America: home of Black Friday WalMart riots and Big Mac-fueled rampant consumerism. Even Tarot isn’t immune, make no mistake about it. For every great american deck, there’s a glut of ill-thought-out ones attempting to cash in on the current trends. As much as they try to be cutting edge, though, there’s a definite lameness to them, kind of a bland woowoo-and-bubbles-of-pink-light vibe. So it’s with some trepidation that I’ve been watching Lenormand catch on here in recent years.
Don’t get me wrong, in their native Germany* there are various theme Lenormands, including a version with angels. Some of the German decks can be a little twee and at times, even smarmy…but they just don’t run it into the ground over there. There’s a certain neatness and simplicity to it all, a very structured framework that encourages your own impressions, associations and intuitions but doesn’t allow them to float off into foofooland. The system is as blunt and incisive as runes, it works, and they don’t seem to monkey with it overmuch. Here, on the other hand…well, I’m still cringing at the mere thought of a Precious Moments Wicca Crystal The Secret Lenormand. From Hallmark.
For now, though, we’re ok. Big shoutout to Melissa Hill! I recently acquired two decks from her, The Melissa Lenormand and The Postmark Lenormand. The Melissa is stunning, with collaged images from the 1800’s up to the 1930’s or so. It’s at least as pretty as anything Baba Studios ever turned out: Victorian postcards, faded photos, steampunky gears and curious old ads, often with a backdrop of old handwritten letters. The complexity of the images is a departure from the traditional stripped-down symbolism of Lenormand, but she’s done it so well that it doesn’t seem like a liability at all. Just read them the same as you would any other Lenormand. All in all, it’s a fun departure from “regular” Lenormand and if you’ve been doing a lot of readings and started to burn out, this is the cure. Here’s a few of the cards:
The Postmark, on the other hand, is a very traditional Lenormand: single images marked with the card number and playing card designation. And this is where the similarity stops…the deck is a lively scavenger hunt packed with old photos and art in various mediums, some of it quite old, some more contemporary. This one also has extra cards: Melissa’s trademark extra Man and Woman, plus a #18 Dog alternative, the Cat, and the dreaded Happy Squirrel. I love doing layouts with it for the sheer quirky variety of the thing. Check these out:
I’m really looking forward to Melissa’s Cirque de Lenormand…a Lenormand taken entirely from old circus posters! You can check out her website here http://sassysibyl.com/
*I don’t buy the alleged connection to the real Mlle. Lenormand and the earliest images I’ve been able to turn up, though printed in France in 1845, were primarily for the German market, since the German titles are most prominent http://www.lenormand-museum.de/lenormandkarten-frankreich-unbekannt.html I imagine they were printing them in Germany before that. If anyone has info to prove or disprove this, please comment!
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