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The Thirty-Six Chambers: Houses in the Grand Tableau

The Petit Lenormand: Chambers

Whether or not I use houses is one of the most frequent questions I receive. The answer is yes, sometimes. The same applies to mirroring, knighting, intersection points, counting, surprises, multiples, et cetera. Sometimes I do.

A persistent student pressed me on the subject. Did I agree that houses were important? No more so than counting, knighting, or mirroring and so on.

The techniques mentioned above are all different. Each one thus yields different information. A cartomante, therefore, uses them discriminately. We can read most tableaus without any of the above.

Houses, or chambers as I prefer to call them, have been discussed in past articles. I prefer to write about techniques within the context of an actual reading rather than in theory. However, several individuals have asked me to write about them and their uses independently. So, here we go…

For clarity, this article concerns the technique in practice. Consequently, we will not cover the merits of different house systems. Everything said here can be applied to both the Master Method Houses and the Game of Hope Houses.

The Game of Hope Houses 101

Lenormand was originally a board game in which the cards were laid out in sequential order: Cavalier, Cloverleaf, Boat through to Cross (see image below). The Game of Hope Houses imagines you are dealing the shuffled deck on such a board.

Based on this, the first card dealt in a Grand Tableau can be seen as occupying the position of the Cavalier. The twentieth card dealt is in the chamber of the Garden. The last card dealt dwells within that of the Cross.

Each chamber takes its significance from the essential nature of the card associated with it. For example, the first chamber is associated with visitors and couriers vis-à-vis the Cavalier. The Garden’s chamber will pertain to social affairs.

Below are the chambers’ significations.

  • Cavalier – Visitors.
  • Cloverleaf – Chance.
  • Boat– Movement.
  • House – Home-Life.
  • Tree – Health.
  • Clouds – Storms.
  • Serpent – Venom.
  • Coffin – Death.
  • Flowers – Beautification.
  • Scythe – Severance.
  • Birch Rod – Chastisement/Coup de Sort.
  • Birds – Ruffled-Feathers.
  • Child – Pettiness.
  • Renard– Stealth.
  • Bear – Power.
  • Stars – Clarity.
  • Stork – Change.
  • Hound – Entourage.
  • High Tower – Distance.
  • Park– Networking.
  • Mountain – Impasse.
  • Road– Intersection.
  • Mice – Pests.
  • Heart – Emotions.
  • Ring – Unification.
  • Book – Information.
  • Letter – Private Communications.
  • Lord – Querent or Significant Other.
  • Lady – Querent or Significant Other.
  • Lilies – Agreement.
  • Sun – Radiance.
  • Moon – Reflection.
  • Key – Opening and Closing.
  • Fishes – Abundance.
  • Anchor –Securing.
  • Cross – Suffering.

As you can see, these are interchangeable with the essences used in my online courses. In the appendix of my book, my editor felt “keywords” were more appropriate. This resulted in the use of the term “job” and “day-to-day life” with the Moon card. Culturally, our visibility and reflection of worth are often tied to our career and social status. However, it is not correct that the Moon’s chamber should appropriate such a context-specific definition.

It’s thus critical not to confuse roles, such as the cartes maîtresses, and the chambers. As above, the master-card for work does not transfer that association to its chamber. Thus, if the Anchor or Fox is your work card, its chamber will not mean work. Similarly, if reading for a woman who is in a same-sex relationship, the Serpent’s chamber will not relate to the partner even if the dame de tréfle is the partner’s significator.

The chambers’ associations derive solely from intrinsic nature of the picture.

The Master Method Houses 101

Etrennes nouvelles de l’horoscope de l’homme et de la femme, published in 1788, first documented the house method referred to as the Master Method Houses. These associations were later attributed to Mlle Le Normand in the 1875 L’Oracle Parfait. Several authors of cartomancy later documented the method, such as Papus.

Unlike the system mentioned above, associations do not derive from the cards. Instead, each position carries an independent signification such as projects (chamber 1), betrayal (chamber 20) and sickness (chamber 36).

Below I have provided a translation of the original 36 significations. For clarity, one has endeavoured to utilise plain-speaking terms.

  • Cavalier – Projects.
  • Cloverleaf – Satisfaction.
  • Boat– Success.
  • House – Expectations.
  • Tree – Chance.
  • Clouds – Desires.
  • Serpent – Injustice.
  • Coffin – Ingratitude.
  • Flowers– Friendships
  • Scythe – Losses.
  • Birch Rod– Hurt.
  • Birds – Estate.
  • Child – Joy.
  • Renard – Love.
  • Bear – Prosperity.
  • Stars – Marriage
  • Stork – Upsets.
  • Hound– Enjoyment.
  • High Tower – Inheritance.
  • Park – Betrayal.
  • Mountain – Rivalry.
  • Road – Gifts.
  • Mice – Lover.
  • Heart – Advancement.
  • Ring – Kindness.
  • Book – Enterprise.
  • Letter – Changes.
  • Lord – Death.
  • Lady – Rewards.
  • Lilies – Disgrace.
  • Sun – Happiness.
  • Moon – Wealth.
  • Key – Indifference.
  • Fishes – Favour.
  • Anchor – Ambitions.
  • Cross – Sickness.

L’Oracle Parfait instructs the reader to use four rows of nine (9 x 4). Quite a few French practitioners adhere to that scheme. Russian cartomantes often favour six rows of six (6 x 6). I would, however, advocate the classic 8 x 4 + 4.

In the original system, the meanings become modified depending on the suit of the card occupying the position. It is thus a “lottery” method. With the Lenormand Oracle, it’s the individual card’s association that modifies the signification. In no circumstances do the positional significations transfer to the cards.

Reading Houses

What is a Chamber?

Before we consider the chambers’ use, we must build an understanding of their nature. Such consideration is vital with all interpretive techniques. Like knighting and mirroring the houses have their own nuance, and we select the method based on what we need to know. If you want to know what is around the corner, the cartomante would use knighting and not the chambers, et cetera.

Look at the following illustration:

Depending on your perspective, you can imagine the chambers (houses in the modern vernacular) as either a small community of 36 properties (as above) or a building with 36 rooms (my preference). Let us put the numbers in:

In both schemes, each residence or chamber is a separate entity. It has four walls and a door. There is no fuzzy line into the adjacent property and no trapdoor to the room below.

Thus, we immediately understand three crucial considerations:

  1. In readings, we read the card in the chamber alone. If the Birds has flown in the domain of the Renard, whatever card is next to it, or above and beneath it, carries no significance to the chamber.
  2. Each chamber belongs to a card. The card occupying the room is the guest of the owner. Consequently, if the Birds have entered the Renard’s den then the Renard is the host… will Renard have pigeon pie?
  3. As each chamber has an owner, we must consider their own placement. So, keeping with the Birds, if the Renard falls in the Coffin’s, well, not even Renard can escape the casket. Thus the Renard has no agency.

Reading With Chambers

With both the Game of Hope and Master Method, the chamber is the dominant partner.

German sources often go further and liken chambers to an A – B pair. Thus, the chamber becomes card A and the occupying card is B. On that, I disagree. Chambers are not the same as narration and specification.

We will stick with the Birds and Fox scenario. Below I’ve used an old Brepols for the houses, and the standard edition for the cards. Let us look at how these three considerations function:

Remembering the first point, we know we are concerned solely with the chambers.

Seeing the Birds in the Fox’s chamber is a salesman’s patter – strategic noise designed to overwhelm you. A lot of doublespeak.

Now, we see the Fox caught in the Coffin. Renard’s not doing so well. Did he trip over his own lies, or was it a game of téléphone sans fil?

Coda

The chambers’ technique tells us about condition and influence on a card. Once a card is identified, you look at the room it occupies. That is the card’s immediate environment – the form it takes. You then look at the chamber’s owner for how that influence is wrought.

Sometimes cards fall in their own chamber. In the Game of Hope Houses, such a placement is neutral.  Cards are not doubled-up or stronger. Think about it logically. It just means no outside influence. If they are stronger, then all the other cards must be weaker? Does that make sense? No.

The Cards are the Significators not the Chambers

The above examples illustrates the technique. However, it is vague because we need context. For this reason, the cartomante uses the chambers solely with key cards.

Quite a few Anglo-Saxon teachers advocate looking at the house rather than a card. Again, I am not too sure I agree. Cards, not chambers, act as significators. So I would look to the card.

If you are interested in a pet, you thus look for the Dog card. You do not look at what card is in the Dog’s chamber. Similarly, if you want to know about a child you go to the Child card. If it is in the chamber of the Stars and the Stars have fallen in Heart’s position, you do not need to consider the Child’s chamber itself.

For example, my oldest friend moved to Costa Rica in September for his partner’s work. I had not heard from him in over a week and dealt a Grand Tableau. On looking for the Lord card, I found it in the Park’s chamber. The Garden was in the Boat’s room. It was clear Luke was okay, busy settling into his new surroundings. I did not look at the card in the Lord’s house – it is irrelevant.

On further examination, the Dog, me in this instance, was in its chamber. I was in Luke’s horizon (the Lord looks left). The Letter, the card of communication that is not face-to-face, was in the Key’s position, which I found in the room of the Paths. Both the Lord and the Dog knight to it (knighting tells us about what happens next, around the corner).

Two days later, Luke tried calling me twice – but I missed his calls!

Selective Usage and Conflating Techniques

Cartomantes must develop the skill of needs identification. With 36 cards on the tableau, it is tempting to throw everything at the cards: chambers, mirroring, knighting, counting, and so on. If you do everything, you are bound to hit on something, et cetera. But that’s not true. You are more likely to miss something.

An experienced cartomante knows that each technique is different and thus yields different information. Consequently, as you study the chambers, you are also learning to identify situations when you need the information they provide.  You will do the same as you study counting, knighting, et cetera.

Similarly, you must learn not to conflate the chambers with proximity, counting, narrative and specification, et cetera. For example, a female seeker asks about her pet dog. The Dog falls in the chamber of the Lady. The Lady dwells in the Cavalier’s room. The Dog is not near to Lady, as proximity is measured through the cards as dealt. Similarly, combination by chamber, is not the same as specification.

Chambers in Practice

Éloide is a student in my one-to-one mentoring programmes. Graduating from my Tarot de Marseille courses, she is now undertaking the third Lenormand Oracle programme. Since 2018, chambers have not been taught until this intermediate level curriculum.

It was Éloide who pushed for this article, and she has kindly permitted me to use her GT. The question centred on whether Éloide’s female friend’s relationship was over. We will use an abbreviated version of the quick question GT technique taught to all my students:

a) identify the topic’s significator and its position;
b) look at its chamber and the chamber’s owner;
c) read the main lines with an emphasis on the future;
d) count to the ninth and thirteen cards for a final summing up.

The card’s as they fell:

The significator for the relationship is the Ring. It is in the chamber of the Key, who we find in the Lord’s room. The relationship’s future rests in the hand of the friend’s partner. Currently, his focus is on the Serpent.

Let us look at the present line. It’s a destructive relationship marked with clear betrayal (two aces and two kings). If we look at the Ring’s future line, we reach a deadlock which puts the Lord and Lady in a different direction.

Counting from the Ring card, the ninth and thirteenth cards are the Lily and the Boat cards, respectively. We read these three cards as a final summing up. Distance proves soothing. So, both seem happier apart.

As you can see, it is quite easy to answer questions very quickly.

If we look at little further, the first three-cards indicate a painful chapter closes. The four corner cards, which act as demarcation points, tell us a mighty confrontation precipitated the separation. The heart of the tableau describes the arrival of upset through the Lord’s entourage.

For the Lady, its a painful and lonely time, but this will not last (main line). There are two sixes and two aces in the first row, reiterating the betrayal.

It is not relevant, but the Lady occupies the Boat’s chamber who sails in the Flowers’ room. There is an agreement to part.

Éloide said that the Lord had left the Lady for someone else. At the time of writing (30 November), no reconciliation had occurred.

So, there you have my take on the houses. I hope it proves helpful.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020

Featured Image, La Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Sandro Senn [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Cards, le Jeu Lenormand © Carta Mundi and Brepols Lenormand © abCartomancy

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Seven Days with the Dog of Spades

Tirage du Chien de Pique is a straightforward and popular draw from French cartomancy[1]. In addition to the week-ahead, it can be used as an ‘opening reading’ with a client or for the month-ahead draws. The title refers to the dog, once commonly depicted on the old valet de pique cards:

Traditionally performed with a stripped Bésigue pack, we will use Colette Silvestre’s variation described in Le Petit Lenormand.

We utilise the appropriate significator (the Lord or the Lady) and four master cards: the House, the Hound, the Bear, and the Child (chien de pique). These four cards describe one’s homelife, social life, activity and career, and a surprise, respectively.

The draw is done as follows:

1) After shuffling and cutting[2], begin dealing the cards in twos, e.g. the Boat and the Sun, the Cavalier and the Moon, the House and the Stars, et cetera. You are looking for a pair containing either a significator or master card. So, of the three pairs mentioned above, you would retain the House and the Stars.

The cards you discount must be kept in order – I suggest putting them in a little pile – you will use them later on.

Continue drawing until the consultant’s card and the four master cards are arranged in front of you.

2) Once you’ve gone through the deck, you will have something that looks like this:

From time to time, you will get two master cards pulled together e.g. the House and the Bear, or the Significator and the Child, et cetera. These should be placed on the table, but you will not interpret them[3].

3) Now the cards are laid before you, you begin the reading. The master card provides the context, and the card it is paired with describes an event or occurrence. For example, the Hound with Boat is a trip with a friend(s).

You can develop the reading further should you desire. It can be useful if two master cards are paired. However, it is not always necessary.

Should you desire to progress the reading further, take up the discarded cards. Do not reshuffle them. Fan them out and draw one card for each master card and the significator card.

You will end up something that looks like this:

Ordinarily, one does not indulge in either daily or weekly draws. If I read for myself, it is with a specific question or aim. However, having no example to hand, the present author spread the cards on Sunday (October 20) to see what the week would bring.

The cards as they fell:

I always start with the significator and then read the left and then right pairings.

  • Lilies – Lord say that one will feel quite calm and collected.
  • FlowersHouse show a focus on domestic furnishing.
  • HoundRing reveal an agreement with a friend or relative will be made.
  • ChildBoat show sudden travel.
  • MoonBear indicate working late and busy evenings.

As you can see, the reading is somewhat prosaic and general. I then fanned the remaining cards and drew one for each master card.

The cards as they fell:

  • Lilies – Lord + Stars show better focus and also sleep (Lily – Stars = sleep hygiene).
  • FlowersHouse + Birch Rod a clear-out.
  • HoundRing + Fishes a financial agreement with a friend.
  • ChildBoat + Cloverleaf sudden excursion.
  • MoonBear + Book evening studying.

That is it. The second card just adds more specification to the first reading.

These were drawn for the week commencing October 20. My sleep pattern had been erratic but settled that week. I did have several busy evenings, with seven horary consultations, and I also finished reading Dr Dykes’ new translation of Abu Maʿshar On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities. I also registered to start learning Arabic next year. The Ring – Fishes transpired as paying for a friend’s lunch, as his card was declined. I cleared out some more of my father’s boxes (Bouquet – House – Birch Rod) and had to take a train to Leicester, at short notice, for work (Child with Boat + Cloverleaf).

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020

Images:

Cards: Le Jeu Lenormand © Carta Mundi

Notes:

[1]The draw is most commonly done with 32 cards: King, Queen, Valet, 10, 9, 8, 7 and the Aces. The master cards are the Ace of Hearts (the home), the 7 of Clubs (thoughts), the 9 of Clubs (work), and the Valet of Spades (surprise). The consultant card will be either a King or Queen (for those aged 25+) or a Valet. It is often limited to just Hearts (fair) and Clubs (dark).
[2] I do not like to tell students how to shuffle, cut, or draw. The traditional instructions for this spread advocate drawing from the top, to preserve the order of cards in case you need to fan the deck out. When doing this spread – as well as the GT and Grand Jeu du Destin – I deal from the top. Otherwise, I prefer to draw from a fan. Please do whatever you feel comfortable. Following someone else’s rituals etc. will hinder you rather than help you.
[3] On such an occasions, it often indicates those two areas engage or are not particularly active.