As you start to explore and perhaps collect Lenormand decks, you’ll no doubt notice that some of the more modern decks often include additional cards. Sometimes these give you a choice of designs for the same card, but sometimes they are additional cards entirely, completely outside of the standard 36 with additional meanings.
So in this post, I wanted to talk about these extra cards a little, whether they are worth bothering with—and if so, when—along with examples from the Under The Roses, Gilded Reverie and Rana George Lenormand decks (click on the links or pics if you want to buy one and it’ll take you to Amazon).
Which Decks Have Extra Cards, And What Are They?
Extra or alternative people cards
The most common extra cards in decks are additional people cards:
Under The Roses (see pics) has both Caucasian and Black Gentleman, Lady and Child Cards
Fairy Tale Lenormand has both “peasant” and “noble” Man and Woman cards
Celtic Lenormand has both male and female Child and Rider (called Bard/Bardess) cards, plus Lord and Lady in addition to the Man and Woman cards
Rana George Lenormand has both traditional Arabic and more modern Man and Woman cards
The Gilded Reverie Lenormand has both “neutral” and more sexualised Lady and Gentleman cards
Extra or alternative non-people cards
Several decks offer more than one versions of specific cards
The Gilded Reverie Lenormand (see pics) has two Birds cards, the Birds and the Owls. A kind of day and night.
The Celtic Lenormand has multiple ‘alternative’ cards: The Cat as well as the Dog, two types of Tree (oak and holly), as well as three types of Bird cards and two Snakes (one with the traditional negative, one with a more positive, skin-shedding transformational stance)
The Under The Roses deck renames some of the cards. The Tower becomes the Clock Tower, the Book becomes the Journal, the Heart becomes the Locket, the Coffin, the Grave and so on.
The Gilded Reverie
Additional cards are Time (time!), Bridges (connections from one state to another), Dice (chance, gamble), Mask (fakeness, veneer), Well (depth ), Compass (see pic – direction, guidance), Labyrinth, and Magnifying Glass (examination, scrutiny)
Additional cards are Spirit (mediumship, spirits), Incense Burner (cleansing, smudging), Bed (sex, sensuality), Market (work, business, trade – see pic)
Although these can simply be used as alternatives, as mentioned already, this deck’s extra cards can be used as additional specifically in the Celtic Pagan tradition. The two Tree cards, Oak and Holly represent two aspects of the male deity (Oak King and Holly King), the three Birds cards, Songbird, Chicken, Owls, the Triple Goddess (maiden, mother, crone), the Cat, the familiar, and unusually, the two Snakes, one positive, one negative rendition of the Snake card, so in some situations, you may choose to include both.
So if you happen to have these decks, should you use the additional cards or not? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
NO: Reasons NOT To Use Additional or Alternate Cards
I think beginners REALLY should focus on getting to grips with the main 36 cards first before getting into nuanced or additional meanings. You have pretty much what you need, and there’s enough to learn about Lenormand already; keep things simple.
The 36 cards SHOULD in theory be all you need
I think one beauty of the Lenormand is that, in theory at least, the underlying meanings of the cards are universal, cover pretty much all aspects of life, and can be applied to different eras, countries, cultures, contexts and sensibilities. In this sense, they are pretty adaptable.
Additional cards CAN impose their particular world-view or religious sensibility on readings or change their meanings
I’m strongly of the view that it is the reader who gets to apply the cards’ universal underlying meanings to the world around them and into their own belief system. I don’t think it is the job of the card makers to control or impose particular narratives, worldviews or interpretations for readers. In fact, the idea of an underlying universality is central to my more intuitive method of reading Lenormand.
So although I love the aesthetic, I am not keen on, for instance, the renamed cards in Under The Roses. A Journal and a Book aren’t the same thing, a Locket is closer to a Ring rather than having the energy of the Heart for me, a Clock Tower introduces the specific element of time which is not really what the Tower is about.
The Cat card as a Dog alternative in the Celtic Lenormand also doesn’t quite work for me (although it would be good just as an extra. It is used because the Cat can represent a witch’s familiar, so I do ‘get’ the reasoning, but I also think a Dog has a totally different energy). The Celtic obviously has a specifically pagan spiritual sensibility to it so leans the reader towards those interpretations.
A card like Rana George’s The Bed also specifically removes sexual meanings from other cards and directs them to this – which you may see as an advantage or disadvantage! The Dice card in the Gilded Reverie also removes the element of chance or gambling from the Clover (rather pointlessly, it seems to me) so again, changes other cards’ meanings.
Additional cards screw up Grand Tableaus
A Grand Tableau, with its 36 houses, has 36 cards and is not particularly adaptable. If you’re using a deck with additional cards, you’ll need to decide if and how to incorporate these, perhaps with additional lines of four, removing them or separating them out completely, depending on the deck.
YES: Reasons & Situations To Use Additional or Alternate Cards
More representative people cards
On the flipside, because of their origins, a lot of the classic decks are resolutely Eurocentric, white, heteronormative etc etc etc. This means they are essentially doing what I said I didn’t like re: imposing a specific worldview that, most crucially from an accuracy point of view, may not adequately or honestly reflect you or who you are reading for.
Sure, an adaptable, intuitive Lenormand reader should still be able to apply underlying meanings of ANY design to ANY modern-world situation, culture and sensibility, but still, connection to especially the Querent cards is a pretty important feature of any kind of divination
Where there are several individuals and particularly, for same-sex relationships
You CAN use other of the traditional 36 cards to denote other individuals in a situation if you want to, or for same-sex partners (e.g. the Dog for another man, a Snake for another woman) but the disadvantage of this is that you then take the other meanings of those cards out of the equation for that reading, and you might need those too. Depending on what type of reading it is, and particularly in Love readings, it might be better to use the alternate Man and Woman cards instead in this situation.
To add nuance and extra depth to readings
Some additional cards really do seem to add depth to readings, particularly important if you are an intuitive reader. I find that most of the Gilded Reverie additional cards do add something to readings; with the exception of the Dice card, they all seem to lend a reading some extra psychological depth, as do Rana George’s Spirit and Incense Burner cards in particular. Likewise, the companion energies of the Celtic’s Cat and the Dog are, as I’ve said, quite different from one another but you can really use that to an advantage in readings.
To better reflect a particular spiritual or cultural tradition
You might WANT your cards to be more reflective of your own personal belief systems than some of the more traditional decks. The Celtic Lenormand is probably the most comprehensive version of that, where you’re actually moving away from the Lenormand tradition and more directly into the pagan in terms of spiritual beliefs, worldview and interpretations. Likewise, Rana George has kept true to her Lebanese heritage and made sure she’s included aspects of her own spiritual practice in her deck, with the addition of the Spirit and Incense Burner cards (pictured)
To separate those ‘difficult’ cards with multiple meanings
We all know there are cards which are particularly ‘problematic’, where different readers assign different meanings to the same cards. Sex is always a problem one, with some readers choosing the Whip or Lily, for instance – which then means the OTHER meanings of those cards can get left by the wayside. Likewise, business and work; Fish and Fox and Ship can all relate to trade, work and business, but they all have important other meanings too. Rana George resolves this by her creation of the Bed card for sex (see picture), thus freeing up those other cards for other meanings, and the Market for, well, the marketplace, all business and so on
You just prefer the alternative artwork or ‘feel’ of some alternate cards
Connection to your cards in some way is often important, and if you feel more drawn to one version or another of some of the cards, then I say, “Go for it.” It certainly won’t do your readings any harm if you have an option and choose what speaks to you. It may be cultural heritage, it may be nuance, it may be spiritual belief. Or it may just be a design you like! Enjoy!