The Petit Lenormand – to the best of our knowledge in 2020 – started life as a game called Das Spiel der Hoffnung, or The Game of Hope, invented by Johann Kaspar Hechtel. It was first published sometime between 1798 and 1801. In his instructions, Hechtel noted that the cards could be used not only for the board game he designed but also as an ordinary playing card pack, most likely to play Schafkopf (a German game) or Jass (a Swiss game) or to tell fortunes.
It has been suggested that Hechtel’s reference to fortune-telling refers to the board game itself. Some have thus cast the Das Spiel der Hoffnung along the lines of Gyan Chauper. However, this itself is unlikely. The reference almost certainly implies that the cards could be utilised in the common parlour tradition that utilised standard playing cards.
The Das Spiel der Hoffnung’s Four Deuces/Aces
Hetchel included on his cards the two most common variations of suits found in what is now modern-day Germany, Hungary and Austria: Old Bavarian and Alsatian. The former is more common in south-eastern Germany, Austria, Hungary and parts of Eastern Europe. The Alsatian suits were common in West Germany, parts of Switzerland and the Alsace region of France and looked identical to French suits.
Modern Schafkopf’s Deuces
Bavarian, or Alemannic, playing cards have suits commonly called hearts, bells, leaves and acorns. These correspond to the suits of hearts (hearts), diamonds (bells), spades (leaves) and clubs (acorns) in Anglo-French and Alsatian packs. In Alemannic cards, rather than queens or knaves, there are over- and under-knaves, respectively.
The Magyar Kártya’s Deuces
The above cards are a Hungarian variant. The four deuces show the associated season: Hearts with Spring, Bells with Summer, Leaves with Autumn, and Acorns with Winter.
The above is an important fact. The Petit Lenormand is a Germanic example of the Italian Sibillas cards, the pictorial playing cards.
Are the Suits Contradictory?
Contradicting what? What are we comparing them to? The Petit Lenormand accords and is consistent with the broad associations utilised with the Central European pattern descended from the Old Bavarian cards. If one divides the thirty-six cards into the suits, this becomes even more evident. It is certainly not random. There is no contradiction.
However, even outside of the Germanic sources, we can find congruence. For example, Etteilla titled the Ace of Hearts and Spades as Mars and Venus, respectively. Minetta refers to the 10 of Spades as voyages. Both the 9 and 10 of Clubs are often associated with our profession.
Mary Marco and Jeanine Goffinet, Colette Silvestre, Alexandra Weng and Marie Delcos all reference and use the associated playing card in some way.
Does the Playing Cards Change Meanings?
The individual meanings of the Petit Lenormand cards are encoded within their iconography. The Ace of Diamonds is the Sun, and that is its definition. However, it is part of the Diamonds’ suit. All of the Diamonds cards share values that can be used to track condition and atmosphere. You can also note combinations by numbers (two tens, three queens, et cetera).
All of the Kings, Queens, and Valets can be people. We can also use their regards. All of these are tools in the diviners’ repertoire.
Do I Have to Use Them?
No. But do not discount them as irrelevant.
When I began studying the Petit Lenormand, I seldom noted the suits beyond regards. Later I acquired the French text Petit Lenormand: Méthode de cartomancie, which organises the cards by rank. Marco and Goffinet also utilise the playing cards in a draw known as le grand jeu du destin, a spread I utilised a lot throughout my teens and twenties.
During my twenties, I furthered my studies under a French reader. I began noting the combinations by numbers. Over time, I learned more about the Bavarian and Alsatian patterns and noted ratios in smaller tirages, such as 3 x 3 and Pyramids. The ratio of suits and their clusters consistently alert me nuances that tighten the readings and add details.
But one is not obliged to use them. There are no cartomancy police. As I say to students, keep an open mind.
With that caveat, we will now consider each suit briefly.
The Suit of Hearts:
Other names: Herz or Rot (Red).
The nine Hearts’ cards are the Lord (Ace), the House (King), the Stork (Queen), the Heart (Valet), the Hound (10), the Cavalier (9), the Moon (8), the Tree (7), and the Stars (6).
Hearts are often also the ‘key’ suit in that all the Hearts cards deal with the querent’s domestic affairs, family and relationships, day-to-day life and circumstances as well as our surroundings. If they predominate in a reading, the events are closer to home and will felt more keenly.
The Heart suit contains the male significator. For this reason, I associate it with the paternal side of the family. For a female client, it can indicate her partner’s family. Spring is the season associated with the Hearts’ cards.
The Suit of Diamonds:
Other names: Schelle or Gelborange (Yellow Orange).
The nine Diamonds’ cards are the Sun (Ace), the Fishes (King), the Road (Queen), the Scythe (Valet), the Book (10), the Coffin (9), the Key (8), the Birds (7), and the Cloverleaf (6).
There is a mercurial flavour to Diamonds. Some bring gains and other losses. It is thus the suit of capricious fortune. Whenever they predominate you need your wits about you.
Diamonds are generally held to be the suit of summer.
The Suit of Spades:
Other names: Blatt and Grün (Green).
The nine Spades’ cards are the Lady (Ace), the Lilies (King), the Flowers (Queen), the Child (Valet), the Boat (10), the Anchor (9), the Park (8), the Letter (7), and the High Tower (6).
Spades connect to the more expansive areas of life, such as travel and socialising and agreements that help life to flow easily. If Spades are the dominant suit in a reading, there are often other people involved and communication is vital.
As the suit is associated with the Lady I associate it with the maternal side of the family, or the in-laws for a male client. Spades are autumn.
The Suit of Clubs:
Other names: Eichel or Schwarz (Black).
The nine Clubs’ cards are the Ring (Ace), the Clouds (King), the Serpent (Queen), the Birch Rod (Valet), the Bear (10), Renard (9), the Mountain (8), the Mice (7), and the Cross (6).
Clubs is the suit of toil, demands and effort, and one can become easily taxed from such an environment. Circumstances are seldom pleasant. If they form the majority of cards in the reading, you know that success will rest on dint of effort.
Winter is the season associated with the Clubs’ cards.
The Petit Lenormand © abCartomancy 2010 – 2020