First Off, Do You NEED The Playing Card Inserts?
I first learned Lenormand well over a decade ago using the Lo Scarabeo deck – which doesn’t have playing card inserts at all, only the familiar Lenormand symbols. And they’ve worked brilliantly well for me like that in all sorts of spreads and situations
This is why I focus my Lenormand practice (and the information I share) primarily on the energies of the card symbols and their underlying meanings. I like the fact that that approach is intuitive, it’s down to earth and uses everyday, recognisable symbols that tap into universal human experiences. As a result, it’s clear that just about anyone can learn the cards and you don’t need to have some guru with special knowledge to ‘unlock’ any special, secret meanings, (delicious as it might be to be “in the know” about such things.)
So in short no, the answer is you definitely don’t need to have the playing card insets at all.
However, you MAY find (and I know a number of readers do) that the playing card insets can give additional meaning or depth to your card readings. In other words – if you have a deck with playing cards – you might WANT to know what they’re all about, then you can decide if you’ll bother incorporating them into your own practice or not.
So first off, let’s take a look at the playing card inserts themselves.
What Playing Card Inserts Appear On Lenormand Cards?
The cards of each of the four suits, Clubs, Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, but only from the sixes all the way up to the Aces.
They appear in most traditional-style decks, for instance, the Blue Owl, the Piatnik, the Blue Bird, but also more modern decks such as Rana George and are even referenced in the Gilded Reverie.
Other decks, like the Lo Scarabeo, don’t use them at all.
OK. So Why Are Card Inserts Present On Many Decks?
They point to the history and origins of the cards. Playing cards were being used for both parlour games and for fortune telling across Europe in the eighteenth century and even earlier.
One game that was very popular and played everywhere was the French card game Piquet, which used 32 cards. (The Grand Tableau, for instance, has its roots in the game of Piquet, particularly the 8 x 4 + 4 formation. Note that the 8 x 4 formation is the 32 cards plus four to make the Lenormand’s 36). So you will often hear references to the game of piquet in discussions of Lenormand
But Le Petit Lenormand as we know it today actually originated in Germany, with Johann Hechtel’s 1799 Das Spiel der Hofnung Game of Hope, a Snake and Ladder-like parlour game which used 36 playing cards, from sixes to Aces, with the 36 Lenormand images we now know added to them. Check out the copy of Das Spiel der Hofnung held at the British Museum website to have a look. And the cards were mostly used that way, just a kind of board game, BUT there was a variation Hechtel gave on the game which was to use the cards for fortune-telling.
The cards then became known as Lenormand after celebrated (or notorious) French fortune teller and cartomancer Marie Lenormand, but only after her death, and mainly, it must be said, as a marketing ploy to benefit from the use of her name.
So yeah. “It’s complicated.”
It’s also complicated as to which particular cartomancy tradition the cards stem from, and a large part of why there are considered to be both German and French schools of Lenormand with slightly different takes on the cards, but more on that another time. (Just for the record, I tend towards the so-called “French” because that’s how I first learned but you’ll find it accounts for some of the discrepancies you see between reader interpretations.)
What Do The Playing Cards Mean In Lenormand?
First off, there are a few complications here, especially if you’re someone who reads playing cards and thinking “Aha. So I can just add in my card meanings from playing card cartomancy, right?”
- The suits or elements represented in the Lenormand playing cards don’t align with what you’re likely to be used to regarding standard playing card cartomancy.
- Nor will the Lenormand card symbols match common cartomancy playing card meanings.
- One thing worth noting in particular: Spades as the bad guys? Think again. On Lenormand cards it’s the suit of Clubs which holds most of the negative cards. This, I believe, aligns more with the German interpretation of the playing card suits. Acorns (Clubs) Hearts (Hearts) Leaves (Spades) Bells (Diamonds).
- The playing card’s pip numbers don’t bear any relation to the Lenormand card’s number 1-36. You have to look at them separately.
- For our purposes with Lenormand, I prefer to think of the suits, just as I do with the Lenormand cards as a whole, in terms of energies instead.
To try and get into the “energies” of the playing card suits in Lenormand take a look below at the suits and numbers along with their Lenormand card counterparts and see if you can see any patterns, themes and clues for yourself.
Personally, I find it helpful to try and think of a sort of progression from the six to the ‘pinnacle’ of the Ace to try to understand the ‘energies’ of each of the suits of the playing cards used in Lenormand. You might find it quite interesting when you look at it this way to see for yourself how the cards seem to be grouped together and ordered.
6 Cross: Burdens, responsibility
7 Mice: Worries, niggles, stresses
8. Mountain: Blocks and delays
9. Fox: Survival, food on the table, thieving
10. Bear: Food, money, comfort, material security
J. Whip: Struggles, competition, fight
Q: Snake: Betrayal, problems, temptation, wrong
K: Clouds: Confusion, uncertainty
A: Ring: Agreement, accord, promise, deal
Suit Energy: Ground Level, Basic Survival Needs, Challenges & Problems
Note how the Ring here is placed as kind of top of the tree of a group that is made up of quite a few of Lenormand’s most negative cards. I’ve never really been comfortable with the idea of the Ring as a ‘romantic’ sort of card, and here, you can see why. It really is about coming to agreements, arrangements and accords. It has a pragmatism to it after a lot of fighting, conflict and struggle.
For me, the purpose, if you like, of this group of cards is exemplified really by the three middle cards, the Fox, the Bear and the Whip, in Lenormand represented by the 9, 10 and Jack of Clubs.
This energy, the ‘story’ these three cards tell is of doing what you have to to survive to attain a state of physical and material security, that you will have to fight and battle to retain.
If you compare the first and last cards in this suit, you see that the cards do connect: The Cross is to do with obligations and burdens that are negative and pressing upon someone, likely totally out of their control, and the Ring has progressed, in that it is to do with obligations, commitments and agreements that are voluntary, that have been consciously worked out in the end in order to reach some sort of settlement.
6 Stars: Hopes, dreams, ideals
7 Tree: Energy, life force, health
8 Moon: Emotions, Moods, Psychic
9 Rider: Bringer, Messenger, Arrival, Visit
10 Dog: Friend, Friendship, Companion, Loyal
J Heart: Love and Romance
Q Storks: Change, New Beginnings, Fresh
K House: Home and Family, Self
A Man: The Man, Men, Male Energy
Suit Energy: Emotions, Feelings, Ideals, Love
Here you’ve got the emotional elements, the idealism, the romantic ideals, leading to self-actualisation as The Man, and yes, literally the head of the household or empire in this! The King of the Castle. So if you look at the Man card as the pinnacle of this and the Stars at the bottom of the ladder, you see here a theme of idealism, hopes, dreams, who you’re going to be and who you eventually become in your world or domain.
To me, the purpose, if you like, of the cards in the Heart suit is exemplified really by the three middle cards, The Rider, The Dog and The Heart, in Lenormand represented by the 9, 10 and Jack of Hearts.
This energy, the ‘story’ these three cards tell is a chivalrous one, the heralding (fanfare please!) of a loyal companion who becomes a true love.
6 Tower: Officials, Organisation, Governance
7 Letter: . Documents, News
8 Garden: Public life, outside, the people
9 Anchor: Stability, Permanence
10 Ship: Travel, exploration, movement
J: Child: Children, Heirs, Youth, Beginners
Q: Bouquet: Blessings, Beauty, Niceties, Prettiness
K: Lily: Maturation, Age, Peace, Wisdom
A: Woman: The Woman, Women, Female Energy
Suit Energy: Pragmatism, Practicality, Organisation, “The Real World”
This has got a real feel almost of a European royal Court and day to day life and to me, and speaks to the way things in life are run and organised practically. Note it’s the Woman that’s at the head of this! She’s portrayed as practical, as opposed to the idealist romantic portrayed by the Man card. This whole group of cards is very like a Queen and her court and her ministers and courtiers. as well as her children. So at the bottom of the ladder here you see all those day to day organisers and institutions, structures, with the Queen at the top overseeing it all. At the centre, the Anchor focuses this group of cards on stability.
Note also, with the Bouquet it’s about things like good manners, being agreeable, beauty, and then the kind of serenity and wisdom coming from experience shown by the Lilies.
To me, the cards in the Spades suit are exemplified by the three middle cards, The Anchor, The Ship and The Child, in Lenormand represented by the 9, 10 and Jack of Spades.
This energy, the ‘story’ these three cards tell is one of practicality, a stable base to make our way through the world, stability from which we can travel and explore the brand new.
6 Clover Luck, chance, good fortune
7 Birds: Communication, Chatter, Talk
8. Key: . Fate, Destiny, Answers
9. Coffin: Endings, Finality, Death
10. Book: Knowledge, Secrets, Learning
J. Scythe: Cuts, Decisions, Swift Action
Q: Crossroads: Choices, Options, Paths
K: Fish: Independence, Freedom, Flow, Business
A: Sun: Success, Victory
Suit Energy: Thought, The Sudden, Mental Activity, Ideas, Dynamism,
So the suit of diamonds has a very high-energy feel. It’s all about cleverness, adaptation, sudden events; being swift on your feet. “Huh?” You might be thinking. “What is Death doing in the middle there?” Well, diamonds is a suit of big and sudden events and responding and adapting to them. Look at the middle cards: The Coffin (big endings, death), the Book (secrets, knowledge, learning) the Scythe (quick, decisive action). Finality brings knowledge, secrets and action.
But unlike the doom and gloom approach of the Clubs, this whole suit has a ‘victorious battle’ feel to it. There’s a lot of the ‘how’ we choose to do things about the diamonds; the actions we take, the dynamism we bring to life, the cleverness and skill we use.
You can also look at the playing cards in terms of their numbers:
Sixes: Starting point; Things out of our control,
Sevens: Communication, Manifestation, Response
Eights: Resolutions, Community, Outside World
Nines: Behaviours, Movements
Tens: Guidance, Support, Advice
Jacks: Attempts, Experiments, Initial Actions, Interactions
Queens: Methods, Resources, Approaches
Kings: Command, Domain, Dominion
Aces: Pinnacle, Ultimate, Origin, Answer, Essence
What, If Anything, Do They Add To The Cards?
So the playing cards don’t offer ‘different’ meanings to the main cards in the Lenormand system. Instead they tend to deepen and clarify the meanings of the cards as they stand, and in some cases offer additional information, which can obviously add to your readings
How Can You Use The Playing Card Meanings In Your Readings?
Although it is not necessary to use the playing card meanings to read the cards, if you do have a deck with playing card references, you can use them to enhance your readings.
In my next post, I’ll be giving you a few examples of practical ways you can do just that.
Until next time…
Do You Need More Guidance?
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