After decades of astrology and years of Tarot I finally decided to play with the Lenormand system and it’s a pure joy.
Almost immediately I recognized possible connections to astrology. There are 36 numbered cards (possibly 12 houses/zodiac signs three times each), There are 36 “houses” ruled by cards (the concept of houses is central to many systems of astrology).
I then read Marie Anne Lenormand’s bio and she was an accomplished astrologer. The first deck historians mention is “The Game of Hope” published ca. 1799. It was renamed Petite Lenormand much later to honor the great cartomancer and boost popularity of the cards. The designer was Johann Kaspar Hechtel – a German businessman, owner of a brass factory in Nuremberg, non-fiction writer and designer of parlor games. According to published biographies, Hechtel also contributed anonymously to some treatises on physics. Whether he was an astrologer we may never know, but his expertise in cartomancy may suggest at least some familiarity with the subject. It is also my personal belief that Hechtel was somehow very connected to Marie Anne Lenormand and hence her influence on the deck goes well beyond the name.
We should be able to map the cards to astrology. It’s tempting to look for literal correspondences like Fish card and Pisces sign. But is there a built in systemic connection?
Let’s try a simple card number vs house correspondence. For example the 3rd house and Gemini – information, communication, learning/teaching, neighbors/siblings, (short) travels, etc – is connected to the #3 Ship card. In this case truly 3=3 and Ship is a great symbol for the astrological 3rd house/sign.
Are there any other cards to match the same house? The #27 card Letter is another great correspondence to astrological 3rd. It is literally an exchange of information, news, writing, etc – which is the 3rd house and Gemini (3rd sign) themes. Note that 27 = 12*2 + 3 , i.e. you go twice around the zodiac circle and then the 3rd card is the #27 card – Letter.
Now the first challenge is #15 card called Bear – also the 3rd card after a full circle of 12. Is Bear truly about themes similar to the Letter and the Ship? Likely most people would say no. If I had to guess, it seems to be more about 2nd house (Taurus) themes of power, confidence, resources, finances, at least more so than of communication, travel or teaching. Yet the Bear is also known to be both curious and wise.
Still, I think there are plenty of reasonable matches. So to put it all together:
House # (Sign) – description – Card (same #)/Card (# + 12)/Card (# + 24)
House 1 (Aries) – action, childhood, perception, keeping it together – Rider/Child/Ring
House 2 (Taurus) – resources, convictions, confidence – Clover/Fox/Book
House 3 (Gemini) – travel, learning, communication- Ship/Bear/Letter
House 4 (Cancer) – house, parent, family – House/Stars/Man
House 5 (Leo) – creativity, children, romance – Tree/Stork/Woman
House 6 (Virgo) – work, health/illness, pets, collaboration – Clouds/Dog/Lily
House 7 (Libra) – partners/enemies, marriage, law/legal matters, circumstances – Snake/Tower/Sun
House 8 (Scorpio) – endings/transitions, shared/communal property, responses/reactions – Coffin/Garden/Moon
House 9 (Sagittarius) – publishing, endurance, knowledge/philosophy – Bouquet/Mountain/Key
House 10 (Capricorn) – assertion, decisions, leadership, one of the parents – Scythe/Crossroads/Fish
House 11 (Aquarius) – collective work, groups, visions, future – Whip/Mice/Anchor
House 12 (Pisces) – meditation, mechanics, compassion, hardship, faith – Birds/Heart/Cross
Astrology and cartomancy went hand in hand for ages in many cultures. Borrowing terminology from criminalistics, there is motive (overlapping purposes in these two forms of divination), means (overlapping imagery, archetypes), and opportunity (36 cards structure).