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I always think of the Whip as being a whip due to its name. It’s been described as a whip and a broom. However, I know it’s also been called the Birch; this presumably refers to the birchrod and the practice of birching.

According to Wikipedia:

Birching is a corporal punishment with a birch rod, typically applied to the recipient’s bare buttocks, although occasionally to the back and/or shoulders.

A birch rod (often shortened to “birch”) is a bundle of leafless twigs bound together to form an implement for flagellation.

This would seem more appropriate to the depiction of the “whip” on some Lenormand cards, such as the French Cartomancy pictured here, which is based on the Dondorf pattern.

Birching was also used, according to this article, during the French Revolution which may have inspired its use in these cards:

Birching featured in the French Revolution. One leader of the revolution, Anne Josephe Theroigne de Mericourt, went mad, ending her days in an asylum after a public birching.

So this card depicts a tool of punishment and an instrument used in times of strife, but not a weapon. It deals pain and suffering, was used where punishment was needed, but there were not injuries as a bladed weapon (such as the Scythe). This seems to tie into the traditional meanings of harshness and harsh words, with conflict and argument. Admittedly this less obviously related to the concept of punishment that is the core purpose of the birchrod, but it’s close enough for me to work with the card and its meaning.

Of course there is always this depiction from the Bärtschi Lenormand:


It puts me in mind of the French tradtion, where phsycial activity and by implication sexuality is attached to the Whip. But that’s a post for another day.


Somebody had asked about the Lenormand Anchor card, due to difficulty in relating it to its traditional meaning of “work.” This made me think about the Lenormand tradition that exists today.

Anchor as work is representing a constant force in the average person’s life. Generally, we have some kind of job to do to make a living. I know I have to work five days a week. Some people might have varying hours, but still put in 40+ hours a week at some kind of job.

An alternative for work that some might be familiar with is the Fox, and the rationale is that the fox must use his skill and wit to get by in the world. Sometimes I do find that more appealing, but so far I’ve stuck with work and the Anchor. The Anchor is from the German Lenormand tradition, while the Fox stems from the French tradition. I believe other countries (Belgium?) use the Moon for work!

frenchcartomancy_14_foxOne of the things I like about Lenormand is that it is a cohesive tradition. Each card always depicts the same item, no matter the deck. Each item is symbolic and carries with it a general meaning, which was originally related to that item

Some card meanings and methods may differ by region, such as Anchor discussed above; but largely they are the same. Compare this to playing cards, where every person seems to develop their own set of meanings and style of reading. Or tarot decks, where meanings may be consistent among general schools of thought although the visual representation (notably of the minors) varies quite a bit. In Lenormand, the Anchor is always card 35, and it is always the visual representation of an anchor.

A lot of these cards have meanings that simply require adhering to a convention. Similar to tarot minors, they cover the gamut of human experience. Even with differing traditions, the same experiences seem to be represented across the cards, just adjusted differently. So if the Anchor doesn’t talk about work or jobs in a tradition, the concept of work is still present in the deck, assigned to another card. From what I’ve seen these variations are minor; they apply to a small number of cards.

This suggests working in a tradition is the way to learn these cards. I largely think of the German and French traditions, as they are what I’ve encountered online the most. The new reader can begin with whichever is available or speaks to him, then grow from that. As with other kinds of cards their meanings will evolve somewhat as the reader gains rapport with them. However, there is still the underlying core as a foundation.

Some readers who work with oracle decks are accustomed to deciding what they want cards to mean, and assigning whatever meanings they can intuit. Or other readers might have difficulties in related to some concepts, especially readers in countries where items represented in the cards are not present or have different cultural meanings. The Snake and Bear are two cards that might exemplify this. And of course, it was someones difficulty in related “work” to the Anchor that prompted this post.


Of course, the cards are pasteboard and they belong to their owner. This means that they can be used in any way their owner wishes, and that includes assigning custom meanings or even changing what the cards mean (full intuitive readings) with every use! This would mean breaking completely out of tradition and a standard symbolic language.

Varying from the standard may enable better resonance with the cards, as they can mean something personal. The flip side is that it becomes harder to communicate with others who are all using largely standard meanings and to follow Lenormand material that is available. I’ve run into this when reconciling the (French origin) Secrets of the Lenormand Oracle book’s methods against the Germanic meanings I use… love readings are okay for me as cards like Ring and Heart are the same, but when we get into work and money, the cards are used differently, and I have to mentally adjust. It makes it tougher to follow examples, and I worry that the cards meanings will get muddled in my head. Someone once said that using some meanings one time, and other meanings at other times, makes for a confusing and muddled read. I don’t want that to happen to me!


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