The Indomitable Marie Anne Lenormand

Anyone who takes an interest in Tarot will eventual run across the name Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand. Lenormand is likely best known for the Lenormand tarot deck. Not that she invented this tarot deck, but rather, this particular tarot deck was named in her honor. Lenormand is also known for predicting that Josephine de Beauharnais would marry a soldier, someone who would become ‘more than a king’ named Napoleon, and that Josephine herself would become an Empress. She would also tell Napoleon that he would become more than a king, but ultimately he’d die in exile.

Lenormand portrait

Portrait Marie Anne Lenormand by Francois Dumontm, 1793. Note strange creature upper-left. Reason added by artist unknown. Perhaps something in the studio where Lenormand gave her readings?

As impressive as these predictions were, there was much more to her career as a ‘fortune teller’. In fact, when you look into the history Lenormand you discover herself was as impressive as her readings. She was one tough, highly educated, fearless woman. She was also much more that a tarot reader or cartomancer (one who specializes in cartomancy). She was also far more that a tarot reader, a master of cartomancy. Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand was a master of divination, cartomancy being just one of her divination tools in her repertoire. And, behind these skills, was an indomitable spirit.

As a point of clarification, there are numerous ways that people refer to Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand. In various books, documents and so forth you will see her referred to as M’lle Lenormand; Mlle Lenormand; Mlle Marie Lenormand; M’lle Marie Anne Le Normand; Mdlle Lenormand; just name just mention a few variations. One reason for this is that the title ‘Mademoiselle’ has a number of different abbreviations (M’ll, M’lle, Mlle and more). This can make things a bit confusing for those of us not familiar with French titles and abbreviations. Her name has also been spelled a number of different ways from Marie-Anne Le Normand to MarieAnne LeNormand and more. During her time she was called Mademoiselle Lenormand.

The word ‘Mademoiselle’ is like calling someone a little girl, or my damsel, my young woman and is usually meant to indicate an unmarried girl. In France, for decades, women have sought to eliminate the term ‘Mademoiselle’. In 2012, the Prime Minister of France, Francois Fillon, called for the deletion of the word ‘Mademoiselle’ in all official documents and the Council of State approved the deletion. So, as a point of respect, in this article we will only refer to Marie Anne Lenormand by her name without title. It is hoped Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand appreciates the gesture of respect.

Historical Context

By understanding the historical context of Marie Anne Adélaïde Lenormand’s life, one gets a better appreciation for how tough minded, fearless and resourceful this woman was. Marie Anne Adélaïde Lenormand’s life (1772-1843) spanned one of the most violent and dangerous periods in French history: The French Revolution from 1789 until 1799 (sometimes called the Revolutionary Period). In one year alone between 1793 to 1794, known as the ‘Reign of Terror’, an estimated 16,000 to 40,000 civilians were killed. Nearly 3,000 were killed in Paris, alone. At that time the population of Paris was estimated at 650,000. Today it is over 2 million … 10 million if you include the entire metropolitan area.

The French Revolution was a war of ideas about government, liberty and religion. In simple terms, the struggle was between the ‘Royalists’ (those who supported the monarchy, sometimes referred to as the conservatives or traditionalists) and the ‘Revolutionaries’ (those who supported the concept of democracy, rule by the people, sometimes called the liberals – these Revolutionaries also included many who wanted the Catholic church excommunicated from France for their strong links to the monarchy). The disagreement between the two sides often escalated to deadly combat. Each side had fanatics who felt that killing the opposition an acceptable solution to the disagreement.

The French Revolutionary period would not end until the rise of Napoleon to absolute power. Even then, one’s life and liberty may depend on one’s wealth, political affiliations and connections. Marie Anne Lenormand, an outspoken fortune teller, seemed to navigate this violent period by knowing the future. More than that, she seemed to know the future of many of the key players. Naturally, a knowledge of the future is a valuable commodity. So, many of the elite found Marie Anne Lenormand a valuable asset. In this turbulent, often violent era, Marie Anne Lenormand did not just survive, she thrived.

Much of what we know of Marie Anne Lenormand comes from her own writings. Over time, the writings of others who knew this gifted psychic have come to light. Much of it supports what Lenormand recorded. It is true that, over time, Marie Anne Lenormand has become a legendary figure which can lead to exaggerations about both her history and abilities as a psychic. However, an important historical fact is that Lenormand’s written works were published during her lifetime when many of those involved in her claims were still alive, including many officials and members of the ruling elite throughout Europe. Few came forward to contradict what she wrote. Instead, many came forward to provide supporting testimonials. Marie Anne Lenormand would begin publishing her memoirs Les Souvenirs Prophetiques in 1814 and would write 15 volumes before her death. She literally became a bestselling author.

Critics and skeptics have come forward with their own speculations as to how Marie Anne Lenormand accomplished her predictions. Many paint and entirely different picture of her. Much of their facts come from those who, during Marie Anne Lenormand’s life time, disliked, even despised all tarot readers, clairvoyants and astrologers (grouping all such individuals into the category of witches and charlatans). However, one should look at the whole body of Marie Anne Lenormand’s career. It is unlikely she could have risen to such prominence, becoming part of the inner circle of many prominent people, if she were not supplying predictions and insights that proved correct and valuable.

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A clear proof of fraud and deception would have gotten Marie Anne Lenormand run out of France, or, given the violence of the era, executed. As it was, she largely worked in Paris for years and it was a badly kept secret as to how to find her. Getting in to see her was an entirely different issue. Napoleon himself had no love for any type of soothsayers considering them all corrupt. He seemed to tolerate them in deference to his beloved wife Josephine. There doesn’t seem any documentation to date which shows Napoleon caught Marie Anne Lenormand in blatant fraud, only that he was, at times, angry with her readings. Particularly when those predictions didn’t correspond with his political ambitions.

In the next article in this series on Marie Anne Lenormand will be Lenormand: The Early Years

Should you be interested in a profession cartomancy reading, give Psychic Cory a call at 1-800-326-5923. Cory has years of experience as a psychic and performing cartomancy readings. You may also appreciate chatting online with Magical Oracle, a dedicated tarot reader with a strong background in cartomancy.