Stiff-necked Scholars, Attend!

Although it’s an over-simplification of the truth, I can easily pass for a card-carrying member of the “Stiff-necked Scholars’ League” of Lenormand practitioners: I value the historical basis of this cartomantic system above all else, and take a dim view of too much imaginative tinkering with its customary methods. (On the other hand, is there a more likely  champion of “hidebound traditionalism” than a dominant Cancer-Capricorn personality?) One of the time-honored conventions I frequently defend is that Lenormand is basically a practical form of divination; it isn’t of much use for the more abstract kinds of psychological analysis offered by tarot and astrology (although simple behavioral responses – aka “knee-jerk reactions” – are definitely within its reach). But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the lure of expanding that reach in creative ways to get more mileage out of a reading. It’s just that, while I’ve always criticized revisionist attempts to introduce the tarot practices of free-association and intuitive improvisation into the mix, I’ve never felt compelled to offer my own alternative. Now seems like a good time, so fasten your seat-belts.

Human experience of reality devolves into two main categories: the objective or “conscious” field of external phenomena explored by the typical Lenormand reading, and the subjective or “subconscious” realm of internal impressions that remain largely unspoken. (I’m setting aside the Collective Unconscious for my purposes here.) In retrospect, I now see no reason why useful conclusions about subjective factors underlying the querent’s outward circumstances can’t be drawn from the interplay of the cards, as long as trusting them implicitly from a psychological profiling standpoint is avoided.

However, the usual techniques for deconstructing the classical Lenormand spreads are largely situational in nature, relying on either impingement of secondary and tertiary (“near/far”) influences on a central focus or topic card or rote sequences of cards that carry an intrinsic meaning. In order to squeeze more introspective “blood” out of these particular stones, I’m suggesting that we need to re-calibrate our approach to interpretation. I have two experiments underway at the moment to tackle this challenge. One involves the Grand Tableau, using two decks and the standard “house” designations to arrive at what I call a “3D” overlay of conscious/subconscious implications that furnish a two-tiered meaning for every card combination. That one I will leave for another post.

The nine-card, 3×3 square is a more reasonable place to start with these innovations. In keeping with the “3D” concept, I’m using the “portable house” approach that begins by randomly drawing nine “house” cards from a separate deck (which could even be a tarot or oracle deck) as the experiential foundation of the spread to which all subsequent observations are referred. This informal house system provides a touchstone for anchoring the psychological dimensions of the reading. The central position in the layout (Card #5) forms the keynote of the narrative, with all other cards and card combinations providing circumstantial “spin” on its testimony.

Next, using two Lenormand decks shuffled separately, I pull nine cards from one deck to show the querent’s “conscious” reactions to the affairs of the various houses, and nine more cards from the second deck to reflect latent or hidden “subconscious” responses (both of which, depending on the question, can be those of the self/querent or of an interested third party). Reinforcing the “3D” notion mentioned above, I stack these cards top-down in “objective card/house card/subjective card” order to provide a visual cue to their interpretation. Then I synthesize the meanings of the two-card combinations (“conscious/house” cards and “subconscious/house” cards) in the usual way, but proceed to read the salient features of the spread at two distinct levels – objective/external (“conscious”) and subjective/internal (“subconscious”), thereby providing nuances that could otherwise be missed. It could also be instructive to merge all three cards in each sub-set into a single data point and read the array as a composite physical/mental/emotional  portrait, but my personal preference favors a dual-path trajectory. We might well stop there, but I’m considering a couple of other wrinkles.

The cards in the 3×3 square are generally read left-to-right and top-to-bottom in a more-or-less past/present/future manner. However, I’m thinking that, for psychological purposes, it might be better to recast these stipulations in “progressive” (left-to-right, top-to-bottom) and “regressive” (right-to-left, bottom-to-top) terms. The former would show straightforward development of the matter in an observable, growth-oriented way, and the latter would reflect the sometimes invisible, insidious pull of past complications on the querent’s ability to cope with present and future conditions. Think of it as getting back to root causes, akin to the groundwork laid by the first four cards of the tarot Celtic Cross spread. Given that the order in which Lenormand cards are read has a bearing on their combined meaning, these interpretive variables could be applied to both the row-column-diagonal scenario, and to auxiliary techniques like knighting and mirroring. I will try to post an example reading in the next few days.

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