spirits of place.  

As with most healing techniques, first we do nothing other than to listen: we listen and bear witness to the story of the land, its history, its formation, the movement of waterways/leylines through the land and the track-ways of ancestral peoples or otherworldly beings that may traverse the area.  We listen and bear witness to the story of the people currently living there: their health and well-being; their experiences in life; their concerns and hopes; their reason for seeking help.  We take the role of the Weaver, drawing those threads together into a coherent tapestry which portrays the current balance/imbalance of the house or land area.  It is not a weaving of judgement but one of simple awareness through which we come to understand our role in rebalancing that which is out of balance in the arising situation.
Orcadian ruin
As we listen it is vital to be aware that we take in information on many levels and through many senses.  It is not just what is said but what we feel, sense or know that is to be taken into account.  For this is a practice of harmonisation of all elements: land, human and energetic.  Therefore, it is a requirement that we have a deep understanding of our own relationship to energy and our capacity to communicate with it.  It is vital that we listen to our own bodies (among your own senses, which speak with a stronger voice?) so that we learn to clarify and distinguish between the various voices speaking.  We are, through helping to bring healing to one home/family/area of land, helping to heal the soul of the land of which we are but one part.

Many people reading this article may be aware of the phrase “geopathic stress”.  Geopathic stress refers to the effects of underground waterways and ley-lines on human beings living within their home and refers specifically to those that flow beneath the house itself.  Basic symptoms of such stress may include the following:

• Poor sleep: including insomnia; disrupted sleep or not feeling refreshed upon waking.
• Disrupted digestion: including diarrhoea; constipation or irritable bowel.
• Pain in the body.
• Headaches and an unclear mind.
• Depression.

More severe symptoms may include cancers and degenerative illnesses.

However, what is very important to understand is that underground waterways and ley-lines are not negative energetically.  Waterways feed the land and all that live within it.  Ley-lines are the energetic meridians of the Earth – some might say the nervous system - which allows for communication throughout the body of the Earth.  I refer you to the quote at the beginning of the article.  The key to understanding what appears to some to be a modern complaint is our lack of relationship with, and understanding of, the land upon which we live.

In times past, our ancestors did not live on or build their homes close to sacred sites.  Sacred sites are designated as such due to their energetic power.  Such power stems from a conflagration of lines and, what are now referred to as vortexes which are, in effect, the pooling of energy at crossing point where lines intersect.  This power is beautiful, inspiring and allows for deep spiritual contact with the Source/She Who is All That Is/Creator….. Yet, it is a power and by virtue of that fact can affect the balance of the human body when said human lives in a contained structure over such energies.
Svafaradalar, Northern Iceland

Further, until recent times our predecessors ensured that their homes were not built on ancient track-ways much as in Iceland the spirits of land were communicated with by local practitioners before road-building was undertaken.

‘The elders had their own way of testing a dubious site.  One such was to hammer down four hazel branches solidly at the four proposed corners of the house-to-be.  If they were disturbed in the morning, it was unsafe to build there.’ ibid

As a result of the increased reporting of geopathic stress by homeowners, some architects are now engaging with diviners/shamanic practitioners to ascertain the energetic map of a chosen site.

House-clearing deals with those houses that were built without such preparatory awareness by rebalancing and gently diverting such lines and streams around the building.  Some might say that humans do not have the right to interfere in such a manner.  In an ideal world we may be able to remove the problem:

‘Building houses, now, when the foundation of a house was laid out, if the masons came the following morning an’ if there was things knocked, they might remove it. It might be in the path.’ ibid

Sabrina: River Severn
However, for most people this is an untenable solution when, perhaps, their home is completed or purchased in an estate etc., which brings us back to the whole point of communication.  Listening is the first step; working out/negotiating a solution with all involved is the next.  It is never a question to blocking or interrupting the flow of waterways or ley-lines.  It is a simple re-direction which is decided upon by the spirits of the land and mediated through the skill of the practitioner called upon to help.  In Ireland this was traditionally achieved through the use of iron rods which were buried into the ground with the effect of diverting water.  Some modern practitioners are known to use many other techniques including the use of earthing wire.  In my practice I use no physical tools anymore for diverting lines, instead choosing to work only with light energy to the same effect.  Such diversion is done to the benefit of all concerned – not just the household within which you are working – so waterways or lines are not directed into another home even if the house within which you work happens to be a terraced one!


Ancestral Inhabitants of a House
There is much now in books, on television and radio about communication with spirits.  Perhaps it is the time within which we live that people seek to affirm that there is a life beyond our own.  Whatever the reason, it is a thing of promise that people are beginning to open once again to what was always a known reality for human beings: that there is more to life than that which we see with our eyes.

It is a common feature of house-clearing, that practitioners often have to engage with spirits.  Some of the spirits, as mentioned above, are spirits of place.  Some are spirits of family who draw close to help/support their loved ones.  However, there are also spirits of those who have stories yet to tell – some of harrowing or unexpected deaths; some of loss or fear.  The role of the practitioner is to witness these stories and to help to guide that spirit to a place of rest.  Other spirits may be found to be malevolent and need to be brought to a place of light.

This brings me to the next vital aspect of healing land/home.  Light is a word much misused in New Age practices as there is much misunderstanding of its significance.  Light is life, love and Source.  Light is the strongest aspect of existence without which we wither.  When we clear a home or a tract of land it means that we infuse it with light.  Light that is directed through the heart – ours and that of the land.  Light that is powerful and cleansing, vast and unknowable in many ways but is ultimately the most sacred energy of all.  It is not our agenda at work, not our idea of what is required but that which is communicated to us through Light from the Source.

Kirbister House, Orkney
Every practitioner comes into this world with their role to play and the variance of those skills is what creates a rich and vibrant community of healers.  The art of house/land clearing is one area where that question is applicable.  There are those diviners whose work solely concentrates upon relationship with water, that being an ancient and noble art.  There are those whose role encompasses communication with spirits.  There are others who work on more than one level and so can facilitate the work in a broader way.  There is no better or worse, no hierarchy.  It is simply a requirement to examine with honesty our gifts and skills and hence our role.

Whatever the outcome, the most important point of reference for practitioners and non-practitioners alike is the remembrance that we are of the land; a part that is of the whole.  As such, it is within us to come into relationship once again with All That Is, to remember who and what we are and so to come into harmony with the land and the body of this sacred Earth.  To tend the hearth of our most sacred Home.

Cáit Branigan is an Ordained Priestess Hierophant of the Western Mystery Tradition, a Bean Feasa (Shamanic Practitioner) and Healer working within the traditions of Ireland.  She works with individuals at her healing centre in Co. Wexford.  She also teaches groups and conducts ceremonies throughout the country and internationally, work which includes Women’s Mysteries, the facilitation of Rites of Passage and sweat lodges within the Irish Tradition.  She is an Ovate with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and a member of the Fellowship of Isis.

Cáit Branigan and Caitlín Matthews will be leading a course teaching these skills:

21-24 August 2014 TENDING THE HEARTH: Traditional Celtic House Clearing  at Hawkwood College, Stroud, Glos, UK.

 We will explore the core elements of house-clearing, focusing on work with ley/dragon lines and underground streams; clearing of negative/blocked energies; communication with spirits and the 'hauntings' and the blessing of the home.  Learn how to apply these skills from an experienced bean feasa who clears houses professionally.  Participants need to bring dowsing rods and a pendulum. 

This course is for those have strong access to inner guidance as experienced through, for example, journeying, spiritualism or deep meditational practice.   

Single £415, Shared  £365, Non Res £300.  Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk9

Saturday 26 July 2014


                                                         Piatnik Lenormand

I stated in the previous blogs of this Cartomantic Mindset series that we read Lenormand by juxtaposition and that positions were something we could forget. Well, let’s modify that now and look at the cards from a cartomantic mindset.  When we begin reading in tableaux, when cards are laid in ranks of 9 or more cards, we are always interested in where the Significator or topic card falls and which cards touch it.  Here is what I mean, using the smallest possible tableau of cards, which is a Portrait or 3 x 3 frame.

Mertz Lenormand 
Taking the central position 3 x3 as the Significator or topic (subject) cards, then the cards above, below, and to either side of it are said to be touching.

                                               Above you
                   Behind you          Significator    Before you
                                               Beneath you

Above your head: shows conscious concerns, motives, plans and thoughts or worries.
Below your feet: shows how you are rooted, grounded or any unconscious motivations.
Left or Behind you: shows the past, trigger, conditioning
Right Before you: shows the future, likely outcome or result

Marie Bento's Antiquarian Lenormand
There are also the four diagonal positions leading from the Significator which, though they don’t touch the central card,  are influential upon it. In the image above, I've moved the four corner cards out for emphasis, but they are representing:

          Top left  a known influence  that is passing away.
          Top right  a planned trajectory that lies before you.  
          Bottom left  an unknown influence that has brought you here . 
          Bottom right an unknown trajectory that is coming.

 So we immediately see that the placement of the cards can also determine time: cards ranged in columns before the Significator can reveal the past, while cards in columns before it can reveal the future.  In a tableau, that means any cards before or after the Significator, in which ever column or position, can do this. 

While calculating timing is a wholly different ball-game, I must say that I personally do not look at past and future very often but treat all the cards as speaking about the issue.  (If you want to check out specific timing, rather than the past, present and future of a spread,  I recommend chapter 12 of my new book The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook.)

Enchanted Lenormand by Caitlín Matthew & Virginia Lee
In this example,  I was asking for more information about a proposal I had received to go and teach abroad for a course centre. All cards were randomly laid. I am not going to break down this 3x3 tableau in the usual way, but look at it from the perspective of the touching cards. Note that in the Enchanted Lenormand above that the Clouds have their light side to right. The cards depicted are:

               Tree, Clouds, Lilies,
               Ship. Letter, Fish,
               Birds, Star, Snake.

At the heart of the reading is Letter, which I read as ‘the terms and conditions’ of this proposal: I was most concerned about this since  the organizer had been very vague in his email about payment and other details. By looking at the touching cards I immediately get the dynamic. Over the Letter’s head is Clouds (confusion), showing that there is uncertainty about the small print of this contract, but below Letter, is Clouds’ opposite number, Stars (clarity,)  which is always the basis for any agreement that I want present before I finally make up my mind. Before Letter is Ship (travel, overseas) and after it is Fish (money, payment.) These are all issues that speak about the immediacy of the issue.  To discover more, I will have to look at what’s going down on the diagonals.

So we notice the positioning of the touching cards AND we also read the combinations of one card with another.  We don’t just pin a card to a position in a tableau and leave it there, we get combining in a variety of ways.

I read the corners which will give me a frame for this story:
top left + bottom right, with top right + bottom left. Tree (health, ancestors, long-term) + Snake (deception, complications, rivalry) and  Lilies (old, patience, protection, peace) + Birds (talk, gossip, phone-call.) This gives me the story in brief: ‘a protracted set of complications,  in which I patiently call and email for more details.’

I read together the cards of the central diamond: (the cards actually touching the central card)  Clouds, Ship, Fish and Stars which surround the central card, which gives me, ‘Uncertainties about going abroad and being paid clearly.’ I can also read the cards in columns in rows across, giving me even more information:

Tree + Clouds + Lilies = Long-term uncertainty in which I have to be patient.
Ship + Letter + Fish = Overseas contract brings payment
Birds  + Stars + Snake = Emailing/phoning to clarify complications

Then I read the cards in columns to see what else is here:
Tree + Ship + Birds = Ancestral course overseas is talked about
Clouds + Letter + Stars = Confusions in terms are clarified
Lilies + Fish + Snake =  Patient about money complications

There are more processes I could have applied to this tableau, but this is enough to see pretty clearly.

You will want to know what happened. Well, since I was going to this same country anyway for a larger event, I tacked this course invitation on at the front on my visit. The conversations by skype between me and the organizer ascertained that payment would be given me at the end of my course, before I Ieft the country.  However, that afternoon, the organizers suddenly found themselves mysteriously without the money to pay me! Some was given me in cash and the rest I had to hassle them for: finally they paid me some 2 months later, having said that they were ‘waiting for me to invoice them’– this had never been discussed or asked for, of course, but I did finally receive my money.  What is so ironic about this reading is that Letter also stands for ‘invoice’ or ‘bill.’ With Fish next to this, I should have noticed, since this would have made Letter + Fish  or ‘payment invoice!!’  Well, we cannot always have our cartomantic heads on!


While in Tarot we would normally read the cards in any spread just the once, and give them just a summarizing look-over at the end, in Lenormand cartomancy, we scrutinize a spread in more details for a lot longer, as you have seen here. Because we’re not reading cards on positions, we sometimes need more processes to extract the information. This will entail reading a card in more than one way. A card that crops up as ‘the past’ might also be read again as part of a different combination or part of a further scrutiny, as you can see here.  You will see above that I read Tree as ‘long-term’ and also ‘ancestral’ – both are legitimate meanings and both were relevant, since this course was about the ancestors. By utilizing the different permutations and processes of cartomantic reading, I get to build up a full picture. 

These processes seem to some folk to be extraneous and indeed, not every Lenormand reader would utilize all of them for every spread, but if you’re having a hard time understanding something or you have an uneasy feeling that all is not what it seems, then you go to the deeper layers and have a look-see.  These processes sometimes reveal the hidden dynamic which you might of missed, but mostly they confirm what you first saw, which is never a bad thing to have. As you’ve seen from my example above, you don’t always need all the processes or layers because the message of the cards is loud and clear.

In the last blog next time, we’ll summarize what we need to make the switch from Tarot into Lenormand reading. Not in order to give up reading Tarot, you understand, but just so you can get your cartomantic mindset in place when you start moving those Lennys into line!

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.