The Fox Outsmarts the Bear: Lenormand and Career Readings

A recent review of our book, Learning Lenormand, criticised it for referring to the original “Game of Hope” cards in 1800 from which the Lenormand is copied. The reviewer stated emphatically that the Lenormand was “certainly not the game of cards” to which we referred often, as if understanding the origins of the deck in no way was useful to learning.

My personal opinion is that appreciating the context in which the deck was developed – and why it (out of the many possible variations) survived, is essential to my reading. I’d like to give one example, of how appreciating the history adds to real interpretations, in this case with careers.

When the Game of Hope was first used as a parlour game, the tale of Reynard the Fox would have been common knowledge – as we cover in the book. The Fox in the deck of images would have instantly been seen in this light; as the trickster and master manipulator, looking after number one.

Here is an image of Reynard at the Ways.

Reynard at the Ways

Reynard at the Ways

In the original instructions for the game, we see that the “cunning fox leads the player astray”, actually taking them back to the woods (Tree)! So it is a somewhat tricky card when appearing in our reading, for both good and ill, depending on its context.

We should also look at the Bear in career readings, in this context, as a powerful boss, employer (company), or already established power. The relationship between the Fox and the Bear, for me, comes from the original tales of Reynard, where the Bear features as an active character.

The Fox and the Bear in the tales of Reynard are recognised as self-interest versus the establishment. Reynard tricks the bear in a number of different ways, always taking advantage of the bear’s self-confidence and single-mindedness. The Fox works by indirect methods, manipulation and controlling the communications between the various parties, to his own ends. The Fox (unlike the Snake in the grass) is an enemy in plain sight – just in that they look after “number one”.

We can have some sympathy for the fox though, as he is also employing his self-interest to look after and feed his family back at the den. In some Lenormand decks we see him stalking the chicken who is totally unaware of their role in the natural pecking order.

So when someone asks me about career in a Grand Tableau, I always think of the context in which players would have played the original Game of Hope, and the stories they would have told each other from those images. These would have been informed by their own experience of the tales of the time, including Reynard the Fox.

So, as some example combinations:

Fox + Moon: Self-Promotion
Fox + Bear: Conflict with Authority
Fox + Fish: Self-Interest leading to Gain

And as a general rule, when looking at career questions in the Grand Tableau, I always consider where the Fox and the Bear are positioned relative to each other, and the cards between them. Is the Fox able to overcome the Bear to secure his own position? Is the Bear bringing a Cross and Coffin to stop the Fox in his ways? How can the Fox get round the Bear, if the Bear is in the way of the Fishes …? Considering these two cards as the querent and the established power in their career, and likening them to the tales of Reynard, really helps me make sense of a reading.

Of course, it may not always be a negative situation – there might be a Bear underneath the Fox, supporting their self-employment or innovative ideas (Child). This would signify a powerful supportive person, particularly if the Bear is close to the Fishes (resources, money). The Fox may be close to the Tower, a place of authority and structure (it symbolised a border post and watchtower in the original context of the game), hence at a threshold in their path.
When weaving a tale of the Fox and Bear, we can see archetypal stories and characteristics of those animals written into (and out of) us. They play out in real life as self-interest versus establishment, and this is most noticeable in career aspects of a reading.

So I would say to anyone who does not consider that the original game, its instructions, and historical context, have anything to do with Lenormand reading, consider too that they may be missing a big part of the heritage of the cards.

Tali x