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Lenormand Schools – Fact or Fiction?

Lenormand Schools – Fact or Fiction?

There is a lot of chatter in the Lenormand community of different schools of teaching. Some consider there to be two main European schools, French and German. This is an interesting concept, but does it make sense?

“If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck …. It’s a duck” Judge Judy

Let us take a step back and consider what we know of the Petit Lenormand deck. The first written meanings of what we consider a full Petit Lenormand Deck dates back to the 18th Century and the Game of Hope. Influences from Coffee Cards and Symbolic Grounds Readings have been suggested, but not in the exact same 36 Card Layout we know today.

The Game of Hope board game was released in Nuremburg, Germany and included the cards as we know them now, from 1. Rider through to 36. Cross. (If you have not yet played The Game of Hope with your Lenormand deck I would highly recommend it!).

The meanings of the Game of Hope cards differed slightly to the Lenormand Meanings we rely on, but not too greatly.

At the end of the Game of Hope instructions it simply stated:

With these cards you can also play an entertaining Fortune Telling Game, if you shuffle the 36 cards and then allow the person for whom you would like to tell the fortune of, deal the cards, that is in 4 rows of 8 cards and the last row with the 4 remaining cards.

If the Querent is Female begin with Card 29 and look to the cards nearby and surrounding, humorously forming a story using the Figures on the cards which give you enough information to play with.

If the player is Male you begin the account from Card 28 and again use the help of the cards laying nearby which, when played in enjoyable company will bring lively entertainment"

Thus, setting the scene for the early Lenormand Wahrsagekarten (Fortune Telling Cards) and the Method of Distance (Book for MOD: Le Petit Lenormand Encyclopedia by Bjorn Meuris see below for links).

The Game of Hope teaches us that some cards are “Auspicious” whilst others fall into the “Inauspicious” category and can bring rewards or penalties depending on how fortuitous that card is.

If we take 14. Fox as an example, The Game of Hope teaches us that this card will Drive us crazy, then in the early German Lenormand instructions we see Fox as “Fox, if this card is close, beware of acquaintances, someone seeks to deceive us”. We can see Fox is a deceitful card who brings danger into your read. So why are there “schools” of readers who see Fox as vocation (for example) and why do I keep referring to the German instructions when Lenormand is French isn’t it?

Actually no, I refer to German because this is where the first Petit Lenormand Decks began rolling out with the Lenormand instructions as we know them, that is to say the 36 cards laid out in the same sequence with a list of meanings per card.

The deck cannot be attributed to Mlle Lenormand – it is more likely attributable to Herr Hechtel (who in fact published the Game of Hope) yet we rarely hear a great pat on the back for his efforts – the name Lenormand was given to a swarm of decks at the time (I know because I have a drawer full of Lenormand Wahrsagekarten with different sequences and even different symbols – funnily enough the core meanings of the 36 Petit Lenormand cards as we know them are always in agreement with the earliest Petit Lenormand instructions) and it is probably true that Johann Kaspar Hechtel gained his inspiration from games at the time combined with the Coffee Ground reading symbols (although not all directly relate – it is inspiration after all!).

It is absolutely true that every system has its influences and meanings may differ as time goes on, but have distinct “schools” formed from this?

Schools, to me personally, are a way of saying “I don’t read per the original instructions”. The “schools” as many refer to them are actually simply authors, teachers and readers just using what they are comfortable with. Negative cards often are given a lighter, airier meaning so that deceit and other nasty issues in the world are left out of reads or a convenient "but Foxes are clever" so the card must mean a smart business person - I am not into crowbars so I have no interest in trying to make meanings fit my lifestyle - rather I should take heed when a negative card arises (hence why, in the Game of Hope, we have auspicious versus inauspicious cards - life is not all a bed of roses).

Watch my video here on how the “schools” are not “schools” but a diversion:

If you wrote a book today stating that the Petit Lenormand Card 32. Moon means “cake” there will be a number of readers who see that keyword and incorporate it in their readings and understandings of the Moon Card. They will go on and teach other readers that Moon means Cake and you have a new generation of readers. The teacher originated in France – this is naturally a French school of reading – or is it?

It is simply one keyword that has been added to one book or to one course that is then applied over and over again – just because the author is French does not mean it is a French school – simply one French author adding the keyword cake – and if the author has a good outreach then a whole country can be reading Lenormand that way.

Moon means cake .... Moon means cake ... Moon means Schwarzwaldekirschtorte ...

Yummy but not what one can see in the original instructions......

Take a reader for example who has studied Symbol Healing, I work with Dr Stelzl Symbols, the symbol for “God Inside and Out” is a circle with a dot in the centre, I could apply that symbology to my understanding of the Moon Card and come out with “Moon means our inner god” … does that make it true? The answer is no, it is simply another symbol or system being applied on top of the meaning of the Lenormand Cards. It doesn’t mean it is wrong – not at all – if that is your understanding then so be it! However, it cannot be considered a school – it is simply another symbol system being applied on top to gain another meaning.

And again, symbology used with any card system is an awesome extra layer – but it is not a school.

My advice to you is do not subscribe to any “schools” – find your own!!! Even my students are told that I will teach them the original instructions but what they do after my courses is their own business!

So, let us dig into 3 cards that are often justified in their different meanings by the word “Schools” and attributed as the “Work” Card – FOX – MOON - ANCHOR

The original instructions:

14 Fox, if this card is close, beware of acquaintances, someone seeks to deceive us. Far away there is no danger.
32 Moon, is a sign of great honour, fortune and fame if close to the person, on the contrary, if it is distant it announces misfortune and sorrow.
35 Anchor, is the sign for luck at sea, in trade and in love, but in the distance it indicates loss of fortune and disappointments in love

Now ignore any of the “schools” information that you have maybe gathered over the years and use a little common sense.

Which of the three above refers to “Work”?

Actually none 100% exactly! None are what we consider a 100% always “WORK” because a singular Lenormand “Work Card” does not exist (you need a Kipper Deck if you want one!) – and that is because Lenormand is a language and it is the sum of other cards around that confirms … if Moon falls close to Man or Woman with other “work suggestions” for example 3. Ship (Commerce), 35. Anchor (Trade) then we gain an understanding of where the recognition is coming from, if it lands close to heart we are probably looking more at a loving recognition!

If you are laying a General GT and looking specifically for a “WORK” significator to check around then that is a different cup of tea, you can search for the recognition card (32. Moon) and find out how well you will be doing in the timeframe of the GT – just like you can see how your commercial aspects will fair with the 3. Ship card.

Life is complex and Lenormand is complex, if we want to know how much someone loves us we really want 24. HEART nearby, but if 25. RING isn’t in the mix then what is the point?

If we want to know whether our sales will increase and 32. Moon is nearby, is it really worth it without 3. Ship close by?

All in all, if you are laying a small spread, do not automatically scream work when one card falls, it can give you a hint at the direction but it is the entire sentence (i.e. all cards laid) that will give you an inkling as to what situation you are looking at.

My advice for all Lenormand readers is to start with the original instructions and apply a little common sense – not all authors are authorities – not all teachers have researched – it doesn’t mean they are bad teachers, but it could mean they are not teaching the original Lenormand instructions – which are a great foundation for making Lenormand easy to interpret and a great way to begin growing your Lenormand vocabulary.

Thank you for reading and let me know your thoughts - am I totally bonkers on my cartomancy journey?

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Lenormand fans will find Björn Meuris' book now available in English, translated by Ruth Gistelinck also available on Amazon

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Melissa Scavetta
Melissa Scavetta
Sep 27, 2019

Thank you! This clears up so much. I've seen many people and I've done it myself so many times switch between meanings. It was also a good history lessons, which is always welcome. With the spread at the end, how do you read the cards directly next to the lady? I love that spread! It seems intimidating, but it makes a lot of sense. I'll have to play with it.


Lisa Young Sutton
Lisa Young Sutton
Jul 11, 2019

Thank you for this very clear and insightful article. I completely agree that the terms, "French School or German School" should be eliminated from our vocabularies. Everyone needs to choose one card to represent work and stick to it. Because the original instructions don't give us a specific work card, then it's up to each reader to choose the card that makes sense to them. Mine is the Moon, but I really like your idea to make it the "cake" card! Though, on second thought, I think it should be the "cheese" card! LOL! (sorry - just my sense of humor) In all seriousness and even more interestingly, I think you got to the core of an issue that so many…

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