Marie Lenormand was a Parisian fortuneteller who lived from 1768 to 1843. She was a local celebrity who owned her own psychic reading salon in Paris. Such contemporaries as Robespierre and Joséphine de Beauharnais, wife to Napoléon, sought her divination services. Madame Lenormand was said to have foretold the rise and demise of Napoleon, as well as his divorce from Josephine.
Madame Lenormand’s passion for prediction led her to design her own set of 36 cards that include both an image (tree, whip, mountain, dog, heart) as well as numbers and the traditional playing card suits. The images and placement of the cards in a spread carry many meanings. Typically, the closer a card is to the significator card, or the personal card that represents the questioner, the more important it is and the more influence it carries. The proximity to the significator can also reverse a card’s meaning. For example: clover symbolizes good luck. If the clover card is next to the significator card, that bodes well for the questioner. If it is several positions away, that can be interpreted as a possible streak of bad luck. Cards to the left of the significator are read as in the past, while the future is seen in cards to the right.
The combinations of cards in a spread are important considerations for the reader because negative cards can change the meanings of positive cards. It is also possible to choose a card with a specific image to be the significator and build the reading around that. Choose the tree for health advice, the tower for legal affairs, the fox for career concerns, and the bear for money worries.
Reading the traditional Lenormand deck is a very dynamic process that is unlike other Tarot reading methods. It takes a skilled and disciplined reader with heightened intuitive skills and mental agility who has studied the 36 cards, their multiple meanings, and the specific spreads that Madame Lenormand designed to facilitate an effective reading.