Knowing That Looks Can Lie

These days, one does not entertain much interest in the social networks and communities. Earlier this month, however, there was an interesting discussion concerning the directionality of the cartomantic values of the Lenormand.

Although the use of direction in the Lenormand is a topic that arises episodically, few readers ever discuss the regards of the honneurs. Of course, the silence reflects the fact that little attention is given to the very personage of the queen of hearts (the Stork) or the king of diamonds (the Fishes), let alone their eyes. The taciturnity of our references, here, thus matches that of the paucity of sources on reading the four valets as people.

However, there is some folklore to be found. Interestingly, just as with the directional traditions, we find the susurration focused on the persons found in the least wholesome of our four suits: the king of clubs (the Clouds), the queen of clubs (the Serpent), and the knave of clubs (the Birch Rod).

The Clouds is a card that causes much confusion for readers. Unfortunately, we live in a time that struggles to understand the differences between object and function, and cause and symptom. This is evident in all practices of modern divination.

Although the Clouds can leave one ‘confused’ and uncertain these are symptoms of the card, rather than cause. Does one become confused each time a cloud is seen in the sky? No. The Clouds is a disturbance in the environment that engulfs and obfuscates situations, and people, that can and does result in serious implications. Thus, the card functions much like cumulonimbus storm cells and dense fogs.

From the earliest times, the absence of light or its causes (eclipses, et cetera) were malefic omens. In agricultural societies, the weather can be destructive – ruining harvests, flooding homes, destroying crops. Cards engulfed in the Clouds’ fog become tempestuous and difficult terrain. It is for this reason that certain cards that deal with direction and precision – the Road and the Stars  – suffer so. The Clouds is thus the Lenormand Oracle’s greater malefic.

Traditionally, one judges the severity of the Clouds from the placement of the dark and light side of the clouds. However, there are Lenormand Oracles where no clear differentia exists, such as the traditional Dondorf pattern, or the more recent Maybe Lenormand. How does one thus judge the card’s effect?

If one has the good fortune to be utilising a deck with the full playing-cards, the dark clouds can be ascertained from the regard of the king of clubs. Without clear differentiation, the direction he faces can be taken as the darkest side, or the eye of the storm.

Certain sources, usually Anglo-Saxon, report that the direction the king of clubs faces is the light-side. However, such reversals overlook the problematic nature of this figure and the power of the “gaze” (think of deochi and traditional aspect theories).

In the cartomantic tradition, the kreuz-könig is considered a man who is to be treated with extreme caution and a dishonest figure (as is his consort). He casts darks shadows wherever he encroaches. The German card-reader, Birgitt Kraheck-Liecke, described him as someone who does not put all his cards on the table, which echoes the Lenormand Oracle tradition.

In the pairing of the Clouds and the Tree, we can see serious health concerns resulting in a touch-and-go situation. The client will find herself undermined and a disquieting in her affairs.

Certain Lenormand Oracles have designs that contradict this simple rule, such as Piatnik’s Mlle Lenormand Wahrsagekarten. Sometimes this is because the publishers changed the designs of the playing-card inserts.  In these decks, the regard of the card cannot be taken as the indicator of the dark side (image here trumps folklore), but the gaze still reveals from where the storm blows or the king of clubs’s focus or domain if functioning as a person.

We now reach the above’s divisive consort, the queen of clubs (the Serpent).

Like the king the Serpent has suffered much from the stressing of a symptom over the cause. Whereas the former had an acute case of confusion, here we have complications. Again the card can cause complications but that is a side effect. There is also an unusual inclination to interpret the card as a constricting python, rather than a likelier bad-tempered vipera ursinii[1].

For some, the Serpent is the mother or another maternal figure in the querent’s life. Such association derives from the Germanic kreuz-queen who, although sometimes interpreted as an older female, is still primarily interpreted – vis-à-vis the suit – as a woman from whom little good can be expected from (Kraheck-Liecke, 2008[2]). Without the direct presence of herzkarten, she is never kin. Such maternal significations become arbitrary when we notice that Lenormand readers do not elevate the kreuz-könig to a similiar paternal figure.

Although meadow vipers are known to be bad-tempered and aggressive, with quite toxic venom, it cannot bite unless one is in close enough proximity for the Serpent to strike. The malefic attributes of this particular queen focus on situations with close emotional ties denoting some form of close presence. Therefore, this is a woman one does not want too close – serpent in bosom – but can be and is neutralised with distance.  Nevertheless we must never forget that the Serpent keeps her belly and ear to the ground and therefore is wise and intelligent.

It may be that the queen is better viewed as someone with whom one exercises caution but suspicion must be balanced with respect. In the game, the regard of the queen of clubs can be used to ascertain what she withholds from you. Thus, the card she turns from can be read as what she hides from you, or lies about.

Perhaps we see the queen of clubs combined with the Heart card. The queen deceives us about how she feels.

We could read this as loving another (the Serpent ‘has’ the heart), seduction and enticement (including adultery or seducing someone with no real feelings for gain), as well as trust/relationship problems in general. This harmful encounter brings the Serpent’s venom greater toxicity (in health it is sepsis) and although a classical adultery indicator it also warns of toxic love-affairs and dangerous partners.

Our king and queen’s offspring is a similarly troublesome card.

The knave of clubs (the Birch Rod) is a pugnacious figure but also a disciplinary one, associated with correction and lawsuits and thus well positioned in the game can prevent matters escalating into unmanageable conditions and hostility. He can also clear up affairs (besom). A less fortunate placed valet leaves one subject to scathing and hurtful slurs, violent outbursts and the general sense of feeling broken and beaten.

As such he has a dual nature: disciplinarian and aggressor. For fear of rubbing « la verge » up the wrong way, I will leave aside any potential phallic associations. Suffice it to say, there are readers who take this valet’s member very, very seriously.

Quite often the reader can pinpoint the cause of tension. If, however, there is doubt it is useful to consider the card the knave of clubs looks towards. This card can identify what will anger our bellicose knave.

For example, we find the Key to the left of the Knave of Clubs. Does he find a solution disagreeable?

Therein lies the regards of the court of the clubs. As you can see, the regards offered details that were also consistent with the order. Herein lies an important directional lesson that will be touched on in future articles.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020


Cards: Jeu Lenormand © Cartamundi (1982).

Title, taken from See All Her Faces by Dusty Springfield.  Featured Image, Hapsburg Peacock. 

[1] During the Eocene Epoch, pythons were native to South-eastern and Eastern Europe. Although certain Lenormand Oracles have represented the Elapidae classes, the typical design is closer to the meadow viper native to Central, South-eastern and Eastern Europe.

The emphasis on the card’s proximity to the significator – a method built around the concept of direct or indirect engagement – mirrors the logical inferences of these species of snakes.

Johann Kaspar Hechtel could indeed have known what a python was; however I am quite confident they were still extinct in Nuremberg in the eighteenth century.

[2]Kraheck-Liecke, B. (2008). Birgitt Kraheck-Liecke [online].

The Kinship of Suits

A 36-card Lenormand Oracle contains several different divisions and rankings:

  • A spectrum of positivity and negativity, which relates to facilitation and ease.
  • Classification as either a significator, carte maîtresse, or carte d’ambiance which determines a player, life area, and the atmosphere and circumstances.
  • Thematic fraternity which links cards through leitmotifs, such as the celestial cards and the communicational cards.
  • Whether the cards’ emblem shows an animal (agency), verdure (amelioration), object (whatchamacallit), environment (place).
  • Directional cards, such as the Coffin or the Mice cards, that have an added nuance or emphasis determined from their iconography.

As the reader progresses and gains experience, these different classifications and groupings take on greater importance. However, one of the most visible and most significant rankings is both presently underplayed and ignored. This downplaying contributes to a severe weakness in the cartomante’s utilisation of the Lenormand.

I am referring here to the couleurs, or suits[1].

Our Lenormand Oracle is comprised of thirty-six playing cards. It is important for the reader to recognise this classification. We are not with the Kipperkarten or l’oracle de la Triade classification of oracles. The Lenormand Oracle is of the same family as the le petit cartomancien or l’oracolo della Vera Sibilla.

The dominant Anglo-Saxon literature portrays the playing-cards as an arbitrary association, or distractive motif. However, this is not so. The Boat is the Ten of Spades, and the Ten of Hearts is the Dog. The two are one.

As such, the savvy reader recognises and remembers that there are four realms: clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. These are committed to the mind and are exploited.

Each realm contains nine cards: ace, king, queen, valet, ten, nine, eight, seven, and a six.

Cards within a realm share an affinity or kinship with each other.

The four aces each have dominion over their respective families. For example, the Sun card (Ace of Diamonds) is a yellow dwarf star and the gravitational centre of the solar system and provides food energy (photosynthesis), warmth, light and the precipitation needed for life. Thus, it is often held to be the luckiest card.

Similarly, if one considers the clubs, we see a domain of toil, effort, and pressure, that befits a family of the melancholic persuasion. The Ring (the Ace of Clubs) ties one to obligations, and where one is obligated, one expends energy. Plus, as the busy fortune-teller can attest, relationships are often hard work.It heads eight cards that bring riches and losses, answers and choices. In the Lenormand, this is the family of capricious fortune and one that requires a cool head and clear-sightedness.

To understand these relationships, the student is invited to put the four aces in front of them and deal the remaining eight cards around their chieftain.

Now we come to the two premier suits: the hearts and the spades. The two aces here are primary significators, the Lord and the Lady. Dependent upon their gender and providing that they are over the age of sixteen – in which case they take the valet of spades, regardless of gender – the client, or person of interest, will take one of the two aces for themselves.

We do not know where the Lenormand’s creator, Johann Kaspar Hechtel[2], took all his inspiration. It is common in Germanic practice to utilise the heart courts for both male and female clients. However, much like Etteilla, Hechtel associated hearts and spades with men and women, respectively.

Thus, in the Lenormand Oracle, a client becomes affiliated with one suit. Within the reading, this association can orient the game in several ways:

The spades and hearts suit are the maternal and paternal line of the client’s heritage. Such a division can determine the origin of a legacy and inheritance, or genetic disorders and inherited diseases. Such information is revealed by the encounter of the appropriate suit with the cards in question, e.g. the Lilies (King of Spades) found directly below the Tree (Seven of Hearts) is a maternal inclination.

Dependent upon context our two suits also denote consanguinity (the suit of the significator), or a relative by marriage (the suit of the partner). This can be useful in determining allegiance or hindrance (the clichéd madame Tremaine or Carabosse). It can also tell us about the birth-family, and the adoptive-family.

If the reader utilises cards with the appropriate full playing-cards, the regards of the kings and queens can show goodwill, or enmity.

To illustrate this concept, I present an extract of a client’s reading. It is the main past-line for a female querent, represented by the Lady.

We see, here, that the Flowers (Queen of Spades) and the Stork (Queen of Hearts) chain the Birch Rod (Knave of Clubs). Both Queens regard each other. Two women, one of the client’s house, are in conflict. The client turns away, putting the battle in her past.

The woman in question had become engaged to a man of different ethnicity and creed. Organising the wedding had resulted in considerable opposition between the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom. A solution had come via the petition of a third party, resulting in appeasement of sorts. Such action is seen quite clearly in the Key securing the Lilies.

The Lenormand has several layers of interpretation that are revealed through practice and explored by the attentive reader in their usage of the cards. Do not let your eyes deceive you, keep them on the pips. They are there for a reason. As any real diviner knows: nothing on the card is irrelevant.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020


Cards: Jeu Lenormand © Cartamundi (1982).

[1] It is not within the scope of this article to discuss the pictorial differences of the Germanic pattern and the French pattern, or the associations. I have therefore used the Anglo-terminology for the suits as a neutral term.

[2] Johann Kaspar Hechtel, creator of the Das Spiel der Hoffnung, motivations and inspirations are unknown. We have no primary sources from Hechtel and assertions that he adapted the so-called Coffee Cards are derived through similarity alone, and not historical fact. It is clear that he was aware of the suit associations; however, as these associations were primarily seasonal (ace of acorns is winter as still evidenced on Hungarian examples), we should exercise caution with attributing motivation.