For a long time, I focused on the tarot, because I considered that it was the most complete divinatory tool in cartomancy. In France, we are lucky to have the Tarot de Marseille, and I quickly understood that this tarot was not a divinatory tool but rather an initiatory tool in the noble sense of the term, and not occult or esoteric as other tarots are.
Because the Tarot de Marseille is not a divinatory tool, because it was originally intended to be a deck of playing cards, which explains why the 40 numbered cards are abstract, I ended up saying to myself that I should also be interested in real divinatory games. In France, we have another chance, that of being rather well endowed with generalist oracles like the Petit Lenormand (Review of Ciro Marchetti's Lenormand), the Oracle de Belline (Review), the Oracle Gé (Review), the Oracle de la Triade (Review), the Tarot Persan de Mme Indira (Review), the Oracle of Mirrors (Review). I must confess that I initially favoured learning the Oracle de Belline, or the Oracle of Mirrors.
Finally, it is only belatedly that I became interested in the Petit Lenormand, because it seemed obsolete and with too few cards. Oui, autant être franc ! But in view of the popularity of the game and the enthusiasm of the cartomancers for it, I had to devote myself to the study of the Lenormand system. So yes, the Petit Lenormand is not without its faults, but for the time being, the perfect divinatory tool has yet to be invented, and I don't know if it will ever exist.
Also, after having devoted time to the study and learning of all these decks, I give you below my experience of each of these decks, by focusing on the difference between the Petit Lenormand and the Tarot. Indeed, if you are a beginner in fortune-telling, or if you only know one of these decks, you might ask yourself the question: Is it worth spending time to learn another deck than the one I master ? In what follows, I try to answer this question objectively, giving the advantages and disadvantages of each system.
The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is an original deck published in 1910 which became very popular, so much so that today we can speak of the R-W-S Tarot as a standard used in the vast majority of modern English-speaking tarot decks. In fact, learning the structure of the R-W-S tarot allows for accelerated learning and easier practice of a very large part of the current tarot decks.
The original Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is fully illustrated like the Petit Lenormand. The illustrations, however, contain more detail than the Petit Lenormand, which makes the interpretation richer and denser, but also more complex and difficult to articulate. The original 1910 illustrations may seem old-fashioned compared to modern versions of Petit Lenormand.
The Rider-Waite-Smith tarot has 78 cards, which makes it more complete than the 36-card Petit Lenormand. In fact, the R-W-S tarot describes more situations through its 78 cards.
The Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot has occult and esoteric illustrations. The original accompanying booklet written by Waite could even be described as an esoteric interpretation grid. This occult aspect is explained by the membership of the creator Waite and the illustrator Smith in the Golden Dawn which was a secret society established in England in 1888. This tarot mixes the original tradition of the Tarot de Marseille, with Hebraic and Kabbalistic symbolism, references to Egyptian mythology, and philosophical considerations proper to the Golden Dawn. The whole becomes nebulous for the neophyte who wants to linger on the details of the illustrations.
The Tarot, whether it is R-W-S or one of its derivatives or "De Marseille", is suitable for long, in-depth spreads structured by slot. It can also be used for psychological, divinatory tarot. The tarot is perhaps less powerful than the Petit Lenormand for a predictive interpretation.
Les tarots dérivés du Rider-Waite-Smith, c'est à dire reprenant sa structure et son imagerie, constitue la très grande partie des tarots vendus à travers le monde. Cependant plus les années passent, et plus les créateurs prennent leur distance avec la forme canonique du R-W-S jusqu'à par exemple, repositionner les cartes Justice en 8 et Force en 11, n'empêchant pas la popularité de ces tarots. Ceci est la preuve des défauts du canon R-W-S qui tend à être corrigé ou amélioré par les créateurs actuels.
Les tarots dérivés du R-W-S sont naturellement complètement illustrés. Ils ont l'avantage de proposer des scènes plus actuelles et plus compréhensibles et des graphismes plus modernes que l'original de 1910. Ces tarots d'aujourd'hui ne sont pas occultes et ésotériques comme l'est le R-W-S, ce qui rend ces jeux sans doute plus accessibles que l'original.
Naturellement ces tarots ont 78 cartes et ont donc cette densité et cette richesse qui fait défaut au Petit Lenormand à 36 cartes. De plus, la grande majorité de ces jeux sont basés sur le R-W-S, donc l'apprentissage est facilité et passer d'un tarot à un autre peut être immédiat.
Les thématiques couvertes par les tarots d'aujourd'hui sont nombreuses, presque infini, entre les univers des fées et licornes, l'univers des vampires, l'univers celtique, l'univers contemporain, etc. Les tarologues ont l'embarras du choix. Cette diversité permet à chacun de trouver le tarot de ses rêves, conformes à ses attentes et ses besoins. Certes il existe bon nombre de Petit Lenormand modernes, mais pas dans les mêmes proportions.
Ces tarots étant dans la très grande majorité thématiques, pour le coup, ils n'ont pas cet aspect universel que peut avoir le Tarot de Marseille. Par exemple, comment interpréter un tirage sur une question de recherche d'emploi avec un tarot sur l'univers des vampires ou des licornes ? Naturellement, la grille d'interprétation générique du R-W-S permet de s'adapter à la plupart des situations, et le tarologue peut avoir plusieurs tarots avec des thématiques différentes dans son sac, qu'il emploie selon le désir et la question du consultant. Mais vraiment, on ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre. Il est difficile de rassurer le consultant et de le mettre en confiance en sortant un tarot "Licornes", qui paraît bien inoffensif, et en même temps, mettre de la conviction et de la profondeur dans son interprétation au sujet d'une question de divorce, en s'appuyant sur l'image d'une licorne rose ailée volant sur un arc-en-ciel. Le tarologue va-t-il passer pour une personne crédible dans son art ? Bien sûr, il n'y a rien d'impossible, j'ai moi-même un jeu "Licornes" (^_^) mais tous ces tarots thématiques ne sont pas adaptés à toutes les questions.
Comme évoqué plus haut, un jeu de tarot, quel que soit sa forme, est parfaitement adapté à des tirages longs avec de nombreuses cartes. Selon le thème et l'univers graphique du tarot, il se peut cependant qu'il soit adapté davantage à du coaching psychologique plutôt qu'à de la pure divination ou de la prédiction. Je sais que dans le monde anglophone, on mélange facilement les trois sans se poser plus de questions. Cependant en France, la séparation entre la psychologie / la divination / la prédiction est beaucoup plus nette et il pourrait même y avoir une lutte de clans. Personnellement, je suis favorable à bien séparer ces 3 modes d'interprétation, et à faire preuve de pédagogie vis à vis du consultant afin de lui expliquer que je ne suis pas un voyant, donc je ne vois pas l'avenir, et je ne suis pas un médecin, donc je ne vais pas lui faire un diagnostic psychologique. On peut alors se poser la question à quoi sert un tarologue, et qu'elle est sa valeur ajoutée ? Ça tombe bien, en France on adore débattre et philosopher ^_^ ...
The Tarot de Marseille is the father of the R-W-S Tarot, but it was not designed as a divinatory tool, but as a deck of playing cards. Also the 40 pip cards have abstract graphic patterns that are not suitable for fortune-telling, and even the trump cards and figures have very medieval illustrations, far from modern. But does this make the Tarot de Marseille impossible to use as a divinatory tool ? No, it is possible in fact !
The Tarot de Marseille with its 78 cards offers the same possibilities of interpretation as the other tarot cards. The Tarot de Marseille is no less rich and dense even with the absence of illustrative scenes on 40 cards.
It is easy to see the abstract patterns of the pip cards and the neutrality of the trump cards and figures as the weakness of the Tarot de Marseille. Yes, this is possible, but at the same time, it makes this tarot neutral and universal. When one has learned to use these 40 pip cards, they become a true universal interpretation medium and propel intuition. For the cartomancer has no image to cling to, so he must seek the truth elsewhere, he must trust his psychological analysis and his intuition, and above all he is perfectly free to give a coherent version without having to justify the contradictory aspects of the images he has before his eyes. This inevitably happens when you have 5 to 7 picture cards in front of you.
In fact, the Tarot de Marseille allows to conceive a universal interpretation grid by using the symbolism of the numbers, the meanings of the four elements Earth Fire Air Water, the astrological modes Cardinal Fixed Mutable, the names of the cards, etc. Whereas with the R-W-S Tarot, many tarot readers remain focused on the purely graphic elements of the cards, underestimating the other levels of information I have just mentioned. The Tarot de Marseille is the only divinatory tool that allows such flexibility and richness of use, as long as one goes beyond the non-illustrated pip cards.
Yes, of course, reading tarot with unillustrated number cards is not easy. And showing the consultant a tarot with a Major Arcanum with medieval images can scare him/her away. There is a real difficulty in learning the Tarot de Marseille, I admit, especially since there is no official interpretation grid. I had to build my own vision of the Tarot. It is both a real challenge and at the same time extremely formative.
In the end, if you get past the learning curve of the Tarot de Marseille, the tool is so powerful that I now apply my interpretation grid to the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot cards. It may come as a shock to say that I do consultations with R-W-S tarot cards without even looking at or detailing the images, just using the name of the card. This is not to disparage the R-W-S tarot, it is simply the observation that images are both a very good way to learn divination, and at the same time, they lock divination into archetypal patterns and readings, from which at some point, one must free oneself in order to continue to progress.
The Petit Lenormand is not without its faults, just like the types of tarot I have just mentioned. But it is nonetheless popular. It is therefore good that this deck offers a real alternative to the R-W-S or Marseille systems.
If you don't have a Petit Lenormand at hand, just take a classic deck of 36 cards and write the name on each card. And that's it, you've got an operational Petit Lenormand ! The idea is brilliant, and even if nowadays the argument seems funny because of the high availability of illustrated Lenormand decks, it shows the interest of proposing a divinatory system based on the classic structure of a pack of cards. A Petit Lenormand can be made anywhere in the world.
It is obvious that the Petit Lenormand is easier to learn than the tarot because it contains only 36 cards instead of 78. Moreover, the name of the card that serves as the main keyword is at the same time a strong and understandable symbol such as 1 - The Rider, 2 - The Clover, 3 - The Ship, etc. Although it is true that some cards may have a less clear or ambiguous symbol like 34 - The Fish. But a single diligent reading of a manual of interpretations is enough to eliminate questions or misunderstandings.
So yes the Petit Lenormand, gives brutal interpretations with cards like 8 - The Coffin or 24 - The Heart. Is this a problem? On the contrary, it is sometimes good to have a straightforward and not subtle reading of a spread. Many consultants need to hear through the cards a truth that they find difficult to accept. Now, depending on the receptivity and state of mind of the consultant, a brutal interpretation must be avoided in favour of a nuanced and balanced explanation. Le Petit Lenormand is not a game for all consultants.
The Petit Lenormand has only 36 cards and was developed a long time ago. It is quite possible that the system may not cover all possible areas of life. Perhaps this is why designers tend to add bonus cards to their Lenormand decks, in order to broaden the spectrum of interpretation. Are two or three bonus cards enough to give the game away ? No, I don't think so, but all these attempts are honourable and deserve to exist.
The deck is very polarised, with very positive cards and very negative cards, which can make it difficult to be subtle. But really, you don't draw the Lenormand to be subtle. Especially since, in the end, the real way to draw the Petit Lenormand is via the Grand Tableau, which makes all the cards appear at the same time. In fact, the polarisation of the cards via their distance from each other is a real factor of harmonisation and finesse in the interpretation. This is undoubtedly the real difficulty in learning the Petit Lenormand, not to use the notion of right-side up and wrong-side up cards but rather the notion of distance. And it must be said that the use of distance to polarise the cards is far from being an established habit among the cartomancers using the Lenormand.
As I have just said, the Grand Tableau spead is inseparable from the use of the Petit Lenormand. When you come from the world of tarot, and you are used to putting 3 to 10 cards on the table, it is strange and paradoxical to put all 36 cards of the deck on the table. And when you start cartomancy with this kind of reading, the step is immediately high to climb. I think that from the start, one must be aware that one cannot apply the recipes of the tarot to the Petit Lenormand and vice versa. It is very refreshing to do the Grand Tableau, it is such a change from the Tarot's habits. Even if this spread requires space, and this is perhaps its essential weakness. Of course, the classical spread are still possible with the Petit Lenormand, I propose an article on The 5 best Lenormand spreads.
I'm not sure that the Grand Lenormand is really known in the English-speaking world, I see few English references. I don't think it's any more "Lenormand" than Petit Lenormand, namely that this game was probably not created by Mrs Marie-Anne Lenormand herself. The game was released after the death of Mrs Lenormand. The system has absolutely nothing to do with Petit Lenormand. It is a deck of 52 cards (54 cards depending on the edition), offering 7 elements of interpretation on each card, with a central scene accompanied by 6 secondary scenes (called "subjects") relating to classical cartomancy, astrology, geomancy, flowers, etc. The deck is even more esoteric than the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, which is already a reference in this field !
Each card contains a density of information rarely equalled in divinatory card games. The fortune teller has the choice to use each card in a particular way, making the use very flexible. It should be noted that some meanings of the same card can be really contradictory or opposed. The author's intention is to offer a sufficiently wide range of meanings so that the fortune teller can choose the dimension of his choice according to the context of the question and the situation of the consultant.
As with the tarot, I believe that a set of 52 cards offers a wider range of interpretation possibilities and is therefore better than the 36-card Lenormand deck.
As I said above, the Grand Lenormand is really esoteric, complex even if undeniably rich. This aspect can scare off more than one person, because the learning process is all the more difficult. Unless you limit the use of the game to the central scenes only, which is undoubtedly a possibility to apprehend the deck at first.
Learning is also made difficult because there is little literature about the Grand Lenormand. So of course, the original French booklet is free and available for download. But it dates from the 19th century, so the areas of interpretation are to be reviewed in the light of our modern times. Moreover, I have identified less than 5 books by contemporary authors that form the Grand Lenormand.
First of all, the deck is difficult to acquire, as it is no longer published. And the few second-hand copies that can be found sell for no less than a hundred euros. For the moment, I haven't bought a copy. So I can't talk about the practice of this system. But from what I have read and seen, its use is more similar to tarot than to Petit Lenormand, with classic draws of 3 to 10 cards. I will not evoke more this deck which seems to me anachronistic in the sphere of the Lenormand and reserved for confirmed cartomancers, curious and loving esotericism.
In France, as I mentioned above, we are lucky to have games that can challenge Petit Lenormand. In the Anglo-Saxon world, I am only aware of Kipper, which can offer an alternative to Lenormand. I can't go into detail about each of the alternatives here, but in the library section of this website you will find reviews of each of these other games. However, I try to give some generalities below.
The advantages of the other oracles are much the same as for the Petit Lenormand. Generally these oracles have about 52 cards and a simpler symbolism than the Tarot. So like the Petit Lenormand, they are quick to learn and master.
Some of these oracles were created in the last decades, so they can have a more modern approach to divination. For example, the Oracle of Mirrors (review here) offers a current interpretation grid corresponding to our world today, with cards like Stranger (Etranger), Evolution, Opening (Ouverture).
Similarly, some oracles can be more neutral and less polarised than the Petit Lenormand, adding subtlety. For example, the Oracle of Mirrors (again) offers an Enclosure (Enfermement) card instead of Coffin, Fatality (Fatalité) instead of Cross. The same deck adds cards like Compromise (Compromis), Heredity (Hérédité), Projection, Boomerang.
Some oracles may also have more straightforward "Significators" cards than the Petit Lenormand. For example, the Oracle of Mirrors (of course !) offers a Money card instead of Bear, or Work instead of Fox, and even cards such as Health, Love, Sexuality in addition to the Man and Woman cards, which can become "Significator" cards.
Of course, each of these oracles are proprietary systems, so you have to relearn everything each time. That said, once you have learned a game like the Petit Lenormand, it seems to me that it is quite easy to switch to a Kipper or an Oracle of Mirrors. But it is true that the Belline or the Oracle of the Triad require a real learning curve, no matter how many games you have learned before.
As I said in the introduction, and as can be seen in the development of this article, there is no such thing as the ideal divination card deck. It may never exist, as the questions of the consultants can be so varied and the means of answering them can be just as multiple and relevant.
If you know the Petit Lenormand without knowing the Tarot. You must understand that the Tarot allows for better structured and more in-depth spreads, even if they are less immediate. But if the consultant's question is serious and important to him/her, it is likely that he/she will willingly accept to stay more than an hour at a table to better understand his/her problem and to glimpse possible solutions. It is also true that the Tarot, with its structure of 78 cards, makes it easier to do psychological readings or tarot coaching. The Tarot, because it contains twice as many cards as the Petit Lenormand, is richer in its use, but certainly also requires a longer and more assiduous learning process. The learning of the Tarot can be sufficiently consequent that one prefers at first to be interested in easier to learn decks. But undoubtedly, one cannot call oneself a confirmed cartomancer if one has not learned the tarot.
That said, can we be satisfied with the tarot alone? I don't think so. The Tarot de Marseille (which I defend against all odds) remains abstract and without an official reading grid and is not designed to be a divinatory tool. The original Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot is occult, esoteric, unbalanced and polarised. The many decks derived from the R-W-S Tarot are more modern, but also more specific, delivering primarily a personal rather than a universal message, and often repeat the structural flaws of the R-W-S. Even if recent R-W-S tarots bring improvements. To date, I consider that there is no tarot on the market designed for divinatory or psychological reading, which is initiatory without being occult or esoteric, both complete and balanced, and delivering scenes and symbolism of a universal character. In short, a 100% successful ideal tarot. Also, it is necessary to be interested in other divinatory tools such as the Oracles. For there are some rather successful oracles.
In France, we have generalist oracles like the Oracle de Belline (Review), the Oracle Gé (Review), the Oracle de la Triade (Review), the Tarot Persan de Mme Indira (Review), the Oracle of Mirrors (Review). Unless I am mistaken, I have the impression that on the Anglo-Saxon market, there are few generalist oracles, those I have found are often oracles derived from tarot cards that have had some success, such as the "Everyday Witch Oracle" created by the same authors as the "Everyday Witch Tarot". These generalist oracles in English are few. On the other hand, there are a good number of thematic oracles = stones, chakras, angels, Egyptian deities, or guidance oracles, so much so that it seems that this is the specificity of the English-speaking market: thematic oracles and guidance oracles. This leads me to conclude that in France, even if the Petit Lenormand is popular, there are real alternative oracles that make knowing the Petit Lenormand not a necessity in itself. However, in the English-speaking market, there is no equivalent to the Petit Lenormand, apart from the Kipper, as evidenced by the number of English-language Petit Lenormand that offer additional cards. This expresses the attempt to find an alternative to the Lenormand system of 36 cards.
So yes the Petit Lenormand, has an interpretation grid that has become obsolete with time, but that one can perfectly modernize as I do in my article on the meaning of the Lenormand cards. Yes, 36 cards is a bit light. Yes, a polarization of the cards according to their mutual distance is somewhat disturbing, but in truth, few cartomancers use this method. The Petit Lenormand remains simple to learn, immediate in its use, and the drawing of the "Grand Tableau" is a true alternative to the classic Tarot spreads, which every cartomancer must know.
Finally, if you meet people who are reticent about fortune-telling, such as "you can't predict the future". In addition to informing about the psychological tarot, making an unpretentious and playful draw with a Petit Lenormand can quickly demystify cartomancy, make it accessible and popular, far from the prejudices that one can have about occultism and esotericism. Thus, the Petit Lenormand can be a gateway to cartomancy and a very relevant tool for popularisation, much more than the Tarot.
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