With my Lenormand Houses and Meanings page being among my most visited pages I thought I ought to settle down and begin writing about how to deal, layout and read Mme. Lenormand’s Grand Tableau spread which uses all 36 cards. I know, the greedy reading.
So a little history lesson first. Mme Lenormand was the Napoleonic Era’s greatest fortune teller. She read for Josephine and many Royal Families of Europe and Aristocrats. When she died she had amassed a fortune of half a million Francs. Since she had no children her estate was left to her nephew who was rather pleased to grab her cash but burned all her personal papers including much of her prophetic techniques. Her only surviving writtings are the books she published but none concerned these cards. It would seem too that she didn’t actually invent the cards either and there is much mystery as to their origins. Worse still she might not have even used them but such was her fame that her name was a brand and so the cards were easier to sell with her moniker attached to them.
Johann Kasper Hechtel, a young German entrepreneur might have created the cards as the Game of Hope, Das Spiel der Hoffnung but died a year before they were published. They were meant as a family game with non-esoteric images. This game however was seemingly based on Biribissi a 15th century gambolling game that was popular all over Europe and is mentioned with Casanova. This Italian game used symbols of the church, nobility and peasants and early decks of these Petit Lenormand cards contained the central images still used today, along with cartomancy references of normal playing cards alongside the symbols of the game Biribissi. However many of the symbols on the cards are in fact used in tasseography, the reading of turkish coffee grinds and this was something that Mme. Lenormand practiced. The reference to the cards likely came from all the gambolling among the aristocratic gentleman of the period and it is likely that it was at such events that Mme. Lenormand was reading the coffee cups of these gentleman. These male dominated dens might also explain the many original references in the cards to slippery women who were not to be trusted, the wealthy patrons gold digging mistresses. Sow fear and they’ll keep coming back for more. These meanings have however been removed from my interpretations. Gotta move with the times folks. So let’s look at this Grand Tableau. It is one of my most favourite readings as it uses all the cards and is very deep.
Let’s begin by focusing our thoughts and shuffling the cards. I would suggest reading your own first if you’ve never done this reading before. As this is the grandest of spreads it is advised to only read it every six months. But you’re learning and I like breaking rules so just enjoy spreading the cards as many times as you want. You’ll be guided to other aspects of your journey since we are complex beings.
Once you’ve shuffled and cut the deck, if that’s your method, you need to lay out the cards in four rows of eight and then a fifth row of four final cards. Using this layout is how we get to interpret the cards as they fall in each specific house.
This may seem long at first and a tad overwhelming but it isn’t. It really all depends on the relevance of the cards that appear in the vision of the Querent Card, either the man and woman personal cards or the cards close by. As with most decks the assumption is that man loves woman so just change the sex of the card to apply it to same sex relationships. Sometimes I choose the male card to represent me and at other time the female. And when I’m feeling exceptionally spiritual with a reading I look at both as there are different lessons for different energies with in us all. So that’s the layout and this is the Houses the placements represent.
Now that you’ve panicked about trying to remember the positions of all the houses I want you to forget them to start the reading. They really don’t matter until much later. This Grand Tableau reading begins with the four central cards numbered 1-4. These reveal the inner truth of the Querent and their hopes and dreams right now. Please bear in mind that fears and worries are also part of the language of hopes and dreams too though.
Let’s look at reading the four cards as our central theme, 1-4. Mountain, Mice, Ship & Fish. The placement of the cards in the Houses doesn’t matter at this point.
Just the four cards themselves and the story they tell. Here we have a self imposed blockage (Mountain) that is being created by small anxieties (Mice). It is time to go on an inner journey (Ship) to release the fears and unblock the Mountain so that you can find a better quality of life with financial rewards (Fish). This means you have to remove the blockage though shadow work to identify and remove the anxieties that are holding you back on the work front. Blocking the flow of abundance though worries.
Next we look at the four corners that frame the reading, 5-8. These represent the cosmic truth that is behind the question. Book, Coffin, Bear, Cross.
The Cosmos wants the Querent to learn something new (Book) or more likely, given both Coffin and Cross face a secret and cut the ties with it and bury away the fear or shame (Coffin) as it is causing pain (Mice). This is an important Karmic lesson (Cross) that will remove the blockage (Mountain) and allow the querent to wake back up into their true power (Bear).
Next we look at the Querent herself. For this reading I am presuming it is a woman asking for advice. If the reading is for a man the the past and future are read in the opposite direction. It’s where they face. Lets look at which House the Personal Card falls in: House of Crossroads. So the Querent is at a junction in life and is uncertain as to the direction to move forward with. Remember Mountain already suggested this impasse.
So the cards above and below her are the current situation. Those cards behind her are the past and those before her gaze the future. Here it is worth noting that both the Coffin and the Cross are in the past along with the cards of Heart, Tree, Scythe, Moon, Birds and Cloud along with Coffin and Cross. Suggesting good health and secure love and yet Cloud is fogging her as it sits in the House of Mice. We already know that Mice were in her central theme so something is causing anxiety and yet Karma (Cross) and Coffin suggests that it should already be put to rest and left behind. The Moon is wishes and intuition and Scythe, cutting away the old things that no longer serve her. Birds is the nervous energy of preparing to take off and fly away. What is that secret that she cannot face that is so far away from her thoughts in the first House of Rider. The House of news coming in, that she refuses to confront?
So the Cards below her are Star and Ring. Ring is contracts, partnerships and marriage. Star is wishes and dreams and with the Heart card in the mix this is suggesting that there is a discomfort surrounding a truly loving partnership. This again echos the secret still hanging over the Querent. Above her are Whip and Fox. Whip is about self-punishment and Fox is looking at it’s watery reflection. So this secret is causing much pain and yet fox is a creature that can survive being left in any environment. She has allowed her fears and worries to get the better of her. She needs to remember the survival tactics of her inner Fox. She has the ability to get through this.
The immediate future and challenges, are the cards in her vision. Fish, Ship, Clover, Letter and the Sun. Things are looking good if she can just follow the advice of Ship which is in the House of Garden position. House of Garden is public arenas and social media so this inner work will lead her to open up publicly.
Fish is about money and abundance and is in the House of Mountain. She is therefore blocking the flow of abundance and needs to perform some Shadow work to release the secret she fears. This will then allow Clover to bring in a small piece of lasting luck that will change her situation.
Clover is in the House of Tower which in this situation represents the isolation she is currently feeling. It is time to open up to her inner truth and voice it, let it out s it is festering. It will not be as bad as she imagines. In truth it will unblock her Mountain and herald the stroke of luck that is promised and this will be long lasting in her life.
Letter is news and it is in the very trusting House of Dog which is all about friendships. Therefore this news will most likely be something pleasant and helpful in moving her life forward and feeling able to trust the world again.
Finally we have the triumphant joyous and happy Sun in the House of Storks suggesting that her nest is assured and she will be able to move around freely knowing that her home is always there to cherish and comfort her as she embarks on a joyous new life path.
Next we look at the cards diagonally ahead of her and upwards as the likely future, six months from now. We have Mice and Rider. Mice are in the House of Child suggesting that the worries are in fact smaller and less bothersome than she expects. Rider is the conclusion to this coming half year and falls in the House of House, home. This is good news coming in about home life and again it would suggest that the worries are being blown up out of all proportion but that is how the ego works. It over blows our thoughts into anxieties.
The cards diagonally below her are Key and Child and are the next year ahead. Key is success and knowledge and is situated in the House of Woman. Her own house and so clearly showing a personal triumph. She is coming into her own truth as a successful woman who is free of her burdens. Child is in the House of Fish which is money and abundance and therefore she will end the year connected back in with her inner child and feeling prosperous and happy now that the Mountain’s blockage is removed. The card of Mountain shows that there is always a way round a mountain if you cannot climb over it. She will be contented with the little pleasures of everyday life being free to live in the now rather than trapped in her head worrying about the future.
The bottom row of four cards is called the Line of Fate, 8-12 and refers to the coming three months, These are energies that are already manifesting and likely to come to pass. Crossroads, Child, Stork & Stars. To move forward from the Crossroads a small detail is required to be be addressed (Child). Thus suggesting the solution is really very innocent and not the huge worry she has allowed it to become. This will allow direction forward to move on knowing all is well at home (Storks) and that the dreams (Stars) and wishes she has can be embraced and enjoy once more.
The Key Focus of the reading, the main energy is the two cards 12 Fate (House of Cross) and 13 Dreams (House of Stars). Here we see the Stars and the Moon. There is much for her to look forward to and many blessings and wishes ahead. Providing she follows the advice that is suggested and her secret released.
All that is left now to do is to look at the key cards the Querent seeks insight into. For this example I am just covering a few cards to understand the technique and help you to read this spread. The card of House for home life, Fish for money, Anchor for work and Heart for love. The card of House is in the House of Clover meaning small but lasting luck will flow into her home life.
The card of Fish is in the House of Mountain which is currently blocked but the solution was explained earlier with the inner Shadow Work of the card of Ship. The Querent must release the secret that is causing all her worries.
The Card of Anchor is in the House of Letter and so news will arrive that will benefit her work. This is a positive energy but it will only manifest if she can follow the advice of the cards.
The Card of Heart falls in the House of Sun which refers to happiness, joy and contentment. This is therefore a favourable reading on the whole with much to look forward to providing the secret that is holding the Querent back is faced and released.
That is just a brief look at how I spread and interpret the Grand Tableau as every card can be read as the ‘noun’ in a House placement that is the ‘adjective’. So you can imagine all the many combinations that are possible in this type or reading. I have merely scratched the surface of the ways to interpret the Card and House combinations.
There are other Grand Tableaux with different layouts and ways to read but this is my favourite version. Some do not use the placement of the Houses but instead focus on the cards that surround the Personal Signifier. The impact of the cards then depends on the closeness of the cards to the signifier. However all Grand Tableau spreads use all 36 cards. Some new decks now have extra cards with additional symbols to be included and this would mean changing the shape of the layout to still use all the cards. For now I stick with the original 36 card deck and spread. The extra cards are very helpful when they are used as clarifiers for Tarot Readings which is how they seem to be mostly used these days.
I hope you will find pleasure in exploring this beautiful reading. I love them. I have used the Mystical Lenormand deck by Regula E Fletcher & Urban Trösch.