Man and Woman cards from the BYO Lenormand by Rootweaver.
If you hang around Lenormand discussion groups, you’ve seen the schism. There’s Lenormand readers who insist on decks that follow tradition, and some people who are primarily deck creators, who take distorting the deck to the wall and insist that tradition should be scrapped.
I never understood why anyone would want to muck up something that works so well. (Criticism leads to much protest that you can’t stifle their creativity, but if they’re truly creative, why not create an ORIGINAL deck, instead of a malformed Lenormand? They insist that warping the deck is “innovating”, but the dictionary defines “innovate” as “To begin or introduce something new”, not regurgitating an inferior version of something that already exists.)
Yesterday we were discussing the Burning Serpent Oracle, an upcoming deck by Robert Place and Rachel Pollack. It’s based on Lenormand, but it’s not a Lenormand, and they don’t title it “Lenormand”. (***EDIT, 1/7/14: – At the time of this writing, the B.S. was being spoken of as loosely Lenormand-based, but not intended as a Lenormand. At some point, this was changed to “(the B.S.) can be used like a traditional Lenormand deck”. It obviously can’t, and I formally retract anything I may have said that could be construed as an endorsement.***)
Then a friend commented that “purist types would also out of necessity see a deck with a black person or a hispanic person as nontraditional. Since the traditional deck is all white people in it.” I was somewhat taken aback, but it gave me an insight into the schism and inspired me to write this blog. I think a lot of people might be “eating the menu.” No traditionalist I’ve intereacted with has shown an iota of racism. Many of us BELONG to some group that could be considered a “minority”, we’re not the straight white Germans of Hitler’s fucked up vision. Nor are we white supremacist Asatru practitioners with pea brains, meth mouth and tattoos of overmuscled Vikings. We don’t consider Lenormand “the deck of the white people”. It’s not about that.
The tradition isn’t about copying superfluous details – a traditional deck doesn’t require tri-cornered hats or fans either, else Piatnik would be nontraditional. The tradition is the method of reading the cards, and the closer the deck creator adheres to this, the better the deck. So playing card inset, number, Rider, Clover, etc. without excessive details.
Two birds is traditional. Just about any kind of birds but you need two, because of the “older couple/two of something” meaning. Blue Owl is considered a traditional deck and it uses owls (an entirely different species but still under the umbrella term “birds”), not doves or whatever like the older decks. Same with the Man and Woman. You need an adult male and female Homo Sapiens, take your pick. You can use different races and still follow the tradition. I would consider the cards at the top of this post perfectly traditional, right down to the facing directions.
You do have to keep in mind that it’s european for the logic behind some of the meanings, like Lilies (fleur-de-lys, kings of France, fertility, and therefore sex). But not for deciding on races or bird types or dog breeds. You can use images of any race. I would consider some things highly offensive, for instance, if a white person made a “Native American Lenormand”. But that’s because Natives are overwhelmingly sick to death of white people appropriating their culture and profiting from it. I think it’s a different ball of wax from the Buddha Tarot. Buddhists, as far as I’ve seen, seem quite happy that “the Wheel of the Dharma is turning in the West” and don’t seem to mind. But I’ll happily change my stance if I start hearing otherwise.
Racism is for people like that Gaudet woman who dress up like “Gypsies” and create appallingly racist blogs. Not us traditionalists. The guidelines for creating a proper Lenormand are all in the reading method.