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The Essential Lenormand

The Essential Lenormand: Your Guide to Precise & Practical Fortunetelling
By Rana George
Book review © 2016 James Ricklef

Lenormand book 1.

Now for something a little different — a review of a Lenormand book: The Essential Lenormand by Rana George.

Before I begin this review, let me make a quick caveat: This review is written from the POV of a Tarot reader. Although I am a Lenormand novice—familiar with the cards but inexperienced with them—I am (obviously) an experienced Tarot reader. I’m not sure if this has colored my understanding and interpretation of this book in ways that might differ from those of a Lenormand novice who has no other Cartomancy background or experience.

Rana 3 Use this one QQ 5Also, I have my own preferences regarding the uses of Cartomancy, which differ slightly from Rana’s. Most significantly, her use of the Lenormand cards (or perhaps its inherent character?) is more predictive (versus descriptive) than I’m generally comfortable with. Nevertheless, I feel that I can easily adapt the card meanings and reading methods provided in this book in ways that work with my own philosophy. However, there are mitigating factors here. For example, even with her timing schemes (which are, by definition, predictive), Rana does moderate their predictive stance, as on page 28 she says, “Remember that time is elusive; we influence time frames with our actions.”

So now let me discuss what I thought about this book. First a general comment about Rana’s writing style. Not only is her prose easy to read, but she does not make her readers struggle through a lot of complex, arcane terminology. Her explanations are very down-to-earth and should be easily accessible to a novice. Interestingly, on page 7 she states, “The Lenormand deck is easily accessible to all, as well as simple enough to be grasped by novices and professionals alike,” and luckily, the same may be said of her book.

For a more detailed examination of this book, let’s consider it by way of its structure and content. The Essential Lenormand is divided into three parts and a few appendices. Here are the highlights.

Part 1: Beginning with Lenormand

My favorite section of this introductory part of the book was called “My story with Lenormand.” Rana’s personal story of her experiences with the cards is endearing as well as revealing of the cards’ power to illuminate and guide a life. I was also greatly interested in her explanation of how to use something called a “focus card.” Although both Lenormand and Tarot are used in similar ways, I’ve never read about the use of a Tarot card in this way, and I’m interested enough to consider trying it in a Tarot reading sometime. (For more about the use of a focus card, see pages 19 – 20 and Appendix B.)

Part 2: A Closer Look at the Thirty-Six Cards

You’ll find the bulk of this book in this part. For each card, Rana provides contextual meanings—what the cards might mean in the context of:

  • Future
  • People
  • Work
  • Love
  • Health, Body, and Spirit
  • Money
  • Time or Timing
  • Advice or Action
  • Orientation (i.e., is it generally positive, neutral, or negative?)
  • Objects and Areas

This opening overview of the cards makes for a nice, easy-to-use listing that beginners will appreciate. But wait, there’s more!

In addition, for each card, Rana gives us a personal story about how she has experienced using it, and that is my favorite aspect. (Such stories really bring the cards into the real world.) She also explains how each card functions in “the Grand Tableau,” and she provides some examples of how to interpret the card within the context of a few sample combinations with other cards.

I especially want to point out an interesting concept that Rana introduces in this part—“nuance cards.” She explains that the occurrence of certain cards tends to set the tone or character of a reading when one is using a relatively small spread. The nuance categories are:

  • Action – indicate change or a call to action
  • Portrait – provide a descriptive feel to the reading
  • Mood – point out a mood or atmosphere
  • Time – suggest whether the timing is fast or slow

(See pages 29 – 31 for more information about nuance cards and how to use them.)

Part 3: Reading Techniques and Spreads

Before launching into several well-explained spreads, Rana gives us some great advice about how to improve our grasp of the cards so we will be able to do better readings. As she says earlier in the book (page 18), “You have to experience the cards in order to understand how they speak to you.” And to experience them, this book provides a few games and exercises as well as a discussion about journaling with the cards.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Free associating with Lenormand. Rana says its process is sort of like playing Pictionary, and although she describes how to do this exercise by yourself, I think it could also be a fun party game.

Pulling Three Cards a Day. Journaling with a card a day is a tried-and-true Tarot exercise (it helped me immensely when I started out long ago!), but Rana suggests using a triptych of three Lenormand cards for this process. Since reading Lenormand cards is “like reading Hieroglyphics” (as she says in the book’s introduction), daily journaling in this way should help the novice learn how to read card combinations as well as learn individual card meanings. (Of course, perhaps I like this technique because it harkens back to my own teaching technique of three-card readings in my book Tarot Reading Explained.)

After suggestions about how to become a better Lenormand reader, Rana provides various spreads. This is the part of the book where a Tarot reader probably feels most at home—at least, it was for me.  True, the Lenormand spreads and their uses differ somewhat from what a Tarot reader is used to, but those differences are generally small. In fact, I thought many of these spreads would be easily translatable to use for Tarot readings. In any case, there are some valuable spreads in this book which should get any Lenormand novice off to a good start, as well as give any Tarot reader some great ideas too.

And happily, Rana explains the spreads in detail. This is not a long, simple cookbook list of layouts and card positions.  Quality over quantity, here! Best of all, Rana also provides a sample reading for each spread to illustrate its use. (Anyone who has read my books Tarot Reading Explained or Tarot Spreads: Get the Whole Story knows how valuable I think sample readings are!) I should mention at this point that there is an extensive discussion of the famous (or infamous?) Grand Tableau spread. This one is sort of the Lenormand’s version of the Tarot’s Celtic Cross in that it is so ubiquitous. The difference is that it’s also quite voluminous—it uses all 36 cards!  That it would be quite intimidating if Rana had not explained it so carefully.  (Well, actually, I do still find the Grand Tableau rather intimidating.)


Finally, there are several appendices to this book such as one on Focus Cards and a “Quick Interpretation Guide.” Not surprisingly, the one that I want to discuss, however, is Appendix G: Lenormand and Tarot.

Rana provides a few great ways to use these two systems together synergistically. Basically, they work well together because they shed differ lights, so to speak, on things. For a more detailed explanation of what I mean by that, let me share this great quote from page 369:

I believe Lenormand and Tarot … are like a pot and its cover. Tarot would be the pot full of the conscious, unconscious, the subconscious, the hidden shadows, the archetypes, and the vast nuances of different underlying energies. On the other hand, Lenormand would be the perfect lid to that pot—the straight, clean shot on the surface that covers all of the hidden things and deals only with what is in front of you, what is at the surface: the tangible, day to day, everyday activities, happenings, events, and actions. Working in tandem, the two decks give direction and precision to each other.

Of the three specific ways to combine the decks provided, I liked Rana’s 5 Lenormand + 3 Tarot spread best. Her description of this spread is rather loose, meaning that it’s more suggestive than definitive. Thus, for example, she suggests positional meanings for the three Tarot cards, but leaves it open for you to use whatever works best for you. Her proposal was to use Advice / Reason / Mood.  My idea is to use one of my favorites: Background / Problem / Advice. (By the way, you can see a sample Tarot reading using that spread here.)

Rana provides an example reading using this Lenormand + Tarot spread, which I thought helped explain how to use the spread. What I realized from her example was that she first reads the Lenormand cards, then uses the Tarot cards to clarify whatever issues and questions may have been opened up or left unanswered by the Lenormand reading.

There is also a much more complex “Celtic Cross and Lenormand” spread in this appendix. As a matter of personal taste, I found it too complex for my way of doing readings since it uses 30 Lenormand cards in addition to the 10 Tarot cards. However, if it seems like something you’d like to try, Rana provides a sample reading with it along with a very detailed explanation. Along with this spread, she also provides the suggestion that one might expand any Tarot spread by adding three clarifying Lenormand cards for each Tarot card. My thought is that one might just pull three Lenormand cards to clarify whatever Tarot card(s) in a spread that need explanation in the course of a reading.

Finally, Rana provides a technique called “Lenormand + Tarot: Fused.” My take on this is an easy way to do a quick Lenormand + Tarot reading that can get both perspectives on a question.  Pull one card from each deck and use the Tarot card for insights into the situation and then the Lenormand card for a look at where it’s headed.

As an example, here is a quick Lenormand + Tarot reading that I just did to see how I should proceed with a project I’ve thought about doing. The cards I pulled were these:

First, I pulled this Tarot card: Ten of Wands. This card said that there’s a lot more work involved in this project than I think, so I should be careful not to let it become a burden.

Then I dealt this Lenormand card: The Cross. Wow. Again with the burden message!  This made it pretty clear that this project would be more trouble than it’s worth. Good to know!

Reading 10 W and Cross

Note: For this reading I used my Tarot of the Masters deck and the Lenormand portion of Robert Place’s The Hermes Playing Card Oracle.

So there you have it, my book review of The Essential Lenormand. In short, if you’re interested in learning about this non-Tarot cartomancy tool, I recommend this book.  And PS: If you want to find out more about this book, Donnaleigh de LaRose did a great detailed video review of it on YouTube.


The Essential Lenormand, by Rana George, was published in 2014 by Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN.





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