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Systems? I Don't Need No Stinking Systems!

When someone new comes to the WDA, the first thing they may notice is that all the card divination courses share a common theme. That theme is that they’re all taught via a system. So, what exactly is a card system and where does our intuition or psychic ability come into play?

Let’s start by considering that cards are but one of the many divination methods one can use. There is scrying, runes, bone or charm casting, pendulums, palmistry, astrology, numerology, psychometry, and tasseography to name a few. So we can say that card reading is a divination method. There are many different categories or genres of cards at our disposal. A genre is a class or division of things regarded as having particular shared characteristics. Some of the more popular genres include tarot, Sibilla, Kipper, Petit Lenormand, Grand Jeu Lenormand, Gypsy, and Gyspy Witch. Each genre will include at least one system that has been developed and is widely accepted as the standard for using that particular genre. Hang on, we’re getting to the meat of this article! A system can be defined as a set of principles or procedures by which something is done. It is an organized scheme or method. A system contains a defined structure and guidelines. Yes, you can call them rules, but many object to this word because they think that rules will prevent them from accessing their intuition. I know because I used to be one of those people! But, read on and you will learn that nothing could be further from the truth!

So, now we know what a system is. At the other end of the spectrum, we have a purely intuitive reading. What do I mean by “reading intuitively”? I’m using this term to refer to the free use of our creativity - our psychic abilities - the feelings in our guts as opposed to the thoughts in our heads. What we now refer to as oracle decks were designed for this very purpose. Keep in mind that all card decks used for divination purposes were originally called "oracles", including the Lenormand cards. As for the decks we now call oracle decks, outside of the guidebooks that give us the deck creator’s interpretations, we are free to study each card and search for its meaning. That is, what it means to us at that given moment with regard to the context of our inquiry. There are no guidelines and no structure. Images, numbers, and colors will all be taken into account and individual readers will all come to their own conclusions. Each time we draw an oracle card, we may get a different message.

So, cards are just one divination method, different types of cards are genres, and how we use each genre is its system. Now, let’s delve deeper into what systems are.

Card divination is both a science and an art. Let’s define these two words before we proceed. Science can be defined as a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject. Art can be defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. We can then say that card reading is based on using a system (the science) which we then creatively apply our intuition to (the art). Here at the WDA, we teach the science and uphold the most traditional and empirical systems for each card genre. In learning a system, once the left brain has the science under control, it frees up the right brain to create the art.

While most readers agree that tarot has a system, as well as Kipper, Sibilla, and the other long-established card genres, Lenormand, being the new kid on the block, seems to be causing some confusion.

Unfortunately, many modern Lenormand readers are trying to forgo the system because they think it will interfere with their intuition - their creative expression - their oracular reading - their art. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Without a system in place, many Lenormand readers are relying on extensive lists of keywords and possible card combinations which leave them virtually unable to perform the simplest reading without relying on their reference materials. To sum up, they’re making it a lot harder than it should be!

Because Lenormand is still so new to the Anglosphere, many cards are being misinterpreted. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of people such as Toni Puhle, we now have the original meanings correctly translated from their original German. This was no easy task as anyone who’s studied a foreign language has probably heard more than once that certain words are difficult to translate because the subtle nuances would be lost. In other words, there was no equivalent word in the new language. This leaves you with a paragraph rather than a word to effectively describe a card’s meaning.

We can blame any discrepancies in card meanings on flawed translations. Let’s take #15, the Bear card for example. The OT for this card is translated as a messenger of good fortune, but with the warning to protect ourselves against those who would be jealous. This has led many to believe that this card relates only to our finances but this isn’t the case. The phrase, good fortune, is defined as an auspicious state resulting from favorable outcomes. Likewise, we often see the word prosperity in descriptions of this card, but consider that prosperity is the state of flourishing and thriving and may have nothing to do with money at all. It can refer to affluence and success as much as comfort, security, and wellbeing. But there's an important difference between the words fortune and prosperity. While prosperity is the "state" of flourishing, fortune refers more to one's fate and being at the top of our game. Everything is going well at the moment and others are taking notice. So, this card is not your income, but instead, it shows that everything is coming up roses for you right now so keep doing what you're doing, but be wary of those around you who may want to take what you have. This is where the element of protection and control comes in.

Its reference to leadership, management, and being the boss follows the same line of thinking - that of controlling and managing what you have and what you’re in charge of.

Other than the problem of misinterpretation, we have confusion about the original system. Because Lenormand only hit the Anglosphere about 10 years ago, most readers are coming from tarot and are, unfortunately, bringing their tarot baggage with them. They’ve been tarotisizing the Lenormand cards by attempting to pigeonhole each card into a specific meaning rather than using the intended system which relies upon tableau reading in order to view the constellations and clusters of cards. A cluster is a group of connected cards, ie, cards that belong to the same theme group. A constellation is a grouping of cards related only by proximity. The Lenormand system relies on themed groups and core energies rather than individual card meanings. By understanding the core energy or essence of each card and using only a few keywords for each, a reader can easily apply those meanings to any theme, ie, work, relationships, family, health, etc., without the need to refer to a keyword or combination list. This is why the deck came without a specific work card, sex card, family card, etc.. What we have instead are clusters or themed groups of cards. For example, the relationship cluster contains the Ring, Anchor, and Heart, but also includes cards such as the Lily and Whip. With only 36 cards in this small deck, all the cards will perform double-duty and will fit neatly into other themed groups. For example, one can argue over which card should be the work card, but the fact is that the Anchor, Moon, Bear, and Ship all belong in this group. And yes, the Fox will often show up in work-related readings for the simple reason that at work is where you’ll most often encounter dishonesty, deceit, manipulation, and sneakiness. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, nothing personal, it’s just business. I use this phrase to explain the difference between the Fox and Snake cards. The Fox is just business, the Snake is personal.

I hope this has helped you to understand what a system is and its importance. Thank you for reading. Namaste.

Lisa Young-Sutton


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