Many Trees Near and Far – In the Teacup


May 12, 2008 by Art of Cartomancy

You may already be aware of a connection between the Lenormand symbols and tea leaf reading, but for me this discovery came as a complete surprise recently.

If you’ve ever worked with the Carta Mundi Lenromand, the Red Owl, or any Lenormand deck that features verses, you may have noticed that card 5 The Tree features the following verse:

The Red Owl verse (loosely translated from French):

“A single tree you see,
Good health is yours,
If many trees appear,
You will be happy from the time of youth.”

The Carta Mundi verse (loosely translated from Dutch):

“A tree far away: good health,
But Illness when a tree is near,
Many trees together are a sign that,
Is good and glad.”

Of course the idea of near and far refers to the card’s position in relation to the consultant card, but I always thought the mention of ‘many trees’ was odd.  There is only one Tree card in the Lenormand deck.

I’ve heard some readers reason that ‘many trees’ must refer to when other cards featuring the images of trees–such as 20 The Garden or 22 The Crossroads–fall near card 5 The Tree.  Although this idea makes sense,  I still felt a little uneasy with the interpretation of Tree + Crossroads as “You’ll be happy from the time of your youth.”

Last night I was thumbing through an old fortune-telling book, and I made an interesting discovery.  The book, published in 1936, is a compilation of various fortune telling methods including Astrology, palmistry, phrenology, graphology, tasseography, and cartomancy–among other less common systems of divination.

I was glancing through the section on tea leaf reading when I suddenly realized that most of the emblems listed in the book correspond to the Lenormand card symbols.  What caught my attention first was the interpretation for a Tree in the teacup:

If well-defined and near the top of the cup,
is a sign of good health,
If vague and far, a sign of illness,
A group of trees fortells that a long felt wish will soon be fulfilled

This discovery leads me to suspect that the Lenormand cards were originally derived from tea leaf reading.  There’s no proof that these cards were created or even untilized by the famous Mlle. Lenormand.  In fact, most scholars believe she used an Etteila-type deck for her readings.

Of course, it’s possible that the symbols for the tea leaf fortunes in the book were derived from the Lenormand cards, but based on the interpretation of ‘many trees,’ it makes more sense that the reverse is true.   

For me, this connection to the teacup is reminder that the Lenormand symbols are universal and timeless, and were probably used for divination long before the first pasteboard picture cards ever appeared in history.  


9 thoughts on “Many Trees Near and Far – In the Teacup

  1. Chanah says:

    You’re right – the cards didn’t exist in Mlle’s time, and she was likely using Etteilla’s deck, and JJ Grandville’s Parlour Sybil.

    That’s a neat discovery you made 🙂

    I think the cards are German in origin, almost certain of it, simply because they work so much like the German language works – you make a new word by combining words already extant – sort of the same way you combine the cards when reading them. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but that’s my best guess. There was also a German businessman who was a client of La Lenormande who left behind some letters, though I don’t have a copy of them here.

    But I do think the meanings aren’t necessarily original, and I know she didn’t design the deck.

  2. Aristede says:

    Hi Chanah,

    Wow, I didn’t know that Mlle may have used the Parlour Sibyl. I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the accuracy of that deck, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me.

    You make a very interesting point comparing the language of the Lenormand cards to German. I don’t know much German, but I do know what you mean about German compound words, and your theory definitely makes sense.

    Another reason I think the cards probably originated in central Europe is that it has always been the hotbed for Lenormand cards, information, etc.

    I’d be interested to learn more about the German businessman who was a client of Mlle, and about his letters. I hope you’ll consider posting more about him on your site. 🙂


  3. Chanah says:

    I’ll see if I can dig up that info – I got it from Guido Hesse, and despite the recent hard disk crash, I think I have his e-mail somewhere around here. He wrote a bit about it – I cannot remember the guy’s name, but he was a big business type, if I remember it right.

    I know Ron Decker has given lectures about La Lenormande, and I think he’s written about her, too. I don’t have a copy of Wicked Pack of Cards, but I do have the second volume – the one that details esoteric card use from the 1750s on (though it’s still packed somewhere). There may well be something in there, too.

  4. Chanah says:

    A couple of links to check out –

    Trionfi has some info that cites Wicked Pack of Cards:

    And Juan over at The New Lenormand has links to some of the books she wrote herself (though she never wrote about fortune telling):

  5. Aristede says:

    Hi Chanah,

    Thanks for the cool links! I need to spend some time exploring the Trionfi site. 🙂

    I’m familiar with The New Lenormand site, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for the deck to be finished and published!


  6. spiritsong says:

    I love the association you made with teal leaf reading! that’s fascinating.
    I had read something before about the Etteilla, that would make sense….so I wonder what the TRUE history of these little cards are! wherever they came from, they certainly can foretell a lot!


  7. Peter says:

    Hello Aristede!

    I simply had to say: you have made a brilliant connection between the 36 Lenormand Cards and Reading Fortunes by Tea Leaves. Often the most subtle insights provide the most profound results. I hope to read more on this!

    Best Wishes!

  8. lenormand36 says:

    Hi Peter,

    I’ve never felt particularly drawn to the idea of reading tea leaves, but this obvious connection to the Lenormand symbols has made me very curious about exploring the art further.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  9. Peter says:

    Hi Aristede!

    In a philosophical way, I think we can explore the bridge between Lenormand and Tea Leaf Fortunes. Rather than either one “defining” the other, there is a sense of freedom in knowing that each is part of an ancient shared tradition.

    It’s very exciting, and quite liberating!

    Best Wishes!

    FYI : Tea Leaf Symbols

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