Madame Le Normand
Excerpt from E. S. Taylor's "The history of playing cards, with anecdotes of their use in conjuring, fortune-telling, and card-sharping":
The stormy period of the first Consulship of Napoleon and that of the Empire which followed it, was especially characterized by cartomantic practices in France. At this time, there lived in Paris a famous woman, whose renown as a prophetess will probably not soon pass away. This person was Mlle. Lenormand, whose influence with the empress Josephine, and even Napoleon himself, was said to be considerable.
Whether we are to give any credence to the general predictions made by her, is doubtful; yet it cannot but be conceded that some of her prophecies are couched in such plain and straightforward language, that they seem unmistakeable. In a work published by her in 1820, after a prediction relating to Napoleon the First, we find the words: "And the nephew will accomplish that which the uncle was unable to perform."(" Titfera le neveu ce que I'oncle n'avait pufaire.") If we regard the astonishing rise of the present emperor, we cannot but be struck with the truth of the prediction. It is more than suspected that Napoleon III. is himself a believer in such matters, as was his renowned uncle.
It is unquestionable that Mlle. Lenormand for more than half a century was a respected and accredited prophetess. Even from the early age of seven, she was in the habit of foretelling future events. She was brought up in the Benedictine abbey of Alencon, and she made many predictions in 1779 respecting the events about to happen to that place, which were subsequently verified.
In person she was stout and tall, but intolerably ugly; in speech she was emphatic and commanding, fond of metaphor : but in her writings she was turged and dull. In the memoirs of the empress,(Memoires sur Vimperatrice, 1828, vol. ii., p. 355.) there is preserved a short correspondence between Josephine and the sybil, in which the empress compliments the cartomancer, and begs an explanation of an enigmatical note found under her dinner napkin, as follows:
" Who tempts the Lord will become himself subject to temptation. The bow over bent will break in the hands of the hunter. Ice is no better for the game than fire. Let him beware of 23 and 31, it is a series of misfortune. Happy his companion should she exchange seven pebbles for three branches of fern and straw. Thus saith the prophet."
On receiving this, Mlle. Lenormand explained it somewhat haughtily to refer to an expedition which the emperor was warned thereby not to commence without due preparation. The hunter was Napoleon. Syria and Holland were alluded to as fire and ice. She declined with contempt to explain the numbers, adding, "Cagliostro himself would have offered no solution. The star of the emperor, or rather his genius, must divine this." The seven pebbles allude to the palace of stone, and the fern and straw was meant to indicate that poverty was preferable to the greatness enjoyed by Josephine.
Mlle. Lenormand, whose character was vain and arrogant, positively attended the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, deeming her presence there of the utmost importance. She actually moved all her goods to Aix, to the infinite disarrangement of the custom-house officers, who were thus forced to pay her some attention. On her return, she actually published her impressions on the political crisis, and headed them with a vignette picture, on which she was represented as the centre of the group of sovereigns and powers, who were tremblingly listening to her oracular utterances !
A couple of anecdotes about Marianne Lenormand will fitly dismiss her. On one occasion, Joachim Murat, when king of Naples, went to consult her. She received him with her usual haughtiness, and the cards were speedily produced. He cut them. The king of diamonds appeared. In some systems, this card is considered to be of the utmost ill-fortune, and is called the Grand Pendu, or the great hanged person. Mlle. Lenormand told him that prosperous as he might then be, an execution awaited him. He laid ten napoleons on the table, and begged for another trial, The sybil granted it, and he again cut the king of diamonds. Once more he laid a similar sum on the table, and once more the king of diamonds was turned up. The king then drew forth fifty napoleons, and with pitiless iteration, the fatal card again appeared. He then offered the prophetess one hundred napoleons for a final chance ; but she angrily threw the cards at his head, telling him to begone, turning him out with the consolation that his fate was the gallows or the musketshot. All persons know that Murat met his fate by military execution in Calabria, in 1816.
But Mlle. Lenormand sometimes predicted good as well as evil fortune. In the life of Bernadotte, the king of Sweden, an anecdote is told which unquestionably refers to the sybil of the Rue de Tournon.
One of Bernadotte's aide-de-camps, Gerard, afterwards marshal of France, was entertaining his chief with anecdotes of this proficiency of the cartomancer, and invited Bernadotte to accompany him to her house. This was in January, 1804. The latter consented, and away they went. The colonel presented his general as a rich merchant, who was anxious to learn the result of certain commercial speculations that he was about to commence in different parts of Germany. "Sir," replied the prophetess, "you are no merchant, but an officer, and an officer of very high rank." She was assured that she was wrong; at which she shook her head and continued, "Well, sir, if you go into commercial speculations you will be unsuccessful and forced to re-enter the career pointed out by destiny." She again examined the cards, and pursued her discourse :?" Sir, not only are you of high military rank, but you are or will be related to the emperor." " What emperor ?" cried Bernadotte and Gerard. " I mean the first consul, but you will soon see him emperor." Then with her fingers slowly tracing the mystic signs, she exclaimed in a solemn and inspired tone, " Yes ! he will be emperor; but here are some clouds dividing you." Bernadotte looked significantly at Gerard. The sybil went on :? " There is no separation however; you are attached to him?Ah ! how his star is rising!" She stopped a moment, as if in surprise. " Sir," she added, " be careful not to break with him; he will be very powerful; the world will be at his feet ; and you, you, far away from him, will be a king. Yes," she repeated, " yes, you will be a king." She said no more. "Good," said Gerard, "what follows." "I can see no more, and can add nothing."
Sarran's Histoire de Charles Jean XIV., 1845. Vol. i., p. 50.
Here is what Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer has to say on the subject:
Consultation of the cards serves to amuse the idle, the curious, and the credulous, so a brief recapitulation of the two methods most in vogue may interest readers, who can try for themselves to read what the divining tools say through the interpretations used by two of the most celebrated fortune-tellers of the past century, namely: Etteila and Mlle, le Normand. The latter used modem French cards, while the former required a complete Tarot pack that is not easy for most people to obtain.
Cardmakers have not been unready to invent for their customers various fantastic packs with weird symbols, and to bestow on these modem creations various significances that have no relation whatever to the old Tarots; therefore they are valueless in the eyes of those who believe in the ancient mysteries, which have been implicitly credited for ages, and have a significance that is not difficult to understand, although the different shades of meaning attributed to them by the Initiates have been lost.
The fortune-telling packs issued by the card makers of the day generally bear French pips, since these symbols are the ones familiar to manufacturers in France, England, and America. They have, in addition, badly drawn, inartistic pictures that are foolish and meaningless, since they are neither heraldic nor symbolic, and they are only intended for amateurs, since the true fortune-teller or Gypsy of to-day prefers the cards with the ancient pips of Money, Swords, Rods, and Cups, together with the Atouts.
A pack published in Frankfort-on-Main has the French, not the German, pips, as would seem natural, and the cards are named "Le Normand Karten." They are great favourites in Europe, where they are used for foretelling the future and describing the past or present by credulous persons who follow the rules laid down in the accompanying book or key, believing that the cards were originally arranged and interpreted by the celebrated French cartomancie. Mlle, le Normand herself, who had wonderful luck in her business and has had many successors.
This pack is one and a half by three inches in width, which is smaller than ordinary Playing Cards, and more convenient for laying out on a table. The pack contains only thirty-six cards, with three court cards to each suit, namely: King Queen, and Knave. The six pip cards are Ace, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten. Each one has a meaningless picture on it, such as a coffin, birds, flowers, or keys, and male or female figures dressed in the fashion of 1850. In the upper centre of each card is a small space, on which are the court figures or the pip symbols that are represented on an ordinary pack of French cards.
The directions for consulting the cards are printed in German and French in a small book accompanying them, so, since any pack with French pips would serve for the same amusement, the rules and interpretations may well be here given, as many persons enjoy consulting the cards to discover through them, if they may, the past, present, and future.
Shuffle and cut the cards, and then hand them to the Inquirer to cut three times. Deal one at a time, placing them face upward on the table in rows from left to right. The first four rows each should have eight cards, and the fifth row only four cards, which should be placed in the middle under the others. These signify the end of life, and the row is, consequently, shorter than the others. The cards for this row must be put so that there are two outside of them on either side, both left and right on the row above them, which makes the two outside lines count only four cards from top to bottom, while the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines have five cards under them.
If the inquirer is a female, she is represented by the Ace of Spades, and if a male, he is betokened by the Ace of Hearts. These cards also represent husband and wife, or two lovers, and great attention must be paid to the place where they fall in dealing, for all the other cards are dominated and controlled by one of these two, taking their significance from them. The portent of the other cards is great or less in degree according to their position, whether it be near or far, above or below, these two representative cards. Those touching them are supposed to show the events that are happening at the present moment, those far from them are in the past, or the future, depending whether they are above or below the two important ones.
The meaning of the thirty-six remaining cards is explained as follows:
King Of Spades -- Great happiness. A journey. A voyage on business. A happy life.
QUEEN -- Happiness throughout life in every way.
Knave -- A birth. A child. A sweet disposition. Affability.
TEN -- Inherited wealth. Business. Fortune. Journey on account of business. Travel.
NlNE -- Successful voyages. Commercial enterprises. Faithfulness. Illusions. Flirtations.
ElGHT -- Social position. Constant love. Unimportant position. Bad companions.
SEVEN -- Good news. A letter from a distance. Bad news. An invitation.
Six -- Long life. Sad life. Sickness. Death.
King Of Clubs -- Trouble. Happiness. Disaster to friends. Good news of friends.
Queen -- Misfortune. Bad friends. Slander. Loss.
KNAVE -- Discord in family. Unhappiness between lovers. Illness. Protracted sufferings.
Ten -- Happiness. Indifference. Trouble from outsiders. Slander.
NlNE -- Annoyances. Troubles from friends. Quarrels. Lawsuit
ElGHT -- Friendship. Faithful lover. Powerful enemy. Enemy overcome.
SEVEN -- Loss. Thief. Loss recovered. Loss irreparable.
Six -- Disagreeable news. Slight trouble. Bad news. Trouble for friends.
Ace -- Engagement. Happy marriage and riches. Broken engagement. Separation of lovers.
King Of Diamonds -- Fortune from the sea. Enterprises successful. Misfortune. Loss.
QUEEN -- Unhappiness averted. Danger escaped. Sorrow. Trouble.
KNAVE -- Chagrin. Misfortune averted. Danger. Unhappiness averted.
Ten -- News. Secret intelligence. Gossip. Scandal.
Nine -- Illness. Sorrow. Accidents. Danger.
ElGHT -- Invitations. A love affair. Pleasure for the beloved. A love affair in the family.
Seven -- Happy journey. Arrival of friends. A short trip. A journey.
Six -- Pleasure. Good news. Annoyances overcome Good fortune.
Ace -- Prosperity. Good luck. Discouragement. Misfortune.
KlNG OF HEARTS -- Reunion. Prosperity. Fidelity. Endurance.
QUEEN -- An excursion. A journey. A prevented visit Delayed journey.
Knave -- Love. Happiness. Pleasure. Concord.
Ten -- Fidelity. Lovers. Friendships. Treachery.
NlNE -- Good news. Tidings. Letters. Visits
ElGHT -- Honours. Approbation. Jealousy. Misery.
Seven -- Pain Slight illness. Recovery from illness. Health.
Six -- Good fortune. Happiness. Reverses. Troubles.
With this key to the interpretation of the cards, as arranged according to Mlle, le Normand's theory, they may be read as follows, counting on the cards as they fall near or far from the Ace of Hearts. If they are above or close to and on the right, they mean the first description; if on the left, they signify the second one. If below on the right, the third description is the one to be taken, and if below on the left, the fourth.
Suppose a young man is the inquirer, and the cards be dealt as follows:
First Row -- Six of Diamonds, Nine of Clubs, Seven of Hearts, Seven of Diamonds, Ten of Spades, Queen of Clubs, Ace of Hearts, Ten of Clubs.
SECOND Row -- Six of Spades, Seven of Spades, Eight of Clubs, Six of Clubs, Nine of Spades, King of Clubs, Ace of Clubs, Seven of Clubs.
THIRD Row -- King of Hearts, Knave of Hearts, King of Diamonds, Queen of Spades, Knave of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, Six of Hearts, Ten of Diamonds.
FOURTH Row -- Queen of Hearts, King of Spades, Ace of Spades, Eight of Diamonds. King of Clubs, Eight of Hearts, King of Diamonds, Nine of Hearts.
FIFTH Row -- Ten of Hearts, Nine of Diamonds, Eight of Spades, Ace of Diamonds.
This could be explained through the key as being a young man who from birth had been surrounded by envious, jealous, and quarrelsome persons, who formed his character, leading to the greatest unhappiness in the family life. The marriage of his parents having been unfortunate, it reacted on the boy's welfare. A trusted friend or guardian stole the fortune that had been left in trust. But, endowed with good health, these troubles were disregarded in youth. His character being unbridled, capricious, frivolous, inconstant, peevish, and given to imagining grievances, although affectionate to his friends, his disposition made him uncongenial to most persons.
Secret enemies, who had been trusted as friends, embittered his life in a way that nothing could overcome. A long journey undertaken for the sake of forgetfulness was filled with annoyances and mishaps. Some brightness entered into it through the companionship of a charming woman, which might have resulted in a happy marriage had not the jealous spirit that controlled the young man's career prevented. An early death is prognosticated.