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.