I've been hesitant to write a review for The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook by Caitlin Matthews.
I've had the book for months. I've started writing a review several times. But I keep stopping because I remember how Caitlin didn't like it when I said something negative about her deck, the Enchanted Lenormand Oracle, even though the rest of the review was positive.
I have no issues with Caitlin Matthews. I think she has made a valuable contribution to Tarot over the years.
I have no desire to hurt her, but in order to review The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook, I have to be honest and say that while there are some great things about the book, overall I was disappointed.
What I like about The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook
It's clear that a lot of work was put into the book, both by Caitlin and by her publisher.
The book is filled with color illustrations, color section headings, and diagrams.
You will find meanings for all of the cards, along with some combinations.
There are a lot of examples and exercises to help you learn Lenormand, as well as a variety of spreads.
Caitlin covers different techniques for reading the Grand Tableau, including distance (Near and Far).
You will also find advice on reading Lenormand in general and reading professionally.
Criticisms of The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook
1. Tarot: There are a lot of references to Tarot and comparisons between Lenormand and Tarot. While Caitlin's background is in Tarot, and many Tarot readers are starting to study Lenormand, it would have been nice if Tarot had been left in the world of Tarot and this was allowed to simply be a book on Lenormand. Lenormand has been around for centuries and is strong enough to stand on its own. Rana George's excellent Lenormand book proves this. If someone unfamiliar with Tarot were to read Caitlin's book, I think the many references and comparisons to Tarot would confuse them, and it might make it difficult for them to learn Lenormand from this book.
2. Exercises: Caitlin provides a lot of exercises to help readers learn Lenormand. This is a fantastic idea, but it isn't always executed well. For example, chapter 1 begins with a discussion of how you need to know a card's keywords (meanings) in order to be able to read the card. Caitlin presents a couple of exercises asking you to read cards in pairs, yet she hasn't covered card meanings yet. She even gives an exercise asking you to do daily spreads before she provides meanings.
In my opinion, it's really disjointed and confusing to new readers to tell them that they need to know the meanings in order to read Lenormand, and then ask them to do readings a chapter before the meanings are covered. Caitlin even covers how to read houses in a Grand Tableau before she covers card meanings, and before she even explains the Grand Tableau.
Instead of introducing elements of reading Lenormand and building on them, ]The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook skips back and forth between elementary information and advanced reading techniques.
Honestly, if my first attempt to learn Lenormand had been with Caitlin Matthew's book, I probably would have sat there, scratching my head, muttering, “WTF?”
3. Card Meanings There are inconsistencies in card meanings. The book provides detailed card meanings, as well as an “at a glance” abbreviated version of card meanings. The “at a glance” card meanings sometimes reference keywords and meanings that aren't presented in the detailed card meanings.
Additionally, some of the reading examples use meanings that are not provided in either the detailed list nor the “at a glance” list. This can make the examples difficult for new readers to understand because it's unclear how Caitlin is coming up with the interpretation based on the meanings provided.
I'm not trying to be nit-picky, but I do believe that such discrepancies can make it challenging, particularly for Lenormand beginners, to follow how Caitlin is interpreting the reading examples.
Important Note about Caitlin Matthew's The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook
There is quite a bit in he Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook that appears to be of Caitlin's own devising. This includes spreads and reading methods derived from playing cards (such as the chapter titled Waking the Pips). This isn't bad, but I think it's worth mentioning for readers.
In Chapter 8, “Secrets of the Lenormand Universe,” Caitlin is upfront that the chapter is her own creation, and not a part of how anyone else has read Lenormand over the years. It is what she describes as “a new mythic pattern” in which she attempts to provide additional meanings and interpretations of the cards, essentially developing a new oracle method from the Lenormand deck.
While the mythic structure is an interesting concept, one of the things I like about Lenormand is its simplicity and how well it works without trying to add this type of nuance. I guess I have an “if it isn't broke, why fix it” mentality.
It is great that Caitlin attempts to cover so much information in her book, truly taking a kitchen sink approach by including everything she could possibly find on Lenormand, even things that she has made up on her own. However, I really think the book would have benefited from more extensive editing.
While Caitlin's book is comprehensive, I don't think it is the most straightforward or easy-to-follow Lenormand book available. I believe both Andy Boroveshengra's Lenormand Thirty Six Cards and Rana George's The Essential Lenormand are better in this regard.
Note: I did not receive a free copy of this book or other compensation for my review. All opinions are my own.