You’ve Heard of Tarot But Have You Tried Lenormand? by Olga Alexandru

Written by: Olga Alexandru Published on: November 8, 2021

“One unique thing about Lenormand cards is that they all come with their own set of timings. Each card has a built-in time frame for how quickly something will happen.”

With tarot cornering the divination marketplace, you’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of Lenormand, tarot’s lesser-known but still beloved cousin. A fortune-telling system that uses 36 cards, Lenormand is said to be more straightforward than tarot. And more brutal. Ouch. With no reversals, Lenormand has easy-to-understand images that have concrete meanings. No guesswork required! Motifs range from animals (fox, bear, snake, birds, stork, dog, mice, fish) and nature-based (clover, bouquet, tree, clouds, stars, garden, mountain, sun, moon) to more mysterious ones like rider, scythe, and whip. 

Unlike tarot, a Lenormand card can never be read on its own. It must always be read in a pair, and the meaning changes if the position changes.

For example, house+coffin would mean something different to coffin+house. Another difference from the tarot is that there is a querent and partner card. These are called man and woman in older decks, but many new decks have moved away from this binary language to be more inclusive. 

The History

So, where does it come from? Named after Napoleonic-era fortune teller Marie Lenormand, this divination system started as a parlor game called the Game of Hope, played with a standard set of playing cards. The 36 Lenormand cards correspond to the regular 52-card playing deck (minus the 2, 3, 4 & 5 suits), so you don’t need a special deck to do a reading if you can remember the meanings. Readings are categorized a few ways: vignette for a reading with a few cards, tableau for a reading with most or all of the cards, and the grand tableau, a behemoth of a spread using all 36 cards. 

You can ask specific questions about a particular aspect of your life (love, career, etc.) using something called a significator. This is a card that represents that aspect. You can either create your own significator or go with an established one (i.e., heart card for love). To do a reading with a significator, you must shuffle the cards then spread them all out. Search for your significator card and take the card before it and the one after to create a vignette. The card before will often represent your past situation, and the card after will represent your future. 

One unique thing about Lenormand cards is that they all come with their own set of timings. Each card has a built-in time frame for how quickly something will happen. For example, the timing of the letter card is slow, so if you get this card, know that you will receive important communication, but it’s slow in coming. Lenormand cards even have seasonal correspondences!

How to Get Started

So you love the sound of Lenormand and want to get started but don’t know where to begin? Here are a few recommendations for some beginner-friendly decks:

Perfect for the luxe minimalist, the Golden Thread Lenormand is sure to hit the spot with its gorgeous black and gold design. The gold-foil-accentuated cards are beautiful in detail and even have the corresponding playing card in the top left corner.

The Cute Little Lenormand might appeal to those with a kawaii aesthetic. But don’t let the bubblegum pink and blues fool you: this deck is just as powerful as any other. 

For those with more traditional tastes, the Blue Bird Lenormand might be more appealing. Its 18th Century aesthetic harkens back to when this fortune-telling style became popularized. They have the corresponding playing card represented on the card and a description for a well-rounded reading.

And for those who are brand new to Lenormand and want to dive in, the Wildly Lenormand learning deck might be right up your street. With keywords and phrases printed on the card, there’s no need for a guidebook. You can easily do a reading anywhere with minimal effort.

Whether you’re looking for an easy-to-learn divination system or you want to explore an alternative to tarot, Lenormand is an excellent option. Its straightforward nature means you’ll get the answers you need quickly; just beware of their mighty sting!

Olga Alexandru

Olga Alexandru is a freelance writer, poet and zine maker living in the UK. Find her at and on Twitter