Last week I was on the west coast in Denmark, showing my friend Witta Kiessling Jensen the sites. The whether forecast had been bad. Although the plan was to go swimming, with terrible rain in sight I had a plan B. Witta and I were going to make a deck of Lenormand cards that was going to be acrobatic, hermetic, erotic, literally intuitive, uniquely miraculous, punningly occult, and erratically traditional. We didn’t get very far with our creative powers, as we got to soak in salt water quite a bit. The weather was a smash the whole of 4 days we were there, so there was no need for us to sit and sulk and pour our frustrations over the cards. But we did get started.
We realized that the key words for our deck could be turned into an anagrammatic title. Looking at the first letter in each of the above words describing the deck, we noted that what we were having on our hands here was A HELIUM POET. Quite appropriate, we thought, given the inflated ideas that go into the creation of any cards. We then proceeded we cut out the paper according to our chosen size. We put 36 blank cards aside, and we started trying our hands on the few remaining slips. Witta did 6 cards on these and I did about 7. Soon enough, however, we saw that the slips of papers that we were using as drafts were beginning to look like the deck itself, so we decided to leave it at that. Then we went for some more sightseeing, and the draft for the deck remained at 13 cards by the time we got back home.
Witta is a professional illustrator, and together with her husband, the famed tarot cards collector, K. Frank Jensen, she did many interesting tarot cards. As far as I am concerned, I paint some, and although I’ve had the good fortune to sell a few of my paintings for quite some money, I’m very reluctant to call myself anything close to anything in the painting, drawing, and illustrating department. But my lack of expertise didn’t stop me from promising Witta to finish the job.
So, here I am, on another vacation in Norway, one week later, and having a cold. What to do when having a cold? And the new moon is up too? One must always make an offering, and reading cards or books requires a certain amount of concentration. Not so with drawing. Ideas fly over my head all the time, so it’s easy for me to just catch some and translate them into images. Consequently, I took my ink and paper, sat down, and in about one hour I finished what Witta and I had started. I also ended up ‘improving’ some of Witta’s cards. I went over her lines, and while exclaiming: ‘how astonishing to have an easy hand like she does,’ I also found myself muttering that I would never use a pencil before the ink. I did all my drawings in one hand, as it were, pen to paper, no hesitation, no pencil, no eraser, no nothing. The lines got as they got.
One of my most brilliant ideas here, if I must say so myself, in terms of ‘correcting’ what we did, was to place an X over Witta’s accidental extra club on the card of the mouse, card 23. I think her mistake was quite fortunate, however, as it gave me the idea to think conceptually that the best way of getting the meaning of this card is to have an element on it taken away. Place it under erasure in such a way so that we can still see it’s there. For that’s the function of what the card of the Mouse signifies: To eat away, but leave a trace. Of course, what we could have done is redo the card, but by then I had decided that we, and then I alone, were going to do the cards in one sitting and without any kind of revisions. Also in terms of the concept, and as I said earlier, before we set out we had cut out all the pieces in proper size, so the drawings were done on each individual card independently of seeing how the broken frames might interact across the cards. As I wanted to break the frame of each card to begin with, I wanted to allow for the serendipity of seeing how elements from one card might enter into the card next to it. Some fortuitous examples came out of this quite exquisitely. No matter how much I shuffle and what cards fall on the table, some glorious narrative gets out, just through the frames.
So, allow me to present to you all a brand new Lenormand deck called A HELIUM POET.
Keeping also with the tradition here, namely of reading cards, rather than just talk about their history or creation, let me offer some quick reading samples addressing four of the main areas of concern: love, money, work, and health, all performed with the Helium Poet deck. Let’s see how it goes.
A grand tableau for Love
How can I find inspiration in love?
You can’t. It looks like you have to dive into yourself and allow your getting old to initiate you in some other kind of mysteries than the ones associated with the love of a man – remark here how the Woman moves towards Tower, Lily, and Coffin with Man below her. Go to the mountains and make a pact with nature. (Mountain to Ring modified by Key). Sing a song of the soul (Fish to Star modified by Sun). Enjoy your own company and the generosity of the Crone (Flowers, Rider, Snake, Fox). Remark here that the reason why I didn’t impose any cautioning against getting the ‘wrong’ type of inspiration coming from the Snake and the Fox together is because the last card, the Fox, has Letter above it. We don’t know what the Letter contains until it is read. With the Book next to it, we have here the indication that some things pertaining to individual enterprise must remain a secret. The Snake also knights to the Book.
So merely jumping at imposing a negative reading here would not be based on solid reasoning but rather on ventriloquizing what some book or self-proclaimed traditionalist says about the meaning of these cards. But then I’ve never been an advocate for repeating set phrases for combos, because that’s what the so-called tradition dictates. So this tableau, while not the most uplifting in terms of advice for love, especially if love is thought of in terms of the love of others, does give us a clear message as to what is at stake. If love is to be inspiring, then it must come from the Book. The Woman moves diagonally in her future line towards the Book. It is the Book that gives eternal pleasure. One must marry the Book not the Man (Book + Ring).
A 9-card spread for money.
What does it take to get a house in the mountains?
I like this one. What stares us is the face is the secret, rich uncle from New York (Book, Ring, Bear). So you must place your faith in him. You can also hope that your wish will be heard by the stars (Star to Moon modified by Bear). Or perhaps the Ursa Major constellation, the Great-She-Bear, rather than the rich man, will take care of it. The solution is in being clever, and going by the Book (Snake to Clover modified by Book). Have faith that even though you can’t see it, it’s still in the universe (Key, Ring, Cross next to Moon). Or else it’s just around the corner, among your networks and associates who can appreciate what you’re doing, an appreciation that will translate into money (Surprise card: The Garden). Traditionally the Clover + Cross means an extraordinary chance, or an unexpected blessing. So, all good here. It’s in the stars.
A 3-card spread for the job.
Will I get the promotion?
First slowly and then all of a sudden (Book, Lily, Scythe). Or not at all. There are two possibilities here. Firstly, whatever mystery involving the fairness in the hiring committee and assessment will be revealed in your favor. The clench card here that allows us to impose a positive reading in the face of the cutting edge card of the Scythe is the Lily. What will be cut is the secrecy around the job situation, but since the Lily announces an honest approach, the Scythe simply indicates that the decision will be in the hands of one man who will enter in character, a trenchant character par excellence (The playing card inset, the King of Spades, helps us here too with our precision). Secondly, we can also go with the straightforward message: There is a hidden agenda that results in the termination of goodwill.
A two-card spread also for a yes/no question on health.
Will my health improve?
Yes. Eventually (Snake, Star). The problem with the intestine will be fixed perhaps through a detox program helping the digestive system.
The cards have spoken. The Helium Poet is good.
A grand thank to Witta. She is a most magical woman. I dedicate the card of the Flowers to her. And I shall make an offering tonight in the honor of the new moon.
Meanwhile, here comes a string of images, the first one with Witta’s 6 cards. Then one with all the pictures, and then one run through a filter, so that the lines can be seen clearly.
As a first attempt ever at making anything like this, I think that the deck is quite something. It reflects a very cutting character. Perhaps the same that went into creating it. First impression. No revision. No regret.
I hope you enjoy these images.
Good luck in the house of cards.
Camelia Elias (with Witta Kiessling Jensen, 6 cards): A Helium Poet, Lenormand cards, 2013. Ink on Canson Montval 300g paper. Project finished on top of the mountain in Norway in ca. 45 minutes. A most magical place for a magical act. All 36 cards have a raw power, as there are no drafts. This is the thing itself.
Thanks also to Bent Sørensen, my partner, who has fiddled with taking pictures of this new deck here, all for your viewing pleasure. Of course, as the case often is, the live product is much better. Quite exquisite, indeed.
In all honesty, I didn’t want to sell this, but folks insisted that I did. So I have a cut version that comes with a special sigil on request, printed on rag paper from the famed Canson Infinity series. Check it out at the Taroflexions Shop.