Learning Lenormand: Book Review

I recently read Marcus Katz & Tali Goodwin’s Learning Lenormand: Traditional Fortune Telling for Modern Life.  I highly recommend it for those who would like a clear, concise introduction to reading these cards.

The authors introduce several useful concepts and ideas, such as the concept of L-Space, which they contrast with T-Space.  All this means is that we get in a certain mental state to read the tarot, and a slightly different state to read the Lenormand.  They are not tarot cards, and that’s a useful thing to point out and reinforce.

Their discussion of meaning is also worthwhile, even though it seems to have annoyed some readers who demand not just “one card = one meaning” precision, but also that one meaning has to match the one they have decided is “traditional.”  The truth of the matter is, the Lenormand has a wide range of traditions, and the very earliest instructions that came with the Game of Hope (eventually renamed Lenormand) simply tell the reader to create  “a jocular tale”  (Katz & Tali, 253), with no precise instruction on how to do so.  Presumably, the card meanings were to be somewhat obvious (and, of course, as Katz & Tali point out, the penalties and rewards in the original game offer some clues, as they sometimes come with what we now call “flavor text,” such as with 21-Mountain:  “On these steep Alps, the player has to remain until another arrives to release him or he has to cast a double” (251)).

The authors do offer their own meanings and techniques, and are careful to mark them as such.  The reader is free to adopt to ignore those meanings.  I for one cannot make 2-Clover mean “identity” in my head no matter how hard I try, but the authors do not force me to.

The instructions for reading are designed in lesson form, to some degree, so that later work builds on earlier work in a clever way.  It’s worth doing the exercises in order because suddenly, toward the end of the book, you find that you already need all the skills necessary for the grand tableau, the traditional spread using all 36 cards.  The authors also invent some new ways to use the cards — again, no doubt annoying some hard-core traditionalists, but not me.

There are some errors in the discussion of metaphor, where they say that E-prime is a way of speaking that avoids “is,” but then give as an example a sentence containing a being-verb:  “As an example, I could have said, ‘the idea is straightforward,’ but I said ‘the idea can be considered . . . ‘” (44).  This isn’t actually E-prime, because “be” is a verb of being.  One way of stating this idea in E-prime would have been — well, probably not to say it at all, which is the point.  In E-prime, you wouldn’t even cast the judgment on the straightforwardness of the idea  . . . Anyway.  This error is minor and doesn’t undermine their point.  In addition, the distinction between metaphor and simile strikes me as important (ah, see, E-prime) but the authors leave it a bit muddy and don’t really elaborate as much as I might like.  But then, metaphor is one of my favorite areas of study.

There are a couple brief places (especially in the chapter on Houses) where the description or explanation might be a bit clearer, but those muddy bits clear up once you put a deck in your hand and play with it.  This is a book that requires actual practical practice with the cards.

The history section is absolutely excellent.

Overall, I recommend this book to add to your growing library of Lenormand books.  It is growing, right?  It’s an exciting time for those of us interested in this weird little deck!

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