The cards within the cards

In which our heroine, having learned more about the Lenormand, finds new meaning in an old reading. (I discuss that old reading in my post “Lenormand and LOTR“).

Almost a year ago, I did my first Lenormand reading: an analysis of The Lord of the Rings. (I start boldly.) In that reading, pairs of cards represented characters and situations in the book. I could make sense of most of them right away, but I had trouble with 34-Fish + 32-Moon. I eventually worked out that they referred to Saruman, not from those two cards themselves, but from figuring out that no one else fit the description that the reading as a whole was presenting.

Thrilled as all get-out that I’d had a mostly successful reading, I moved on, did more readings, and read just about every book on the Lenormand that I could get my hands on. Along the way, I learned that there was another way that Fish + Moon represented Saruman: through the card inserts.

Deck: Fish and Moon cards from the Lenormand Oracle
Deck: Lenormand Oracle, which puts its inserts front and center

Each Lenormand card corresponds to a playing card. Since there are 52 playing cards, but only 36 Lenormand cards, many of the former are left out; Lenormand cards are only paired with the 6’s through aces. Most Lenormand decks show the playing cards, although to save space, many decks only have notations instead of pictures (6♥, Q♠, 9♣, etc.).

The books I read referred to the playing card inserts, but most of the discussion went over my beginner’s head. I was having enough of a challenge trying to remember the meaning of 20-Garden without also trying to learn the meaning of its insert, the 8 of Spades. And honestly, many books glossed over them. There are playing card inserts. They’re historically part of the Lenormand’s development. You don’t really need them to do a reading.

I don’t pretend to understand the inserts by any means, and I don’t feel comfortable yet using them in readings. But I’ve learned a little bit about them, namely that the cards with face card inserts on them—the King, Queen, and Jack of each suit—can represent people in a reading. The Kings and Jacks are masculine and the Queens are feminine. Kings are mature, Jacks, not so much. The suits are still fuzzy to me, although often the Clubs correspond with the more negative Lenormand cards—and there are exceptions to that as well.

Back to Fish + Moon. The inserts on these cards are the King of Diamonds (Fish) and the 8 of Hearts (Moon). The King of Diamonds suggests that this pair represents a person—since the reading was about a book, this would be a character. Of my two candidates for Fish + Moon, Saruman and Gollum, Saruman seems a lot more kingly than Gollum. I think this description of the King of Diamonds fits Saruman quite well: “He is usually depicted as bearded, with a scepter in one hand and a globe in the other. He is a powerful man with substantial resources who controls important decisions.”* Imagine Saruman with his staff and palantír. So not Gollum.

Obviously I made sense of the reading without using the playing card inserts (and my skills aren’t up to interpreting the 8 of Hearts on the Moon card yet). But it was interesting to see how the King of Diamonds added to the meaning of that card combination, and it’s encouraging me not to just glance at the inserts when I read the cards, but to try to make sense of them.


*The Essential Lenormand: Your Guide to Precise & Practical Fortunetelling by Rana George.

Lenormand and LOTR

In which our heroine finally tries a Lenormand reading and gets something she can make sense out of.

(Contains spoilers for LOTR.)

Acquiring Lenormand decks is getting easier by the moment. Learning to use one is still an erratic process. My self-teaching has been on the eclectic side: a book here, a website there, an occasional visit to YouTube, and so on. I admit I’ve been putting off an actual reading because I was afraid that it wouldn’t work, and if my first Lenormand experience was a failure, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a second one.

What finally nudged me into doing a reading was a YouTube video: Books & Movies in the Lenormand Cards. Watching the presenter use a Lenormand reading to illustrate key themes from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo intrigued me no end. If I chose a favorite book or movie, I wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with a “real” question, plus I’d know whether or not I was on track. In retrospect, The Lord of the Rings may have been too big for a nine-position layout: a great many things are missing, and it’s mostly about The Fellowship of the Ring. But this reading made Lenormand practice fun and interesting, which I figure was the important part.

Deck: Gilded Reverie Lenormand by Ciro Marchetti
Deck: Gilded Reverie Lenormand by Ciro Marchetti

The Card Pairs

31-Sun, 9-Bouquet: LOTR is not a light and happy book, so when I first saw this, it looked out of place. It’s at the beginning of the reading, so I decided it matched the joyous celebration at the beginning of the book: Bilbo’s birthday party. Of course, the Ring has a lot to do with why Bilbo has lived long enough to have a 111th birthday party in the first place, and the party sets up grimmer events that follow.

33-Key, 27-Letter: There are vital messages in this story. Following the party, Gandalf shows Frodo the inscription on Bilbo’s magic ring, proving that it’s the One Ring. Gandalf’s message warning Frodo to flee the Shire ends up stuck with Butterbur in Bree, resulting in the hobbits’ departure being delayed almost too long.

13-Child, 11-Whip: Hobbits are often mistaken for children by other races, and sheltered in the Shire, most hobbits are naive about the evils to be found in the rest of Middle Earth. In the course of LOTR, the hobbits suffer greatly, starting with the unaccustomed discipline of hard travel to the true suffering later (Frodo and Sam’s journey to and through Mordor; Merry and Pippin’s capture by orcs).

18-Dog, 16-Stars: Gandalf: a magical advisor and loyal friend.

3-Ship, 21-Mountain: The center cards are what the story is about: a journey to a mountain. This is a journey peppered with obstacles and difficulties, to a hostile destination, a journey dogged by delays. It’s not only Mount Doom that presents obstacles.  Another mountain, Caradhras, is an impasse that not even Gandalf can overcome, and so the Fellowship must detour through Moria—which presents even more difficulties.

23-Mice, 22-Crossroad: On a journey like this, anyone would have a lot to worry about, and members of the Company do worry about many of their decisions, especially Aragorn in the wake of Gandalf’s death. Furthermore, the journey wears away at them. The physical strain is obvious, but eventually we see that strain and proximity to the Ring have eroded Boromir’s morals and willpower, to the point that he makes a fatal decision to seize the Ring for himself.

34-Fish, 32-Moon: This one completely threw me. I could put the keywords together and come up with concepts like “creative financing,” but that didn’t have anything to do with the story. I finally resorted to the objects themselves and guessed that it might mean Gollum. This was only because he loves to eat fish and fishes by moonlight. I wasn’t happy with this, but it was the best I could come up with. I finally decided to refer to this pair as X unless I could figure out something more satisfactory.

30-Lily, 10-Scythe: Frodo can never put the past entirely behind him and eventually chooses to leave the Shire forever, cut off from the peaceful life he hoped to resume after his struggles.

36-Cross, 20-Garden: The Company goes through great suffering and despair, suffers loss and betrayal, and eventually falls apart. And of course, the whole reason for their being a group is to bear a burden that will decide the fate of their world.

The Lines

Having worked out the meanings of the pairs (well, except for Fish + Moon), I then looked to see if the cards made sense when read in lines.

Top horizontal: After a party, Frodo receives a message that leads to his suffering and loss of innocence.

Center horizontal: Gandalf leads everyone on an arduous journey that slowly wears away at them.

Bottom horizontal: X ends the peace of a land, putting a burden on a group.

Left vertical: (This one worked better read bottom to top.) X’s actions towards Gandalf result in his eventual rebirth.

Center vertical: The inscription on the Ring triggers a difficult journey that ends the peace of an age.

Right vertical: The hardships suffered by the hobbits wear away at them, putting a huge burden on them.

Upper left to lower right diagonal: A celebration leads to a difficult journey that becomes a torturous burden.

Lower left to upper right diagonal: X creates obstacles on the journey that punish the hobbits.

Solving for X

Looking at the lines, X couldn’t be Gollum. Like trying to find the value of x in an equation, Gollum simply did not fit. Saruman, on the other hand, fit quite nicely. Saruman uses his magic to make Caradhras impossible to cross, leading to Gandalf’s death and rebirth (left vertical). His orcs are the ones who capture Merry and Pippin and torment them (diagonal). After he loses Isengard, he and Wormtongue slip into the Shire and corrupt it, poisoning the hobbits’ homecoming (bottom horizontal).

Peachy, but how could I reconcile Saruman with Fish + Moon without completely violating the meanings of the cards? The first clue I got was a keyword for Moon: “seductive.” One of Saruman’s talents is his persuasive voice. Taking Fish to mean “resources,” the combination could refer to a character whose most durable resource is his gift of seductive speech. Secondly, the fall of Isengard reveals that Saruman had engaged in clandestine trading (Fish + Moon) for years. (It’s probably stretching matters to call him Middle Earth’s most notorious (Moon) capitalist (Fish), but it would fit the symbolism.) And to top it off, when Saruman takes over the Shire, he does so under an assumed name: Sharkey.

I could really grow to love Lenormand.


In a reading on a book called The Lord of the Rings in which a ring is so central to the story, I didn’t get 25-Ring. I’m guessing it’s because only Ring’s literal meaning would have fit this story. I’m wondering if it would have come up in a reading on The Hobbit, since the dwarves offer Bilbo a contract to be their burglar.

1/29/2015: A bit of additional interpretation of Fish + Moon: “The cards within the cards