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Review of Tarot Lenormand
This article was written by Barbara Moore on September 05, 2008
Summary: Tarot Lenormand is a creative blend of traditional Lenormand cards, The Book of Thoth Tarot by Eteilla, and a touch of RWS [Rider-Waite-Smith]. As such, it is presents unusual and delightful challenges to those familiar with RWS decks that will expand and stretch your ideas about the card meanings. For beginners it provides lovely, simple images from everyday life that are easy to interpret. The setting is Napoleonic France with appropriate images and allusions. Knowledge of the era is certainly not necessary to use this deck, but, as with anything, the more you know, the more you’ll get out of it.
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Artist: Ernest Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick is also the artist for the Harmonious Tarot
Name of accompanying booklet: Tarot Lenormand
Number of pages of booklet: 64 (14 pages in English)
Author of booklet: Alma De Angelis
Reading Uses: Divination, every day readings, fortune telling
Theme: Lenormand Oracles, Etteilla, Book of Thoth Tarot, Napoleonic era
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard? Since it is based on two traditions that preceded it and influenced it, to some extent, yes. But it is definitely not a clone.
Why was deck created? To explore two systems that were used for divination and fortune telling and that influenced RWS.
This deck, Tarot Lenormand (TL), is a very ambitious project. It combines elements of the third version of the Book of Thoth Tarot (Etteilla, not Crowley!) deck and the Lenormand oracle deck with a touch of RWS, a twist of modern wit and cleverness, and a dollop of original design. How does it do that you ask? Well, mostly by being more of a homage and exploration than a slavish imitation. The Major Arcana cards draw on the Major Arcana of the Etteilla deck. Some of these are very similar in composition to the Eteilla designs, Justice, Strength, the Lovers (although a cupid is added to the TL card), the Magician, the Wheel, and the Chariot, for example. Some, while not as similar, do give a definite nod to the Etteilla cards. The World card in both shows a naked figure draped in red on a path. In the TL, the figure is female and holds a branch while in the Eteilla card the figure is male and holds a club. The TL Hermit and the Tower cards both have striking similarities to the Etteilla cards in terms of the buildings depicted.
The RWS influence is seen in the existence of (but not traditional depictions of) The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Hierophant, and The Hanged Man, which do not exist in the Etteilla deck. These cards show images from Napoleonic France, such as Madame Lenormand (I assume), Josephine, Napoleon, some important historical figure that I should know but don’t, and "Liberty, Brotherhood, & Equality" respectively.
The court cards acknowledge Etteilla’s court cards. They are not copies but again, like the Majors, they give a distinct nod (and perhaps a wink) to their older cousins. If you lay them side by side, you’ll see the same beard here, a similar crown there, a jaunty plume just so, a dashing mustache, or simply a general likeness. The TL divinatory meanings are based the Etteilla meanings, sometimes using the same key words.
You might wonder where the "Lenormand" aspect comes in. Let’s move on to the Minor Arcana. Here we find some very clearly "Lenormand" images. The 6 of Swords is The Ship (the 10 of Spades/3). The 2 of Pentacles is The Tree (7 of Hearts/5). In addition to easily recognizable images, the TL adds its own twist to some. The 7 of Swords shows a cloaked man running around at night with a lamp and a knife while a snake (a very big snake) curls around a fallen tree branch. This corresponds to The Snake (Queen of Clubs/7) in the Lenormand deck, which simply shows a snake curled by a broken tree. Number 8/9 of Diamonds in the Lenormand deck is The Coffin and shows an image of a coffin. The corresponding card in the TL is the 10 of Swords and shows a man laying on his deathbed.
Regardless of the varied ancestry of this deck, it does not have a motley, thrown-together feel visually. On the contrary, the beautiful, clean, uncluttered artistic renderings and the Napoleonic setting are quite successful at creating a unified, comprehensive feel to the deck. The skillfully executed art helps the various traditions fit together to create a fresh, new Tarot.
This deck, with its clear images and depictions of every day elements is in theory perfectly suitable for daily divination or fortune telling. Indeed, the major influences for this deck, Etteilla and Lenormand, were also created for divinatory use.
There are a few weaknesses with this deck. While I understand the concept of using some elements from a tradition, modifying other elements, and adding your own unique touches, I think that when you use an element exactly as it appears in the original, it would be better to retain the original meaning. For example, in the TL, the 10 of Wands is the same image as the "Broom and Whip" from the Lenormand. The Lenormand meaning is about violence and problems. In the TL, the card meaning is given as "cleaning, improvement, elimination of small problems, liberation from heavy bonds." This meaning feels more like the meaning given to the whip and broom in Wicca. In magical practice a whip (also called a scourge) represents cleaning or purification. I could be wrong (or dense); maybe it is just an interesting twist on the Lenormand meaning. In any event, there are many of these differences, which some may find intriguing and others may find frustrating.
Perhaps it is because there is so much going on in this deck that some stability or consistency in some areas is needed to balance this intricately constructed deck.
Getting to know this deck was like going to a movie I really wanted to like. While there was so much in its favor and so many expectations, I was willing to overlook some plot failings. But in the end there were too many holes and I left disappointed. Furthermore, no matter what we think of a deck artistically or theoretically, the real proof is in the using. I was thrilled to have a deck for mundane readings. Sadly, for me, it just didn’t work. There was none of the reading mojo that makes a deck sing.
Other reviewers have also noted the static and uninspiring court cards. I agree. They are incredibly static. Unfortunately the court cards are equally uninspiring in many Tarot decks. This is probably why so many people have trouble with the court cards.
Where will this deck fall in my piles of decks? Although I’m impressed with the general basis of this project and had lots of fun discovering the connections to the Etteilla and Lenormand decks, there were too many inconsistencies in the structure for me. At the end of the day this will be in my "I don’t use it, but I wish I could because I love the art" pile.
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