Lenormand decks; they’re compact, relatively inexpensive (still), user- friendly, esoterically uncluttered and they’re taking over the cartomantic universe. They bring with them that irresistable allure of after-dinner readings in the parlour on windy, mid-19th Century nights. I can never resist a new Lenormand (if it isn’t too twee; but then I find that, if it is, I seem to love it even more) and my latest acquisition, although a bit of a struggle to get hold of, was well worth the wait. It is known as The Lilac Twilight by Berenika and was published in Russia (priced at 870 roubles; not as expensive as it sounds) at the end of last year. A group of us did a bulk order – not too bulk since it was listed as a “small print run” (I was told 100) – and it took a few months to reach us. I imagined it coming across the Russian plains by troika, sweeping across the ice and coming to a halt at a train station like that one at which Anna Karenina killed herself. All the romance of Russia and its history is in this deck for me. It makes me think of fortune telling, in the French style, for the young ladies launched into Moscow society during Pushkin’s time. Or Natascha’s first ball in War and Peace. Who would her suitor be? These are the cards that would tell us.
The peculiar thing about Lenormands is that, let’s face it, they are all essentially the same; no hugely diverging symbolism and no unnecessary hermetic overlay. In a Lenormand there will always be a heart, a dog, a house, a cross and so on and so forth, so reviews like this have very little to dwell on really. We haven’t reached that stage – as we have in tarot – where creaters start renaming. All the cards are there and they are all unmistakably the symbols they purport to be. However, I immediately recognised that there was a slight inconsistancy throughout the deck in terms of the style of the artwork. It has been taken – mostly – from Old Master paintings and given a lush lilac wash which makes it feel that you are looking at the images through a veil of pinkish half-light from the land of glorious kitschdom.
Many of the images seem to be from 19th Century realist paintings (like the Mice and the Coffin) while others do not feel that they are from this period at all. Quite by chance the other week, while looking for something else entirely in a google image search, I came across the figure from the Man card in an early 20th Century fashion plate. The figure from the Woman card (and Child card) feels positively 1950s to me. So there’s a little jarring going on, but that forgiving pink mist irons it all out and when the cards are all laid out for the Grand Tableau, you feel dizzy with intoxicating mauveness and just don’t care. Such an enchanting deck, such a unique deck. According to the (translated) notes on the website, it takes as its inspiration warm autumn evenings when the sun filters through at twilight and the pinkish light seems a little unreal, and it opens us up to senses and perceptions which might otherwise have gone unnoticed. “The twilight is the crack between the worlds,” says the Castanede quote on the back of the box, “the door to the unknown.”
There were two versions. One had Russian titles, the other (the one I have) has suit symbols in the bottom right hand corner, with a number/court card initial set into the heart, club, spade or diamond. The artist did it as a “Special Author’s Edition for the Aeclectic Tarot Forum”. Apparently she made a mistake with the Birds card in the first printing and attributed it the 9 of clubs thus duplicating the Fox. So a replacement card was sent out (again, hark the troika sleigh-bells as they jingle across the snowy wastelands to catch the express post). This replacement cards is a millimetre larger than the original one so I’m still using the original one until I trim it down. As I don’t use the playing card references it isn’t such a problem for me. This is a very appealing and unusual deck and has such a gentle, romantic atmosphere that I just had to mention it here, even though I have very little else to say about it except the fact that it has me in its thrall. It is printed on very glossy but excellent quality cardstock. The cards scratch easily, but I’m not too worried about that. The cardstock itself will hold up to years of use, of that I am sure. Now please excuse me whilst I lose myself in these heady, violet mists pierced by the rays of the setting Siberian sun. This is a deck that just begs to be asked about Love.