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The Lenormand deck history

Updated: Jun 24, 2023


Marie Anne Lenormand, French fortune-teller

Lenormand cards are used widely today for divination worldwide, yet most people don’t know where the name Lenormand originally comes from.


Fig.1 - Piatnik’s Mlle Lenormand Cartomancy Deck

The name comes from the famous French fortune-teller Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand, that lived during the Napoleonic era (1799 to 1815). She is known for reading cards regularly to Empress Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon´s wife! She also read for famous people such as Marat, Robespierre, and Tsar Alexander I. Lenormand was a great cartomancer and a very important figure in the French cartomancy scene that began in the late 18th century.


Life story

Fig. 2 - Portrait of Mademoiselle Lenormand, c. 1793

Born on the 27th of May 1772 in Alençon, Normandy, France, Marie Anne Lenormand was the daughter of Jean Louis Antoine Lenormand, a cloth merchant, and Marie Anne Gilbert. Sadly, she became an orphan when she was five years old. Her brother and sister were taken care of by their step-parents, who sent Marie and her sister to a convent of Benedictine nuns to be educated. Their brother went to the army.


It was around this time that Lenormand started her vocation. While studying at the convent, she got a reputation for being clairvoyant. Realizing her gift, she began reading about divination and other books she could find. Some sources say that she managed to get her first deck when she was a teenager and that Gypsies taught

her how to read cards.


Living in Paris

Between 1786 and 1790, she moved to Paris. There, she opened her shop, a bookstore on Nr 5, Rue de Tournon. It was actually her office so she could read cards to the Parisians, and the authorities wouldn’t suspect anything. She progressively built up her reputation and was known as a prophetess, using techniques like palmistry, mediumship and astrology.

Fig. 3 - Illustration from the book 'The Court of Napoleon' by F. B. Goodrich

She spent most of her life working at that address. With the French Revolution, Mlle Lenormand started having more people, rich or poor, visiting her and seeking guidance because of the uncertain times.


In 1814, Lenormand started writing and publishing several texts and books. Unfortunately, she was arrested and went to prison a few times, mainly for the practice of fortune-telling, which was illegal at the time. After working for many years, she retired and spent most of her time in Alençon, where she bought lands and properties, building a residence for herself that she called La Petit Maison de Socrates. At 71 years old, Lenormand died in Paris on the 25th of June 1843 and is buried in Division 3 of Père Lachaise Cemetery.


Fig. 4 - Marie Lenormand's Grave. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin (2015)

Fig. 5 - Marie Lenormand's Grave. Photo by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin (2013)

Having no heirs, she left a considerable fortune, including properties given to her nephew, who inherited everything. However, because he was a devoted Catholic, he destroyed the collection of occult items, including her card decks and kept all the money.


Petit Lenormand


After her death, Lenormand's name was used on various decks, mainly for marketing purposes. This includes the famous 36-illustrated card deck, the Petit Lenormand, created by German businessman Johann Kaspar Hechtel in 1846.


Fig. 6 - Petit Lenormand, 1846 - 1848

The Petit Lenormand was designed based on another deck called Das Spiel der Hoffnung (The Game of Hope), published around 1799 and also designed by Hechtel. To give credibility that the deck was indeed french and authored by Mlle Lenormand, the german suits were removed and kept the french suits. You can find some examples of the cards in an extensive collection of playing cards at the British Museum in London, donated by Lady Charlotte Schreiber circa 1895. Marie Anne Lenormand became a legend and is respected to this day around the world.


Fig. 7 - Das Spiel der Hoffnung (The Game of Hope), 1800-1850

Another deck was published before the Petit Lenormand, called Grand Jeu de Mlle Lenormand, by publisher Grimaud. It's less known and not used by many people due to its complexity.


Fig. 8 - Grand Jeu de Mlle Le Normand, published in 1909



Like Tarot, it is common today to find several styles of Lenormand with different themes and often with extra cards. The Queer Lenormand is an example of a deck aimed at the LGBTQ+ community containing extra cards to enable readings for different types of couples or relationships.



Fig. 9 - Queer Lenormand











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