What is the Petit Lenormand?

The Petit Lenormand is a term applied to both a set of cards and a method of divination common to Central and Eastern Europe. It is closely related to the nineteenth-century parlour oracles, which include pictorial playing cards (e.g. Sibillas). Each card contains a small picture that is representative of the card’s meaning.

Jeu Lenormand © Carta Mundi (Brepols)

How Many Cards?

A true le petit jeu Lenormand contains thirty-six cards.  Some newer Lenormand Oracles include additional and/or substitute cards, which can cause some confusion.

Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards © Zao-Gelli (Blaue Eule)

You never need two Gentleman and/or two Lady cards in readings.   If you choose to work with a set that contains extra cards, put the extra cards aside when commencing your studies.

Thirty-Six Pictures

It is best to ensure that your deck contains the traditional thirty-six images.  During its long history, numerous Lenormand Oracle decks have been published.  Each one was different; some are intricate and others stark, some have verses and others had sigils

Lenormand Orakelkarten mit Kartenabbildungen © Königsfurt-Urania (Dondorf)

Despite their aesthetics, the cards always retain some uniformity in their explicit depiction of the following thirty-six pictures:

  • 01.  The Cavalier or Horseman.  The Cavalier’s emblem is that of a young, dapper and virile man riding astride a stallion on the road.
  • 02.  The Cloverleaf.  Sometimes, decks show the flowering clover plant in full, but more simple decks normally portray the easily recognisable four-leafed clover symbol.
  • 03.  The Boat.  Normally, the emblem is portrayed as an old-fashioned ship with all its sails open as it rides the ocean to a location unseen.
  • 04.  The House.  The Lenormand emblem is a maison de maître set within a well-kept garden full of beautiful flowers and trees in full bloom.
  • 05.  The Tree.  A majority of Lenormand decks show an old, tall tree in bloom, either in a field or by a pathway.
  • 06.  The Clouds.  Thick, dense clouds are the most common depiction of this card’s emblem. Normally, one side will be shown as much darker than the other.
  • 07.  The Serpent.  Depending on the deck, the Serpent can be shown coiled around a tree stump or poised to attack like a viper.
  • 08.  The Coffin.  Usually, we see a coffin, sometimes on a bier (blaue eule) or partially covered with a pall (Brepols, Dondorf).
  • 09.  The Flowers. Our most common representation of this emblem is a simple small bouquet or vase of various bright coloured flowers
  • 10.  The Scythe.  On this card, we normally see a traditional scythe with its sharpened blade and handle.
  • 11.  The Birch Rod or Broom.  Most readers call this card the Whip, but what is shown is seldom a bullwhip or cat-o-nine tail, but as a bundle of birch rod (a bundle of birch twigs), historically used to beat children or for judicial punishment. You also see a besom.
  • 12.  The Birds or Owls.  On this card, we normally see two small birds, either nesting or sitting in a tree.  Sometimes we see two owls in a tree on what appears to be a foggy night.
  • 13.  The Child. Normally, the Child card’s emblem is a small, prepubescent girl, or occasionally a boy. The child can be shown holding a posy or playing with a toy.
  • 14.  The Fox.  Usually, the Fox emblem shows a lone, predatory fox that sometimes has a fowl in its mouth or appears set to pounce.
  • 15.  The Bear.  Most decks show one large Eurasian brown bear, now most commonly found in Eastern Europe but previously common in parts of Germany, where the oracle appeared.
  • 16.  The Stars. The traditional emblem for this card is a clear night sky full of several twinkling stars. Below, there is sometimes a landscape scene.
  • 17.  The Stork.  Lenormand cards show the European migratory white stork species. Some packs’ emblem is one stork standing in water, its leg poised to move, while others show two – one in flight and one nesting.
  • 18.  The Hound.  Most decks show the dog in its master’s garden either standing or lying in front of a kennel with its ears piqued, ready to warn or greet you. A working guard dog!
  • 19.  The High Tower.  Normally, on this card we see the emblem of an imposing tower-house from which people would have looked out and surveyed their surroundings.
  • 20.  The Park. Predominantly, this card’s emblem is a beautiful, serene garden with flowerbeds, trees, and a fountain laid out in the French style.
  • 21.  The Mountain.  Most Lenormand packs depict the Mountain card using a high and rocky peak or a distant mountain in a wintery landscape.
  • 22.  The Road or Ways.  A crossroads, often with no signpost or indication of destination, is the most common depiction of this card’s emblem. Depending on the individual deck, the emblem can show green pastures in the distance and two or three intersecting paths.
  • 23.  The Mice or Rat.  A majority of decks show at least two small mice around food – such as cheese or bread – which they are quickly devouring while the house owner is away. Occasionally, a rat replaces the mice.
  • 24.  The Heart.  In most decks, the emblem is an ideographic heart sometimes surrounded by roses and stems which often have at least one ominous thorn.
  • 25.  The Ring.  Most Lenormand decks show a simple but elegant woman’s engagement ring with a precious stone or two.
  • 26.  The Book.  Normally, we see this card’s emblem as either a closed or open leather-bound book or grimoire sitting on a table.
  • 27.  The Letter.  Most Lenormand decks portray the Letter as an unopened envelope or sometimes as a calling card or small note on a message tray.
  • 28.  The Gentleman or Man.  On the card, the Gentleman is typically shown as a tall and well-dressed man in the prime of his life viewed in profile.
  • 29.  The Lady or Woman.  On this card, we always see a female figure. She is normally youthful, well-dressed, elegant and shown in profile.
  • 30.  The Lilies.  Most Petit Lenormand decks show a branch or bouquet of several Madonna lilies.
  • 31.  The Sun.  On this card, we see a brilliant, vibrant sun shining in the sky. Sometimes, there are a few clouds or hints of the preceding night, which the sun’s rays seem to vanquish.
  • 32.  The Moon.  Predominately, the Moon card is shown as a peaceful landscape, normally at dusk, which is dominated by a crescent, waxing moon.
  • 33.  The Key.  Our most common representation for this card is a simple, old-fashioned key. Often it has a large bit section.
  • 34.  The Fishes.  Two or more fish swimming in the clear blue ocean is the most common representation of this card’s emblem. Sometimes we might see a ship in the distance.
  • 35.  The Anchor.  Normally, we see this emblem portrayed as a ship’s anchor, which can be seen lying on the shore.
  • 36.  The Cross.  The emblem of the Cross is either a cross or (in Catholic countries) a crucifix, normally in gold, and well carved.

If your Lenormand deck contains all the cards as mentioned above, you have a true le petit jeu Lenormand!  Should you have some extra cards, put these to one side.  When you’re more confident, you can incorporate these cards into your studies if you so desire.

The Eikṓns:

The thirty-six pictures can be seen as eikṓns, which comes from the Greek for resemblance or image. Each picture is representative of the cards’ meanings, which draws extensively from behaviour, function and folklore. You should not be surprised that the Cross is associated with pain and also religion. That the Park is a social card will be no surprise. We have all heard the tale of the Farmer and the Viper and the Frog King. Chances are you will know something of Reynard the Fox, too.

Some artists have also chosen to replace or substitute individual cards which can complicate matters.  Changing the eikṓns changes the cards’ meanings – a cat is not a working dog (card 18), and skyscraper is no tower-house or sentinel (card 19). 

These things should also be considered. Encoded within the cards are numerous little details (meanings). For example, the Anchor is associated with beaches and ports. It is traditionally shown on a beach. The Cavalier is athletic and well-dressed, which comes from his iconography.

The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020.

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