Today we chat with Marcia McCord, Tarot reader, deck creator, and scholar. In August, she lectured on the Petit Lenormand tarot at the Bay Area Tarot Symposium. We caught up with her to ask about this charming style of deck, which has recently become so popular in the tarot world. In this blog, the first in a series of three, Marcia discusses Petit Lenormand basics.
ParaYourNormal: How is the Lenormand Tarot different from a standard, 78-card, five-suit Tarot deck? And I am pronouncing Lenormand correctly?
Marcia: I pronounce it Lenormand. Some people pronounce it LenorMAHND.
PYN: So tell us about the differences between the decks.
Marcia: First, I should explain I’m talking about the Petit Lenormand, not the Grand Lenormand, which is completely different. A key difference between Tarot and Lenormand is the number of cards. The Lenormand deck has 36 cards in it. And it really is built on what we would think of as the minor arcana only. So with the Tarot, you’ve got 22 majors and the 56 minors and the Lenormand is not even all of the minors. It’s seven through ace.
PYN: Like a Pinochle deck?
Marcia: Very similar. And the deck that they call it is the Scat deck, because it’s actually what we use now became popularized in Germany so you look at the German card games – Whist and Scat and other games like that that used a partial deck. And on the older traditional Lenormand decks, along with the pictographs, say of the birds, you’re also going to get a little playing card inset on that deck. Now I didn’t do that on my deck because I was being bad. But that’s one of the things that in a lot of the studies of Lenormand, they say, if you’re going to learn it, let’s go back to what we think of as the traditional Lenormand deck. Then you can branch out to some of the alternatives. And that’s kind of similar to saying with Tarot, start out with the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, even though that wasn’t the original, the first.
PYN: Yeah, but it’s kind of a classic.
Marcia: Yes, it’s one where our popular culture in Tarot is mainly Rider-Waite-Smith based. And so the interesting part about that is as far as they can tell from the evolution of the Tarot, the 56, the minors, had a different evolution of how they came together to be married to a 78 card deck from the 22 majors. And the 56 – now our 52 for a poker deck – but the minors were always used as playing cards. So it was thought of as being of the lesser classes. But think about it – how long did it take for people to have a popularized availability of paper and things printed on them? And so a lot of the technological and economic changes had to occur before it could be a part of popular culture.
They’re different in so many ways. Where the Tarot is often Mr. Right, the Lenormand is Mr. Right Now. I think of the Tarot as being that deep, spiritual, symbolic, soul wrenching experience where you can really focus on meditation, on deep psychic experiences, god-forbid fortune telling, whatever those things are. Whereas the Lenormand deck is really strictly an oracle. It is a fortune telling deck.
And it is a lot more superficial in a way. Don’t dive too deeply in what the symbology of what the birds may mean [Tweet this!]. Birds chatter. That’s what it means. And so where in Tarot you’re encouraged to dive as deep as you can stand it, with the Lenormand the struggles, especially for Tarot card readers, is to keep yourself on that surface and say: “Bear/Bird. That could even mean, your bird is losing its feathers.” It could be that superficial, because bear, even though it’s a growly type bear, could also be what did you hear… bare. Bare bird. It’s that kind of verbal. And it’s so completely different from the esoteric tradition of what is the meaning of the scrolls that the High Priestess holds. It’s that kind of thing that is so important to get on that difference. Well of course, the Tarot people are all onto that deep dive instead of saying, “Keep your head above the water level,” and saying “I see a…”
But there’s also a lexicon about how to use it. Lenormand cards are always read in pairs, even if you have three of them [Tweet this!]. Three would be two pairs. And it is subject-modifier. So it’s very German word order too. Throw your mother out the window a kiss? But you have to think of it as subject-modifier. So Tower-Book would mean the Book institution: a library. Because the Tower is the topic, so we’re talking about the institution, and the Book is the modifier – what kind of institution? If it’s Book-Tower, it would mean the corporate books. And that’s one of the hardest principles for people to get, because we’re used to reading left to right.
The idea is, how do you get the basic grammar and syntax to arrive at some kind of context and meaning in Lenormand? This is one of the huge hurdles that people have with it, especially in the United States. It’s quite a tradition in Europe. They laugh at us because we’ve “discovered” Lenormand, because people as recently as six years ago or so, people were saying it was “not worthy” because it was fortune telling. But as people grow more comfortable in their own skin I think with Tarot, I think they’re also growing more comfortable with the idea that input is input.
Read more about the history of Lenormand and about the Grand Tableau reading in tomorrow’s blog.
You can buy Marcia’s Tarot deck here and follow her blog here. Marcia McCord self-published the Picture Postcard Tarot, the Art Postcard Tarot and the Victorian Trade Card Tarot, the Tea Tarot, The Dust Bunny Lenormand and the Off-Center Lenormand, taking her inspiration from her childhood spent in her mother’s antique shop. She reads professionally in addition to being a columnist for Timeless Spirit e-Magazine. Her blog, revealing the all-too-human side of Tarot and Lenormand, takes an upside-down view of the human comedy while Marcia takes life one card at a time: http://www.marciamccordTarotreader.blogspot.com/. Knowing that they would pout if she did not mention them, Marcia lives in Vallejo, California, with her husband John, their rescued cats and one very patient, long-suffering cocker spaniel.