Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Lives We Lived In Each Day

One from the vaults...

BELIEF in reincarnation and karma have become extremely popular in the West. Of course, the belief in karma and reincarnation are ancient; they have been part of the teachings of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism for over a millennia. Interest in the West is relatively new beginning with the rise of theosophy.

Since the late 1990s, readers have often been consulted about issues related to past lives, karma and incarnated purposes. Quite often, these seekers are looking for an explanation for problems that are firmly of this life. However, others have more interesting queries.

The cartomante was consulted by such a seeker in the summer. In her question, the client had explained that she had been involved in a whirlwind relationship. Within less than four months, they had become engaged and were living together. There were plans to start a family. Her friends and family felt it was all too soon. Our querent, however, said it was as if they had done it all before. Did she and her fiancé share a past connection?

Different opinions exist on reincarnation; various methods of analysis are also endorsed. On the subject itself, my own opinions are irrelevant. My preferred method is one outlined by Teresa Michelsen in Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads. Having worked with the spread over some time, one has observed that it often explains connections or trends – through the lens of reincarnation – in a manner that is intelligible and relatable. It does not, however, prove such links exist.

The Spread

To perform this reading, first remove the Fool card and then shuffle the remaining 77-cards. Once done, you deal nine-cards face down. The cartomante must now shuffle the Fool into these nine-cards and then deal them in a classical carré :

When the Fool card appears, the next card is dealt on it. Should the Fool appear last, one can (in my experience) be sure there is no such “connection.”

Cards 1 – 3 describe the present incarnation, with the first card being the circumstances of the end of this life. The remaining six cards are past incarnations with card nine being the oldest incarnation. The carré thus moves – left to right, top to bottom – backwards in time.

For this spread, one always utilises the Ancestral Path Tarot. Created by the extremely talented artist, Julie Cuccia-Watts, the lesser arcana is divided into the four continents: Africa, America, Asia and Europe. There is an inherent quality and balance that lends itself to such readings.

The Reading

The cards as they fell:

The Fool was the eighth card dealt indicating that the seeker and her fiancé had spent several lifetimes together. Cards to the Fool’s right can be ignored. We start with the card that covers the Fool then proceed upwards, moving right to the left.

The Fool/Ten of Staves: In the Ancestral Path, staves depict the continent of Africa, and we see, on this card, a mother with two children. In this lifetime, the seeker and fiancé share a parent-child bond and learned lessons connected to shared responsibility, support and the importance of family. It was not an easy life, but as it is upright, it is not one that necessarily proved difficult for the souls.

VI – The Lovers: Next, the souls incarnated as a couple. If we consider the card, there was a strong bond built on a foundation of mutual respect, understanding and love. As a trump, this is a life that proved significant in the souls’ development and a happy one.

X – The Wheel of Fortune: The Wheel of Fortune illustrates the zodiac and helical phases of the planets. Here, the souls incarnate together one more time. At this point, they have completed a specific series of lessons and move on to new a cycle.

Prince of Cups, reversed: In a more recent lifetime, the fiancé incarnates in Europe. He sets out on his quest with idealism and vigour. However, the lifetime proves challenging, and answers allude him, with the reversal pointing towards unresolved issues.

Queen of Sacred Circles: In contrast, the querent finds herself in the Americas, where she lived a long, happy life taking on the role of matriarch within her family. There was a relative comfort here with the soul finding the lifetime rewarding. Interestingly, within the Ancestral Path Tarot system, this is the card associated with the seeker’s current birthdate.

Three of Cups, reversed: We now enter the present lifetime. The card portrays Arthur, Gwenhwyfar, and Lancelot. It is clear that this is a moment of reconnection; however, the reversal shows that this was fuelled by a sense of being lost, being misunderstood and isolated or lonely.

Two of Cups: Looking at the cards, it is clear that this is the present moment. The seeker and her fiancé are drawn together due to their bond, with eyes only for each other. There is a mirroring between this card and the Lovers as the souls become lost in each other.

Ace of Cups, reversed: Aces in this system are the culmination points. Traditionally, this is the home. Reversed, it shows that the souls are unlikely to realise their lessons and places when the current incarnations close. It cannot be stressed this in itself does not necessarily occur to their reconnection; however, their current preoccupation with each other may be detracting from different areas of their development.

There we have the past life connection reading. Generally, one can use it as a springboard to probe more deeply into specific events and incarnations and their current effect on the present incarnation. Here, that would be the Wheel of Fortune; it being the cusp of one cycle and the next.

How one does this is dependent on the cartomante.

A Game of Fortunes © abCartomancy 2010 – 2021


Cards, Ancestral Path Tarot © Julie Cuccia-Watts, US Games, 1995.

Michelsen, T. (2003). Designing Your Own Tarot Spreads. 1st ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications.

Title, taken from BedShaped by Keane.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Picturebook of Fate: Fortune-Telling with the Petit Lenormand 101 Part 1

 IT is now over ten years since I first started writing about the Petit Lenormand.  Not that it was ever the intention or purpose of my then website.  Within a few months of launching my DarkMoon, questions about the 36-cards and how to read them equalled and sometimes surpassed reading requests. Some even booked GTs to see how they were done and read.  

So, I started writing a few short articles.  The first was on the Serpent and the Mice cards.  The second on trigger and heart (later changed to “hinge”) cards.  However, most subsequent articles focused on building combinations.   Most people (contacting me) knew the cards’ broadest significations but struggled to link them together in a coherent manner.  It was at that point I first utilised the noun and adjective/adverbs.

Within the context of card combinations, nouns and adjectives are just an analogy.  For me, it was never a rule or scheme followed indefinitely.  It simply illustrated how, in most pairings, the second card describes or modifies the first.  It also did not reflect how either I learned or read.  Like most, my apprenticeship centred on the classical full-board or grand tableau.  Cards were not understood through keywords but as events or happenings.  I still see the cards that way, which is the basis of the concept of “essence” or “topic.”     

As such, rather than having a student write three or four nouns and several adjectives, I recommend focusing on the essential nature of each picture in the game.  Students are encouraged to thoroughly inspect their deck’s iconography and thereby penetrate the essence.  If you know the core nature or topic of a card, you cannot go wrong (most of the time).  Besides, essence often helps one come to understand some of the folklore or more obscure associations – all of which come from the picture!  

That brings us to a common misunderstanding.  We often hear that the images in the Petit Lenormand have no value.  That is incorrect.    Each card’s signification comes from its emblem.  However, the Petit Lenormand emphasises the whole image over the symbol. You do not devote 300 words to the Boat’s sails.  The image, when read, can be likened to an eikṓn or logogram.  It, therefore, differs from the deconstructive method common to English-speaking diviners where, for example, a single detail on a card (snail, flag, etching on a goblet and so on) may be the focus rather than the image within which it is contained. 

It is an issue of emphasis.

Details do matter to the Petit Lenormand reader.  Directional clues (dark v. light, spine v. page, turret v. ground) add nuance.  Card no. 15, the Bear (10♣), can describe someone as strong or muscular and a brunette.  But if one is reading with the Schmid or Gilded Reverie, that would not be so.  Why? Polar bears are not brown.  The descriptive value thus changes to: strong or muscular and blonde.

Going further, replacing the child with a baby or cupid on card no. 13, the Child (Kn), would completely change the card’s signification.  The Child is not a neonate but a preadolescent.  The same with a dagger on the Birch Rod.

Images are therefore important.  Within them lies the cards’ essence and, therefore, signification.  If you are new to the method or struggling, it is often because you have not linked with a card’s (or several) core nature.  

For example, let us take the Moon card (8).  Often people approach this card as they do the Tarot’s XVIII atout.  The cards are entirely different.  Card no. 32 is the card of recognition and reputation.  

Why?  We have to remember what the Moon is. 

Our Moon is the Earth’s single natural satellite.  It has no light source and instead reflects the sun’s rays.  Being but a reflection, it cannot illuminate the heavens as does the sun.  Thus, as some points will be bathed in moonlight, others will remain cloaked in darkness. If one studies the iconography of traditional patterns — such as the Brepols, the Dondorf, the C.L. Wüst, the Blaue/Rote Eule and the Piatnik No. 19411 — we see a partially lit landscape.

Card no. 32 – the Moon (8)

All we have done is identified what it is, its function and its behaviour.  How does it work in a reading?

Traditionally, the Moon card falling near the Significator presaged great honour or fame.  The moonlight shines upon you, leaving the rest in the dark.  Far away, the opposite is true.  If we remember that the moonlight is a reflection of the sun’s rays, we can understand the card with little difficulty.  It is a shimmer of the Sun card as reflected in others’ eyes — hence the fame and honours.

Primarily, the Moon refers to our status, particularly in terms of professional or financial standing and whether we are deemed successful or not by society and our peers.  Most people achieve fame through their career.  If you are going for a job interview, a strong Moon-card is desirable. After all, you need to look good in the eyes of the interview panel!  Of course, it can be one’s set or the trends and fashions observed in other contexts.

Consequently, we can think of the Moon in terms of essence and topic, as reflection and status, respectively.

Let us consider a second picture.  In recent times card no. 19, the High Tower (6), has seen a significant revision of its core theme.  It is now a card of government bureaucracy.  And yet, a government is a group of people governing and hence a matter for the Park (often combined with the Bear).

One will note that the High Tower is traditionally portrayed as a tower-house.  It is often located at a boundary, crowned with a lookout. 

Card no. 19 – The High Tower (6) 

Perusing some of the traditional patterns, one will also note it is distinctly earlier period to the House (K) or Park (8) cards.  The overall impression is not one of the arrogant bureaucrats but the distance in terms of time (old), height (looking out) and location (at a distance).  

After such considerations, the old references to a long life and retirement does not look so archaic or strange.  It has continued to live in the deck’s roots and can be found in several combinations.  The “high” also translates into vertical combinations when considering the ground level (card below) versus the turret or apex (card above).  It is for that reason I continue to refer to it as the High Tower. 

Replacing the traditional tower-house with a skyscraper, or even the Empire State Building or la tour Effiel changes the card’s core essence and therefore meaning.  A citadel would also make the governmental associations even more erroneous.  

We will turn our attention now to card no. 18, the Hound (10).  Most readers see this card as the symbol of faithfulness par excellence. 

The traditional image of this card was never a lapdog or even the family pet.  Older Petit Lenormand decks had a working dog or sighthound (such as a Deutscher, Brittany Spaniel or Braque Saint-Germain).  The dog is seen outside with its kennel, sometimes looking up as if it had heard or sensed something.  It is, therefore, quite evident that this dog is not just a family pet.  It has a role and fulfils a service.  It is for this reason I prefer the title Hound

Card no. 18 – The Hound (10)

The essence of the Hound card is the entourage.  Entourage refers to people surrounding, but also attending to, a person.  It talks about the people in your environment.  Your doctor, plumber and colleagues will appear as the Hound.    

Long-term readers of my work will know I often read the Hound as a colleague, employee, or professional acquaintance.  It is a natural association – not least because I saw working-dogs growing up in a rural area!  

Similarly, next to the House card, it can indicate a neighbour or someone living nearby.  Why?  Remember the Hound has a doghouse in its owner’s garden.  It lives on the homestead.  Its kennel is analogous to our neighbours’ property.  

The loyalty of these people, friend or otherwise, can only be reckoned by the surrounding cards.

We can briefly consider a fourth and final card: card no. 1, the Cavalier (9).   

Our traditional image is a well-dressed young man in either a tailcoat or frockcoat with Hessian boots and pantaloons.  He is riding a horse.  He is often but not invariably shown on the road and riding away from a château or maison de maître, he thus en route.  

Card no. 1 – The Cavalier (9)

The Cavalier is a heard sent forth.  He is riding out and has a destination but will return soon return to his abode.  The most common reason for such action is to visit or deliver some tidings.  For this reason, I have never referred to the card as the rider as it does not evoke the function or nature of the eikon: that is, a messenger.  

Traditionally, the Cavalier was often said to denote news from abroad when falling far from the Significator.  When one remembers that proximity refers to engagement, it is not hard to understand. 

Far away, the Cavalier crosses a greater distance.  However, it is equally possible that the news does not pertain directly to the querent. 

We use the card as a “male person” because it shows a male person.  If the Cavalier is female, it cannot be read thus.  The male-figure can function as the chevalier servant.  If a married female consultant has a lover, the Cavalier would represent him. 

Similarly, its association with vehicles and exercise comes from the horse.  That was the car or bicycle of the day.  Equestrianism is a sport, no?  

These are all what I refer to as progressed meanings, which is progressing each card’s essential nature on a functional level.  That is, reading the card at the first indexical level of semiotics.  

That has been the way in all forms of cartomancy, from the Tarot to the Oracle Gé and everything in-between.  

When mentoring new readers, I encourage them to work with one or two decks.  I advise them to study the cards closely and distil the information into an essence or core concept.  That becomes there starting point for combinations, which we will discuss in the following article.  They will also become (if used) the houses’ significations in a full board.

Here is a basic list (given purely for reference for this series):

  • Card no. 01 – The Cavalier (9) is messenger.
  • Card no. 02 – The Cloverleaf (6) is chance.
  • Card no. 03 – The Boat (10) is travel.  
  • Card no. 04 – The House (K) is home. 
  • Card no. 05 – The Tree (7) is constitution.  
  • Card no. 06 – The Clouds (K♣) is disturbance.  
  • Card no. 07 – The Serpent (Q♣) is detour.
  • Card no. 08 – The Coffin (9) is endings.  
  • Card no. 09 – The Flowers (Q) is arrangements.
  • Card no. 10 – The Scythe (Kn) is severance.
  • Card no. 11 – The Birch Rod (Kn♣) is discipline
  • Card no. 12 – The Birds (7) is noise.
  • Card no. 13 – The Child (Kn) is youthfulness.  
  • Card no. 14 – The Fox (9♣) is falsehood.
  • Card no. 15 – The Bear (10♣) is power.  
  • Card no. 16 – The Stars (6) is navigation.
  • Card no. 17 – The Stork (Q) is change.
  • Card no. 18 – The Hound (10) is the entourage.  
  • Card no. 19 – The High Tower (6) is distance.
  • Card no. 20 – The Park (8) is community. 
  • Card no. 21 – The Mountain (8♣) is blockages.
  • Card no. 22 – The Road (Q) is intersections.
  • Card no. 23 – The Mice (7♣) is erosion. 
  • Card no. 24 – The Heart (Kn) is emotions.
  • Card no. 25 – The Ring (A♣) is unions.
  • Card no. 26 – The Book (10) is knowledge.
  • Card no. 27 – The Letter (7) is communication.
  • Card no. 28 – The Gentleman (A) is male. 
  • Card no. 29 – The Lady (A) is female.
  • Card no. 30 – The Lilies (K) is family. 
  • Card no. 31 – The Sun (A) is illumination.
  • Card no. 32 – The Moon (8) is reflection.
  • Card no. 33 – The Key (8) is accessibility. 
  • Card no. 34 – The Fishes (K) is resources.
  • Card no. 35 – The Anchor (9) is stability.
  • Card no. 36 – The Cross (6♣) is torture. 

It should also be stressed to forget (for now) ideas such as “work cards” and whether a card is a mother or the father, male and female, or about “sex”.  Such significations do not touch upon the cards’ essence.  No card on an elementary level is work.     

A Game of Fortunes © abCartomancy 2010 – 2021

Cards:  Jeu Lenormand © Cartamundi, Cartes Lenormand © H.P. Gibson & Sons, Ltd, No. 19411 © Piatnik, Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards © Zao-Gelli.