Back when I was working on Anecdotes Tarot, I made a smaller and much more modest sister-project, a Petit Lenormand (which I never even properly titled).
My main motivation was to break up one of those frustrating times when good ideas just refuse to come. The images of the Petit Lenormand fortunetelling cards are far less fraught with symbolism than those of a tarot deck. The cards are read with the same standard meanings no matter how simple or ornate the illustration (see Cafe Lenormand). Consequently, these little drawings turned into a great low-stakes exercise in extracting images and icons from the music and helped me construct the denser Anecdotes pictures.
Well, it’s that time of year again where I’m getting a build-up of questions on the Lenormand deck (not from major hype or popularity of course, more from my own difficulty with choosing how many copies to print in an edition). Instead of keeping on with my old black Flair-pen doodles, I decided to try remaking the drawings in color this time around!
In these posts, I will share the old and new Lenormand images with their corresponding cards from Anecdotes (corresponding meaning based on the same song and/or lyric). In many cases, the Lenormand version predates the tarot one, and it has been interesting to look back on.
You and Me, Bess: Rider & the Hanged Man
Who do you think that you are —Joanna Newsom, “You and Me, Bess” (Have One On Me, 2010)
arching your hooves like a crane,
in the shallow gutter
that lines the boulevards,
crowded with folks
who just stare as I hang?
It’s all the same.
Kindness comes over me;
what was your name?
It makes no difference.
I’m glad that you came.
Forever, I’ll listen to your glad neighing.
This is a case where the meanings of the two cards are nearly opposite, but the same song offered (in my opinion) the most fitting images for both. The Rider in Lenormand signifies news, short-term visits, and quick activity. On the other hand, the Hanged Man is firmly stuck, paying the price for some mischief.
“You and Me, Bess” is narrated by an apparent horse-thief, hiding out on the beach with her titular equine friend, until the nearby townspeople bring her in to be hanged (the human, not the horse). The Rider image could be the start of the song, before the narrator is apprehended. Or, you might think of it as an alternative happy ending where the two escape together for more adventures.
Only Skin: Clover & the Seven Cups
It was a dark dream, darlin;Joanna Newsom, “Only Skin” (Ys, 2006)
The firebreather is beneath the clover.
Beneath his breathing there is cold clay, forever:
a toothless hound-dog choking on a feather.
But I took my fishing pole (fearing your fever),
down to the swimming hole, where there grows a bitter herb
that blooms but one day a year, by the riverside —
I’d bring it here:
Apply it gently
to the love you’ve lent me.
“Only Skin” is the only song of the five from Ys that doesn’t have its own devoted card in the Major Arcana. It was simply too huge to be contained. So, its story and imagery are dispersed throughout the Suit of Cups (which I thought was appropriate for the way the song itself picks up threads of the four others).
The first half of this section of the text forms the Clover card, whose meanings include luck, chances, and hopes. The second half is the basis for the Seven of Cups, which also relates to hopes, as well as plans and dreams and, as follows from the lyric, healing. Instead of clover, the Seven Cups features yarrow, heather, and hollyhock (mentioned elsewhere in the song).
Bridges & Balloons: Ship & the Fool
We sailed away on a winter’s dayJoanna Newsom, “Bridges & Balloons” (The Milk-Eyed Mender, 2004)
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades.
The Newsomography is not short on seafaring references. But “Bridges & Balloons” offered the most iconic imagery to use on the Ship card. The song leans less into the commercial meanings of the Lenormand card, more towards long-distance travel. This significance, as well as its fairy-story references and nonsense rhymes, makes it perfectly fitting for the Tarot’s wandering Fool.
Emily: House & the Three Cups
Come on home. The poppies are all grown knee-deep by now.Joanna Newsom, “Emily” (Ys, 2006)
Blossoms all have fallen, and the pollen ruins the plow.
Peonies nod in the breeze,
and while they wetly bow
with hydrocephalitic listlessness,
ants mop up their brow.
And everything with wings is restless, aimless, drunk and dour;
butterflies and birds collide at hot, ungodly hours.
And my clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines —
Come on home, now! All my bones are dolorous with vines.
Here is another case where the Tarot and Lenormand pictures correspond to the same exact lyric, though the Tarot one is larger in scope. The song “Emily,” dedicated to Joanna Newsom’s sister, fits well with the House’s focus on home, family, and domestic affairs. The Tarot version brings out more of the dark side in the lyrics (also showing my own bias though, Summer is the bleakest season of the year in my view). With the Lenormand card I tried to show a more warm, cradling view, while the Tarot card crosses into oppressive heat and overgrowth.
And this is where I end my post for now. I will pick back up again with the next set of four cards!
Finally, thank you to joannanewsomlyrics.com for letting me check, copy, and paste accurate lyrics!