The conventional wisdom among Lenormand mentors who coach beginners in the art of reading is that, after learning the card meanings and memorizing their numbered positions in the 36-card series, neophytes should start their practice with three-card lines, move on to five and seven card draws, then to the nine-card square, and finally to the Grand Tableau, which uses the whole deck. When I set out to explore Lenormand after four decades of using large tarot spreads, I didn’t know any better and was immediately taken with the thoroughness and flexibility of the GT. So I began my journey there, quickly recognizing that the GT encompasses all of the other reading techniques and more within its comprehensive framework.
The GT really does resemble an a la carte menu with its variety of topic cards, each one of which can be interpreted independently of the others by looking only at the cards immediately adjacent for reading purposes. I first got the idea when talking to Mary Greer, who mentioned that she doesn’t necessarily read all of the cards in a GT every time. All areas of life may be represented within the layout, but that doesn’t mean we have to interpret all of them if what we want to know involves only one limited area. We can make a short line or square of the cards surrounding a specific topic card and only read those; the rest will still be there if we want to move on to another topic that may be related to the first one (for example, the Heart followed by the Ring).
The advantage is that no cards that might be relevant to the issue at hand will “go missing” in the reading since all are present and accounted for. This deficiency could occur if we perform a smaller spread and don’t pre-position the topic card in the layout. With a key piece of the puzzle left out, the reader has to improvise, which is certainly possible but not convenient or efficient. Having all of the cards on the table also permits connecting two or more topic cards through various “linking” techniques like knighting, mirroring and intersecting. Even if the querent enters the reading with only one question in mind, or maybe just wants a general life reading to cover the next few months, almost inevitably something unforeseen will pop up in conversation that deserves a closer look, and there will be no need to throw a new spread to address it.
The way a range of subjects can come together into a synergistic whole reminds me of a spider’s web; you pluck one strand and another vibrates in harmony. It can make for a fascinating study in the convergence of circumstances. For the experienced tarot reader who wants to get into Lenormand and is willing to leave all tarot-centric preconceptions at the door, there is no reason why the GT should be considered off-limits. Just break it down into manageable bites and don’t try to swallow the whole thing at once. With a little practice, the features that fit the context of the question or topic of interest will stand out clearly and the rest will recede into the background. It is a remarkable tool for practical divination that I previously called the “Swiss Army Knife” of cartomantic methods.