Most of us are familiar with the “multi-tools” used by craftsmen and handymen; Leatherman makes one and the ubiquitous “Swiss Army Knife” is another. They allow the wielder to perform a variety of dissimilar tasks without relying on an arsenal of task-specific implements. The 36-card Grand Tableau – one of the oldest card arrangements in the Lenormand system of cartomancy and certainly the most complex – is just such a multi-tool. With a single throw of the cards, all of the essential aspects of a seeker’s present and probable future can be examined over the expanse of several months or more. This is supported by the fact that the Lenormand deck has an abundance of “topic” cards representing a wide range of life’s circumstances. The Grand Tableau, or GT, is not a convenient spread for asking narrowly-framed questions, except to the extent that almost any conceivable answer can be found within the spacious confines of a GT layout.
The Man or the Woman card – also known as the Significator – identifies the seeker in the spread and his or her status at the time of the reading (it may also show the “Significant Other” in a romantic relationship). Other cards used for the purpose of targeted prediction are (in no particular order):
the House – the home and domestic affairs; family or housemates in the immediate environment;
the Birds – routine stresses and upsets; a “doubling” effect, or anything that comes in “twos;”
the Lilies – the extended family (not under one roof); enduring happiness and protection;
the Ship – enterprise and travel;
the Tree – health and well-being; anything of long duration;
the Clouds, the Scythe, the Cross, the Whip and the Mice – trouble, hardship, strife, pain, loss, anxiety;
the Storks – change, generally positive;
the Dog – friends and friendships;
the Snake and the Fox – dishonesty, deception, treachery; complications; where something is “wrong”
the Child – children and anything small or new;
the Tower – official dealings and the institutions for such actions; loneliness or isolation; longevity;
the Book – education; a revelation or surprise; something hidden coming to light;
the Garden – public affairs and gatherings; social connections;
the Rider and the Letter – messages, verbal and written
the Crossroads – important life decisions, and possibly crises;
the Fish – wages, salary, income; routine finances; abundance
the Bear – long-term investments and major financial dealings; strength or power; the envy of others;
the Moon – status, recognition and honors (also work, see below);
the Anchor – stability in general; hopes fulfilled (also career, see below);
the Heart and the Ring – love and marriage, respectively; (the Ring can mean any contract);
the Clover, the Bouquet, the Star, the Sun and the Key – happiness, good fortune and success; certainty;
the Mountain – challenges and obstacles in one’s path, usually indicating delay;
the Coffin – “endings” and major losses of all kinds.
The meanings given above are by no means all-inclusive, and are those I generally see as most useful in a “topical” approach to deconstructing and analyzing the GT.
Employment and career are handled differently in the various regional approaches to interpretation. The Moon or the Fox can describe the work environment, while the Anchor is sometimes seen as indicating the long-term career path. Personally, I break it down as follows: Moon = work routines and reputation; Anchor = big-picture career matters; Fox = the skills and talents needed to successfully perform the job – in this sense it acts faintly like the Magician of tarot and its correspondence to the planet Mercury.
All of these cards have secondary and tertiary meanings that are largely situational or circumstantial, more context-based than descriptive of life’s core considerations. They often come into play as modifiers to the main areas of inquiry.
Making sense of this elaborate and often conflicting array of targets in a reading requires organizational skill and agility. The usual advice for the Lenormand neophyte is to avoid attempting the GT until experience has been gained with shorter spreads. However, I see it differently; with a few important exceptions, the basic interpretive techniques used in small spreads are also applicable to the GT. The conditions under which they are learned are less critical than the overall objective of eventually mastering the internal workings of the system. Interpreting a linear three-card spread as a “noun/qualifier” phrase is little different from reading the same three-card series in a larger layout, with the notable difference that the directional factors of “horizontal, vertical and diagonal” create an expanded matrix that complicates but also enriches the picture. My own preference is to have all 36 cards on the table in front of me, even though I may only read those few focus areas that are of particular interest to my client. That way I’m prepared to handle any unplanned digression without having to lay a new spread.
Over the course of several stimulating discussions with cartomancer extraordinaire Mary K. Greer on the Aeclectic Tarot forum, I formed the opinion that, rather than being insanely complicated, the GT is actually quite manageable when taken in small bites. In doing so, the “distance” or “proximity” method championed by Andy Boroveshengra in his book, Lenormand, 36 Cards, is an invaluable aid. As a rule, in most – but not all – cases where beneficial cards land close to a topic card, the contact will improve its lot, while detrimental cards farther away are diminished in the severity of their impact. By treating each topic card as a localized “vortex” of emphasis within the seeker’s life – a kind of gravitational well that absorbs the influence of the cards in close proximity – it’s possible to develop a “patchwork quilt” of contextual or situational meaning that illustrates the role of the surrounding cards in tweaking the focus.
Think of several large stones dropped concurrently and randomly into a placid pond; this scattering causes multiple concentric rings to spread across the surface and eventually intermingle, creating kaleidoscopic fragments of “wave-energy” that either amplify or partially cancel out the original impulse. In the GT equivalent, applying specialized “linking” techniques like intersection, knighting and mirroring allows these divergent elements to be blended creating a vivid profile of the life’s journey over the next six months to a year. When one focus area appears to “step on the toes” of another by occupying a neighboring position in the spread, these forms of integration, when judiciously applied, serve to clarify which aspect of the life is likely to hold the upper hand.
If you’re a Lenormand beginner, don’t be intimidated by the Grand Tableau. Dive right in, the water’s fine! It’s really the most enjoyable, efficient and effective way to learn Lenormand.
Apart from Andy’s book, which is positioned as a stripped-down offering for beginners, a handful of worthy English-language texts cover the GT in admirable depth (many more are available in French and German). Rana George’s The Essential Lenormand is highly recommended, as is Caitlin Matthews’ The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook. In her book The Secrets of the Lenormand Oracle, Sylvie Steinbach dismisses the GT as “this tedious spread,” briefly explaining it without bothering to name it. I found her book useful primarily as a guide to interpreting the cards. The inexpensive Anthony Louis e-book for the Kindle, Lenormand Symbols, is excellent if you have that device. Tali Goodwin and Marcus Katz published Learning Lenormand: Traditional Fortune Telling for Modern Life, but I haven’t read it yet. Beyond the realm of print, there are numerous web blogs and on-line courses of instruction; half the fun is finding them for yourself. Assuming it’s freely distributed, I suggest capturing the relevant text from the best of those blogs in a tabbed binder for ease of future reference, If nothing else, get yourself the downloadable Philippe Lenormand Sheet, the original “little white book.”