*Copyright July 15, 2014- Michellelenormand.com/ Michelle Lenormand. This article and all contents on this blog may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the author.
The WHIP in Lenormand is a fascinating card. It’s reputation is intense, passionate, argumentative, gossipy, repetitive, sexual (in a dysfunctional, kinky way) and obsessive. How did it earn it’s naughty character? Well, let’s take a look at the period in time from which it came.
It first makes it’s racy debut in Hechtel’s Game of Hope in 1799. During Hechtel’s time, morality games were all the rage, and rivalry ensued between France and Germany in the game market. Let’s not misunderstand this, however. We CANNOT look at the past with the eyes of contemporary society and culture. Back then, not many people could afford to run down to the nearest toy shop and buy a deck of cards, let alone a game consisting of much needed, and costly, brass game pieces and dice. There was also the problem of literacy. The literacy rate for Europe (and even less in the American colonies) was only about 30%-60%* for men only. It would take much longer for women’s literacy to rise and the average person to afford to buy books; books were the possessions of the upper middle class and wealthy. That means most people got their information via oral tradition and, yes, rumor. The people buying the games were the upper classes who were educated. This means that the way we think of simply purchasing a game whenever we want to is totally wrong when applying that concept to the average conditions of people’s lives in 1799. Some authors have indicated this in their writing about Lenormand, which is faulty reasoning. Games were not plentiful and not everyone had them.
Now, the WHIP certainly has a relationship to the ancient fasces, but the Egyptian Crook and Flail hieroglyph, which features two whips crossed, predates it by thousands of years, yet has the same the meaning of the fasces. (Link to image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_whips_with_shen_ring_(hieroglyph)
They both mean to either unite or to tear apart- the single whip/fasces being to tear apart, while the double whip/fasces means to unite. An assertion of the power of unity, the Egyptian whips and the Roman/Etruscan fasces are virtually identical in their meaning. The meaning within the context of the time of an object is how we discern the origins of the object. So how did an essentially Egyptian symbol end up in a German fortunetelling deck?
The world has known of the existence of hieroglyphs throughout time, but it wasn’t until the 4th century, and solidly by the 6th century, that the knowledge of how to read them disappeared. This co-incided with the rapid expansion of Christianity throughout the world, and later, Islam reinforced that the lost knowledge would stay lost for many centuries. By this time, Rome conquered Egypt, and what we know of the powerful machine that was the Roman Empire, is that they LOVED to appropriate symbols from those cultures that they defeated. In fact, after overthrowing the Greeks, the Romans imprisoned their greatest artists and forced them to teach Roman artists painting and sculpture. What did the Romans do after the imprisoned Greek masters instructed their artists? They destroyed every known Greek sculpture they could find, ensuring that the works of sculptors like Praxiteles (arguably the greatest sculptor in antiquity) would be forever lost to time, existing only through the texts of ancient authors. Then they slaughtered the artists. (1)
Based upon what we know of history, then, it would appear that the fasces was appropriated by the Romans (2), who then spread its meaning throughout the Roman Empire as a powerful symbol of unity after the conflict in Egypt, essentially saying, “Look at how we have dominated your culture and taken your sacred script as our own.” (3) Usurping cultures in this way is a visceral lesson and indeed, a trait characterizing the Roman Empire. From there, the fasces made its way into mainstream European cultures under the control of the Roman Empire.
Even though the world knew of the mysterious hieroglyphic language at the time of Hechtel creating the Game of Hope, no one knew its true meaning. Deciphering the hieroglyphs would not occur for another quarter century. The now quaint intimation of chapbooks and fortunetellers at the time proclaiming secret knowledge based on the hieroglyphs very much plays into the image made for the GOH.
The WHIP card also relates to the Biblical Psalm 23:4, “…Thy rod and thy staff.” (4) It is apparent in this following map how closely King David, the author of Psalm 23:4, could identify with the Egyptian symbol of the shepherd’s rod and staff.
Jerusalem closely bordered Lower Egypt, the seat of power in Egypt. Psalm 23:4 alludes to this ancient Egyptian symbol.
Here is a link to a picture of King Tut’s sarcophogus where the rod and staff are prominent, seen as tools of unity, power, and leadership:
Although we know that the birch rod is not a part of the image seen on Tut’s coffin, we do know that the way it is depicted, with both rods and fasces being crossed, is a direct reference to the ancient Egyptian symbol. The birch rod is presumed to be derived from the ancient fasces, both being a bundle of wood rods tethered tightly together. (5)
One of the juiciest subjects for rumor during Hechtel’s time was the infamous Marquis de Sade. (6) He procured the services of both women and men to service his extreme appetites, as well as having had a prolonged, illicit affair with his wife’s sister. First appearing before the court in 1763 after a number of prostitutes complained about him mistreating them, the police put him under surveillance. He was imprisoned for only short sentences from 1763-68.
In 1768, when he faced his first major sentence on a rape charge, the Marquis became the talk of Europe for both his perversity and his libidinous appetites. He was accused of taking a woman to his chateau where he held her captive and physically and sexually abused her. She ended up escaping through a window. Afterward, the Marquis’s mother-in-law obtained a “lettre de cachet” from the king, a royal order of arrest without any stated cause that excluded him from the jurisdiction of the courts. It proved disastrous for him later.
A short while after the rape charge, he was convicted of poisoning prostitutes with Spanish Fly and commiting sodomy, along with his manservant, Latour, in Marseille and given a death sentence. By the time the sentence was passed, he had fled to Italy, taking with him his wife’s sister and Latour. He and Latour were later arrested and imprisoned, but escaped four months later. Over the next several years, complaints would mount against him by his young female employees who claimed sexual mistreatment. The father of one of the young women attempted to shoot the Marquis, but the gun misfired.
In 1778, the Marquis was tricked into traveling to Paris to see his dying mother and was imprisoned at Chateau des Vincennes using the letter de cachet. He was there with the Comte de Mirabou, who also wrote erotic literature and was known for his debaucherous life, though they hated each other. In 1784 he was transferred from Vincennes to the Bastille, and then to an insane asylum in 1789. In 1790, he was released from prison under the newly formed Constituent Assembly who abolished the instrument of the letter de cachet. And within a year he published his first major novel, “Justine (Or the Misfortunes of Virtue),” which was centered around the main character enduring the sexual domination of a host of characters, her life portrayed as hopelessly unfortunate. A few years later, 1797- 1801, he published “Julliette, (Or Vice Amply Rewarded),” a treatise on the life of Justine’s sister, who is her opposite, and who engages in wanton depravity only to be rewarded with happiness, pleasure, and wealth.
So what we must look at now, is the inescapable symbolism of the Marquis de Sade within the image of the Whip and Broom (Fasces) of the GOH during it’s time. The Marquis had already been the object of rampant rumor for over twenty years prior to Hechtel designing the GOH. His exploits were the subject of whispers and outrage. His court appearances, subsequent imprisonment and confinement, and invariable escape and release made news every time he was caught and escaped. He shocked the world with his first published novella, “Justine” in 1790, several years prior to the GOH. We must assume that he was familiar with the Marquis’s exploits because Hechtel was very educated, having anonymously published a work on physics. The Marquis enraged politicians like Napoleon with his work and lifestyle, causing the news to cover every salacious detail of the Marquis’s exploits. By 1797, two years before Hechtel died, the Marquis had just published his second novella, “Julliette,” which again caused outrage.
The coincidental imprisonment of two of history’s greatest debaucherers, the Marquis de Sade and the Comte de Mirabou in the same facility at the same time can’t be ignored. The designation of the WHIP as a symbol of writing must be based on this ocurrence. In the instructions to the Game of Hope, a forfeiture of 2 marks is made if the player lands on the “Rod,” his forfeiture being referred to as a “castigation.”
I have found in my own readings that the WHIP shows itself in relation to artistic pursuits. For example, WHIP FLOWERS is a drawing or print. WHIP FLOWERS FISH is a painting. WHIP FLOWERS HORSEMAN is dancing. MOUNTAIN FLOWERS WHIP is a carved stone relief or engraving. MOUNTAIN WHIP a sculpture (in progress) and MOUNTAIN FLOWERS sculpture or object d’art, such as a piece of ceramic.
So when we view the WHIP card, we now have new insight as to the basic meanings we have come to know. Yes, it is a symbol of strife and violence, of perversity and obsession, but also a symbol of unity. It is known in the Traditonal Lenormand practice that the card to the right of the WHIP card is what is able clear the strife. My research confirms that this is so, but also sheds a little light on how and why those meanings came about, as well as some deeper meanings within it, such as “two men.” There are some traditionalists who use this card for twins. No doubt the meaning of this comes from the simultaneous imprisonment of the Marquis de Sade with the Comte de Mirabou, seen as “two peas in a pod.”
The other thing that can be taken from the WHIP in its deeper meaning is a Jewish man, or someone from Egypt. If we are looking for spiritual guidance via the Lenormand, look to the WHIP for referencing Psalm 23:4, if this is your intention. If you are like me and you like to revel in a little salacious gossip, you may throw a spread around the WHIP to see what people are saying about you. (And if you are indeed like me, you’d rather have it be juicy than boring.)
In short, we have a new wealth of information we are now armed with having done a little research into the history of the image itself. By using its symbolic history in art, we can ferret out some of the deeper meanings in the hope of more complete understanding of the cards and being in better service to those we counsel.
*The literacy rates for northwestern European countries are highly disputed, with ranges as low as 30% and as high as 60% among males only. Calculating literacy rates for the total population is highly debated, as very few women were literate.
**Portrait of the Marquis de Sade by Charles-Amedee-Philippe van Loo- the only portrait he ever sat for in his lifetime.
For information about slavery in Roman times: