The Petite Lenormand is based off a German card game called Das Spiel Der Hoffnung (“The Game of Hope”) that was popular in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The 36-card deck was named after Marie Anne Lenormand, one of the most famous fortune tellers of the time. The Petite Lenormand (simpler version of the 54-card Grand Jeu Lenormand) uses basic imagery to depict everyday life situations. Some cards include: ring, book, letter, birds, dog, bouquet, sun, mice, and house. These are not abstract symbols like in Tarot, but literal objects meant to represent ordinary life.
Traditionally the deck comes with one man card (#28) and one woman card (#29). Using these two cards in a grand tableau reading, if taken literally, assumes the querent is either a man or a woman in a heterosexual relationship. Their genders aren’t set in stone though, just as not all relationship readings are romantic ones. I would even argue that their genders don’t matter at all.
One reason I believe gender doesn’t matter in Lenormand is because the man and woman cards have no descriptions or interpretations of their own like the other 34 cards do. That is because they are simply the default placeholders for the person getting the reading. Drawing one of those cards alone tells you nothing. You need the rest of the cards to describe the context the person card is in.
The man and woman card don’t even describe people, the rest of the cards describe people. Snake can describe someone curvy and sensual; Coffin can describe someone dark and gloomy; Clover can describe someone with bright colored hair or eyes, etc. Again, cards #28 and #29 are simply placeholders, they do not describe people. It is the rest of the cards that describe the people and their relationship. You can call them whatever you want. Card #28 says man in printed books, but if you want it to represent your agender boss, or your nonbinary self, or your genderfluid housemate, then do that! It’s totally fine to do. Its your deck, do what you want.
Another reason gender doesn’t matter is because you don’t even have to use #28 or #29 to describe you. If you want #14 Fox to be the placeholder for you that is 100% ok! You can literally use any card you want to represent you. You can use any card you want to describe your partner or whoever it is you want included in the reading. Lenormand can be as flexible as you want it to be.
One other thing to consider is that because the man and woman cards are not abstract symbols, they are not here to represent archetypes of femininity or masculinity. Renaming man to “masculine” and woman to “feminine” doesn’t work because these cards have no interpretations of their own. Woman does not represent archetypal feminine and man does not represent archetypal masculine. They represent nothing except “person 1” and “person 2”.
Rana George’s Lenormand deck actually comes with four people cards, two men and two women. There are no explicitly non-binary cards, no, but what I do as a non-binary person who uses this deck, is pick one of the four cards that closest matches my vibe at the time and use that to represent me. Sometimes I vibe more with the bellydancer and other times I’m the one just sitting inside chilling (see pic below). I’m not always androgynous-presenting and I personally, as one singular enby, don’t care at all that there are no androgynous-presenting cards in this deck.
Is it problematic and not particularly inclusive to have man and woman as the “default” placeholders for people? This does describe our current cultural issues with heteronormativity, that much is for sure, but at the end of the day, once you have your deck, its your deck, and you can do whatever you want with it. We aren’t using the cards within the context of 19th century German life anyway so don’t worry about it.
If you are a reader and want to be more inclusive towards LGBTQ+ people you can simply ask your clients how they want to be represented in the deck. If they want to go with #29 Woman, great. If they want to go with #32 Moon great. Are they feeling more like an inanimate object? That’s fine too! We all have a choice here. We also have the choice and power to make new and more inclusive decks, which I enthusiastically support.
Do you think adding another few people card options would be helpful? If you are a LGBTQ+ Lenormand reader and want to see more decks in the future include more people card options, let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you know of decks that do have these cards, let me know of those in the comments too, I’d love to check them out.
Sources and Lenormand history:
The Essential Lenormand by Rana George https://ranageorge.com/the-essential-lenormand
Mlle. Lenormand, the most famous card reader of all time
M. M. Kelly 2021