The Romantic Russian Lenormands

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I love these decks. I didn’t realise quite how much I loved them until I recently received the final installment, the twin-set Lilac & Cherry Twilight Lenormands and was able to think of them – with their predecessors – as a distinct entity in their own unique constellation. I do think of them in terms of installments, the full circle, the most romantic of all Lenormands. I didn’t set out to buy the full set. I didn’t even know it would be a full set. I started off with only Berenika’s original Lilac Twilight Lenormand a while ago, lured by images on a webpage whose language I couldn’t decipher. Then came the Mysteries of the Old Castle Lenormand, followed by news of another edition of the Lilac Twilight Lenormand which was coupled with another new deck the Cherry Twilight Lenormand in a double deck set with the same back design. And then there were four. To summarise; the original Lilac Twilight Lenormand (in all photos here, top left), the Mysteries of the Old Castle Lenormand (top right) and then the double deck set containing a reworked Lilac Twilight Lenormand plus a new deck the Cherry Twilight Lenormand (bottom left and right respectively). There you have it. A set. Four distinct but interlinked Lenormand decks which weren’t meant to be a sequence at all but have ended up feeling like one and, laying all four out before me, I see qualities common to all four, qualities which distinguish them from so many other Lenormands currently available, a sort of kitsch, maudlin dreaminess with a certain pompous, painterly stiffness.

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These cards are very much my style. The Mysteries of the Old Castle is perhaps my least favourite but with hindsight it now slots in nicely to break up the Lilac tides. Yet the fact is that even when not trying hard to be dark, there is still something slightly gothic, poetically romantic –  actually that should be Romantic, not romantic –  about these decks. There is a darkness, a remoteness, an aloofness, something out of step with the current European and American Lenormand deck trends. A slight naivety perhaps, academic salon painting transposed, juxtaposed with frilly photoshop borders, and although different artists’ work is involved, stylistically the deck still feels largely unified, considering. It is set against a 19th Century wintry landscape, the frugality of peasant larders (see the Mice in the Lilac Twilight) and the opulence of rich, Francophile Russian tastes (the twittering birds in the new Lilac Twilight could be from a Dowager Romanov Duchess’ silk screen), the Habsburg crest on the coffin, drawn through the snow, candles spluttering perhaps because of some unseen spirit presence. These decks feel erudite and heavy (I like that), gloomy, desolate with the atmosphere of a cluttered parlour, but laid out on the table are a true feast for the eyes.

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The newer Lilac Twilight deck has made the colours more subtle and added borders so that mauve wash which you got from the original glossy Lilac Twilight when everything was laid out for a Grand Tableau has now gone. I miss that mist. But you see, you need to have them all, because what one deck is missing, another makes up for it, and different moods require different nuances. They sort of feed off each other, compliment and echo each other, the 144 cards are ostensibly a loosely aligned set for me, a sprawling, four deck grouping, differing slightly at certain times, other times, differing considerably but with the same refined aspirations running through, the same lilac bloodline. I know I keep saying I like my Lenormands sparse, with only the symbol and not much else but I have to confess I love the richness of these decks. They are essentially only the traditional symbol but more painterly, so instead of a simple Tree in the Cherry Lenormand we get a solitary, exposed snow-laden tree and instead of a simple Snake we get a snake charmers python rising from a wicker basket. The images mostly don’t carry unnecessary decorative symbolism in addition to the symbol but the fact that they are paintings makes them feel denser.

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I so nearly didn’t have all these decks. I bought by chance (I could just as easily have passed on it) two copies of the first edition Lilac Twilight – reviewed here – and thought I couldn’t possibly love any other “follow up” deck as much. With this in mind I didn’t order the Mysteries of the Old Castle but changed my mind at the last minute and bought two. Then I heard about changes being made to the Lilac Twilight and reflected that I didn’t need another edition as I liked the previous one so much. Again I changed my mind last minute and only discovered later that it came with another deck. This last pair took forever to get here (I bought two copies of these decks too). In my minds eye I was picturing them arriving by sleigh from the freezing hinterland of Russia. My decks took three months to get here, posted in December, arriving in March. All part of the romance. Funny how I just knew they would get here. I never gave up.

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Now that they are here I think of them as a whole and love them. They are not only the most romantic and Romantic of Lenormand decks but also the most mysterious (paradoxically, the Mysteries of the Old Castle is so overtly dark that it feels the least mysterious because of it). I love how they are fine art decks yet with so few images which are recognisable to western eyes. I am a big fan of 19th Century genre painting but hardly recognise any images here through I wonder whether the Cross in the Cherry Lenormand is from a Caspar David Friedrich painting as it has that mood about it. I suspect that most are taken from works in Russian museums that I will probably never visit. I look at these images and feel that I travel somewhere moonlit, icey and rarified. I see these images only in the context of Lenormand imagery and that is how they are now fixed. I am glad of this. Such beautiful images now – to my mind –  eternally Lenormand.

About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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6 Responses to The Romantic Russian Lenormands

  1. Gina Pace says:

    you do know there is a fifth deck in the works right? LOL

  2. donnaleigh says:

    What a fabulous review. Going back to read it again. I love these decks.

    Thank you for writing this.

  3. Your reviews are mystifying. I like that you distinguished romance from Romance. You gave drama to the arrival of the decks! Love it.

  4. Share says:

    Lol! I was JUST commenting about a couple of these decks in your Lenormand post! Mysteries of the Old Castle….and the Lilac ….god those decks are stunning, go right to my heart! Completely “me” & my style. How did you buy them? Is there ANYWHERE you can get them now?? I am expecting no, cuz like I said every Lenormand deck I love is sold out or out of reach cuz of language & ordering. How on earth did you navigate the Russian site? Did you get them somewhere else? I hate lusting after a deck and knowing I won’t ever have it grrrrr. Any tips on where, who how..with the Castle or Lilac….heck even the Cherry one….love that one too. I don’t buy Tarot or oracle decks like I did years ago…..can’t afford the now for one. Thank you if you have any idea or tips….or hey….do you know of any Lenormands I might like that are similar? We’ve always had very similar tastes in decks! Thank you🙂

  5. Le Fanu says:

    I was lucky enough to jump onto a group order and members here/ online U.S friends helped me out. I paid dearly with customs and stuff so there’s a slight bitter taste but they really are lovely. It’s not the same at all but if you search on my blog for the Bernd A Mertz deck (which I think is a post titled “An Unfamiliar Lenormand” (?) Or maybe “unknown”. Can’t remember. A simple, rather naive little 19th Century deck you can get cheap from the Book Depository or amazon. I’ve linked it below but I’m sure you can find it cheaper than it’s listed here (or get the isbn and order it from German amazon)…http://www.amazon.com/Wahrsagen-mit-Karten-Madame-Lenormand/dp/3809414107/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1369090993&sr=8-2&keywords=wahrsagen+lenormand

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