This article is part of a collection of blog posts dealing with “Lenormand vs. Tarot” issues. You can find a list of other relevant installments >> here.

This article is for you especially if you are familiar with only one of the two, Lenormand or Tarot, and unfamiliar with the other. If you are planning to give the other one a try, it will be helpful to know the following basic differences right from the start:

  1. Lenormand cards are usually read in pairs, by combining two cards’ meanings, while Tarot cards are read individually, one at a time.
  2. Lenormand spreads traditionally come in only two basic shapes while Tarot spreads come in all kinds of shapes.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the first of these two points!

combined vs. individual interpretation

So, what does it mean that Lenormand cards are read in pairs while Tarot cards are read individually? And what’s the reason for it? In the next few paragraphs, I’ll offer an example of both approaches, as well as a speculative explanation why these differences exist.

an example of both

Question to Lenormand: “Why do I keep company with X although I don’t like them that much?”
Answer: Ring + Bouquet. One of the Ring’s many keywords is “attachment”; one of the Bouquet’s, “flattery”. So Ring combined with Bouquet gives us the answer: “You keep company with X because of your attachment (Ring) to the flattery (Bouquet) you get from X. In other words: Parting ways with X would mean that you would also not get their admiration anymore, and somehow you’ve become quite dependent on that admiration and are loath to let it go.”
A detailed tutorial for how to combine meanings you can find >> here, on my website!

Question to Tarot: “Why do I keep company with X although I don’t like them that much?”
Answer: Six of Swords. The Six of Swords stands for a departure into the unknown, a departure that does not happen voluntarily, at least not fully, swords06and the destination of which is not all clear and is anticipated both with hope and with fear.
Transferring this general meaning into an answer for our specific question, the Six of Swords says: “You keep company with X because your are so used to X that parting ways with them would mean that your life would change, and it would change in a way you can’t predict, you don’t know the outcome of, which scares you. So you prefer sticking to what is familiar, even if you don’t like it much.”

the reason for the different approaches

I’m partly speculating here; I don’t know for a fact why the two different approaches developed. But it is a fact that Tarot, with its 78 cards, already covers a huge range of human experiences, human life – there’s hardly a need to create more. Lenormand decks, on the other hand, contain only 36 cards. Combining their meanings creates many more layers of meaning and possibilities of interpretation.

In addition to that, Tarot and Lenormand card meanings are presented differently, too, perhaps also encouraging the individual vs. combined approach. Lenormand tradition uses keywords as meanings for the individual cards (see the example above); and a rather smallish selection of them at that (2-4 keywords is common). It’s quite obvious that a simple keyword alone will rarely serve as a satisfying answer to a pressing concern; to create an in-depth interpretation it is often necessary to apply the combination method. Tarot tradition on the other hand uses elaborate interpretations for the individual cards – descriptions of whole, complex situations (see the example above). There’s enough material offered within these interpretations that it isn’t necessary to add anything else in order to create an in-depth interpretation.

So, this week’s installment of the Lenormand vs. Tarot Series discussed how and (possibly) why Lenormand cards are usually read in pairs, and Tarot cards, individually. In the next installment we’ll have a look at how and (possibly) why Lenormand spreads come in only two basic shapes while Tarot spreads come in all kinds of shapes.