“Cheap Shots” #11: Prescriptive vs. Improvisational

In considering the limited role of intuition in reading the Lenormand cards, I hit upon the term “improvisational” as the best way to describe my method of putting together card combinations. Taken one at a time, Lenormand cards are quite literal in meaning. They are descriptive, not suggestive in the way tarot cards can often be. Trying to stack up these literal meanings as one would construct a Lego-block castle can create some rather awkward juxtapositions. Enter “intuition” or, more precisely in my own terms,  the other story-teller’s “I” words – inspiration, imagination and ingenuity – that will ideally create coherent insights from the disparate elements. Since Lenormand cards taken singly are all equal in weight, there are no ready-made assumptions – no “heavy hitters” like the tarot trumps – to point the way, so context becomes king.

There is a strong tendency among readers making the transition from tarot to Lenormand to bring along their favorite reading conventions, one of which is free-associating from the card images. Traditional Lenormand images are mostly devoid of psychological nuance; they aren’t of much use in predicting how someone “thinks or feels.” This invites some rather fanciful over-reaching for complex “humanistic” observations. The two Lenormand cards that are probably the most vulnerable to this travesty of interpretation are the High Tower and the Moon. The former is about as far as one can get from the dramatic, menacing tarot Tower (although those who have confronted authority and lost might disagree), while the Lenormand Moon is not the moody, elusive Moon of tarot any more than that card is the tender, nurturing Moon of astrology. This is a powerful compulsion that is difficult to restrain, and the situation isn’t helped by modern Lenormand writers who seem to encourage it.

In learning the Lenormand system, it isn’t enough to simply memorize the narrow range of literal meanings and then shift into intuitive “tarot mode” as a convenient way to flesh out the picture and  create a seamless narrative. A new paradigm for integrating “hard-wired” verities into the elastic flow of the story should be embraced. This is certainly aided by a precise and expansive command of language, but seeing things with a “new set of eyes” is more to the point. Leaving your “tarot glasses” behind is a good start.

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