I have just received my copy of The Postmark Lenormand. Maybe I’m biased because after her Melissa Lenormand I expect great things from Melissa Hill. In fact, I am of the opinion that she is quietly revolutionising the humble little Lenormand pack, so beloved of European card readers and now spreading its influence further afield. Very soon, the Lenormand deck is going to be as unrecognisable from its Piquet-deck ancestor as the modern tarot deck is from its historic Marseilles and Milanese counterpart. And nobody is doing it better than Melissa.
It is such a charming little deck the Lenormand – any Lenormand – and, up until recently, the style most easily available was of what I would call the “grandma persuasion”. I mean, most Lenormand decks look like something that old ladies in Alsace might use but Melissa has taken this deck (with its greetings card bouquets, simpering dogs, stilted figures poised in parkland) and made it modern, made it contemporary, made it come alive for 21st Century card-readers. How best to make a deck modern? Make it retro, and Melissa has raided her store of paper ephemera, postcards, sepia photographs, graphic illustration, engravings, images and memorabilia from disparate sources which somehow gain a certain coherence in her hands. The Melissa Lenormand is my favourite Lenormand to date without a doubt. I loved it as soon as I saw it. The Postmark Lenormand I think of as a more streamlined Lenormand; only the symbols (for maximum impact) and with the playing card references kept to a minimum. The first batch were available (if requested) in a charming copper coloured tin (the illustrative card on the lid differed between sets; mine was The Snake) and the first 100 came with 5 extra cards; alternative Man and Woman card, Cat, “blank postcard” card, Happy Squirrel, as well as the 36 actual Lenormand cards. The traditional Lenormands didn’t have a Cat card, only a Dog card, and this has been borrowed from the Sibilla tradition (and neither of them have Happy Squirrel cards).
The tin comes in a cotton, postmarked bag and a very helpful little booklet with useful keywords, which is useful however advanced or elementary you are in reading Lenormand cards. I like her take on the cards, I like the succinctness of the suggested meanings, e.g “Card 13, Child; childlike, new mind, blank slate, friends, a fling.” It is a beautiful set, an absolute treasure, perfect size, quality cardstock, quality printing and, when spread out on the table, merges its vintage shades in gently fluctuating tones of sepia browns, blacks, whites and pastel, spreading out into a harmonious whole.
And one of the things I most love about Melissa’s two Lenormand decks is how she makes these extra Man and Woman cards available. In the old decks, if you were a man asking about a man, the card representing “Man” was quite possibly occupied elsewhere in the spread as representing you. Likewise, a woman might want to ask about a woman. Having the extra cards means that a reading on gay relationships – or even just same-sex work issues – is now possible with these decks, a small addition that will mean a lot to many people. There are times when a Lenormand reading is exactly what we want. Something concise, symbols strung together like cartomantic grammar. A line of cards is a predictive sentence, it has a subject, an object and we can see the action, the verb. Next to Lenormand cards, the tarot sometimes (sometimes!) seems nebulous and mysterious and not always very helpful. It won’t always be pushed for an answer. With Lenormand cards, a three or four or 36 card spread may tell you much more. I often use my Lenormand before a tarot spread; I lay out all the cards and see what cards are surrounding the significator (Man/Woman card) to see what themes we are dealing with, just in case the querent is being coy. There is something direct about the Lenormand symbols and they often fit together like cogs, they strip everything down and these cards – in dealing with only the essence of the symbol – strip the Lenormand right down. It is a minimal, pared down Lenormand for modern life that wants quick, direct, unambiguous answers and no vagueness.