HOW TO READ THE NINE-CARD PORTRAIT
If you’ve been following my channel, you know the nine-card portrait is a layout I use often.
In fact, it’s the layout that most of you prefer. When I surveyed our community for what layout I should use for our monthly forecasts this year, most of you voted for the Portrait.
So the nine-card portrait is one of the most popular Lenormand layouts - probably after the Grand Tableau.
Made up of just 9 cards laid out in a 3x3 configuration, the portrait is in fact a master spread.
In this video, I want to tell you how to read this amazing layout, and you will discover why it is so important for the Lenormand practice.
Hi everyone, I’m Layla, the Lenormand Reader and I’ve been reading Lenormand almost exclusively for over 20 years. If you want to master Lenormand, you’ve come to the right place!
Please subscribe and hit the bell icon so you get videos about all things Lenormand. I post forecasts and tutorials every week.
The nine-card portrait is one of the most amazing spreads in Lenormand.
It uses just nine cards, laid out in a 3x3 configuration.
Though the portrait is considered a master spread, its lines are short 3-card sentences.
So the good news is that if you can read a simple 3-card line, you can read a portrait.
Before we get into the details of how to interpret the portrait, let’s first tackle some practicalities around when it’s best to use it and how to lay it out.
PRACTICALITY 1: QUESTION TYPES
My students in the Certification Program and aspiring Lenormand Readers like you, have asked me a few times what layout is good for a love reading? What reading is good for a karmic question? What layout is good for a career and money reading? And so on.
But the thing is that, in Lenormand, pretty much any layout is good for any question.
Why is that? Because in Lenormand layouts, cards are not assigned to a specific position - like past present future or outcome like we see in a Tarot horseshoe spread for example.
In Lenormand, a card is read over and over as part of different lines - and this is very apparent in a layout like the portrait.
So the portrait, like most Lenormand layouts, works well for just about any question.
It is ideal for when you want a balance between focus and detail, when you want clear guidance, and when you don’t want to spend a whole afternoon doing a reading - like you would with the Grand Tableau!
And in a bit you will see why the portrait is ideal in these ways.
PRACTICALITY 2: TIMELINES
A second practical item we might consider when working with the Portrait is what timeline works well for the question. Is it good for a short term horizon? A medium term? Or a long term horizon?
Again, as with most Lenormand layouts, it doesn’t really matter. Pretty much any layout can be used for any timeline.
In general though, a small spread - meaning having just a few cards - is better for the short term. And a larger spread - meaning more cards - is better for a longer timeline.
That’s because fewer cards give us fewer details, and more cards give us more details. So intuitively at least, small spreads work better for a short term horizon, and a larger spread for a longer timeline.
The portrait is somewhat in the middle so it works well for the medium term - like a few months.
But it still largely depends on the query. So really, the portrait will do well for any timeline.
PRACTICALITY 3: LAYING OUT THE CARDS
A third piece of practicality we might consider with the Portrait is how best to lay it out.
I would say there isn’t really a better way to lay out a portrait as long as your deck is well shuffled.
If it is well shuffled, then you might like to deal out the cards. And here it doesn't matter if you go in rows or in columns.
And if your deck is not so well shuffled, then you might like to fan out the deck and select each card in turn.
I typically fan out the deck and select the cards for the Portrait because I don't overlap the cards.
You might have seen me do something like an hourglass layout. With an hourglass, I deal out the cards because they overlap - so it’s more convenient.
With the Portrait on the other hand, the cards don’t overlap so we can just select and place them in their 3x3 configuration, plus this shuffles the cards even more.
So now that we’ve considered a few general practicalities around the Portrait, let's dive into how to interpret it.
KEY CARDS: THE CENTRAL CARD
First off let me say that there are lots and lots - and lots - that can be read out of the portrait - so much so that we won’t be able to cover them all in this video.
This said, the techniques I will give you here are the most important ones and applying them will take you far with your Portrait practice.
In fact, the techniques I’ll share with you here are the ones I typically use - and most Lenormand Readers use. I only use the many other techniques on occasion or when I’m stuck with the main techniques.
Leave me a note in the comments about how you read the portrait. And feel free to list the different lines and structures you read out of it.
As you’ve probably noticed from the forecasts I do in monthly forecasts or pick-a-card readings, the portrait has two obvious key cards: the central card and the 1st card. I like to look at them first because they guide the reading.
The central card stands out more than the first card because it’s right there in the middle.
It is the only card that connects with every other card in the portrait.
What do you think the central card tells us? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Well, it can mean a few things. It can represent the area we need to focus on for the reading, it can highlight the most important aspect of the question, and it can represent the main outcome of the reading.
So which one of these is it? It depends. If you’re doing an open-ended reading without focusing on anything particular, then the central card tells you what to focus on.
If the question focuses on a specific area, then the central card can represent an aspect of the situation that you need to focus on.
And in all cases the central card gives you the main indication about the outcome.
KEY CARDS: THE FIRST CARD
Now what does the first card represent?
It represents you or the person who is asking the question and getting the reading.
It is not as central as the central card - obviously because it is not in the middle - but it tells us about what you or the person you're reading for brings to the situation being asked about.
It tells us about your attitude, your role in the situation, and your perspective toward it.
In addition to these ways of interpreting the first card, I like to take it to offer the main advice that the readee needs to follow with respect to the question at hand.
Let me know if you like this idea!
Another way the first card is very important is when it comes to doing Titania’s Extended Cross.
Titania's cross is a big spread that uses all 36 cards of the deck and that builds beautifully on the Portrait.
In a nutshell, we can select any card of the portrait ad place it in the centre of the Titania’s cross to get a lot more detail about it.
And so in the context of the cross, we look for the first card of the portrait because it represents the readee and so the cards closest to it are key.
Titania’s Extended Cross is pretty complex and we won’t cover it here, but you can learn more about it in my Handbook of Layouts, and of course in my courses and Certification Program.
So to recap, the key cards are the central card and the first card. The central card represents the main area to focus on and it tells us a lot about the outcome of the reading, and the first card represents the readee and gives him or her the guidance for the question at hand.
Do you look at the key cards in these ways? Are there other ways you make sense of them?
Let me know in the comments.
Now that we covered the key cards let’s get into the lines.
The first lines I like to look at are the diagonals.
Why? Because the first diagonal carries the first and central cards, so it’s a pretty important line. For me, it’s the most important one.
And since I start with the first diagonal, it’s only natural to then read the second diagonal as well.
So what do the diagonals tell us? In a way, it’s up to you.
Like the other lines, they can offer key storylines about the question, key insights, and possibly outcomes.
Personally, I do not feel the second diagonal is as important as the first one. I feel it’s the first one that contributes most to the outcome - and I’ll explain more about this after we go through the other lines.
I want to note that diagonals are not as important in a Grand Tableau as they are in a Portrait.
Although the Tableau and portrait have many similarities, the relative importance of diagonals is one difference.
The key lines in a Tableau are the rows and columns, whereas the diagonals add detail. And there are so many of them in a Tableau that we often don’t read every single one of them - only the ones that seem to stand out the most.
Not so with the portrait. The portrait has only two diagonals, which is fewer than the three columns and three rows.
And because of the key cards, the diagonals stand out a little more than the other lines.
And that’s actually another point of difference between the portrait and Grand Tableau: The Tableau doesn’t have one central card so the key cards in a Tableau are different.
Okay! Let’s move on to the columns. We have three of them in the portrait.
They’re important and you must read them for a complete interpretation of the portrait.
They offer key insights and key storylines.
Another important element that the columns bring to a portrait is that they’re often taken to represent the past, present, and future.
The left column is the past, the middle is the present, and the right is the future.
If your reading is in the future, then the left column can represent the earlier parts of the story, and the right can represent the later parts.
That’s why the right column can often be looked at more closely to see if it represents the outcome to the question.
But reading the columns as past, present, and future, is optional.
And really any indications we might attribute to different lines and card positions are optional and flexible in Lenormand - it’s not like in the Tarot.
In all cases, it’s important that you interpret the columns because they give you important insights and answers to your question.
Next are the rows.
Like the columns, they must be read for a complete interpretation of the portrait because they too offer important insights in answering your question.
Sometimes the top row is taken to mean intentions, aspirations, and fears. And the bottom row is taken to represent what manifests or actualizes. The middle row can represent the querent’s state of mind.
These ways of looking at the rows can be helpful, but it’s optional. Just like it’s optional to read the columns as past, present, and future. See if you like it.
In general, the rows, like the columns, must be read for a full interpretation of the portrait because they offer important insights.
SUMMARIZING THE PORTRAIT
Now that we covered the key cards and lines, there is one more step that we need to do. And that is summarizing the reading and concluding the outcome.
Because there are many lines and details that can be taken away from a Tableau-style layout like the portrait, we can get lost in all the juicy insights and forget to draw a clear conclusion.
So remember to capture the key takeaway from your reading.
Summarize everything you got out of the key cards, the diagonals, the columns, and the rows.
From reading the many lines in the portrait, you also get a better feel for the energy of the reading and where the situation is heading.
This is what I call a “bottom up” interpretation - meaning going from the details to the outcome and big picture.
To conclude the answer to the question, I personally like to focus mostly on the first diagonal because it carries the key cards, the right column because it is the future most part of the reading, and the bottom row because it is, well, “the bottom line”.
Notice that these three lines converge into the bottom right card - and that is why I take the first diagonal to be so important.
So don’t forget to clearly capture the answer and outcome of the reading.
So these are my tips for how to read the portrait.
Again, there are many other techniques we can use, but the key cards, diagonals, columns, and rows, are really the main lines we should interpret. By comparison, the other techniques are accessory and optional.
Mastering just these lines will take you far in your practice and will even help you interpret the Grand Tableau.
Still, if you want to master everything in the portrait, then you might like my Handbook of Layouts or enroll in the courses for the complete experience.
If you liked this video, then please like and share, so that more Lenormand Readers join our community.
If you’d like to get started with Lenormand, then download my free Lenormand Starter Guide through the link in the description box.
So, thank you so much for tuning in, folks. I am so looking forward to our next video together. And until then, take very good care of yourself.