Tag Archives: card history

GOBSMACKED! The Ensslin, Schaiblin/Reutlingen Lenormand

The deck is a little wonky, but profoundly stunning. It’s easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing Lenormands I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen scads!) Is it one of those pretty but unreadable things? Not at all. Let me explain:

The numbering is not standard. That’s not an issue for most of us.

There is no Cross card, but there is a Cat card. Since Cat meanings in cartomancy are identical to Fox meanings, having a Cat in the deck is like having two Fox cards. So, for myself, I use Cross meanings. Why? It balances the deck, and “full stop, burdens, suffering, illness” fits the ferals we see every day.
(YES, my town needs TNR.) That’s my take. Do as you see fit.

Perfectly round insets, crazy sigils, lovely linework and tints. Feast your eyes a bit.

The Esslin is available HERE

And while we’re on the subject, Lauren is talking about doing a Wirth. A good, working, no glitter one! Put me down for several copies – imagine a side of these Wirth majors with your Lenormand! ❤


Holiday card pull, 2015

Giordano Berti's Sibyl of the Heart

Giordano Berti’s Sibyl of the Heart

Greetings, and happy whatever-you-may-or-may-not-be-celebrating! LOL. I pulled a few cards for the coming week, and I wanted to share it here, as it looks pretty universal.

I used Giordano Berti’s The Sibyl of the Heart. I mentioned it in my last post – it’s taken from an old Rosicrucian text, and it uses emblems. Emblem books are one of the roots of Lenormand, Sibilla, and “Gypsy” type decks. Many have symbols in common with the Tarot as well. The interpretations vary, but they’re well worth any cartomancer’s perusal since they give you a sense of the old european mindset that these cards came out of.

The first card is No. 8, Balance. The heart is balanced precariously on the point of a pyramid-like structure. There is a rod through it, with a bell on each end. The slightest movement will set those bells to ringing.

The next card is No. 15, Temptation. A winged heart this time, with a demon in hot pursuit. Pretty self-explanatory.

And the last card is No. 1, Preparation. Hands emerge from a cloud and slide the heart into a brick oven.

Now, if Balance wasn’t there, I would say that these cards were a caution to walk a chalk line and be very careful. But with Balance there, I think they are simply saying not to overdo. Spend, but not too much. Eat, drink, but not too much. The Temptation will be there, but I should keep some money and energy in Preparation for the next phase. Something important may be coming up afterwards. Listen for those bells (Balance), don’t ignore them.

This deck is always reads very clearly. It tends to advise rather than just give a straight prediction, but the advice is in the cards, not just imagination telling you what you want to hear. I would like to know more about them (the background images, the buildings and landscapes, all of these surely have a lot of weight as well. I’d like to learn about them in the historical and alchemical context.)

It’s an heirloom quality deck and it comes with a booklet by our own Odete Lopes (Madame Sheyla). The cards come in a sparkly red bag, smelling faintly of aromatic resin incense, and the whole thing is done up in a box made to look like a very old-fashioned book, that ties with a red ribbon. Just superb. You can see a bit more on this video, there is a study group here, and it’s available for purchase here (clicking the “Buy It” button opens a page that gives you the appropriate email contact to use according to the country you live in.)

Andy’s Book: Revised & Expanded


If you read this blog at all, you’ve probably heard of Lenormand Thirty Six Cards by now. It was intended as an introductory book, though it was quite detailed – I got a lot of benefit from it, and I’d been reading Lenormand for years already. Andy did a great job of filling in the gaps left by Treppner and the handful of others who had published information in english.

Since then, he re-opened his Cabinet course for awhile, including information that wasn’t available in the first edition of the book, and paying careful attention to the areas where people were having problems and how to explain things more clearly. (There is a human tendency to misinterpret certain statements and run with it – this is what he was mainly trying to remedy, I think. The man is infinitely more patient and accommodating than I am.) All of this – the course material and the teaching approach, have been added to the original book. Certain parts have been revised. And what came of all this is a book with roughly twice the word count, yet with the fat trimmed.

This appears, for all intents and purposes, to be the definitive Lenormand book. There’s really not much else you can say about the subject, the answers to virtually all of the questions one commonly sees are answered in this book. (Andy says it’s “intermediate”, I’m curious as to what he considers “advanced” – work through this book and internalize the information, and you’ve got Lenormand nailed.) Card and suit meanings, history, attendance, proximity, exercises, combos and more.

You can get more information here: http://boroveshengra.com/2015/07/01/lenormand-thirty-six-cards-2015-edition/

Order from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Lenormand-Thirty-Six-Cards-Introduction-Petit-ebook/dp/B00JHO7X8M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1435760966

Or, if you prefer, from Createspace here: https://www.createspace.com/4913005

Andy’s Book

The expanded edition of Lenormand Thirty Six Cards will be available soon. This one goes a good way beyond the first edition’s comprehensive-yet-basic Lenormand 101, with material that was included in Andy’s last course. I’m hoping for a hardcover copy, after all, it’s a reference work and will get tons of use. My Book.

Resurrecting the Zauberkarten

Die Zauberkarten is a deck first published in Vienna in 1855. It’s one of the Sibilla types that overspread the Continent in the 19th century and includes Italian Sibillas, French Sibyl decks (Sibylle des Salons, Petit Cartomancien, Jeu du Destin, Livre du Destin, etc.), Petit Lenormand, Petit Oracle des Dames…all of the old decks with an image and a playing card inset. There are different systems for reading each.

The difference between these cards and the more familiar Sibillas is that the other decks were continuously, or near-continuously, published, but the Zauberkarten seem to have died out, at least as far as I can tell. Caitlin Matthews acquired an antique copy in 2013, complete with the box and book, and sent scans to Lauren Forestell, who offered them for awhile, along with a slim volume by Caitlin, at her Game of Hope site.

It has images in common with Lenormand, like the Coffin, Snake, Ship, etc., but the meanings tend to be variant. There are some images I’ve seen in other decks, like the Merit Cross and Clasped Hands – but don’t relate it to your Whitman and Gypsy Witch decks just yet – the Pig, for instance, is disreputable rather than lucky. And there are other images that I’ve not seen anyplace else, like the Lightning Struck Tree, Overridden Horse, and Man Heaving Rock Uphill.

In other words, it takes some getting used to, and I haven’t had proper time for it. But the solution to “not having time” is to make time, so I did manage a series of dailies, a couple of which I’m posting here. My object was to see how viable the method, which gives different meanings to the cards depending if they’re on the right or left, is. Did the Zauberkarten die out because of the method? Or not – did the publisher simply fold? The cards do look very readable. Let’s test drive them.

DAY 1:
zaub1Man Clenching Fist, Chains, Sun

For the Man Clenching Fist, the book gives a general meaning of “Apparent reconciliation between enemies accompanied by falsehood. Inconvenience, annoyance.” But on the left, “folly”. Chains in the middle would carry the general meaning of “Loss of freedom. Scheming.” The General meaning of the Sun is “Honor and glory. Gift” and the right-hand meanings are “Gift, winning at games. Lucky in love.”

The synthesis for the left/right meanings, if you didn’t have any context, might be something like a silly attachment to optimism, either material or romantic.
But for general meanings, being unpleasantly bound to people who have an agenda, in hopes of improvement. “Making nice”.

What happened: I’m a day sleeper, but plumbers came to the house at 8 AM. We needed them, but they’re so annoying. Three loud, filthy plumbers. Of course they made a big mess taking everything apart before they figured out that the problem was OUTSIDE – which I could have told them, since it was EVERYTHING that had suddenly clogged.

So I think “folly” applies, but the general meaning is more specific. Plumbers virtually always fib about things in order to make more money, and it WAS inconvenient and annoying. Chains fits – I couldn’t escape, either by leaving or going to sleep. The “gift” of the Sun was me finally being able to sleep after they left and I washed everything down with Clorox. Even though it was only a temporary fix – they left a big trench in the yard with a main pipe draining into it and promised to return the next day.

On this day, the general meanings win hands down. In the case of the Man Clenching Fist, the general meaning overshadowed the left hand meaning (though folly was obviously at play, too.)

DAY 2:
zaub2Coffin, Anchor, Beggar

Well, ramping down for a daily, but the general meaning for Coffin is “Carelessness, recklessness, insurmountable obstacles, misfortune, death”. And the left hand meaning is “severe illness, danger, death”. Anchor gives “Hope, friendship with a woman” for the general meaning. Beggar is “Bad business, suffering of all kinds. Changes” generally, and “embarrassments” on the right.

What happened: The plumbers came back, right on time. They didn’t have to come inside this time. I was asleep but my daughter was up. While they were working on the pipe, somebody with the city was driving by and stopped and told them the landlord needed to get a permit in order for them to do that. Work stopped.

So: carelessness and recklessness in that they didn’t finish the first day (a Sunday) when the city employees wouldn’t have been out looking for opportunities to run their idiotic $60 extortion racket. As for illness, my daughter had a little stomach bug and I was working too close to the potting (a sealant) station, so my eyes got kind of raw. (With dailies, ramp down, ramp down…) The general meaning seems a lot more relevant for the day.

The Beggar’s “Embarrassments” fits because the trench looks trashy and Third World as hell, but this is small town Texas so it blends right in, and there is probably no one within a fifty mile radius that I care to impress. But we need to stay away from it as much as possible since the cards warned of illness. I have “Hope” it will eventually get fixed and filled in. Probably over the weekend, lol. None of the interactions I had with female friends that day stand out. Again, the general meanings seem more accurate and specific than the left/right meanings, but I can’t totally discount left/right.

Tentative conclusion: Learn all the meanings. Retain left/right, but only as a secondary consideration. It adds nuance, and it’s not totally unique to this deck (you see it with the Ring in Lenormand, and card order can be viewed as essentially the same thing, or at least similar). There is no need for modernization, only perspective.

Before it was called Lenormand

Some years ago, noticing the similarities in various European oracle decks like the Lenormand, Italian Sibillas, Biedermeier, etc., and guessing that they had a common ancestor, we went searching for the ur-deck. We never found it, of course, though Enrique Enriquez guessed (correctly) that they might be derived in part from emblem books. (They share a common ancestor called Biribissi, an Italian board game that spawned Mexican Loteria as well!)

But a proto-Lenormand should be simpler to trace, right? Not quite. The earliest images anyone could find were from an 1846 deck printed in France, but primarily for the German market. I only knew two things: A) That the deck had nothing to do with Mlle. Lenormand, and B) That the deck was German (French oracles tend to be less stark, more rococo, with multiple figures playing out a scene on each card. Lenormand is more German than Wurstfest. 😉 ) When you google “Lenormand”, you don’t get anything prior to the deck being named “Lenormand”. And if it was named “Lenormand” as a marketing ploy after Mlle.’s passing, did it exist before that? Well…

“Detleff Hoffman has shown that their prototype can be clearly traced back to a lovely little pack of fancy cards called “Das Spiel der Hoffnung” (The Game of Hope), published around 1800 by G.P.J. Bieling in Nuremberg.”
– A Wicked Pack of Cards: The Origins of the Occult Tarot (1996), Ronald Decker, Thierry Deplaulis & Michael Dummett

Fortunately, the entire deck still exists, and the British Museum has an intact copy, which only went online last spring.

As you can see from the translated instructions here, it was used a lot like our modern Monopoly game. However, when I gave the link to Cat Yronwode (her luckymojo.com site is fascinating and worth checking out) her reaction was, “As described by the British Museum, that is not a board game. It’s a pack of pasteboard playing cards. It is not a proto Lenormand deck — it just *is* a Lenormand deck. ‘Description. Cards with French suits: complete pack of 36 playing-cards'” And she is correct.

The eerily-accurate Lenormand sprang full-blown into this world in 1799. Via a man who was trying to make a game.

I don’t know about you, and I won’t venture into “what it all means”, if anything, but I find this mind-blowing. 😀

Of course everybody wanted a copy – the most recommended Lenormands are the traditional, mostly-unadorned ones like the Mertz, Gluck, Dondorf, Piatnik and Blue Owl, and this one fit the bill perfectly – the only “extra” features are the German playing card insets, in addition to the more familiar French-suited ones. I almost went to the print shop with my scans, and would have ended up with a hot mess – the original deck was crudely cut. Tarot Professionals Ltd. to the rescue, and Ciro Marchetti did the tweaking: extending the aged coloring, adding a back design (the originals had plain backs) and framing each card with a thin black line. The resulting deck is pure pleasure. (It has a washed-out greenish tinge, like a paler version of mottled old green turquoise, that was probably a printing error. However, I quite like it, and don’t the Thoth “greenies” fetch the best price?)

The deck was printed in a limited run of 250 copies, but if you’re quick about it, you might still get one here.

Special thanks to Helen Riding, Caitlin Matthews, Mary Greer, Marcus Katz, Tali Goodwin, Ciro Marchetti – in no particular order – and anyone I may have left out who had a hand in making this all come together and bringing it to my attention.