As one who has long felt they can channel – at whim – Maria Antoinette in her finest hours, the Lenormand Revolution deck by Carrie Paris & Roz Foster immediately perked my interest. I felt my metre-high powdered wig totter with excitement and was thrilled to receive a copy just last week, one of a print run of 450 that has already, deservedly sold out. It feels like a deck that, although we know it didn’t exist to predict the storming of the Bastille, the American Revolution and the new world order, may quite well have done if we ponder long and hard enough. A sort of fantasy, a variation on a theme, it ties together the sparse, loose strands of Mme Lenormand’s life, her enigmatic biography, her place in the revolutionary fervour, alongside Josephine (who features as one of the two Lady cards), Napoleon (who features as one of the two Lord cards) and all the rest of of the kaleidoscopic chaos as the Ancien Regime slid into the horrors of bloody revolution. Here we have all these things in one tiny deck (cards; 8.7cm x 5.7 cm). We may applaud the liberty of the French Revolution and the end to oppression which it heralded but we should also remember the horrors and the crimes (to paraphrase Mme Roland) committed in its name.
This deck, a very clever and really rather wonderful little deck, captures something of the exhilaration and foreboding of the times and feels like something created as a kind of historical “what if?” What if a deck had been created at the time to celebrate the revolution, foresee American independence and Mme Lenormand had had a hand in it and honoured her supposed friends Josephine and Napoleon in the significator cards in the way great heroes and heroines – like Pallas, David and Judith – were often honoured in French playing card courts of the time? All pure conjecture of course but the deck is so compelling and hangs together so well that it goes a long way to convincing whoever handles it that it may just be a relic from revolutionary times.
The images feel as if they come at us through a veil of ectoplasm. It feels ghostly, it feels as if it bridges the old, privileged Ancien Regime world of hunting (see the Dog card; a depiction of one of King Louis’ favourites), the Sun King (see The Sun card), Marie Antoinette (that Bouquet could have come from her boudoir) and then the horrors of what toppled all of this (see the looming devil behind the Birchrod, the Napoleonic documentation in The Letter.) Even the Child card shows a sword-wielding youngster (with American flag), the 18th Century equivalent of those images we now see of 8-year old children in the Middle East brandishing guns. I like how this deck has terror simmering (or maybe it’s in my imagination, as one who has long been fascinated by the French Revolution?), the Mountain is a volcano and I’m almost certain that the Tower card is in fact the Bastille. The alternative Lady card shows what I thought was a mean, scraggy tricoteuse, not knitting but stoking up a cannon, though I was told that the card depicts Mollie Pitcher who supposedly fought in the American Battle of Monmouth. And how visceral the Heart card is with its tiny sacred rays. I remember the story of the unfortunate Princesse de Lamballe, Marie Antoinette’s favourite who was set upon by the crowd, mutilated, torn apart, had her heart and head set on pikes which were then paraded at the prison window of Marie Antoinette. Her legs were fired from cannons (they said) so I wondered if that frowning lady in the Lady significator really is going to fire cannons. These were violent times. We all applaud liberty but the horrors acted out on the way should never be forgotten (cont…)
This deck seems to capture the atmosphere of the times so well; it feels historical, brooding and yet at the same time playfully modern. The selection of images is elegant and uncluttered (a must in any Lenormand deck). A deck on this theme could so easily have slipped into rococo excess but this one is restrained and unfussy while at the same time feels just decorative enough to be in keeping with the spirit of the age, yet keeping extravagance in check. The overall palette makes it very cohesive when laid out as a Grand Tableau even though the images come from diverse sources. It comes with a fold out parchment-coloured sheet with card meanings; useful for a beginner but also with enough interesting takes on familiar meanings to make it of interest to anyone, however experienced they are. The whole thing – with title card – comes in a tin with windowed lid. It is a truly beautiful deck and the day I decided that I wanted another one (my favourite Lenormand decks must always come in pairs; one to use, one just in case) was the day I discovered it had sold out. I’m glad for the creator as I’m glad that wonderful things are seized upon and spread across the four corners of the globe, and we need not despair as this will – I believe – soon be issued as an iOS application and ebook in collaboration with Glopilot.com. I’m just glad it became a deck, a real deck to have and to hold, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the honour of adding it to my actual card collection.