The History of Lenormand Cards
Updated: May 22
I released a series of videos this month on Lenormand Cards, which prompted me to explore the history a bit deeper here. Named for Marie Anne Adalaide Lenormand, a french writer and one of the most famous cartomancers of all time. Lenormand was born in 1772, in Normandy. By the age of five, Marie was orphaned and taken in by a Catholic school.
We know that she migrated to Paris in 1786, at the age of 14. Once she became an established fortune-teller, many famous and influential people sought readings with her. Including Tsar Alexander the first, Empress Josephine and leaders of the French Revolution. Lenormand used the Etteilla Deck. Etteilla, or Jean-Baptiste Alliette, was a fellow French occultist. He had a large influence in turning Tarot into a divination practice in the mid-1700s. He also had a big impact on Marie Lenormand.
In 1814, Lenormand took pen to paper. She had a controversial reputation and was arrested several times for her writings. Marie died in 1843, at age 71. Her only surviving family was a nephew, who was a practicing Catholic and famously burned all of Lenormand’s divination tools and materials. Though he had no problem keeping the small fortune she left behind.
After her death, her name was lent to cartomancy decks which are still used throughout the world. This style of divination has two versions of decks. The grand version includes a full deck of playing cards and the petit style includes 36 cards, resembling traditional playing cards but with added illustrations.
I actually have several decks, handed down within my family, that qualify as Lenormand cards. When I first received these cards in 2020, I couldn’t identify the type of oracle system they used. I posted to Instagram and so many people commented to tell me they were Lenormand cards. Before this project, I had a deep connection with Tarot cards. After learning about oracle decks and other systems, I feel very called to their simplicity. Even as a lifelong user, Tarot cards are slippery for me. Sometimes they are hard to memorize or nail down the exact cycle of meaning. All of this to say, this subset of cartomancy is new to me. And I welcome any and all guidances you may have.
These cards differ from tarot cards, but you will notice some overlap in imagery. Each card in a Lenormand deck has multiple meanings: one if it’s read as a noun and a different meaning for when it’s used as an adjective. The signifier card represents the person you are reading for, yourself included. Typically the reader will draw a card that represents a person, place or thing. While the second card can modify this or add meaning.
The main thing to remember with this style, is that the meanings are very literal. For example, if you pull The Sun card with The Ship card, the meaning is clear: a successful vacation or trip.
There are more advanced techniques, which I will come back to when I’m more practiced.