How a Tarot Reader learned Lenormand

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.


Breaking the Tarot Rules

Anyone who has dipped their toes into the tarot waters is aware of the Do’s and Don’ts list that seems to pop up on almost every tarot website and blog. Many of these things are superstition (stealing a deck is a no-no, and will not make your readings more accurate!). Some are pulled from tradition (such as sleeping with your cards under your pillow), and some are based in common sense. Most of the latter are along the lines of “What you can, or can’t use tarot for.”

Let me be crystal clear- there aren’t rules in tarot, other than the ones you choose to follow. However, there are certain things that tarot is not usually considered “good at”, and in this article I will go over some of those things with you, as well as how to (gasp!) use tarot for those very things!

One of the first bits of advice given to a new querent is “Don’t ask a yes-or-no question.” This isn’t bad advice, because ultimately tarot is a system created to give nuanced and complex answers, and many layers of meaning do not necessarily tie themselves up into a simple “Yes!” or “No!” But sometimes… well, you really just want to know something on a yes-or-no scale. It is possible to use tarot in this way, but you’re going to have to look at it a little differently. You need to interpret for the yes or no. I would personally recommend going with a single card for this- remember, we want to remove complexity, not add more of it!

Let’s say our querent Holly wants to know if the passion-project small business she’s running will become her full-time job this year. We pull a single card- The Star. Yes. Or at the very least, Holly should be hopeful that sometime this year, her business will grow. You can also add a little more detail to this- possibly, her small business will become her full-time job after she has a setback with her current full-time job. The small business is her beacon of hope during a dark time.

The next thing that I have heard is that tarot should not be used for timing. And it’s true- there aren’t really “time” cards in the tarot. However, you can use tarot to establish an approximate timeline for when something is likely to happen. Personally, I tend to see Wands and Swords as “sooner” and Cups and Pentacles as “later”, but aside from that, you can still use any card in the deck to establish a timeline. For this I would also recommend starting with one card at a time and pulling clarifiers if needed, since you aren’t really looking for the card’s interpretive meaning. The goal is to find out what the card’s meaning says about timing.

Now, let’s return to Holly. She’s excited about her career prospects, but now she wants to know about her love life- so when is her boyfriend going to propose marriage? The card we pull is Temperance. I would say that this represents a period of time between seasons, such as when you can still feel winter in the air, but a few plants are beginning to bloom. To narrow it down, pull another card- Ace of Swords, which represents both duality and cutting away unnecessary things.

I would say that Holly should expect a proposal during the time when the leaves are almost completely off the trees and autumn is becoming winter. I based this on the idea that the “unnecessary” thing that is being cut away are the dead leaves falling from the trees. The duality represented by the Ace of Swords also reflects the duality in Temperance- the time we are looking at is at the middle point, in between two distinct seasons, which are blended and intertwined to create a unique period of time.

The last thing I will focus on is whether or not you can use tarot to ascertain specific details. Tarot often paints with broad brush strokes, and it’s up to the reader to figure out what is being said. I can pull the Two of Cups, Four of Wands, and The Lovers and figure out that there’s probably a marriage proposal in the querent’s future, but there is no “marriage” card in tarot. So can you get detailed answers from a tarot deck?

Personally, I believe you can, but it’s important to keep up a conversation between yourself and the querent (even if the querent is yourself). When you pull a card, think about what that card really signifies. Going back to Holly, she wants to know what her wedding dress will look like. We pull the Nine of Pentacles. How does the meaning of that card apply to a wedding dress?

I would say that this either means that this is a dress she will design (or have designed for her) or a dress that she’s worked really hard to be able to afford. And for more detail, I’ll pull another card- The Tower. This is usually seen as a negative card, but in this case, I think it refers more to the idea that the dress that Holly is currently envisioning won’t be the dress that she winds up falling totally in love with, so she should try on things she thinks she may not like!

It’s true that tarot has some limits, but I think that these tend to be overstated. I think that if you want to use tarot for things on the “Don’t” list, all you really need to do is shake up what you might expect out of tarot, look at tarot concepts a little sideways. The answers are all there for you.

Chelsea is 27, and a professional tarot reader from Southern California. You can find out more about her at her website; Pigeon Sauvage Tarot.


The Ethics of Tarot

It’s easy for a tarot reader to get so swept away with what they can see that they don’t stop to consider what they should see, and more importantly, what kind of information they should be sharing!

Ethical concerns in regards to tarot is a topic which comes up often, and most readers with even a little bit of experience will be able to tell you what they’re willing (or unwilling) to read for. Everyone will have a different code of ethics, and this article will focus on some of the more common moral questions, to help you design your own code of ethics.

Do you read for health questions?

Health questions aren’t the most common, but they do come up. You might get asked anything from “Am I pregnant?” to “What is this growth?” I don’t personally tell querents anything that a doctor should tell them.

Why? Because I am most emphatically not a doctor. If you don’t want me to decipher your medical charts, then you also shouldn’t want me consulting the cards to figure out what’s going on with your body. I recommend staying away from health questions, although some readers will tell someone that they see something health-related, and urge the querent to see a doctor.

Do you give financial advice?

Do you work in finance? If not, I would also recommend staying away from giving specific financial advice. The key word here is “specific”.

I won’t tell someone which stocks to buy, but I will tell them if they need to save money or if I’m seeing something about a career change. I will also tell them if I see a period of wealth or hardship, and I will also let them know if a career opportunity will be a good option for them.

Do you offer legal advice?

The same thing that I said about doctors and financial advisors also applies here. If you are not a lawyer, I recommend staying away from giving any legal advice. I will give insights into how the case may develop, or pull a few cards to see what impact the legal situation in question will have on the querent’s life.

The questions regarding health, financial, and legal advice can be pretty straightforward, ethically. My own rule of thumb is that if the question would usually require a professional in that particular field to answer, then it’s not my place to answer it.

This is for my protection as well as the querent’s- I don’t want to lead them down the wrong path because I didn’t understand what I was looking at, and I also do not want anyone to seek legal action against me because my misunderstanding had disastrous consequences for them.

Some readers will take these questions, and I would never say that they’re wrong for doing so- but it is an ethical concern that at some point, you’ll have to find a solution for. I don’t mind doing general readings for querents with these types of questions and giving them an opinion based on what I can see in the cards, to the best of my understanding.

This means that they don’t get a diagnosis of their illness, but it means that maybe I can tell them that yes, they should see that doctor, and here are the things they should keep in mind when they do.

It can be much harder to define boundaries when it comes to questions that might touch on a gray area. It’s impossible to completely see from someone else’s eyes, and there is always going to be context that you don’t know about when someone comes to you for guidance.

Are you willing to perform a third-party reading?

There are a ton of people who might approach you to ask about how their partner feels about them, what’s going on in their adult son/daughter’s life, or if their best friend has feelings for the same person they do.

How far are you willing to venture into someone else’s private business, when they haven’t consented to the reading? Some readers will dive right in, and some stay completely out of it. I am willing to read into someone else’s business to the extent that it will help my querent.

Finding out that your partner or your close friend are not who they say they are is helpful. Snooping into someone else’s private life just because it’s eating you up and you can snoop is definitely not helpful.

How will you handle readings for subjects that you personally disagree with?

If someone is cheating on their partner or is the affair partner for someone else, does that mean that you don’t want to read for their relationship question? What if they want a reading about a lie they’ve been telling to someone close to them? I’m willing to take these questions.

In no way do I condone dishonesty, but I do my best to set that aside and possibly try to help someone sort out a part of their life that isn’t going to plan. I’m honest about what the cards say, even if it’s not the advice that I would give based on my personal values.

Some readers may not want to take these kinds of questions, and that’s completely understandable.

Are you willing to read for illegal activities?

This is one of the few topics that I turn down flat. Yes, I know there are laws that are outdated, don’t make sense, or are unfair. I’m still not ever going to assist my querent in doing something illegal, because at the very least I don’t want to be complicit in illegal activity.

To me, the purpose of a reading is to help the querent make sense of their life and figure out how to improve their situation- encouraging them to break the law will not serve that purpose! Many readers will take questions about illegal activity, which is also a valid choice.

That being said, the same kind of legal problem that may come along with giving health/legal/financial advice can also come up when giving these types of readings.

How will you respond to querents intending to make unhealthy choices?

You can see in the cards that their partner is no good, that the dream they’re chasing won’t give them good results, or that they are way too dependant on their parents… but that’s not what they came to figure out.

You can tell them that the person they’ve fallen in love with is totally wrong for them, but they don’t really care about that– they just want to know when they’ll get married. Plenty of readers will choose not to continue the reading, or will refuse to answer the question. I think that’s fine- if you don’t want to give them bad advice, it can be best not to entertain questions about pursuing a path that won’t be healthy.

However, if you do wish to continue the reading, you may want to reiterate what the cards have shown you, and then approach the question. Saying something like “The cards show me that this is wrong for you because of these reasons, however, if you did want to follow this path, this is what will happen,” will still allow you to answer the question and state your concerns.

How do you approach readings for major life decisions?

Sometimes, you’ll be asked to advise on a choice that would completely alter someone’s life. This is a big responsibility, and it can (and should) feel like a heavy thing that’s being asked of you.

While I would never tell someone to do exactly what a tarot reader or psychic tells them to do without giving it quite a lot of consideration, the fact is that once you give someone advice, they can do whatever they want with it. It’s out there, and it can’t be taken back.

So how do you handle someone asking if they should get a divorce, or have a baby, or move to a different country with $40 and a dream? I don’t think that you need to turn down these questions.

Rather, I think you need to figure out how to approach the reading with respect and give the question appropriate consideration. If you can’t do that, it’s best to be honest. Tell them that there’s no way you can tell them whether or not to have a baby with just three cards and fifteen minutes, or that you need to have more context before you can do the reading.

The cards, the knowledge, and the intuition are only part of the tarot experience. It’s also incredibly important to make sure that you are giving readings that you feel proud of, and that you’re happy with the influence you have on the lives of your querents.

Chelsea is 27, and a professional tarot reader from Southern California. You can find out more about her at her website; Pigeon Sauvage Tarot.