A beautiful gift of cards was sent my way by Caitlín Matthews, a lady of great knowledge of all things divination.
This pack of cards is a Lenormand type bordering the Kipperkarten style in which we have more protagonists than in the regular Lenormand set – the number of cards here exceeding to 46, rather than the 36 we find in the Game of Hope.
The cards I have received, a facsimile of an original pack in Caitlín’s possession, are beautifully executed on good card stock. They have also been ‘brushed’ in an efficient way so that the clarity of the images emerges in sharp contrast with the colors and contours.
Helen Riding translated the original booklet that accompanies the cards, Die Zauberkarten der Mademoiselle Le Normand, and Caitlín has offered an insightful introduction and commentary with her usual aplomb. She has also offered a few reading samples of small tableaus, following the traditional method of reading these cards. A most wonderful gift.
These cards and booklet came out in a very limited edition, though they are still available here. I heartily recommend that all those with an interest in the Lenormand cards take them for a ride.
THE VALUE OF DIVINATION
As my own tradition here dictates, I always do a quick read of the cards that are sent to me as a gift, before I do some more focused work with them. I do this in order to test their level of response to meta questions about divination. That is to say, when I get a new deck, I like to ask the cards to tell me something about their value for divination.
Here I went for a classic pyramid spread in order to get a sense of elevation – though I’ll come back to this deck to do what Caitlín does in terms of spreads, and in terms of testing some of her recommended traditional reading methods, for instance reading the cards by taking into consideration the meaning of the cards if positioned left or right of the significator card, etc.
As the meanings of the cards in this deck differ somewhat from the meanings we associate with the regular Lenormand pack, I was thoroughly amused by the card on top here, namely the comet. But before I get to making the point, let me look at the premise for my question – I have not picked a significator card in advance, but let the cards fall entirely at random.
A first glance at the bottom row indicates that this is a deck that young girls might enjoy. They can approach it with a sense of expectation for a gift wherein they can find the key to some virtue.
But divination as such can also be a struggle with impenetrable walls and blind spots that can exhaust the seeker. Somehow I like it how the beggar here seems to be begging the stone to move over. Indeed, ‘open sesame’ may well be the magical words to utter, if you want a helping hand.
Moving up the pyramid, we get closer to getting a clearer sense of the value of this deck for divination. After the first initial enthusiasm settles, and the challenging mountain is conquered we find ourselves on a more contemplative plane. We are elevated to experiencing another type of flow than the purely material, whether manifested in the form of abstract idealism or obstacles. The ultimate gain is the comet.
And now to the point and the laugh. In the traditional Lenormand pack this card is associated with the Stars, but here it means the following. I quote from the booklet:
“Abominations of all kinds. Discord. Right [of the significator]: warning against vice, scandal. Left: separation of a man from a woman so that they can give way to their depraved inclinations without restraint.”
Excellent message. So we’re not here with the world of clarity and good navigation by starlight, but with the ominous oracle. There’s a moral I can extract form this: young girls may start out on their divining path expecting to be helpful, but as is often the case, divination is a dangerous and potentially violent thing. You tell the truth, you shake grounds. Do people like the truth? Like hell they do. So the value of this deck consists in suggesting that, when reading the cards, we must be prepared for the omen. On the other hand, and since divination has also been associated with the work of the Devil himself, I particularly like the idea that both men and women “can give way to their depraved inclinations without restraint.” In other words, we can find a way to interpret situations as we please, and critique our cultural contexts. The work of the Devil, indeed.
A few days ago I made a remark about something Rachel Pollack once told me, namely, that all clients without exception come into a session entertaining this premise: they hope for the best but expect the worst. Now, this is all fine, until the moment when it works against them, for indeed sometimes the cards give the best news, but because the mindset has already been framed, the clients, naturally, will not take the good news seriously. After all, they have been expecting the worst, so anything else would be too good to be true. Hence, the situation that is being created is one of utmost artificiality. The reader’s place in this situation is to either follow suit – boring – or to go to the guillotine – halleluja. A card reading situation is like standing on the scaffold, sometimes as the executioner, and other as the executed.
I like the way these cards suggest precisely this progression, from a form of innocent engaging with the oracular to when the oracular becomes part of us. And like the comet, the experienced diviner will leave a blazing trail that makes an impact, for better or worse.
Thank you Caitlín for the gift of the voice and the light.
Note on the cards and book: The Magical Cards of Mlle Le Normand. Caitlín Matthews. Trans. Helen Riding. 2014. Foundation for Inspirational and Oracular Studies. BCM Hallowquest. London.
Cards restored by Lauren Forestall. 2014. Available to order here.