Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlín Matthews.

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.


  1. Dear Mrs. Matthews, Have you ever thought of making a deck from cards that speak to you further... More of a mix matched, from different decks.
    And is this a possible option?

    1. Each system is something to be honoured as whole, and so I don't mix cards, personally. It's like speaking in two languages at once. Each deck of any system speaks coherently and doesn't need another deck to explain it, to my mind.

  2. ... noticed how you prefer using MOON rather than ( FOX or ANCHOR ) for motivation, work, and vocational skills. It's just a different take, and made me question what to expect vs. How another person reads them.

    1. Timoth, I use Moon for my main work card, rather than the tricky Fox. Aspects of work can show up in different cards, of course. Moon is the work card in my 1860s Belgian Daveluy Petit Lenormand.

  3. Caitlin, This is A from CA, USA. We briefly corresponded last June. On 3-7-15, I received a scam email from your account. See below for details. Be well, Ann


    I really hope you get this quickly. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in Ukraine for Tour.. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. we misplaced our wallet and Mobile on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.

    I am sorry if i am inconveniencing you, but i have only very few people to run to now. i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a short term loan from you this will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as soon as I return. let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please, let me know soonest...

    1. The email address is: denisedu77@aol.com

  4. You wrote an amazing, gorgeous, and useful book. Thank you for sharing your craft in a way all can understand. It really is wonderful!

  5. I want those Coffee Cards! Do you know if there are any of those for sale? :) Thanks!

    (By the way, I noticed from the picture you showed that those Coffee Cards are VERY large, at least when compared with Alexander Glück's edition of the Primal Lenormand, which are already larger than most Lenormand decks.)