Cody Delistraty

In 1786, 14-year-old Marie Anne Lenormand ran away from the convent school where she was raised. Lenormand set off to Paris on her own, where she learned the art of cartomancy—divination using a deck of cards. She worked for 40 years as a cartomancer and fortune-teller, advising Joséphine de Beauharnais (Napoleon’s wife), Robespierre, Marat, and other important figures on their fates.

Thirty years later, when Lenormand was 44 years old, she met with a young Frances, Lady Shelley, a socialite, aristocrat, and friend of the Duke of Wellington. The two met in Lenormand’s luxurious boudoir, but, as Shelley recounts in her diary, she was soon drawn into Lenormand’s cabinet d’étude to have her fortune read. Lenormand asked her date of birth, then the first letter of her name, the first letter of her birthplace, and then her favorite animal, color, and number. “After about a quarter of an hour…

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