[This post was first published on 22 June 2012.]
The original game instructions for the prototype for the Lenormand deck designed by Johann Kaspar Hechtel in 1799 and preserved in the British Museum do not contain explicit divination meanings for each card.
The explanation that accompanies the Wahrsagen à la Lenormand deck by Alexander Glück may contain the original Petit Lenormand divination meanings. There are two accompanying explanation leaflets, one in German and one in French. The German explanation appears to be identical to the extract shown with this deck dated c1846 in the Lenormand Museum, which could be the earliest version of such a deck associated with Mademoiselle Lenormand's name. (See also: Lenormand: A new identity)
I have translated the explanation into English for the sake of historical interest:
Explanation of the game of cards of the famous fortune-teller Miss Lenormand of Paris
Miss Lenormand left in so many such a high regard for her, a memory so full of her rare talent, that we believe we render a true service to the admirers of her system, by publishing the cards found at her place after her death. It is by means of this same game that she predicted to Napoleon his greatness, as well as the downfall of noblemen. Thousands of gentlemen recognized her talent while she was still alive, and often acknowledged that her method was full of truth and accuracy. What renders our publication even more interesting, is that the explanation that we give is perfectly in accordance with that of Miss Lenormand, and that we have arranged it in such a manner that anyone can know their future, without needing help from another.
How to use this game:
One mixes the cards well, cuts them, and arranges them in five parts or rows, of which the first four must be composed of 8 cards, and the fifth one only of 4. The first row starts at the left, it is the same for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th row, but the 4 last cards are placed under the others such that they are located in the middle of the ones above, as shown in the figure below.
The person that wishes to know their fate is represented by No. 28, if they are a lady or a girl, and by No. 29, if they are a man or a child. It is on these two cards No. 28 and 29 that it is necessary to focus attention, for it is on their position in the game that future happiness or misfortune depends. All the other cards receive their meaning from them, because their distance from these two cards establishes the fate.
Explanation of the cards:
1 Rider, indicates good news, but a little removed, it can have to do with the residence of the person, or arrival from a foreign country. This card is a messenger of good fortune, when it is not surrounded by sinister cards.
2 Clover, carries happiness, surrounded by clouds it is the omen of big sorrows, if this card is located close to the one that designates the person, these sorrows will not be long-term, and will have a happy ending.
3 Ship, means wealth obtained by commerce or by heritage, it means also travels, when it is located very close to the person.
4 House, means success and prosperity in all enterprises. Even when the present situation of the person is unfortunate, they can expect a better future. If this card is located in the middle of the game, under the person, this is a hint to be on their guard regarding those who surround them.
5 Tree, far from the person, is a sign of health, several together do not leave any doubt on the accomplishment of their wishes or on a brilliant fortune in the future.
6 Clouds, when their clear side is turned towards the person, is a happy sign, but if this is the obscure side, some trouble will not delay arising.
7 Snake, is a sign of misfortune, that is ruled by whether the card is close to or far from the person, but it always brings along hypocrisy, treason and loss.
8 Coffin, very close to the person, invariably means serious illness, death and the total loss of fortune. Further from the person this card is less dangerous.
9 Bouquet, of flowers means much happiness in all respects.
10 Scythe, omen of a big peril however one can evade it, when it is surrounded by good cards.
11 Rod, means discord in the family, domestic sorrows, dissension between spouses, fever or extended illness.
12 Birds, means difficulties that one will have to withstand, but of short duration. Far from the person, this card is the sign of a happy trip.
13 Child, is a sign that one has only good associations, and that one is full of goodness with regard to everyone.
14 Fox, if this card is close, it is necessary to beware of those one is in contact with, because someone seeks to fool us, in the opposite case there is no danger.
15 Bear, means happiness, but it also indicates it is necessary to avoid discussions with an envious person.
16 Star confirms happiness in all enterprises, but if surrounded by clouds, it indicates extended misfortune.
17 Stork, close to the person, indicates a change of current residence, from afar it marks that this change is delayed.
18 Dog, very near, assures a faithful one, friendship, very far it indicates treason, surrounded by clouds it warns one not to trust those that call themselves our friends.
19 High Tower, announces a long and happy old age, but surrounded by clouds, it announces a disease, even depending on the circumstances also death.
20 Garden or Forest, announces a good and large company, where one will enter, very near it assures again a constant friendship, but removed, this is a sign of false friends.
21 Mountain, close to the person, warns about a powerful enemy, but when distant one can count on powerful friends.
22 Ways, surrounded by clouds are signs of misfortune, but without this card and far from the person, there are ways or means that we will find to escape a danger.
23 Mice, is a sign of theft, if it is near, one will recover what is taken, if it is far away, the loss is irreparable.
24 Heart, sign of joy, of happiness, and of harmony.
25 Ring, to the right of the person announces a happy marriage with a brilliant dowry, but removed and to the left it announces a broken engagement or separation of two lovers.
26 Book, communicates a secret, its position allows us to judge what it concerns, nevertheless it is necessary to act with circumspection in this respect.
27 Letter, without clouds marks a happiness derived from pleasant news coming from afar, but if clouds are located in the neighbourhood of the person, they must expect a lot of sorrows.
28 Gentleman, is the dominant card of the game, as well as the following No. 29, and shows us the happiness or the misfortune of the person that consults the cards.
29 Lady, of the same importance, everything is ruled according to their position in the game, despite the spin and insights of the one that lays the cards.
30 Lily, announces a happy life, surrounded by clouds, it indicates family sorrows. If this card is located above the person, it designates virtue, below, it casts doubts on their good morals.
31 Sun, close, its rays shine, and allow happiness to bloom, but from afar it cools, brings discouragement in all enterprises and prepares calamities.
32 Moon, is a sign of great honour, if this card is located next to the person, on the contrary, if it is distant it announces misfortune.
33 Key, very near announces the certain success of a matter but distant it is the opposite.
34 Fish, making a fortune by sea, and a series of happy enterprises, but if it is distant, they are sinister omens that the best projects will be reversed.
35 Anchor, is the sign of a happy enterprise at sea, and of a big advantage in commerce and of a faithful love, but in the distance it indicates an error of judgement and love becomes a butterfly.
36 Cross, is always a bad omen, nevertheless if it is very close to the person, it is likely that the misfortune will not be long-term.
In accordance with this explanation, we provide the following example, where the cards are laid for a lady:
09 32 03 16 31 05 30 22
12 04 24 28 29 13 01 02
19 21 20 15 33 18 23 34
14 10 25 27 17 35 26 11
** ** 08 06 07 36 ** **
And here is the happy interpretation that we could provide:
The sun No. 31, that is located above your head, assures you constant happiness, because the star No. 16, that is on its right, lights you up. By it all your enterprises prosper, by it you have happiness in your marriage. Your spouse No. 28, that is on your right, testifies your virtue that finds itself strengthened by the child No. 13 that is at your left. The lily and the flowers that shade you, in the Nos. 30 and 9, are proofs of your good deeds. In the same manner destiny uses the rider No. 1 to spread your praises, and to communicate the news to your true friends, your beautiful deeds, confirmed by the cards Nos. 2, 3, 24, 4, 5, 32, 27, 18, 26, 21, 20, 15 and 34, that surround you, are new proofs of your future happiness, your combined forces protected you so far, in spite of slander, that wanted to harm you, which proves in a brilliant way that virtue always overcomes the intrigues of the mean ones, nevertheless your rest was disrupted for a little while by harmful spirits that wanted to harm you, and that are represented by the Nos. 14, 12, 35 and 23 that did all they could to cause your downfall, but their slander was stifled by the public opinion that respects you. The tower No. 19 predicts a happy old age for you in reward for the courage that you had to withstand these insults. You always overcame the Nos. 11 that spread discord in your household, No. 17 indicates that you will soon change residence. No. 10 announces the truth about another annoyance but you will overcome it by No. 25 using the key that is at your feet. In general you will see all the troubles move away from you, for omens, such as death, the clouds, the terrible snake and the dangerous cross figures in the Nos. 8, 6, 7 and 36, are very distant from you, and could not reach you for a long time. Providence has assured your happiness, and from now on you will enjoy the reward that your virtue deserves, despite this incorrect and corrupt world, it will never abandon you. Thus your fate is most beautiful, and I am happy to have been able to unveil it for you.
[Image of Lenormand Book card: Wahrsagen à la Lenormand created by Alexander Glück and published by Verlag für die Frau]
[Note that these translated instructions are similar to the English instructions accompanying a reproduction deck currently published by B. Shackman Company, Madame Le Normand's Mystic Cards of Fortune, and an earlier version of the deck that was published by McLoughlin Bros., Inc. of New York.]
[See also: The Spaewife: I spy and The Fox and the Snake]