The Bear: Mummy or Daddy Bear?

Long-term readers will know that I acknowledge animals’ behaviour and predation in readings. In 2010, the second article I published concerned the Mice and rodents’ behaviour as vermin and as foodstuffs for reptiles. I returned to this topic, here. Most recently, we have considered avian communication and the Birds’ card.

Over time, some have questioned such considerations ‘orthodoxy.’ Indeed, one will not find mention of Serpent’s penchant for rodents in the Philippe Lenormand sheet. Neither will one find a reference to work-cards… In contrast, one needs only to observe the natural law to discover that Ciconiiformes eat Serpentes, who in turn feast on rodents, et cetera.

Nature is the oldest oracle.

Such observations are, in fact, no different from the considerations that we use to progress cards’ “meanings.” We all know that letters facilitate private communication between two people who are not face-to-face. A telephone also facilitates such communication.

During a recent assignment, one of my students asked if we could discuss the Bear card. For some reason, the Bear card seems to confound readers (alongside the Lilies and the High Tower). It need not.

The Bear is no different from the other animal cards. We start on an essential level (“essence”), and then we consider the function or behaviour in context (“progressed meaning”).

Eurasian Bears: Sow and Cub.

A bear is a large, wild and predatory animal noted for their strength and muscle. Contrary to fiction, bears are not territorial; areas are shared, but with respect to personal space and hierarchies. Bears are intelligent, curious but also habituates. Cubs are reared by their mothers, with no involvement of the father.

None of the common associations is sin qua non with a bear. Consequently, the Bear does not ‘mean’ one’s salary, lifestyle, or petty bureaucracy.

Like the other animal cards, the Bear often expresses an action or manner. Paired with social cards, it can thus be read a person. Otherwise, the Bear’s essence is determined by the appropriate context.

If one enquires about finances, we can turn our attention to savings and insurances. During winter, bears metabolise fat to protect muscle by converting it to proteins. Such behaviour can be interpreted, functionally, as analogous to your savings’ account, work pensions, or life/health-insurances – there is little connection to incomings-and-outgoings.

Health-wise, as bears are hairy, we can see connections to hirsutism, alopecia, and the stomach itself. Lipoedema, which causes column-like legs, and “megaly” (cardiomegaly, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly) can also be applied.

The student in question was concerned with gender. Is the Bear male or female?

On Facebook, one remembers someone stating that she thought of men not women when she thought of bears. Fair enough; we all have different ideas. Personally, if I thinks of bears, I think of bears – neither men nor women come to mind. However, what such statements emphasise is the solipsism which permeates the present relativism of divination and interpretive arts.

The Bear card itself has no gender. If we use it as a significator we determine it based on function.

Again, we must consider context. Does the question centre on parents, and if so, does it determine that the Bear be read as a person? If it does, which parental role mirrors a bear’s behaviour?

Sow and Cub.

Cubs are raised by their mothers; remaining with the sow for around two years. Fathers are not involved. Within the hierarchy, adult males are dominant; other bears respect their space, increasing separation and isolation.

Consequently, for hands-on parenting, the Bear is more closely aligned to mothers. If we associate it with father, then it must be with absent/weekend fathers. Otherwise we are ignoring the bear. Times have changed; fathers are more involved; we have same-sex parents. However, mothers remain the primary caregiver in most situations.

Let us turn our attention to the reading that prompted this discussion. The draw is a traditional five card cross:

0 – The significator.
1 – The first card represents the consultant in relation to the question.
2 – The second card describes the influences that can help or hinder matters.
3 – The third card indicates the direction taken that initiates the outcome.
4 – The fourth card provides the answer and outcome.
5 – The fifth card is the synthesis and determines the quality of the answer.

The question concerned the student’s friend. Would the friend be able to secure financial assistance (in the form of a loan) from her mother?

The cards as they fell:

Straight away, I advised the student to review the question. It is both the context and draw that determines whether a card acts as a significator or not. In terms of question, it is unnecessary. Unlike the Opening of the Key, the Cross does not require the Bear to be read as a significator of the mother.

Positionally, the Bear comments on what will help or hinder. In this context, the mother’s position to provide such help. The Bear is not the mother.

On further questioning, the student wondered if the Bear could be a third-party. Again, such a perspective is not supported.

Let us consider the draw.

We can see that the friend is looking for a strategy to best approach her mother (Renard). The Bear, here, tells us that the mother is a strong financial position but will desire some security that the revenue will be returned. Bears are not altruistic. If we turn to the central column, careful consideration and examination of the books will be required (Gramarye), before any agreement is made (Flowers) with certain conditions set (Lily).

Our answer is yes, if the mother is sure she will get the money back.

As you can see, the cards responded clearly and directly. Imposing a gender (and identity) on the Bear card would have removed its directness. It is the Bear’s nature, not gender, which tells us whether it will help or hinder.

When we refer to the Bear as a person – be it mother or ex-husband – it is as a significator. It is a role the Bear performs in a specific predetermined context. It is a function, not a meaning.

Significators are cards that embody the essence of note in the reading. We select these based on a recognised congruity between the topic or person and the card. If you use the Bear as a significator, there should be a strong affinity, not just what you think of on a sociocultural level.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020


Featured Image: Dinkum [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D;
Bear and Sow: Public Domain.

Cards: Reading, Le Jeu Lenormand © Carta Mundi.


Some claim that Germans see the card as female, whereas the French favour a masculine interpretation. Such generalisations are nonsense. If we look at Uta Dittrich, Malkiel Dietrich, Harald Jösten, Mario dos Ventos and Iris Treppner we find no mention of women and the Bear. German sources seem to see the Bear more as an older person, boss or as man in love-readings. From the French-sources, there is no consistency, and most remain silent.


The Birds: All of a Flutter

Les oiseaux rapprochés: courtes difficultés. Oiseaux plus éloignés: bon voyage annoncé

Jeu Lenormand © Carta Mundi

Two turtle doves will show thee
Where my cold ashes lie
And sadly murmuring tell thee
How in tears I did die  

Dead Souls, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

In May 2016, I authored an article on the twelfth card of the Lenormand Oracle: the Birds. In that article, one considered the basis of the card’s association with moments of disquiet and commotion focusing on birds’ behaviour.

An ornithological interpretation is, however, unattractive to the dominant myopic and derivative perspective. Nevertheless, it cannot be underestimated that much of divination arises from observation of the natural world. If one considers the Serpent it becomes quite evident that the ‘traditional’ meanings derive from vipers’ venom.

Let us look again at the Birds card. What do we have? Usually, two birds of either the Columbidae or passerine classification.

What do we know of these? The latter has the most control over its syrinx that allows it to emit a broad range of vocalisations. Several passerines can divide their syrinx which enables them to issue two different callings (sometimes this is more perfunctory sounding) simultaneously. Neither Columbidae nor passerines are songbirds.

So, we have noisy birds.

Birds’ vocalisation represents an essential part of their behaviour. As they are territorial, birds use these vocalisations to claim and defend territory. Their duets identify friends, whereas birds will also vocalise alarms. Such alarms can be understood cross-classification and species – which encourages “group” singing.

Such communication is continuously in flux, unstable and nervous led. The vocalisation heightens in pitch and resonance becomes noisier. Subject to the relevant threat, birds will then exhibit defensive behaviour and then scatter or occasionally mob.

In a reading, the Birds mob our space and feathers become ruffled… There is an emphasis on noise; different people chirping in your ears. And then they scatter.

In terms of engagement, or near and far, the farther away the birds the less aware we are of their chatter. They have flown; perhaps you will, too.

The three cards below (the Garden, the Birds, and the Cloverleaf) are an excerpt from a reading using the astrological wheel. They were dealt in the tenth place, which governs our work-life and career.

In terms of employment, the three cards indicate that the department would undergo a brief period of tense discussions and changes. The Garden, in the tenth, shows the Lady’s department or place of employment. The Birds are the disturbance, which the Cloverleaf indicates relates to changes but is transitory and will last no more than a couple of months.

The client’s employers announced some changes, with some employees being transferred elsewhere. She, fortunately, was able to negotiate to remain in her current role. However, it was a tense period for everyone, with a lot of upsetting discussions which affected interpersonal relationships.

Consequently, one does not reject the common idea of Birds’ card and communication. It should be clear that the exact opposite is true. However, instead of focusing on the general idea of vocal communication, we appreciate the nature and function of that birds’ vocalisation and translate that too.

Such reflections should not be discounted. Especially for the reader tired of keywords. From the perspective of both essence and function, the divinatory dividend is far higher.

Let us consider two other contentious issues…

It is often contended that the Birds’ card is one of several ‘double’ or ‘two’ cards. Within the folklore of the cards, there are cards that are held to be quantitative – some by iconography, others by their numbers.

The Birds is of the former as often the card is illustrated with two birds. It is not, however, universal; there are Birds’ cards with a solitary passerine, and a few are illustrated with three or four. Thus, attention must be paid to the number of birds on the card. If there are three birds, you cannot ignore one and say ‘two.’ The quantification is a descriptive function provided by the ‘B’ card in an ‘A’ – ‘B’ pairing.

If the card does not show two birds, it cannot be a two. In addition, if the question does not support the need for quantification then the cartomante does not utilise such interpretations.

Below is an extract from a Grand Tableau. The Lady falls in the domicile of the Birds and the Lord in the house of the Stars. The chain – that is the three cards that fall between them – describe the relations or events occurring between the Lady and the Lord.

The Lady in question had enquired about a new relationship’s future. The chain – compromised of the Heart, the Birds, and the Key – tell us of that both parties have burgeoning feelings for each other. Here, the Birds’ quantify the Heart card with the Key opening-up their feelings.

Turtle Doves Scan by NYPL [Public domain]

It is precisely from the ‘two’ birds that one can see the two people, usually read as a couple or lovers in the appropriate context.

A typical illustration model is to show the two doves nesting or sitting in branches with a twig in their beaks. The so-called Leipzig Lenormand is illustrated with one bird and its two squabs. Thus, there is a reasonably prevalent stylistic emphasis on breeding birds.

We thus arrive at the basis of the association of the Birds’ card and pregnancy and Eastertide.

Below is a line of five, done for a friend of mine who was struggling to conceive. Her question was why she had thus far been unsuccessful.

The cards dealt was the Serpent, the Cloverleaf, the Fishes, the Birds, and the Mice. Here, the cards indicate that nutrients and vitamins were an issue. The Serpent is a viper, and with the Cloverleaf, indicate a deficit or imbalance of vitamins and minerals, which are reducing her fertility (shown by the Fish, the Birds, and the Mice).

Here, the Birds indicate the ability to conceive, which is taken by the Mice.


An association between the Stork card and gravidity has become de rigueur in Anglo-American rhetoric. Of course, such an association is easily explained through cultural traditions. Few, however, consider the difference between conception and delivery (the storks’ traditional role). Also, if one looks at the traditional examples, card 17 is rarely shown with nesting storks. The dominant motif being a wading, single stork.

Obviously, if the cartomante desires to associate birds or owls with telephones and the stork and pregnancy that is her right. It is, however, important that cartomantes take time to understand the nature of the emblems at an essential and functional level. Symbolic representation is vague and subjective because it relies on could-be. It is only through such periods of examination that the cards’ nature as eikons can be understood.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020


Featured Image, S. Rae from Scotland, UK [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D.
Cards, Daveluy Le Petit Jeu © A. Boroveshengra; Petit Jeu Lenormand Dondorf © A. Boroveshengra;
The Lenormand Oracle © Verlag fuer die Frau, Leipzig 1982; Jeu Lenormand © Cartamundi (1982).