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A guide to timing in Lenormand readings with Caitlín Matthews

A guide to timing in Lenormand readings with Caitlín Matthews

Caitlin MatthewsFor more than three decades Caitlín Matthews has been the beacon to people drawn to the Western Mysteries, people who want to learn about ancestral ritual, shamanism and divination. In recent years the focus of Caitlín’s work has been the Lenormand Oracle deck. Her own Enchanted Lenormand Oracle was published in 2013 and her comprehensive practical guide to reading the cards –  The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook was published in 2014. Caitlín has recorded two master classes for Global Spiritual Studiesin which she explores the history, future and practice of Petit Lenormand card readings.
Everyone wants to know when something is going to happen, but can we really see this in a reading? Here I talk with Caitlín about the tricky issue of timing, one of the many aspects of reading the cards included in The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook.

LINDA: Is it possible to calculate time when reading Lenormand?
CAITLíN: Yes, but it isn’t easy because of the difficulty in being exact enough. Part of the problem is due to the fact that we divine out of time and predict within it. Finding ‘the clutch point’ between time and eternity is very hard for us.
LINDA: What do you mean by ‘divining out of time?’
CAITLíN: There has been a silly argument going on, attempting to polarize divination and prediction as if they were alien to each other. Diviners and cartomancers use both. We both step out of time into eternity to see the widest context for our clients, and also step into time in order to deal practically with the client’s question, to give a helpful prediction or likely possibility.
LINDA: How could a beginner go about using timing?
CAITLíN: The simplest way of working with timing is to include the required timing within the question itself. This is a requirement of the Grand Tableau, which is normally read for a set period of time, but it works too for smaller spreads. For example, ‘How will my studies work out over the next two months?’ This method of taking a sounding is exactly what a ship in a shallow channel does, plotting the depth of the sea-bottom by swinging the lead. You might need to take another sounding, of course.
Remember too that many questions come bounded by an implicit timescale anyway: ‘How will the dance go on Sunday?’ is a divination that is immediately discharged after that Sunday is passed.
We have to be careful of not making assumptive questions about time: e.g. ‘When will I marry X?’ is a question that’s come up more than once for a man or woman asking about a current lover. I’ve run with such questions only to find that the cards themselves don’t indicate marriage with that person at all! Or, ‘When will I go to a country/event? only to find that this is just not likely to occur. So do check that your question is clearly and not assumptively composed!
LINDA: What other methods are there?
CAITLíN: The Lenormand cards have traditionally had their own time markers. Here are the seasonal cards:

  • Spring: Bouquet – from the blooming of flowers or February-April
  • Summer: Sun – for the sunny, hot days or May-July
  • Autumn: Scythe – for the harvesting of the crops or August- October
  • Winter: Lilies – for the white of the ice, frost and snow, or November – January.

These seasonal ascriptions to the cards arise in a northern hemisphere context, of course: if you live in the southern hemisphere you could apply them to actual seasonal conditions prevailing rather than to the months, so Spring in the southern hemisphere would be for the months August-October.
You can also take the number of the Lenormand sequence as an indicator:

  • Cards 1-7 or 1 Rider- 7 Snake can show days of the week Sunday-Saturday or Monday- Sunday, depending on your focus.
  • Cards 1-31 or 1 Rider- 31 Sun can show days of the month.
  • Cards 1-12 or 1 Rider- 12 Birds can show months of the year.

Some cards obviously tell us about times of day, while Moon also stands for ‘a month.’ Here is how they are worked out:

  • Night: Stars – the stars shine all night.
  • Evening: Moon – the moon lights the evening
  • Twilight: Birds – birds sing at twilight
  • Afternoon: Garden – afternoon recreation in the garden
  • Morning: House – morning tasks at home
  • Dawn: Child – child denotes ‘a new’ day
  • Day: Sun – the sun shines from dawn to twilight

LINDA: Can you give some examples of short readings?
CAITLíN: You can select the two pairs of cards either side of your Significator or topic card by looking through the pack. Some cards will give no information, so we just regard the ones that are most helpful. When you use this method, you don’t also have to interpret the cards, because we are only asking about timing by this method.
For example, Max asks ‘When will my horse be well enough to ride again?’ He selects Rod as the Significator for active exercise.

Rider can mean 1, Lily is Winter, Key has too many numbers with 33, and Stars is night or 16. Obviously, not by tonight! No month card has come up at all, only a season, so it looks as if his horse needs to be well rested until this coming winter.
Here’s a question I need to know the answer to soon, since I need to schedule my life around this event: ‘When can I expect the copyediting?’ I chose Letter for ‘copyediting,’ since these will be page proofs.

Lenormand Layout
These cards are from Caitlín’s Enchanted Lenormand Oracle, London, Watkins, 2013.

Since it’s already May, 2 Clover is discarded. 19 Tower may represent a date. Taken with 6 Clouds and 21 Mountain, the cards tell me to expect it between the 19th-21st June! (I will report back to you on this occurrence so we can test it out!)
When it really happened…
The upshot was that I finally received the digital proofs on 15th July.  I was told by my editor that the proofs had been delayed due to lost artwork. This result is what I would regard as typical about 75% of the time.
LINDA: What have you personally noticed about timing in readings?
CAITLíN: What has become really noticeable in reading the Grand Tableau for clients is that, while it is spread normally for not less than a 3 month period and as much as up to a year ahead, that the timescales of a client’s life are playing out much sooner than they used to do. For example, the findings from a GT for a period of 6 months ahead are being accomplished a lot earlier than that.
LINDA: Why do you think this is happening?
CAITLíN: Since many other cartomancers are noticing this as well, and not just myself, I would say that we are globally in speed up mode. I seem to remember the naturalist, Gavin Maxwell, saying that what we expect will take a day, actually takes a week; while a week takes a month, and a month a year! Something like this is happening at present only it’s speeding up not slowing down. I’ve recently found a lot of significators in the bottom position or last column of a Grand Tableau, which I see as ‘being at the end of a life chapter.’
LINDA: What advice do you have for readers who attempt to use timing in their readings?
CAITLíN: Expect to be disappointed 75% of the time and delighted 25% of the time. If you get a higher score than this, you are indeed fortunate! Even the early 20th century cartomancer, Cecily Kent, ruefully admitted: ‘In reading the cards, time definitely indicated is the exception rather than the rule,’ and she was a very experienced and pragmatic reader indeed! (Cecily Kent: Telling Fortunes by Cards, London, Herbert Jenkins Ltd, 1921)
LINDA: Do you use timing often yourself?
CAITLíN: I personally rarely use timing in Lenormand myself, even to the extent of ignoring the conventions about dividing a spread into past, present and future. Since most of my shamanic work is done ‘out of time’ or, as I like to think of it, ‘the precious present moment,’ all the cards give me information about a client’s question. This doesn’t mean that I ignore prediction, just that I receive more detail from ignoring time’s boundaries than I get by staying within them.
I have found a unique method of using a Lenormand Timetable for determining timings, however, which will be unveiled in my new book this autumn. This makes a broad context from which timing can be deduced.

Caitlin MatthewsAbout Caitlín Matthews

I have studied and taught many aspects of the Western Mysteries for over 30 years, including ancestral ritual, shamanism, and divination, including reading the omens in nature, to many kinds of early cartomancy, and also tarot and Lenormand. I am the author of 67 books which include Enchanted Lenormand Oracle (2013), The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook (2014,) and have created four tarots and five oracles. Together with John Matthews & Felicity Wombwell, I am the co-founder of The Foundation for Inspirational and Oracular Studies (FIOS) which spotlights the oral and sacred arts that often become sidelined as unimportant: we annually host exemplars of these sacred arts to teach in UK.

Supporting traditional skills and methods of divination is very important to me and I am very fortunate in having so many colleagues throughout the world who share this interest and pool researches. I am the owner of two original mid-19th century Lenormand decks, including the Belgium Daveluy and the 46 card Austrian Zauberkarten, and am fascinated how variant Lenormand and small oracles cross-fertilized each other.
For my general website, listing books and forthcoming events, see; for my myth and divination blog go to

Over to you!

Try the timing techniques Caitlín has shared with us in this blog and let us know whether they work for you. What other techniques do you use? We’d love to hear from you.

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