Near the end of his epic performance of “Alice’s Restaurant,” folk singer Arlo Guthrie exhorts the audience to sing “with four part harmony and feeling.” That sense of harmony is part-and-parcel of what it takes to read the Lenormand Grand Tableau with sensitivity and precision. Unlike the tarot cards, the Lenormand cards don’t carry an accretion of esoteric and anecdotal “baggage” to fall back on when reading, and they don’t respond well to purely intuitive impressions drawn from the visual imagery; their traditional meanings are spare to the point of being minimalist, and don’t capture numerous layers of interpretive nuance in a single card the way tarot can. They rely on the harmonizing potency of combinations to gain presence and traction in the reading.
As part of his contribution to a recent Cartomancy Forum thread on the nature of “bad” cards, Lenormand master (make that “grand-master”) Andy Boroveshengra noted that failing to effectively blend the meanings of a series of cards into a seamless whole through “linking” can produce instances of conjoined “one-card readings” where – like Frankenstein’s monster – any single part doesn’t really communicate with the others. It’s kind of like making gravy without getting all the lumps out. There are numerous ways to accomplish this blending, and the methods Andy presents in his book Lenormand Thirty Six Cards: An Introduction to the Petit Lenormand are the ones I seized on when first learning to read Lenormand cards. His elegantly simple and crystal-clear beginner’s instructions, coupled with his personal recommendation of the “Philippe Lenormand Sheet” (I call it “the original Little White Book,” which you can download for free from Lauren Forestell’s Game of Hope Lenormand site) as the best place to start set my feet firmly on the right path.
The “distance method” is the linchpin of this entire system, by which the cards closest to the chosen Significator card have the most influence on the situational focus of the reading, and those progressively farther away exert less force in the matter, sometimes for the better when those cards are negative. Other pairing techniques include mirroring, intersecting, knighting and house/card interpolation. More advanced techniques involve quadrant position and “chaining” (house counting). Following several stimulating conversations with Mary K. Greer on the now-defunct Aeclectic Tarot forum, I developed my own take on the merger of overlapping influences stemming from the shared proximity of several topic cards. I described it in this earlier post: