How to read the Grand Tableau

Photos by Magenta

We’ve been unpacking Lenormand a little bit recently. In recent weeks we have posted how to do 5 card and 9 card Lenormand readings. This week we’re looking at how to read all the cards in a spread called the Grand Tableau.

This spread is the most complex Lenormand spread. It can leave the reader feeling stumped, given there’s a lot going on. As you have no doubt picked up from our Lenormand series so far, there is no one right way to read the cards, so it’s no wonder potential readers can get confused about the sheer number of interpretations. Today we’ll at least unblock the basics of the Grand Tableau, to try and ease that fear a little.

What is the Grand Tableau?

The Grand Tableau is a type of card reading that uses all 36 cards from the Lenormand system of cartomancy. 

This card reading builds upon the many choices available when reading 9 cards, but has some added complexity with something called “Houses” (not to be confused with astrological houses!).

One of the main benefits of this 36 card reading is that it gives the reader a much deeper picture of a querant’s situation. As all the cards are laid out, the possibilities for reading about a relationship, career, family or home life are endless. There is of course scope to cross read for all these things, if you so wish. The Grand Tableau allows the reader to gain so much information and insight into influences from the past, emotions, desires, blocks, issues and potentially even actions that can be taken. 

As you will come to see as you read this article, the card layout is very versatile, there’s no one right way to read it! Today we will show you three different approaches, and each approach contains a variety of methods to reading the cards. 

Strategies for asking questions when reading the Grand Tableau 

As ever, step number one with any kind of card reading should always be consideration of the question being asked. With the Grand Tableau, questions can be fairly open, it could even be situational rather than about trying to find an answer to a particular question. 

For example, asking about a personal issue, how the past is influencing the present or something of an ‘all-rounder’ can be read using the Grand Tableau. These types of questions give the reader a way to gain insight into what is potentially impacting a person, their partner, their home or work life and what could be getting in the way in addition to what action should be taken in the context of the situation. 

The Grand Tableau layout and houses

The cards in a Grand Tableau reading are always laid in a box shape. This box could be laid out in slightly different ways.

One way to lay the cards out is in a box shape made up of 4 rows with 9 cards in each row. Another way is to lay the cards out in 4 rows of 8 cards, with 4 cards left over. The 4 leftover cards can almost become a ‘side reading’, and we will explain that in more detail later.

We mentioned earlier that we will show you three different approaches. Below are two other different kinds of Grand Tableau interpretation. Almost like an extra layer to the three approaches. These additional layers are different ways of combining the cards as they are dealt into the spread, versus how the order the cards are sequenced using their numbering. Using this ‘sequenced order’ is what is meant by Lenormand ‘houses’. You can use the houses, or not. It’s entirely up to you. 

Using houses – This approach takes into consideration the number sequencing of the cards as they appear in the deck. It’s not placing the cards down in number order, it’s acknowledging that when shuffling cards, and laying them down in what will be a random order, that the cards do have a numerical place. It’s remembering what cards appear where in the 36 numbering sequence. For example, card number 1 is Rider. Therefore any card placed in the top left corner of the Grand Tableau is in the ‘House’ of the Rider and would be about news or messages as well a card’s own meaning when it is placed in that top left hand corner, the House of the Rider. The card next to it on the immediate right would be in the ‘House’ of Clover, and would be about opportunity or luck as well as the card’s own meaning as it is placed in the House of Clover. Therefore this House method gives the reader an extra option to read, as a two-card combination, the cards as they are dealt against the ‘House’ they are placed in (this method does assume knowledge of the order of the cards in sequence). 

Without houses – This method simply allows the reader to read the cards as dealt in any combination, without taking into account any additional meaning using the numbering order of the cards. So basically it’s only thinking about the cards as they are dealt, meaning less to think about! 

Either using houses, or not, any of the following ways to combine the cards into a reading can be done. Just remember, if you do want to use the ‘house’ method the option of clarifying a card’s meaning through that mini two-card combination is there if you wish. 

How to do a Grand Tableau reading

As we’ve mentioned, the Grand Tableau is laid out in roughly the same spread shape, which is a kind of box shape of 4 or 5 horizontal rows. Each row has either 9 cards in each row, or 8 cards plus an extra 4 cards to the side or along the bottom, if you prefer. 

We mentioned earlier that there are so many different methods to read the combinations of cards. This includes reading the cards as one holistic group, that when it comes to interpreting the Grand Tableau there isn’t one true right way.

Some methods of combining the cards are more complex than others but let’s just go with our favourite approaches for this article as they are really simple.

Remember the first place to start is always the question. What is the objective of the reading? Is it a question you’re trying to answer? It’s good to write what you’re looking for down sometimes in case you forget. 

Significator lead 

Once the cards are laid out, have a look for the Significator cards. This is a card that signifies the person or people being read for. It might, for example, be the Woman card or the Man card. Notice where the Significator cards are in the 36 card spread. 

One method for reading the cards within this 36 card spread, is looking at the cards that immediately surround the Significator. These are the cards that represent issues that are literally the closest to the person right now. Look also at any columns of cards that are placed above and below the Significator. These may show some thoughts, feelings or situations that could be weighing on their mind. Columns of cards that sit beneath the Significator could indicate sources of support pertaining to these issues at hand. 

If you are reading about their career or love, how far away from the Significator are the cards that you interpret to mean work or romance? What cards lie in between to connect these cards together? Combining the cards that connect the Significator to the theme of work or romance gives context to issues around work or romance.

If you choose to use the House method, notice what number position the Significator card has been placed in. Remember using the House system would make use of the cards’ meaning if the cards had been laid out in their number order. For example, if the Significator card appeared in the bottom right hand corner of the Grand Tableau, it would be in the House of the Cross and could indicate a principled person, or someone feeling burdened by duty. 

As ever with Lenormand, the cards are best read as a combination of Noun, Verb or Adjective interpretations to make a rich sentence. You can find our detailed Lenormand meanings and two card combinations to see what this looks like in action.

8×4+4 card reading

This method of card reading is about reading the Grand Tableau as five separate rows. With this layout, 4 rows of 8 cards are laid, with an extra row of 4 cards at the bottom. The reading begins with the bottom row of 4 cards, this shows the overall situation or theme and is read horizontally, comic book style. The rows above then represent a more situational approach. 

As long as you are clear before you start what the rows mean. For example the bottom row of 8 cards could represent what might be getting in the way of the theme. The third row could be what could provide support. The top row could be your advice row. A row with people cards might be who may be able to help, or the qualities you have to help yourself. 

This reading can also employ the House method, if you choose to. 

9×4 card reading

You could read the cards vertically, as columns of 9. Interpretation of the cards will come from the question being asked and how the reader wants to break down the answer into the constituent parts. 

For example, one approach might be a Past, Present, Future style answer. Where the left hand column represents the past. The second column is the present and the third hand column is the future. The right hand column can become an advice column. Another approach might be to look for the Significator in the Grand Tableau. Any columns to the left are the past, and any to the right are the future. 

Of course, the idea is to try and create little sentences that answer the question being asked. Lenormand cards are best read together, finding their Noun, Verb or Adjective interpretations in concert with the sentence being created. 

This reading can also employ the House method, if you choose to. 

Add some richness to your Grand Tableau readings

The important thing is to decide the question and the reading approach before you lay the cards. We’ve described three different readings, but each one can be combined, for example a 9×4 reading can be added onto the Significator lead reading.

Similarly looking at the four corner cards can build on any of these readings.The corner cards could be interpreted as action or advice type cards or they could be interpreted as doubling down on the issue. For example, if the corner cards were mostly negative, the corner cards could be interpreted as ‘boxing’ the situation in.  

The diagonal lines in the Grand Tableau could be interpreted as causes and effects. For example, reading the top left corner card down to bottom right corner card could be read in combination to reveal causes or what has influenced the situation, whereas the bottom left corner card leading to top right corner card could be about effects or outcomes. 

Using a technique called “mirroring” can also add some extra clarity. This is when the corner cards are combined in a short two card combination to provide some additional information. 

A technique called “knighting” can be used. This is inspired by the way a Knight moves in chess. Cards are read at opposite ends of an L shape. That is to say cards separated by two cards vertically and one card horizontally away, or two cards horizontally and one card vertically away are read in combination to provide more detail to a situation. 

Key takeaways

There are many different ways to interpret the Grand Tableau Lenormand reading, there is no one true right way to read the combinations of cards. 

Deciding your question, the approach to doing a 36 card reading before you start will help with the sense of overwhelm. And of course, making those sentences make sense. It’s all about reading the cards as a combination of Nouns, Verbs or Adjectives in the context of the question. 

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Published by Magenta School of Magick

We are a school for people who want to learn the 'philosophy and art of affecting change through (so far at least) unseen causes', also known as 'magick'.

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