I’ve been working with the Lenormand cards going on nine years now, but I’ve never put a lot of effort into understanding and using the playing-card insets. Concurrently, I’ve been studying playing-card cartomancy somewhat casually, first through Dawn Jackson’s Hedgewytchery material and more recently through the excellent blog of Kapherus (J. David Arcuri), Art of Cartomancy (https://cardseer.wordpress.com/). My cartomantic study is primarily one of suit-and-number combinations, and its applicability to the Lenormand insets is limited to the Aces, the Sixes through the Tens, and the three court cards, Jack, Queen and King. Regarding the latter, Part Two of Caitlin Matthews’ The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook has the most thorough English-language explanation of the “pip” meanings that I’ve found to date.
The very first difference I noticed between the two systems is that in Lenormand the suit of Clubs relates almost entirely to the most negative cards in the deck, while in playing cards, Spades is the most difficult suit; Hearts and Diamonds are more equivalent in nature.
Here are comparative lists:
Spades: Business and service; growth, trade, activity, work, authority, public interest and rewards. Spades are dependable and public spirited, giving structure to situations and having a stabilizing effect.
Hearts: Home and friendship; emotions, love, growth, trust and encouragement. Hearts are supportive and emotional, having a gentle but more considered effect.
Clubs: Challenges and necessities; responsibilities, complications, consequences or powerful forces. Clubs are difficult and complex, often having a detrimental effect.
Diamonds: Dynamic energy, enterprise, strategy, luck, money, success,wisdom and decisions. Diamonds are hasty and energetic, having a sudden effect.
♠ Spades – negativity, problems, challenges, failure, illness and loss.
♥ Hearts – emotion, love, happiness, sharing, pleasure, and healing.
♣ Clubs – good luck, growth, activity, work, business and social interactions.
♦ Diamonds – energy, power, imagination, money, rewards, success and legal judgments
The application of number symbolism also diverges. Note that Kapherus includes both a positive and negative meaning for each number; the former applies to red cards and the latter to black cards.
Ace: Origins; bases; beginnings; first steps; questions; primary principles
Six: promises; commitments; answers; reasons; last resorts
Seven: communications; reminder; dissemination; keeping
Eight: Status; community; solutions; resolutions
Nine: Transactions; movements; behaviors; modes
Ten: Guiding influences; connections; mentoring
Jack: Tryouts; engagements; interactions; experience
Queen: Means, resources; demeanors; approaches; motives
King: Domains; dominions; necessities; elements
1 – beginning or ending
2 – cooperation or conflict
3 – expansion or loss
4 – foundation or instability
5 – activity or restlessness
6 – communication or ignorance
7 – improvement or stagnation
8 – Health or illness (balance/imbalance)
9 – wish or disappointment
10 – success or failure
11 (Jack) – thoughts/message, also young helpful person, or troubled youth
12 (Queen) – receptivity/intuition, also female friend or rival
13 (King) – action/force/mastery, also male friend or rival
At this point in time, while acknowledging the disagreement between the systems regarding Clubs and Spades, I’m inclined to pay more attention to the cartomantic meanings as a working model since they align more closely with my knowledge of Pythagorean number theory, which cuts across all methods of divination. Matthews’ interpretations seem a little tentative and insubstantial, so I need to find a more coherent source from a Lenormand perspective. My main handicap is most likely the fact that I can’t read French, in which most of the best material is published. Although Andy Boroveshengra’s book Lenormand Thirty Six Cards didn’t delve into playing-card insets beyond identifying them for each card, his blog may be a better place to seek information. I’m going to poke around in it and see what I can find.