These days I find myself returning to playing-cards with a vengeance. If old cards don’t pop up in all contexts independently of my soliciting them, then friends post images of forgotten ones here and there. Cartomancer of heavy caliber, Fortune Buchholtz, has just shared a set that catapulted me straight back to my early days in Romania. I have this vivid memory of myself as an 8-year old watching on TV the famous gymnast Nadia Comaneci in Montreal in 1976, while my inveterate card-players of parents (both dead, alas) play cards. And why do I remember this? Well, simply because it was a great joy for me to be allowed to stay up all night and watch games, both athletic and cartomantic. My parents used the Amman deck. Nadia, the beam.
Speaking of dead people, and doing a grand tableau today, I realized that although we talk about cards that can conjure death in Lenormand, such as the Coffin, The Scythe, or The Cross, I find that these are not nearly as interesting as the house of Man into which such cards can also fall. As Vonnegut says about death, so it goes. There is as much death around as there is life. So it goes indeed. In the Master Method, the method associated with assigning the 36 squares in a tableau different meanings than we assign the cards as such (see also Sepharial’s Book of the Cards, P.R.S. Foli, Fortune-Telling by Cards (1906), and Papus, The Divinatory Tarot (1909)), the square number 28 (the card of Man) is the house of Death. I think of this house as a black hole. I think of this house as the only house that annihilates all meaning. If the Coffin falls into this house, it disappears. There goes the end. This means that if an ending is desired, it won’t happen. If an ending is avoided, it will still come and go. So it goes. If the Sun falls into this house it will also disappear. The energy goes. The Sun freezes into the abyss. So it goes.
One can think of the consequences of having a card disappear where the surrounding cards are concerned. If the card of the Mouse falls into the house of Man, all the stolen things will be irrecuperable. Dead. The Letter to the left will tell you to forget about it. The Coffin to the right will tell you that it’s all the better. You are rewarded with thinking about all things transitory. Gone, gone, gone. The fact that you can’t even mourn anymore is what brings about a sense of sorrow. But this sense is all an illusion. The black hole knows no sweetening of the matter of fact. Some authors borrowing the Master Method want to see this house associated with sorrow (Jonathan Dee). Why this resistance to the plain death, one might ask? The good news about the house of Man is that it is akin to Zen, or Schrödinger’s box in which the cat is both dead and alive. This is not a house that invites to embracing karma, or being nice in the face of hardship, or at unison with the universe. Such nonsense. The house of Man as Death, as a black hole, teaches us the lesson of rising above ambivalence. For what does it mean to be all-embracing? That you might also be the opposite? Such nonsense. Next time you do a grand tableau allow yourself to fall into this house. It will feel both good and right. Good luck.
NOTE ON THE IMAGES:
Courtesy of Fortune Buchholtz: German Cards – the Amman (bottom) & Flötner (top). Se also: The World of Playing Cards
Courtesy of the K. Frank Jensen: First edition books from his private collection.
The deck: The Lenormand Oracle: Erwin Kohlmann / Oswin Volkamer, Verlag fuer die Frau, Leipzig 1982.
For words of power and other unexpected offers, sign up for a cool monthly newsletter.