The Three Rs: Reading the Combos in the Petit Lenormand

For those first lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek. And yet whence was this too, but from the sin and vanity of this life, because I was flesh, and a breath that passeth away and cometh not again? For those first lessons were better certainly, because more certain; by them I obtained, and still retain, the power of reading what I find written

Blessed Augustine, Confessions (Pusey, trans.)

Like most older readers, my Petit Lenormand apprenticeship was the “Grand Tableau.” These days, people prefer to “work up” to the full board via trios, squares and lines of varying length. Personally, I feel the GT is a good introduction; however, I can understand its intimidating appearance. It was, for this reason, I designed both my courses and mentoring around a structure designed to lead into the 36-card spread: line of three, 3 x 3 (teaches vertical and diagonal trios), line of five (can be read in mirror), line of nine (echoes the 9 x 4).


When I first started writing about the Petit Lenormand, there was a prevailing view that one had to memorise copious lists of different pairs, trios, &c. Most now know such ideas are nonsense: additional cards and directional nuances of specific decks all influence a combination.

However, the most significant modifiers are context and individual circumstances. If two people ask how their financial circumstances will progress, two identical pairings would have a different nuance for a wealthy entrepreneur and a single parent on benefits. Having a diverse clientele, I see this often. So they cannot be fixed.

It is, for this reason, I do not offer combination lists. Outside of a few essential pairs or trios (often for timing), it is far better from the start to focus on honing the necessary skill to combine cards in actual reading.

Forming Combinations:

There are several forms of combinations. But the three primaries are: by proximity, by touching and by correlation.

I refer to combinations of cards that touch – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – as attendance. Other names include contact and encounter cards. The process is two-parted: narration and specification.


Narration is when cards read like a storyboard: we start with the first card and move along, forming a narrative using the cards’ essence or core topic. Once the core significations are learned, most cartomantes find this method natural if not effortless.

For example, let us consider the following:

You receive a message (Letter, 7♠).

You receive a message (Letter, 7♠) and go out (Park, 8♠).

You receive a message (Letter, 7♠) and go out somewhere (Park, 8♠) and have a pleasant time (Flowers, Q♠).

As you can see, building a flowing narrative is straightforward. It gives us the bare bones of an answer. However, it is vague and non-specific and needs to be fine-tuned, which is done through specification.


Specification, or pairing, is the A – B method. Just as the word “feed” describes something different if preceded by the word “animal” or “social,” cards will be qualified by their attending partner. So, in A – B, B modifies or describes A.

When I first started writing about the cards I likened card A to a noun and card B to an adjective or verb. Nouns denote a person, object or place. Adjectives describe or seek to qualify a noun, and verbs express conditions or actions. Essentially, card B is the description or guise taken by card A.

To illustrate this, we will return to the above trio.

The first pairing is the Letter (7♠ ) and the Park (8♠). The topic of the Letter is often a ‘phone call, DM, e-mail or a letter. Our clue to its nature is the Park. It describes something as being in the open or en masse. The Letter + Park can thus be read as a flyer or advertisement.

The second pairing is the Park (8♠) and the Flowers (Q♠). In this pairing, the Park is the subject. The Park’s essence is community, and for this reason is often either a place or group one mixes in. It is for this reason that the Park is the card of social networking such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, &c.

Considering the first pairing, we can take the Park as an event that the Flowers describe. The Flowers is the card of artistry and beauty. Describing the Park, the Park + Flowers would refer to a craft fair, exhibition or horticulture event.

Now we know that the message received was an advertisement for an event or exhibition connected to crafts or horticulture. Which, from the narration, we see the client will attend and enjoy herself. She might take a girlfriend, as the Flowers is also a person-card (dame de pique).

It should be clear then that narration gives the bare bones and specification the details. Using a line of three allows you the chance to practice combinations of attendance and get a feel of the cards.

Below are three clients readings done over the last few months.

Reading #1:

The first reading was for a female client who asked: will my presentation be well received?

The cards as they fell:

Cards: The Stars (6♥), the Lilies (K♠) and the Bear (10♣).

The narrative tells us that the Querent’s presentation will be clear (Stars) and go without any problems (Lilies), putting her in a strong position (Bear).

Let us refine it. The Stars is the cards of clarity and precision. The Lilies describes this as coming from focus and sensitivity. The Querent knows her stuff (clarity and focus) and knows how to put it across effectively (precision and sensitivity).

The final pairing is the Lilies and the Bear. When read as a topic, the Lilies is more often than not a man. Described by the Bear, we have a senior or older man in a position of power. We associate the Lilies with family, which would be someone within your team or department rather than higher management in professional terms.

Put together: we can say yes, it will go well and impress her immediate line manager. That she did. And has been given more responsibility as a result.

Reading #2:

The second reading was for a male consultant. He had just started his first job after University. He asked: should I come out to my colleagues?

The cards as they fell:

Cards: The House (K♥), the Fox (9♣) and the Birds (7♦).

The primary narration says that discussing his personal life (House) would be a mistake (Fox) and cause some upset at this time (Birds).

Why? The House signifies our home but also our personal life. Here, the Fox indicates the necessary steps taken to keep this private, e.g. the environment he is in is one where he needs to be discreet, not too open (House + Fox).

The reason is shown by the Fox + Birds: To avoid fuelling a two-faced colleague or gossips. Here, the Fox is the topic. Card no. 14 is the red flag card and indicates that something is wrong or lies. It is described by the Birds, which indicates noise and ruffled feathers. Often the Fox + Birds is an unfounded rumour — the Birds put 2 + 2 together and come up with 5.

So the answer is no, it is best to keep one’s private life private or risk causing up set by fuelling the office gossip.

Reading #3:

The third reading was for a female Querent. She was unemployed, and wanted to know: will I find a job soon?

On discussion with the Querent, we defined soon as a month.

The cards as they fell:

Cards: The Cross (6♣), the Boat (10♠) and the Flowers (Q♠).

The narration tells us that there is still a difficult (Cross) wait (Boat) for a job offer (Flowers).

The Cross is a time-card and always indicates the present. In terms of topic, it signifies hardship and pain. The Boat tells us that the hardship is being cast adrift. Nothing is moving, and she is lost (Cross + Boat).

The Boat + Flowers tells us of a wait to hear of a job offer. The Boat is a long journey, or significant movement. The Flowers, in this context, and be seen as an offer as it signifies arrangements (remember it shows cut flowers arranged in a bouquet).

So, the answer is no, not this month. But note that the Boat + Flowers come after the Cross. The job is coming, but not this month.

This reading was done in February. In March, the Querent received a call-back for a second interview and was offered the job.

So, there you have a basic line of three and combinations.


The Circlestead © abCartomancy 2010 – 2021

Cards:  Jeu Lenormand © Carta Mundi

Featured Image: GBSmithArt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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