I decided to embark on an adventure this afternoon; I took the train out to an unfamiliar suburb to visit an esoteric shop which sells love potions, voodoo amulets, strange herbs for spells, cloths for casting buzios, incense to fumigate houses and keep the evil eye at bay and – of course – cards. It was one of those shops full of dangly things; all manner of ribbons and chimes and lanterns and mobiles made of sliced crystals to bang your head on. One of the decks I came home with (I bought 5) was a Baralho Cigano. To the English speaking world, that’s a Lenormand. I’m not a collector, as such, of Lenormands, though it is starting to look that way as I now have over 25 of them. This afternoon I found a new one which I almost didn’t buy. I looked at it in the shop and wasn’t particularly struck by it at first sight, but then looking at it on the train home it quickly grew on me.
The first thing that struck me was the size. Most Lenormands are smaller than playing cards but these ones are the size of a regular tarot deck (say, the size of the Rider Waite Smith decks by U.S Games). They are essentially borderless. There is a hardly noticable thin black border at the very edge of the card which I didn’t notice at first. The cardstock is quite thick so in the hand they feel like quite a substantial deck of cards. There are no playing card inserts, no titles, just these rather large dramatic images, bold, numbered and with very little detail.
The starkness of the images makes them feel eminently readable and the angle of some of the cards adds a new and dramatic twist. Like the way we have to look up at The Tree, which gives the roots a ginseng feel. I love The Fox who comes prowling out of the card at us, the almost Oriental simplicity of The Stork and The Birds, the strange Child card, with its orbs and globs of floating mercury. The Whip is a very unusual rendition; no disembodied birch here but a futuristic android male, supine on purple silk, scratching at his bare chest, with the whip coiled round him. Once home I laid these out on the table, in Grand Tableau formation, I saw how dramatic they all look together and their virtual borderlessness makes them all merge and interact. The fussiness of Lenormand playing card inserts bothers me more and more. I think we can probably forget the playing card past of Lenormands sometime soon. Or at least, I have no difficulty in doing so. I like seeing Lenormand cards with no inserts. I never did learn the meanings of the cards in conjunction with the Piquet deck. There is no information about the artist of this deck; all the cards seem to be signed with a symbol I can’t quite understand. The LWB which accompanies the deck makes no mention of the artist and, weirdly, includes the Celtic Cross as a spread. I rather like this deck which I almost didn’t buy. The spoils of an afternoon adventure venturing into unfamiliar territory and coming back with cartomantic treasures to gloat over to the rhythm of the train, back in time for dinner and a comforting glass of wine.