Note: Before you read the following chapter in detail it might be a good idea to have a close look at the table of contents once. It gives you a simple overview of the journey you're about to embark on - of its starting point, the individual stages, and the (temporary) goal.

Table of contents

1. Vital preparatory steps
1.1 >> Learn the individual cards' meanings
1.2 >> Learn the combination method
1.3 >> Get an overview of commonly used spreads

2. The reading
2.1 >> Define your question or concern precisely
2.2 >> Pick the fitting spread
2.3 >> Shuffle the cards, spread them, and turn them over
2.4 >> Read (interpret, find a message in) the cards
2.4 >> Considerations post reading

1. Vital preparatory steps

I called the following preparatory steps "vital" for a good reason: they are the prerequisites for doing full readings successfully. Skipping them and going straight for full readings would be like wanting to learn to play the Moonlight Sonata on the piano before you have figured out to play a simple triad with one hand.

1.1 Learn to know the deck, and the individual cards' meanings

Knowing the structure of the Lenormand deck you're going to use for your readings is essential. So if you haven't done it yet, now is the right time to read my short introduction to the >> classic Lenormand deck, and the >> particularities of my own (and how to handle them). Also, take note of what I write about >> how to handle my interpretations of the cards, depending on whether you want to keep things traditional or are an individualist like me. You can find the full chapter >> here. Please read it thoroughly; it will save you a lot of confusion.

Once you are familiar with the structure of the deck make yourself familiar with all the cards' meanings. If you're happy enough to follow an individualistic approach to Lenormand, you can go to my >> view all page and click on the thumbnails of the cards for my own detailed descriptions of their meanings. If you want to keep it traditional you need to learn the meanings from more traditionally minded sources!
Now, you can always look up the cards' meanings as the need arises. So technically it isn't necessary to know them all by heart before you start your first reading. But it is definitely important to have more than just a rough idea! Also, be sure you understand the special role the Man and the Woman play in the deck.

IMPORTANT!!! When you look up my own cards' meanings you will be presented with a large number of keywords and long interpretations. It is not necessary to remember all of them! What I recommend when you're just starting out is to pick two to three nouns, attributes, and activities - the ones that resonate most with you. It's perfectly sufficient to remember "just" those for the time being. If at some point later on you begin to feel that it would be helpful to expand your range of interpretations you can always pick more. Know, however, that many people stick with a very small number of keywords even after they have gained experience - and it works perfectly fine for them! It obviously didn't for me; hence my elaborate interpretations. But like so much else with Lenormand the number of keywords you use is up to personal taste and reading style.

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1.2 Practise the combination method

Once you have a good idea of each card's individual meaning, there is something else you need to learn before you can do a full reading: you need to know how to combine two cards' meanings. For other than with Tarot, Lenormand cards are usually not read one by one, with each card interpreted just by itself. Instead, in Lenormand readings, cards are usually read in pairs, by combining two cards' meanings. For my own detailed tutorial on combining cards' meanings please go >> here. Now, you needn't have a lot of experience with combining cards' meanings in order to do full readings. And it's okay if you still get stuck with particular combinations sometimes. But you should feel comfortable with the process itself!

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1.3 Get an overview of commonly used Lenormand spreads

Before you do your first reading, have a good look at the commonly used Lenormand spreads. You don't need to understand them all in detail yet! I recommend that as a beginner you thoroughly read my >> introduction to Lenormand spreads, and then focus on Single Card readings (not common in Lenormand but very useful for total beginners) and String readings (very common, and suitable for beginners who already know the individual cards well). Stick with them until you are comfortable enough with them to actually crave more complexity! As I said, you can find my own introduction to Lenormand Spreads >> here. Links to the individual spreads I will add there as soon as I have finished the respective texts. Until then, you can look up other people's instructions for String readings online - there are plenty!

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2) The Reading

Before you proceed, let's recap. You know each card's individual meaning (to a sufficient degree of precision). You are comfortable with the combination method. And you are aware which Lenormand spreads there are, and which of them are suitable for your first reading attempts. Now you are definitely prepared enough for practising full readings!

2.1 Define your question or concern as precisely as possible

It is important that you know what you want from the cards before you actually start with a reading. Vaguely defined aims will lead to confused or generic readings. So before you even start drawing cards phrase your concern/question as precisely as possible.
While you are still a beginner, try to ask questions which are as simple, as narrow, as possible - for this means that the structure of their answers will be very simple, focused, too. For example: "Why is X? - Because this!" "What is X? - This!" "How? - This is how!" You needn't even ask a question, you could also say: "I need advice!" or "I'm stuck; give me some input!" and the cards then say: "Here it is!"
After a while of practising full readings with simple, focused questions, you may want to start experimenting with broader, or multi-dimensional, concerns. You might then, for example, say: "I need an overview of what are the most import things going on in my life at present." In such cases the cards often give very complex answers - for example: "Here is one important thing. And this issue is connected with it. And this other issue is completely separate from the first two but also important. Oh, and here is a warning!"

A note regarding yes/no questions: There is certainly the possibility to ask questions which require a "yes or no" answer. I personally don't ask such questions, and when someone I'm doing a reading for does, I prompt them to rephrase. For example, I wouldn't ask "Should I do X?" but "What are some pros and cons for doing X?" If you yourself are fine with asking yes/no questions there are techniques for getting yes/no answers. I don't treat of them here; but they are easy enough to find online!

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2.2 Pick the fitting spread

Once you've phrased your concern, you can pick a fitting spread and decide which techniques you want to use. Take care that the spread and techniques you are using are actually able to deliver the type of answer you are looking for! Some spreads are more adequate to answer simple, one-dimensional questions, whereas others are better suited for giving you answers to multi-dimensional concerns. Some spreads and techniques show several consecutive stages of a process, while others are more able to highlight separate aspects of one present situation, etc. Sometimes a reading can seem all askew because the spread that was used wasn't matching the question.

Note: It might really pay off to not get too fixated on Strings and Tableaus. For if you just want a short and sweet, clear answer to a very simple but pressing question, it can be useful not to use a spread at all. Instead, it might be best to draw just one card (or one pair of cards if you want to keep closer to Lenormand tradition) and interpret this single card (or this one pair) as a very focused, condensed, answer to your question.

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2.3 Shuffle the cards, spread them, and turn them over

When you've chosen your spread, and decided which techniques you're going to apply, shuffle your cards thoroughly. Except in the case of a Grand Tableau (which contains all 36 [or 40] cards) you then need to draw the number of cards you will be using. Some people like to fan out the shuffled deck face down and draw the cards with closed eyes. Others shuffle and cut, and some people just count off the topmost cards. Whatever method feels right to you will be fine. You can then either first spread the cards face down, and only turn them over after the spread is fully arranged, or turn them over as you spread them. Again, it's a matter of personal taste.

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2.4 Read (interpret, find a message in) the cards

Once you have spread the cards and turned them over you can proceed with the actual reading. Now, the thing is that apart from some generalities (things you have to consider in every reading) how you go about reading the cards in detail depends greatly on the question you asked and the spread you are using. You can (and have to) proceed differently depending on whether you used a single card, a string, or a (grand) tableau, and, within these spreads, which techniques you apply to them. So after you have read to the end of this section look up >> the type of spread you are using and follow the specific instructions given there!

The starting point: The first general consideration when you do a reading is the determination of your starting point - the card you begin the reading with. Usually, the starting point is pretty obvious - the spread you are using or the question you have asked will very strongly suggest one. For example, some spreads may require you to begin with the card to the very left, or a central card, while other spreads, or when you use certain techniques, will require you to start with the representative of the querent, or the card which represents the topic you asked about, no matter where it is positioned.

The cards' positions: Another consideration relevant to most readings is the meaning of the positions the cards turn up in. Each card (or often, each pair of cards) has to be interpreted according to its position in the spread, or according to its position to other cards. Just two examples: depending on its position in the spread one pair of cards may represent an event in the past, another something which is going on in the present. Or, depending on its positioning towards the Woman, one card might represent something that the querent controls, while another would represent something the querent is controlled by.

The cards' "correct" meaning in the reading: You have to learn to feel intuitively which of its many potential meanings a particular card should have in a specific reading. There is no rule which always works. Let's say you've drawn the Fox. In many contexts the keyword "proper self-care" is the most helpful. But in others, "selfishness" would be more accurate and productive, and in still others "caution", and so on. Picking the most accurate and helpful keyword out of the many potential ones is an ability that needs practice as well as the readiness to let go of preconceived notions and biases. Don't be discouraged if this presents a challenge at first. Keep trying! If the same card keeps baffling you in different readings you might want to read up on keywords you haven't yet been actively using. Maybe a keyword which seemed totally useless when you first saw it eventually turns out a very relevant, applicable one.

If you get stuck: If you are at a loss with a certain card (or pair of cards), just move on and come back to it later. Often, the meaning of a card only becomes clear if we take its interdependence with one or more of the other cards into consideration as well. And sometimes it takes a couple of days' distance from the first reading attempt for inspiration to strike.

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2.5 Considerations post reading

After you have finished a reading, you may want to write down or photograph the cards you picked and take some notes about your interpretation. You can also note what seemed obvious and easy, and where you were confused or stuck. It's sometimes helpful to revisit a reading after a week or two - often, question marks left over from the reading will dissipate when you look at the cards a second time. And sometimes, you'll be able to recognise things you weren't ready to accept the first time around.

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