How times have changed. The New Age mantras of self-help and inner healing part like seas to usher in a new tendency in cartomancy. Well, maybe not new (though there is much in it that is new), more full circle, reinterpreted perhaps. And yet it was the arrival of this deck that got me wondering about just where we might be heading in our card-reading, what we might be leaving behind, what might imperceptibly drift downstream or simply have other forms of reading laid on top like sediment, imbued, assimiliated and absorbed. I like how this deck, The Vintage Lenormand (not any old vintage Lenormand), describes itself as a “Fortune Telling Deck”. I like how we have started being unashamed about this, how we now proclaim, yes, it’s alright to read fortunes. I am intrigued by the current Lenormand phenomenon – I am reluctant to think of it as a fad – and I find myself thinking that it must all be happening for a reason. Tarot has perhaps become too nebullous, too dissipated, too all-encompassing and we are torn between the urge to console our querents and the urge to actually help them. It’s as if Lenormand cards allow us to be more objective, plotting those quickfire combinations, projecting outwards, firm sentences distinct from loose interpretation. I don’t quite know what it is, all I know is that certain decks come along and fill me with the palpable thrill of some new energy, some new thrust and this is one such deck.It was created by Andi Graf, known as Jera-Babylon Rootweaver and I love how it confounds our expectations. Not another vintage Lenormand you might think – in a blinding haze of etsy excesses – not more Victorian scapbooks. But vintage doesn’t have to be Victoriana. This deck was created from contemporary photographs – the artwork is by friends of the artist from what I can gather – and was then manipulated using digital software (Moku Hanga and Photoshop) to give the effect of Japanese woodblocks. It feels vintage but a different kind of vintage to what you might immediately think. The Gentleman card, for example, has a noticably hippy feel. The imagery is bold and beautiful and the graphics are very harmonious, if a little unexpected. I find myself noticing the graphics on Lenormands more and more and this is one of the few decks of the recent bunch that has very distinct graphics. The playing card reference is in the bottom left-hand corner of the card and the artist has her insignia in the bottom right-hand corner. At first I thought this might be intrusive but it balances the card out nicely. Then, best of all, the title is in a sort of banner in the upper quarter of the card. It slices indiscriminately into the image sometimes, across the gentleman’s face, for example, across the crest of the Stork’s and the Dog’s heads. It slices the Sun in half, transforms the Cross into a tau cross, decapitates the Rider. It feels almost accidental, but sometimes a badly framed photograph can have its own charm and when you lay out the cards and see the homogeneous whole you see how well this works. I think one of my favourite things about this deck is in fact the fearless placing of the titles. It works beautifully, and for a moment – at first glance – I found myself asking, was that a mistake? But no, here is a deck that has the confidence to play around with what you might think is a very limited format. I also love the simplicity (and a Lenormand deck has to have this for me). I personally (and others may be different) don’t like to see things that set me off interpreting symbolically beyond the confines of the classic image itself. I don’t want patterns and too much overlay, except in the Melissa but that’s one of a kind. I don’t want to feel pushed into picking out details that might mean something else. In a sense, if this Clover card comes up in a spread, it should mean the same as the Dondorf Clover or the Piatnik Clover. In tarot, you’d be torn apart if you admitted to interpreting all 10 of Swords in the same way, but with Lenormand, I like that and (am I wrong?) I do it. It’s the symbol and what I learnt of its meaning – and combinations – that I hold in the forefront of my mind and this deck gives us unambiguous images loud and clear.
This probably explains one of the reasons why the deck has been chosen to be included in the forthcoming book by Tali Goodwin, “Learning Lenormand.” Certainly not the first book in English on Lenormand by any means, but one that rides on the current wave and probably picks up on a lot of the current themes and ways of thinking about Lenormand cards that are influencing contemporary reading methods. The sheet that comes with the deck contains some very good, succinct meanings, with a single keyword in bold plus two secondary meanings, taken from a variety of sources. The deck comes in a protective plastic case and a lined, fabric pouch. I think I got one of the last copies of the first edition but I have no doubt that there will be more editions to come. I look forward to reflecting on how – once Tali Goodwin’s book is published – there will be a surge in the appeal of this deck. Readers will see it and fall in love with it, of that I have no doubt, and I can languish in the knowledge that I am one of the lucky ones. We really have been spoilt with Lenormands of late.