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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Lenormand suit by suit: Spades

Continuing on with my stream of consciousness work-though of the Lenormand playing card suits...Today it's Spades.

I have used Lenormand cards to do readings for a few years now, and I never noticed how the Spades suit is actually the mildest one in the deck! This is probably because 1) I never paid particular attention to the playing card insets until now, and 2) I associate Spades with 'bad stuff'. This is quite clearly not the case in the Lenormand system. Just look at all these positive cards:

Woman - Tower - Letter - Garden - Anchor - Ship - Child - Bouquet - Lily 

In Andy Boroveshengra's book Lenormand: 36 Cards, Spades are described as the suit that 'deals with the most generative areas of life, such as relationships, hopes, and all the things that make life worthwhile and cause it to flow so easily.' 

I've been thinking about this. The word 'spade' makes me think of a shovel, and that makes me think of gardening, which reminds me of sowing and reaping, which reminds me of fertility, which reminds me of Woman! And here we are at the beginning of this suit, with Ace of Spades, woman. The Man, Ace of Hearts, may have been (in the sexist paradigm of Lenormand that I'm creating) the source of life, but the Woman is the one who nurtures and harvests it, like any good gardener would plant a seed and bring it to fruition. 

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
Having stared at this line for a while, I believe the Herzberg Motivation Hygiene Theory will work here, too. You just have to put yourself in a decidedly 18th -19th century mindset. With the Woman as the significator, we can view the cards that are near and far from her, as well as the numbers of the suit, and identify those factors that are most essential for survival but also most taken for granted (both high in number and far away) and those factors that are least essential for survival but that loom large in supposed significance in day-to-day life (both low in number and near). The near cards are of great concern and distraction to the Woman. To understand this, think like the characters in a Jane Austen novel.

Of primary concern to the Woman is security, particularly a long life with a secure old age (Tower). Obtaining this is of utmost importance to the 18th/19th century woman, and pretty much the only way for her to get it is to get herself a husband. As any reader of Jane Austen can tell you, that's just about all that Austen characters talk or think about. Must. Get. Husband. Must. Secure. Station. In. Life. FOR. LIFE.

Very much tied up in this hunt for a bottomless pension are the next two cards, and they remain of primary importance to the Woman after marriage as well: Letter and Garden. It is hard to fathom how important the letter was to a certain class of female in bygone days. In Victorian London, the post was delivered 7 times a day. You could actually carry out a complete conversation all in one day, through the post, and people did so with alacrity. A lady could spend hours each day on various correspondences. It is the obsession with letters that created the epistolary novel. Have you read Les Liaisons Dangereuses?

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
The letter writing is all part of the wider social picture, represented by the Garden card, which is not a card about nature at all, but about community, society and public standing. A garden can be considered the taming and refining of the natural, and few things are more tamed and refined than 18th-19th century social life. So many rules and regulations! So many ways to 'ruin one's reputation' and no longer be 'received by polite society'. All so deliciously complicated and distracting, for these ladies who have secured their future and now have long, empty days to fill.

I think it's interesting that the Anchor and the Ship fall next to one another, and that the Anchor is closer to the Woman than the Ship. A bottomless supply for the long haul (Tower) is not actually as essential to survival as stability in the here and now (Anchor). So this card is higher in number, but further away from the woman, because it is more essential for survival but also more taken for granted in daily life. The Ship is often seen as travel, and it can be read as that in this suit work-through as well; travel is less important to the Woman but its absence would be felt. The Ship, according to Andy in Lenormand: 36 Cards, can also mean an inheritance, gift or trust fund, and that would no doubt be something taken a bit for granted by the Woman but keenly missed if it were not there!

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
So now we have arrived at the last three cards, which, being furthest from the Woman and yet the highest in the suit, would represent those things most taken for granted by her and yet most essential to her being. They are Child - Bouquet - Lily, and to me they seem inextricably linked. Until quite recently, women have been seen as being entirely ruled by their reproductive system, and all their emotions, needs and very being find the reason for existence in procreation, nesting, and fecundity. A woman's whole happiness lies in a healthy reproductive system and her progeny.

In contrast, the line of Hearts, linked to the Man, shows a much more balanced experience of life, with motivations and hygiene factors that have to do with matters both higher (spiritual guidance in the Star) and more fundamental (basic shelter in House). This does not surprise me, because as I mentioned in my Hearts post, the male was considered the more fully developed as a human being. The female weaker and defined solely by her reproductive system and pettier concerns.

This makes sense to me. So far so good! Onward tomorrow to have a think about Clubs. 


  1. Wow, I didn't know they got post 7 times a day! Yes, I can see how the Letter would be vital to the Woman, but I think men were equally, if not more, concerned about inheritances and a job for life/station. Without those, they couldn't marry either, and wouldn't have been considered full members of society, while a woman could still just care for her ageing rellies... And travel was not of concern to most women, the Ship would fit the Man much better, too, even within your idea of the Man being seen as the more fully rounded person. Not really convinced, though I do like your link to gardening/nurturing :)

    1. My goal in this exercise has been to create a thread that could link the suit cards together in my mind, not anyone else's. It is an aide-memoire for card meaning and playing card inset. I'm not saying this is 'the way it is' in this deck. These are just thoughts I have, the way I'm making sense of them, laying them out and considering the line of each suit as a whole. :)

      It works for me! I tested myself with a deck without insets and I was surprised how many playing cards I now remember. Won't be long before I can read Lenormand with a stripped deck of playing cards. :D

    2. Anyway, of course you're not convinced, you're thinking like you. Try thinking like a Victorian male. 'Women are irrational, that's all there is to that. Their heads are full of cotton, hay and rags. They're nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!' - Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady

    3. Also, in the most traditional reading style, Ship is more likely to be about inheritance or promise of prosperity. It's only travel if it's near. Since this is far from Woman, it's more likely to be the trust fund.

    4. I'm glad these thoughts have worked for you to memorise the playing card inserts, and to add extra dimensions to your reading. As you say, that's what matters.

      I'll not be convinced by the Woman thing, as I still say that men were equally or more interested in Inheritance - when will I become a Lord, or when will I have the money to carry out that project, or just be accepted into society and able to marry and be a "full" man. Because that is how men thought back in the day, too - you had to carry on the family name, and you couldn't wed if you didn't have an inheritance or a profession, and some jobs didn't want unmarried men. And men were at least as vain, if not more so, than women - it was the time, or came shortly after, of the dandy, and of men showing their wealth through their own clothes and make-up and perfume :D

    5. The line of Spades was concerned with the significator of Woman and the line of Hearts with the significator of Man. Spades is considered the feminine suit, Hearts the masculine suit. I was exploring within those confines. Obviously the actual human experience is broader than this. (This, I have come to believe, is why the Grand Tableau is a mixed up jumble rather than presented in suit order).

  2. Hmmm, I will have to think on this one. Interesting facts about the mail being delivered 7 times a day! I never thought of spades as being a "positive" suit either. All food for thought, while I study along beside you.