THE GAME OF HOPE
NOTE. In this post, “Guidebook” refers to the booklet accompanying the Game of Hope deck, and “Game” is short for the Game of Hope deck.
The Game of Hope is often mentioned in association with Lenormand’s cards.
Why is that?
Because the Game of Hope is made up of exactly 36 cards that have the exact same symbols as those on Lenormand’s Petit Jeu.
The Game of Hope preceded Lenormand’s own take on the cards. They existed in Germany and France, and likely in other places in Europe, at the time when Mlle. Lenormand practiced divination.
The Game of Hope, or Das Spiel der Hoffnung, is said to have been created by Johann Kaspar Hechtel in Germany in 1799 or 1800. It is worth noting that Hechtel was born in 1771 and died in 1799, so his deck would have been published soon before or even after he died. This is curious, I think.
It is a parlor game that can be played by several people, but according to the leaflet that comes with it, it can also be used as a divination deck.
Today, the oldest copy of The Game of Hope is located at the British Museum in London. It was bequeathed to the Museum in 1896 by Lady Charlotte Schreiber who was an avid collector of Tarot and other decks.
The British Museum describes them as: "Cards with French suits: a complete pack of 36 playing-cards in a pale blue cardboard case, with printed label on the outside: 'Das Spiel der Hofnung, mit einer neuen illum. Figurenkarte. Neue Auflage. / Le Jeu de l'Espérance, accompagné d'un jeu de cartes à figures.' Hand-coloured etchings with plain backs."
The modern-day deck of the Game of Hope is called Ur-Lenormand, Lenormand Original, and The Primal Lenormand (Ur in German means primal or original). And the Guidebook that accompanies the deck is a small booklet printed on regular paper, in three languages: German, French, and English.
The Guidebook is edited by Alexander Gluck but includes the original leaflet by Hechtel. The Hechtel portion is printed in a different font to distinguish it from Gluck’s writing.
DECK DESIGN & UNIQUE FEATURES
The cards in the Game of Hope deck are large, much larger than most Lenormand decks.
Whereas the cards in the classical Blue and Red Owl decks are 8.7 x 5.6 cm (or 3.4 x 2.2 in) , the cards in the Game of Hope are 11 cm long and about 8 cm wide.
I like this size! As you might have heard me say a few times, I have big hands so I like it better when the cards are a bit larger than the traditionally small Lenormand size.
This said, a smaller size is more convenient for a Grand Tableau, as placing all 36 cards from the Game on a table takes up so much space. The floor is probably better.
The design of the Game’s cards is pretty plain, which makes them easy to look at. This too is a feature I appreciate.
On the back of each card, there is a pair of simple three-leaf clovers with an ornamental divider between them such that you can’t tell whether a card is upright or reversed.
On each card front, there is the main symbol or emblem in the middle, and two insets at the top left and right, and between them, the card number.
The insets are a little different from the standard Petit Jeu. Whereas in Lenormand’s cards one inset is the card number and the other is the card pip or playing card, in the Game of Hope, one inset is the regular pip but the other is a German playing card pip.
Let’s go down this rabbit hole for a bit…
German-suited playing cards remain popular today in Central Europe, in countries like Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Hungary, northern Italy, Czechia, Slovakia, Croatia, and Bosnia.
The German deck is made up of 32 or 36 cards and has four suits like regular cards, but the suits are different from the familiar hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades. Its suits are hearts, bells, acorns, and leaves.
The deck goes back to the year 1450 approximately, which makes it pretty old - much older than our modern-day deck of 52 cards. Apparently, it started off with many more cards but were dropped over time until it ended up as a 36-card deck around 1470.
The German deck comes in different patterns depending on the region, but all of them carry the same suits of hearts, bells, acorns, and leaves.
In the Game of Hope, the German card insets are numbers 2, 6-10, and the page, queen, and king, for each suit. There is no ace as it had been dropped from the German deck itself by the 1470’s.
The regular playing card pips also figure as insets in the Game of Hope, and they are the ones we are familiar with in any Lenormand Petit Jeu. They are the aces, 6-10, page, queen, and king, of each of the hearts, clubs, diamonds, and Spades.
The hearts correspond to the German hearts suit. The clubs correspond to the German acorns. The diamonds correspond to the bells. And the Spades to the leaves.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME OF HOPE
The Game of Hope is what’s called a parlor game. Parlor games were popular during the Victorian era in England and the United States. They’re just indoor games that involve groups of people, like board and word games.
The 36 cards in the Game of Hope are laid out in a six by six grid (good idea for a Tableau-style layout! See below). The cards are placed in the order of their card numbers, starting with card 1, the Rider, and ending with card 36, the Cross - just like in the Houses spread.
You’ll need a pair of dice, some tokens or beans by way of money, and pawns for each player. Any number of players can participate.
To start, each player pitches in 6 to 8 beans or tokens into a pot - this will be the common pot out of which players can take out rewards and pay in penalties.
And though this isn’t mentioned in the Guidebook, it makes sense that each player rolls a dice to determine order of play. Players can decide if the first player is the one who rolls the smallest or largest number on the dice.
When players move forward, they count the card they’re on as part of the number of steps. For example, if my pawn is placed on card 3, the Ship, and my dice roll is 5, then step 1 is on card 3.
Several cards on the deck cause specific moves or actions for players to take, whereas other cards don’t do anything - they’re neutral.
For example, landing on card 3, the Ship, moves the player to card 12, the Birds. But landing on card 30, the Lily, doesn’t do anything, so a player just stays there until the next turn.
Players can decide to have specific moves assigned to these neutral cards if they like, as the original Hechtel leaflet suggests:
“If players want to add more variety to the entertainment of the game, say, by working riddles, forfeits etc., this is easily done and any party will be able to find sheets [i.e. cards] to which these can be added as rewards or penalties. For example, sheets nos. 2, 5, 9, 13, 15, 18, 23, 30, 32, 36 may be declared as forfeits, whenever they are reached in the orderly way, on 10, 12, 17, 20, 29, 35 it is required to sing songs…” (Guidebook, p. 52)
Winning happens when a player arrives at card 35, the Anchor, which is why this card is considered the most important one.
A player can get a dice roll that moves them past card 36. When this happens, they move backwards the number of steps that are past card 36. For example, if I am on card 33, the Key, and I get a dice roll of 5, then I move 3 steps to card 36, the Cross, then back 2 steps, which brings me back to card 33.
And that’s pretty much all there is to the game!
So with this said, here is the list of ‘active’ cards as per the Guidebook, and what they instruct players to do (the number is the card number):
- 3 Ship Move to card 12, Birds.
- 4 House Pay 2 tokens.
- 6 Clouds Go back to card 2, Clover.
- 7 Snake Pay 3 tokens.
- 8 Coffin Stay on this card until you roll a double or until another player lands here.
- 11 Rod Pay 2 tokens and move to card 13, Child.
- 14 Fox Go back to card 5, Tree.
- 16 Star Receive 6 tokens.
- 19 Tower Pay 2 tokens.
- 21 Mountain Stay on this card until you roll a double or until another player lands here.
- 22 Paths Go back to card 20, Park (i.e. the Garden).
- 24 Heart Move to card 28, Gentleman, if you’re a woman, or to card 29, Lady, if you’re a man.
- 25 Ring Receive 3 tokens.
- 26 Book Go back to card 20, Park.
- 27 Letter Pay 2 tokens.
- 28 Lady Move to card 31, Sun. But if you got here from card 24, Heart, then stay on this card.
- 29 Gentleman Move to card 32, Moon. But if you got here from card 24, Heart, then stay on this card.
- 33 Key Receive 2 tokens.
- 34 Fish Pay 2 tokens.
- 35 Anchor You win the game, unless you got here through backward steps.
- 36 Cross Stay on this card until you roll a double or until another player lands here.
This is a fun game and its rules are straightforward, but it’s not clear what the exact purpose of tokens is as it doesn’t look like they help win the game. And it doesn’t seem to matter how many tokens a player has lost or collected. It could be a consideration we incorporate into our own way of playing if we like.
Another item that isn't addressed by Hechtel's instructions is what happens if a player has to pitch in money into the pot but doesn't have any to do so. This too is something you might like to think about if you will play the Game of Hope.
THE GAME OF HOPE AS A DIVINATION DECK
In the original Guidebook of the Game of Hope, the author mentions using the cards as a divination deck.
Hechtel says, “With these cards it is also possible to play an entertaining game of oracles by shuffling the 36 cards and then letting the person, for whom the oracle is meant, cut the cards, then laying out the cards in 5 rows with 4 rows at 8 cards each and the fifth row with the reaming 4 cards. If the person querying is a woman, one starts from sheet 29, spinning a jocular tale from the cards nearby around the figure on display. If it is for a man, the tale is started from sheet 28 and again makes use of the cards surrounding this one. This will bring much entertainment to any merry company.” (Guidebook, pp. 52-53)
The layout that Hechtel describes is the Piquet Tableau.
It might mean that Mlle. Lenormand got her master spread from the Game of Hope, but we must keep in mind that the Game was only published in 1799 or 1800, when Mlle. Lenormand was already in her late twenties and had already moved to Paris to practice her art. So it is possible that Hechtel’s oracle instructions drew on Mlle. Lenormand’s method.
Hechtel’s method to interpret the cards in a ‘jocular’ way from either significator is not exactly explanatory.
He probably means that we look at the cards closest to the significator and interpret the cards outward from there - a basis for the near and far method, perhaps.
He doesn’t propose any orderly structure for this approach, and he seems to take the Game's oracular use as a 'just for fun' - an attitude I take no issue with whatsoever, by the way.
The card meanings for divination purposes are not listed as part of the original Guidebook by Hechtel, but they are included in the portion edited by Gluck.
These card meanings are pretty typical. Gluck offers a short and handy list of keywords for each card, and he also alludes to the idea of card combinations:
“How one links together the pictograms such as key, letter, tree, snake or house depends on the cultural factors or the time as well as one’s own experiences.” (Guidebook, p. 59)
This is an interesting way of wording what is technically correct with any card deck and divination: We interpret symbols based on context.
Lenormand’s card meanings, as well as any other interpretation systems, must evolve over time to remain relevant and meet the needs of the day.
TABLEAU OF HOPE: A 6X6 MASTER SPREAD
Let’s come up with a spread inspired by the Game of Hope!
For starters, let’s have the cards laid out in a 6x6 grid. This means the whole deck is used just like in a Grand Tableau.
In a Grand Tableau, the significator is a very important card. It is the Man or Woman depending on the gender of our readee.
The significator row, column, and diagonals, i.e. the lines where the significator figures, are the most important sentences.
And the significator portrait, i.e. the 8 cards around it, is the most important portrait.
As the Anchor is considered the most important card in the Game of Hope, let’s focus on it for our 6x6 layout through the lines and portrait that it figures in.
The Anchor is a card of security and certainty. It can be rigid and restrictive because it anchors a ship in place. But for the purpose of our Hope Tableau, we might emphasize its positive aspects and use it to find out what will be achieved by our readee - or what he or she should focus on achieving.
So we can examine the Anchor’s lines and portrait as a key focus in the Hope Tableau.
We can also apply the near and far method and examine how near or far the Anchor is from our significator. We might interpret it as the farther it is from the significator, the more challenging it will be for our readee to achieve his or her goals. And the closer it is, the more easily these goals will be achieved.
A time value might also apply: The farther the Anchor is from our significator, the more time they will need to achieve their goals. And the nearer the Anchor is, the closer our readee is to achieving them.
We can also see that there are four complete portraits within the Hope Tableau: Top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right.
These would be important to read, and the card at the center of each portrait offers an important theme to focus on for the reading.
Apart from these interesting features of the Hope Tableau, we would of course read all the other rows, columns, and diagonals.
On this note, it is interesting to note that there are two main diagonals of the Hope Tableau that connect the corner cards. They go from top left to bottom right, and bottom left to top right - just like in a portrait, but with many more cards.
These diagonals can be treated as more special than other diagonals because of their geometric importance in this layout.
To summarize, here are some lines and structures we can read out of a Hope Tableau:
- Portrait around the significator.
- Significator row, column, and diagonals.
- Portrait around the Anchor.
- Anchor row, column, and diagonals.
- Examine how near or far the Anchor is from the significator.
- Corner cards.
- The two main diagonals.
- Other rows and columns.
- Other diagonals.
- The 4 key portraits: Top left and right, and bottom left and right.
- Other portraits.
These are just a few suggestions you can follow to interpret a large spread like the Hope Tableau.
Like any Grand Tableau, there are lots and lots of lines and structures that you can interpret in here. It is up to you how you want to make sense of them for your readings.
In all cases, the key to an insightful interpretation is what you take away from it. Let it give you hope but also constructive realism that empowers you to take action.
NOTE ABOUT THIS POST This blog post and/or video are produced in good faith to promote the author’s work and bring together the Lenormand community. If the author(s) or his/her representative(s) has any concern with the information presented, kindly write to Layla, the Lenormand Reader, at [email protected]. Layla, the Lenormand Reader, reserves all rights.
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