Saturday, 31 October 2015

Communing with Johann

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For last year's Samhain Blog Hop, I spoke with Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand through the cards, using a Grand Tableau.  This year, our blog hop wrangler, Arwen, asked us to commune/communicate with, and commemorate someone from the past.  My thoughts were drawn to the other main person involved in the creation of these 36 cards we know as the Petit Lenormand deck: Johann Kaspar Hechtel (1771-1799).

It was Johann Kaspar Hechtel who expanded on the Coffee Grounds cards, adding extra cards to make the deck up to 36 cards.  He chose some different emblems - for example excluding the Lion and Worms found in the Coffee Grounds cards and adding in the Bear.  And he added in playing card inserts - originally both the French suits (the suits used in most playing cards today) and the less well-known German suits (Hearts, Bells, Acorns and Leaves).

Some writers suggest that he added in the playing card inserts so that the deck could be used for a large number of different games, as well as the board game he originally intended (similar to snakes and ladders, with a gaming pot of cash as the prize).  Certainly, he doesn't seem to have paid any attention to their divinatory meanings, as they do not match the Lenormand emblem interpretations.  Of course, that would have been a big ask, in any case, as different countries, different towns, and different readers, interpreted playing cards differently.

Johann Kaspar Hechtel was a man of science (writing articles on physics), and a business man who enjoyed creating parlour games.  For this communication, I decided to use a more conversational approach, asking questions and drawing three cards as an answer.  For yes-no questions, I'm using the method of looking at the colours of the playing card suits - red for yes and black for no - and then interpreting the cards further.

My first question was: Did you include the playing cards just to make your deck multi-purpose, the only deck anyone would ever need for gaming?

Storks, Burial Mound (Coffin), Holly (Tree)
Based on the playing cards, that's a big fat yes (2 hearts and a diamond) :D  Looking deeper, this brought progress (Storks) to completion (Burial Mound), in a lasting way (Holly).  Okay, he's not shy about thinking he did a good job!  Though the two different card inserts are hardly ever included today.  Then again, it's only the Germans who ever read with the German system, and they use the French system equally these days...  And the deck/system he created has held true for over 215 years now!

Second question: Given your original intent to create a gaming deck, how do you feel about these cards being used specifically (and almost exclusively) for divination?

Clouds, Oak (Tree), Sun
Seems to me that he was a little uncertain about this at the outset (Clouds), but has come to see it for the area of growth and energy it is (Oak, Sun).  If this is what it takes to be an enduring success (Oak, Sun), he's all for it :)

Third question: Do you wish the deck carried your original name?

Girl (Child), House, Meadow (Garden/Park)
Two spades and a heart suggest the answer is no, not really.  As to why, the deck has achieved a new, comfortable position (Girl, House) in the public eye (Meadow), which it probably would not have reached without Mademoiselle Lenormand's name.

Lastly, then: What is your hope for the deck's future?

Boy (Child), Mountain, Moon
Seems to me that Herr Hechtel would like the deck to reach new (Boy) peaks (Mountain) of renown (Moon)!  And you could say that playing/gaming (Boy) was an obstacle (Mountain) to that fame (Moon).  Hence why he's happy with how it has developed :)

It's interesting to think about how Johann would have responded to this deck, given he died before his first version was even printed (1800), and long before the deck was rebranded in 1849.  Perhaps if he had lived, none of this would have been possible.  In any case, I like to think that he is glad his game has become such an enduring success.

Now, let's hop on round and see who else is joining the conversation this Samhain!

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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Lenormand Schools?

There's lots of talk in various places about different 'schools' of Lenormand reading.  There are also those who say no schools exist, that the real distinction is whether you read using the near and far method or with combinations.  Personally, I feel neither statement is an absolute, nor are they mutually exclusive.

In terms of schools, it's certainly fair to say that every teacher, and even every reader, develops their own style.  Yet, it's also true that there are tendencies among different language groups.  For example, most German readers use the Anchor as a card for work, while the French are more likely to use the Moon card.  Likewise, German readers tend to see exercise in the Rider, while French readers more often attribute it to the Whips. 

Moving further afield, many readers will tell you that 'Lenormand cards are never read reversed.'  However, it is traditional to read with reversals in Russia, where they even have a number of decks designed specifically for this.  And looking across the Pond to Brazil, traditionally the Cross card was seen as being positive (well, what do you expect in a country with a 38m high Jesus the Redeemer statue above one of their biggest cities?), while the Clover is replaced at number 2 with the Logs, representing small obstacles along your path.

As for the near and far versus combinations debate, there are definite differences.  Reading using the near and far method is the oldest known method of using Lenormand cards.  It originated from the cards' history in tasseomancy: reading the images in coffee grounds.  There, near and far referred to the distance of the image from the rim of the cup!  In addition, you find here a very traditional approach to interpretation that is generally about fortune telling.

Combinations are a more modern approach, which developed as the cards were used more as an oracle in their own right.  While the Dutch-Belgian school maintains the near and far system, most other schools focus more on combinations.  However, the two aren't totally separate.  For instance, you generally combine cards that are close together (near).  And cards that are distant (far) may still be read as influencing one another (combining in different ways) depending on whether they connect to the person or topic via mirroring, diagonals, knighting, or houses. 

What about the Celtic Lenormand?  While I chose to locate the images in Celtic Brittany as a homage to the French ancestry of Mademoiselle Lenormand, the interpretations and reading styles expressed in the companion book are far closer to the German school.  Not surprising, as the majority of books I read at the start of my love affair with this system were by German writers :) 

Overall, many readers draw from different teachers, and every reader develops their own meanings and interpretations as they go along, based on their own experience and interests.  And that's as it should be - we are all unique, and we each read the cards in the way that makes most sense to us.  We read according to our clients and ourselves.  For instance, CaitlĂ­n Matthews reads for a lot of actors, and so has developed combination meanings based on stage fright, voice projection, acting agencies etc.  Others read in different milieux, and that affects their reading style.  My advice, learn what makes sense to you, wherever it comes from!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

What Time Is Love?

Okay, borrowing shamelessly from musical lyrics for the title, but today's post is all about timing.  And just as KLF's What Time Is Love? may now seem very dated, I find the most traditional Lenormand timing systems to be pretty irrelevant to how I read.

Here is an image of a traditional approach to finding the timing of a reading.  The idea with the Lenormand timing board is that after you have completed a Grand Tableau reading, you scoop up and re-shuffle the cards, and then lay them out in this pattern (basically the GT again, but with a timing focus).  Where a particular card falls that was most relevant to your reading (for example the Heart for finding love), tells you the timing of that event foreseen in the Grand Tableau.

Imagine, then, that you've just read a GT, and it suggested that the person's perfect partner is out there, a studious, red-haired man (framed by the Book and the Fox).  You then deal the timing board, and find the Heart on the House of the Snake - 7 years until this event is set to take place!  Now, I don't know about you, but if I received a reading and was told that I'd think, what was the point of that whole reading?!  Worse yet, it could land on the House of the Bear: not destined to happen for 10 to 20 years!!!

On top of that, there's the question of memorising these mostly random seeming timings.  The Rider and Clover being fast, and the Scythe being sudden, make sense, as does the night for Stars and the Sun for summer.  But why should the Heart be August and the Key November, with the Whips being two years and the Fish being four years?

In designing the Celtic Lenormand, I thought about timings that would make sense within a time frame of a maximum of a year (the most I would consider it useful to read ahead).  I've written many times before about the cards associated with the Wheel of the Year sabats - shown in order from Imbolc here.

Another aspect I included in these images was the idea of the time of day - relevant for when to perform a ritual or spell, for instance.  So, the Songbirds can represent Imbolc (February Eve), and also the pre-dawn twilight.  The Lily represents Ostara (Easter, Spring Equinox) and also early morning, while Beltane (May Eve) and mid-morning are shown in the Flowers.  Litha and noon are indicated by the Sun, and early afternoon and Lughnasadh (August Eve) are the Scythe.  The Autumn Equinox and late afternoon are found in the Meadow (Garden), and nightfall and Samhain are found in the Burial Mound (Coffin).  Finally, Yule is represented by the Moon and midnight.

Alternately, a system which makes sense to me both in terms of time frame and in terms of practicality, is to see the cards 1-31 as potentially representing the day of the month when something is to happen.  Likewise, the cards 1-12 can represent the months of the year.  A little trickier is the fact that readers also associate the cards with hours, days, and weeks.  So, the Tree represents something that is quite long-lasting (in terms of its main interpretation).  Yet, it could also indicate 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, or the fifth month (May).  How do you decide which of those is indicated?

One possibility is that the answer will seem intuitively right.  Another answer may be in how you frame the question at the outset. That is probably the simplest way to get clarity: defining how long you intend to read for before you begin.  And of course you can combine both of these, setting your intended time frame and also accepting the message if something jumps out at you intuitively.

How about you, what timing system/s do you use?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Working Your Intuitive Lenormand Muscles

Step 1 - basic keywords
Last week, I posted a video about the difference between using your intuition in Tarot readings compared to Lenormand readings.  It included an exercise to build your Lenormand vocabulary and practice tuning into your Lenormand intuition.  Not everyone responds well to videos, though, so I decided to break the exercise down in writing.  And it also means you get to see a second example :)

The first step is to write down keywords for each of the cards that you've drawn.  It's good to brainstorm these, to practise/remember them.  It can also be useful to look in a book or two - it's easy as a reader to get stuck using the same keywords all the time.  While it can be good to develop your own Lenormand vocabulary in that way - knowing what the card most often means to you - it is also good to stretch yourself sometimes.  After all, the world is a wide and wonderful place, and may present you with people or situations you don't know or expect.

Step 2 - basic interpretations
Step two is to create some basic sentences using these keywords.  These are simple, off-the-cuff interpretations, and it is often at this stage that one of them will "ping" for you.  Then, you know what the most important message of the reading is.

Step three is to write out combinations for the cards in the reading.  Taking this three card reading - Book, Owls, and Lily - that means combining Books and Owls, combining Owls and Lily, and also mirroring to combine Book and Lily.  You may also come up with some blends of all three cards.  For instance, with these cards a three-way blend might give you a talkative mature student.

Step 3 - blended keywords for each pairing

Step four is to create some more complex sentences and variations, taking these blended meanings into account, and using several different variants to add texture to your reading.

Step 4 - more complex sentences

The final step is kind of a combination of steps two and four - you find the interpretation that your intuition tells you is most relevant, and then you dig deeper into it.  You can ask a number of questions around the basic interpretation.  For example, here I asked why and how...
Step 5 - digging deeper
What other blends or keywords would you have come up with?  And if you give this exercise a go, I'd love to hear how you find it!