The following is a guest post; Chelsea is 27, and a professional tarot reader from Southern California. You can find out more about her at her website; Pigeon Sauvage Tarot.
I love Tarot. Since I write about it, run an online community about it, and devote most of my social media and any spare cash to it, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I really love tarot. I have been reading since I was a youngster, and I can say without a doubt that tarot has shaped who I am, simply because I have been using tarot for most of my life. There are lots of things I love about tarot, such as the complexity and the fact that holding a deck of tarot cards really is like holding a small, yet complete world in your hand.
For years, I only read using tarot. Sure, I picked up the odd oracle deck here and there, and as much as I liked them, I would almost always use them as an added element to a tarot reading. Tarot was the cake, the filling, and the frosting- and then there was an oracle card acting as the decorative sprinkles.
Then I found myself in a position where I needed to give succinct readings that got to the point quickly. I could get the answers with tarot, but any tarot enthusiast will tell you that more experience leads to longer and more complex readings, not shorter ones! The more you know about tarot, the more layers of nuance you will see in the cards.
That’s when I turned an eye to Lenormand, a system which contains thirty-six cards with names of commonplace items, although they are based on playing cards. It was very quick to learn and I found that I really loved using the system. Where tarot is tons of symbolism and hidden meanings, Lenormand is fast and blunt- after all, the only symbol on a Lenormand card that really matters is the one which tells you its name!
It might sound like Lenormand is the exact opposite of tarot which is mostly true. The main difference between the two is that you will never draw a single Lenormand card- you need at least two in order to read them. This is because Lenormand is read by seeing how the cards near each other relate to one another. If you draw Garden (social situations) and Dog (loyal friend), you can expect a gathering with your closest friends. But if you draw Garden and Mountain (obstacles), you might want to prepare yourself for a rough night! You can add further cards to clarify and give context, and you can place up to five of these in a line. Where the cards fall in the line makes a difference, as how near or far any two cards are from each other will tell you how much they influence each other.
This brings us to the next major difference between tarot and Lenormand- which spreads you use for each one. There are tons of tarot spreads, and you can find one for any topic, using as many cards as you like. Each position in the spread will have a meaning assigned to it- this one means “the situation”, that one means “what to do about it”, and so on. This may rattle your tarot reading mind, but… Lenormand spreads are determined almost entirely by how many cards you want to use. That’s right. They have no names. The positions do not each have a special significance. They are laid out in a gridlike pattern. The reason for all of this is really simple- the way you read a Lenormand spread is by seeing how the cards relate to one another and where they fall. A card placed above another will have a different meaning than the same card falling underneath it. A card touching another card will have a different influence on each other than the same cards spaced further apart. When you lay out a nine card grid, you are actually reading several three card spreads- three horizontal, three vertical, and two diagonal. But you can also look at any two cards to see where they fall and how they relate to each other. It’s a pattern of reading that is both much more simple (no spreads to remember!) and much more complex (all the positions to keep in mind!) than tarot.
I mentioned earlier that the only relevant symbol on a Lenormand card is the one which gives that card a name. This is another big difference between tarot and Lenormand. Whether or not a tarot deck works for you is often decided by how well the symbolism used resonates with you. Ultimately, a tarot deck is a tarot deck because of the symbolism that the creator used to represent each part of that seventy-eight card system, and you might find that a card in one deck gives you a very different impression than the same card in another deck. Symbolism in Lenormand is very different. Some readers will read using directionality- as in, where a figure faces or which side of the card is shadowy or sunny will impact the interpretations- but this is optional. While many decks are beautifully detailed and fully illustrated, the full image isn’t so important, as every single card means the exact same thing in every deck. As long as Clover has a clover on it, it’s fine. The grassy field or blank space behind that clover don’t mean anything. This can make choosing a deck easier, because your only concern is that you like the art and the relevant symbols are easily identified. However, you don’t get much help from the cards when you read, so part of learning Lenormand is memorizing what the cards mean.
The last major difference that I will touch on is how you learn and memorize each system. Most of us don’t want to learn tarot the way one would memorize flash cards, both because you would be losing out on the symbolism and because that would be a lot of flash cards to memorize. Over time, you will learn what each card means, but usually you’ll be learning how to read the symbolism and naturally have each card committed to memory. In my experience, Lenormand is the opposite. You might need to intentionally memorize that Fox can be either an enemy or a job, because the only symbol on the card is a fox. Intentional memorization is less of an issue with Lenormand because the symbolism isn’t there for you to miss out on, and because there are only thirty-six cards. It’s more like learning the parts of a sentence in order to make up a message than learning the complexities that can describe the entire world.
There are plenty of reasons to love Lenormand. I like that answers are quick and can be blunt. I also like that it’s easy to get specific details, and that yes-or-no questions are easy to answer. Probably the thing that I love most is that Lenormand tends to focus on the everyday and on how events will affect the querent in a practical sense. Tarot is my first love, but I can’t imagine ever giving up my Lenormand decks.
Chelsea is 27, and a professional tarot reader from Southern California. You can find out more about her at her website; Pigeon Sauvage Tarot.