Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Lenormand suit by suit: Diamonds

The Lenormand suit of Diamonds is the Alemannic suit of Bells, and according to Andy Boroveshengra's book Lenormand: 36 Cards, is associated with the season of summer. The nine cards are:

Sun - Clover - Birds - Key - Coffin - Book - Scythe - Path - Fish 

I notice that 6 out of 9 cards are outdoors/nature cards and easily associated with summer life and activities -- Sun, Clover, Birds, Scythe (first harvest being traditionally August 1st), Path and Fish. The Sun shines in summer, the lawns are full of Clover, Birds everywhere, first harvest takes place (Scythe), we like to go walking (Path) and fishing (Fish). Simplistic, but effective. I've looked through the rest of deck, and though there are more animal and nature cards, none seems as overtly 'summery' to me as these. Only Garden, and it is in the suit of Spades, and I have a few ideas about why that I will cover later.

Andy says in his book that the Diamonds suit deals with 'matters concerning one's prosperity, the precarious nature of life, and one's individual cares and concerns.' So even though the Diamonds represent summer, which we associate with fun times, they can represent stress, or as Andy says, 'a need to be cautious or that your shoulders are too burdened.' In a way this makes perfect sense. I imagine summertime must have been very stressful in the past. It is a relatively short time and in that time, people needed to get all the growth and much of the harvesting done to sustain them through the long, cold winter, the spring, and through to the next summer again. That's a lot of pressure. It also helps make the connection between summer and financial matters and the 'precarious nature of life'. I imagine it must have seemed like one great big crap shoot, summertime. Happy and joyous because it's filled with light and warmth and food, but lots of worries, too.

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
The Sun is out, it's summer! Will we be Lucky this year? Will Happiness be on our side? (Clover) The Voices of worry niggle. Lots of talk. But we also might get to take a nice break some time this season.(Birds)

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
This season is the Key to everything. (Key) If we don't get this right, if luck is not on our side, we're dead. We might barely break even, or we might lose everything. (Coffin) It's the unknown, you see. We just don't know how things will turn out. All we can do is follow the Farmer's Almanac and hope for the best. (Book)

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
We begin the first harvest of our labours, though much of it is yet to come. It's hard work, and we never know what the yield is going to be.  Even after all the work of bringing the harvest in, there are dangers that could strike - a barn burning, infestation of rats, or damp getting in and spoiling the lot. It's a scary and dangerous proposition, this business of life. (Scythe) We have so many choices to make this season -- what to plant, when to plant it, how to tend it, when to harvest it, how to store it -- it's hard to know where each option might lead. (Paths) At the end of it, we hope to prosper. (Fish)

Caitlin Matthews in her book The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook says that Diamonds represent 'dynamic energy, enterprise, strategy, luck, money, wisdom, and decisions,' all of which makes perfect sense to me in the context I've explored here.

This helps me get a handle on the Diamonds.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Lenormand suit by suit: Hearts
You may be aware that the suits we in the English-speaking world are familiar with are French: Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds. You also may be aware that our beloved tarot suits are actually Italian playing card suits, and that you can go into any news agents in Italy, apparently, and get a playing card deck that uses these emblems. Thus you may associate Clover with Swords, and consider that to be the suit of thoughts, Spades as Batons and see that as a suit of action, Hearts as Cups and view that as emotions, and Diamonds as Coins, concerned with finances and security. That's a natural reaction for a tarot reader learning Lenormand, but guess what? Though the Lenormand deck uses French emblems, they are not interpreted as either French or Italian -- they are in the Alemannic, or 'German-Swiss', tradition. So a Club is an Acorn, a Spade is a Leaf, a Heart is a Flower or Rose, and a Diamond is a Bell.

What the heck, we tarot reader students may ask, does that mean?

I am only just learning this and my blog is serving as my 'learning journal', so do set me straight if I go wrong, but I'm going to take a look at each suit in turn this week, gleaning information from the books of Caitlin Matthews and Andy Boroveshengra, and adding any flashes of insight of my own as I go (a dangerous proposition.)

Today's suit is Hearts. I've chosen to examine Hearts first because Andy's book, Lenormand: 36 Cards, teaches that Hearts are associated with spring, and I thought it would be nice to look at the suits in season order and consider how this information may colour meaning. Plus, I just like things to be in some kind of order. (The seasons are Hearts - Spring, Diamonds - Summer, Spades - Autumn, Clubs - Winter).

According to Andy's book, the Hearts suit deals with 'domestic affairs, daily life and immediate surroundings'.  Caitlin's book says that Hearts deal with 'home and friendship; emotion, love, trust, encouragement.' So, Hearts are about the home and and the day to day. One could say that Hearts are about the essence of life, or the basics of life.

It may come as a surprise that the suit of Hearts is associated with masculinity. As Andy only hints at but I will dare to expand upon, this no doubt hearkens back to ideas that males are more fully developed human beings spiritually, mentally and emotionally, whereas women are mere slaves to their reproductive systems and thus have much a narrower, underdeveloped and erratic experience of life. How Victorian. (The feminine suit is Spades -- which sounds doubly bad, but it turns out the 'Big Bad' suit in the Alemannic system is not the Spades but the Clubs. More on that later.)

I had all nine of these cards laid out in a line in front of me and it occurred to me that this arrangement reminds me of Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory (aka Motivation-Hygiene Theory). In a nutshell, what motivates us are higher level needs; the basic fundamentals are not motivational, we only notice them when they are absent. It's a workplace theory, but it seems to me to be a truth about life, and I noticed it in this line of nine.

If you look at the line, which consists of the cards put in order by suit and number, we have Man - Stars - Tree - Moon - Rider - Dog - Heart - Stork - House. The line starts with Man, and if you consider both the near/far reading method and the number of suits, you can see that the things with the higher numeric value (companionship, love, variety, housing) are things that we tend to take for granted until they're missing; they are far from the Man, because he pays less attention to them, but have a higher number value, because they are more essential to life. That's what reminded me of Herzberg's Theory. The things closest to the man (a sense of a mission in life, of guidance, longevity, recognition and being valued, especially at work) are the things that he finds rewarding and motivational, but which are not 'hygiene factors' (ie, physical life necessities) and thus have a lower number.

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
Whether you see the Ace as the source of or the pinnacle of the suit, it comes as no surprise that the Man is the Ace of Hearts. Following through with the sexist bent of the suits, Man is the source from which life springs. (Woman is the Ace of Spades, or the source/pinnacle of growth and cultivation. The man starts the life, the woman incubates and harvests it, so to speak.)

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
So carrying on the line, above we have recognition and praise, especially at work (Moon), vigorous activity promoting health (Rider), loyal companions (Dog)...

French Cartomancy, LoScarabeo
...and finishing the line, love (Heart), change/growth especially in domestic matters (Stork), and of course the home itself (House).

Well, this certainly helps me get my head around the Hearts suit, and if nothing else, provides a framework for remembering what playing card goes with which Lenormand emblem. I wonder what will spring to mind when I examine the rest of the suits. :)


Monday, 27 July 2015

TABI Conference 25 Jul 2015

Tarot Association of the British Isles Conference
Birmingham, UK
25 July 2015 

Seeing all my online tarot pals is great, and it's even better when the workshops at a conference bring me new tools for my cartomantic magic bag. If I had to describe the 2015 TABI Conference in one word, it would be 'meaty'. There was a lot of really useful content and learning going on all day long, and my Aquarius/Queen of Swords self was loving it. Hooray for generous, knowledgeable presenters and a room full of enthusiastic readers to practice with.

Check-in and Goody Bags
Okay, it is a little disconcerting to me to be greeted by name by people I may or may not recognise (well, let's be honest, it's a little disconcerting to me to be greeted) -- and  I often can't remember names even when I recognise a face! Caroline Blackler greeted me nearly as soon as I walked in the building, and I am sure I gave her a look that said 'I know you but I can't remember your name, please pretend you don't realise this.' I think she knew, but she didn't let on. :)

photo by Vivianne Kacal 
There was a fabulous raffle, but I didn't take part because I either currently own or once owned every deck on offer -- and there were some really good ones, including a signed copy of Cilla Conway's Byzantine Tarot, which I noticed the winner then asked John Matthews to sign as well. Lucky girl! Our goody bags were pretty amazing: a TABI mug, a TABI bumper sticker, a Llewellyn tarot bag, and two decks, a heart-shaped deck (which I gave to a tarot colleague to use as a giveaway at her meetup) The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus (a John Matthews deck that really doesn't do it for me at all and will be given away at some point), and a book of our choice. I didn't take all this stuff because I didn't need it, but there was a lot of good stuff there.

How to Read with Reversed Court Cards - Alison Cross 
But here's where the REAL good stuff started. Alison is far too humble about her tarot knowledge and teaching gifts. A little less of that, please! She managed to cram a lot of content and hands-on work into this short session, the main crux of which was to teach us two techniques for reading tarot reversals.

photo by Vivianne Kacal
Method 1: Interpret as elemental rank and suit opposite. For example, the Queen of Swords is Water of Air. The opposite of Water is Fire, the opposite of Air is Earth, so the reversed Queen of Swords would be King of Pentacles, Fire of Earth.

Method 2: Switch the elements in the card title. For example, Queens are Water and Swords are Air. Change Water of Air to Air of Water. That would be Knight of Cups.

I've been testing out this skill on Steven Bright's Tarot Thoughts posts on Facebook. :)

Tarot and Love - Jane Struthers

I tend to shy away from 'Love' readings, and so I wasn't sure what I was going to be learning in this workshop! But then Jane starts talking and she's this amazingly knowledgeable astrologer and tarot card reader, and taught us three fantastic tarot spreads. Alas, I was too slow to buy her book (greedy witches!) but was able to order it online as soon as I got home, which of course I did! My favourite one was the Personal History spread, which uses 6 cards:

1. Your attitude two months/years ago (or whatever time frame you pick)
2. Their attitude two months/years ago
3. Your attitude one month/year ago
4. Theirs one month/year ago
5. Your attitude now
6. Their attitude now

I really enjoyed working this spread with my partner, who was using an unusual and hard to find oracle deck that clearly is meant for her.

 Lenormand - Andy Boroveshengra
I was so happy to finally meet Andy Boroveshengra, Lenormand expert, card and palm reader, and writer! He is just the nicest fella you'd ever want to meet and I got a lot out of his presentation.

I bought Andy's book, Lenormand: Thirty-Six Cards, and was very pleased to get it signed! The content of the book is much like we have seen in Andy's online courses 2013-2015. It's great to have all that valuable information gathered in one place. I am chuffed to own this book.

In his presentation, Andy shared some of the information from the book. Just when it seemed like we were about to get our cards out and start digging in, it was over! That was a quick 90 minutes -- which means I was thoroughly absorbed the whole time. I would love to attend a full day workshop with Andy.

Reading the Marseille Pips: Skills from Previous Centuries - Caitlin Matthews
Photo by Vivianne Kacal
(Can I just go totally fan girl here and say this...Caitlin Matthews greeted me at my table! She recognized me! How tickled was this little girl from Arkansas?? Very!)

I came to this conference specifically to hear Caitlin speak about Marseille pips. She gave us a handout packed with information, and then explained it and guided us in a few old-fashioned spreads that were just great fun to play around with. I love this traditional stuff and would love to immerse myself in it for a while, and leave behind contemporary counselling style readings and churned out LoScarabeo and Llewellyn decks that add nothing to the tarot world and in fact may even harm it. Controversial? Shrug.

(If you're wondering what's going on in the photo, that's Caitlin's demonstration of the typical RWS reader's reaction when faced with a table full of pips-only cards. Gaaaaah!)

What a great day it was. It just made me sad to think it's another YEAR before we can do it again. A year is long...too long. This is all just too good to happen only once a year.

Photos by kind (and patient) permission of Vivianne Kacal. Thank you, Vivianne! :) 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Stretching the old brain cells with M. Lenormand

Eagle-eyed folk may notice I've accidentally got two cards switched around. This has been rectified.
Can you see it (without looking it up)?

This is what the Lenormand houses look like with just playing cards. The Lenormand, I learned from Andy Boroshevengra yesterday at the TABI conference, is not a deck or an oracle, but a system of reading playing cards. It uses 36 of the cards. To use the Lenormand system, you remove the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s from a standard playing card pack and there you have it. But you'll never figure out the order they go in without memorizing it. There is no discernable logic or reason behind the order. Andy says there is no way of knowing what the thinking was behind this order, because we don't have the notes of the creator. The cards were originally published as The Game of Hope sometime between 1798 and 1801, by a man called Johann Kaspar Hechtel, as part of his board game. It could also be used as a playing card deck (for games that did not require a full deck, I assume) or to tell fortunes. This pack was later published with the Lenormand name and is the basis for all subsequent Lenormand decks. It also doesn't help if you know how to do traditional playing card readings, because the Lenormand system is very different.  How (and why) did Johann Kaspar Hechtel come up with this? It's a mystery!

For a Grand Tableau, I have always laid out a larger Lennie in order and then dealt a smaller one on top. Never learned the order of the cards. I've decided to remedy that.  I've been reciting and quizzing myself with the order of Lenormand and card numbers over the last few weeks. My goal is to be able to call out the number when told the emblem, call out the emblem when told the number, and be able to name the cards above, below, and to the left and right of any card called to me by name or number. I am now adding to my goals reading Lenormand style using only playing cards, no Lennie deck.

I've made this old playing card deck into a kind of concentration game by writing the Lenormand house name on the back of the card, so I can look at the playing card and guess the name, flip it over to see if I'm right, or lay them out face down and read the house name, have guess at the playing card, and flip it over to see if I'm right. Keep playing until I get them all right. (I noticed the switched cards when I was writing on the backs. Have you spotted them yet?)

Hey, it's a hobby and keeps me off the streets.

I did similar memory exercises with tarot when I first started out and I know those babies upside down backward forward inside and out. I want to get to the same familiarity with the Lenormand structure. At least I already have a feel for the Lennie card meanings, but that appears to be only half the battle. I'm up to the challenge!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Deck Review -- Lord of the Rings Oracle by Terry Donaldson

Today at the TABI Conference I acquired The Lord of the Rings Oracle by Terry Donaldson (Godsfield 1998). The front of the box marks it as 'an official Tolkien Enterprises gift set product,' which might at first seem like an endorsement from the Tolkien estate, but in actuality probably means permission was granted to use the name and intellectual property, which is not quite the same as being 'endorsed'. The set consists of:
  • large sturdy box designed to look like a book, with green ribbon tie closure
  • 79-page hardback guidebook
  • large heavily laminated (sturdy) map of Middle earth
  • plaster/resin disc with a hole in the middle decorated with runes which is meant to be the One Ring (the book calls it the Great Ring), but to me looks more like a dwarvish protection charm (an interpretation I actually prefer)
  • 40-card deck of illustrated cards 

The Map
My husband is both a Lord of the Rings fan and a cartographer. When he was a child, he drew maps of Middle Earth and this inspired him to create and draw maps of his own fantasy worlds. He grew up to be a mapmaker. So of course the first thing I did upon unpackaging the deck was hand him the map and ask 'Is this accurate?'

Instantly he pointed to the coastline around Gondor and said, 'This is wrong.' Then he noticed that Caradhras (a mountain that should be sitting on top of the Mines of Moria), Rivendell, and Lothlorien are all in the wrong place. And that the forest of Mirkwood is the wrong shape. It puzzles me. Tolkien maps abound -- and it's a small matter to put a name in the right place on a map. I mean, it's just as easy to get it right as to get it wrong.  It's a shame, because it is heavily constructed for a lot of use, and it is colourful. But knowing it's inaccurate puts me right off it. So I won't be using the map. I can get accurate maps of Middle Earth on Amazon for £3, if I decide I need one.

The Ring
You're meant to use the Ring item on the end of a string or ribbon (which you provide) as a pendulum with the cards and the map. You can also cast it across the map without a string and see where it lands. I haven't read this part of the book too closely yet, as I am not that much interested in this type of divination. I'm a card girl.

The Book
At 79 pages, the book is brief, but makes a decent effort at explaining how to use the items in the kit. After 15 pages of explanation, the card meanings begin, pages 16-57. Each card gets one page with full colour thumbnail, a description of the card, then three columns: 'Esoteric Meaning', 'Personal Indications' and 'Reversed Meaning'. There is more explanation and a series of card layouts at the end of the book.

If you've read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, you will understand these cards without the book. If you haven't, the cards won't make sense to you even with the book. This is only a 'plug and play' deck if you are a Tolkien fan and remember who everybody is and where everything is in the stories, and you are prepared to make connections and find meaning in these things as they apply to your own life. (Or the seeker's).

The Cards 
The art in this deck is widely criticized. Aeclectic Tarot gives the deck 1.5 out of 5 stars. It has been called 'vague'. I am guessing that is because the art is not detailed and is more like sketches done with colour pencils. Personally, I like the artwork. I find that the 'fuzziness' makes it more otherworldly. I'm glad it doesn't look like Tolkien's artwork or David Day's or Alan Lee's, and that it doesn't hearken to anything remotely like what is seen in Peter Jackson's films. This is good. I believe it helps to access my own inner versions of these beloved characters and settings, without becoming locked into popular imagery.

Lord of the Rings Oracle, Donaldson 1998
You can see from the above that the art looks, as some describe it, 'sketchy'. But I take exception to it being called childish or unaccomplished. This appears to be artist Alice Englander's preferred style. I like it. I don't like Ciro Marcetti's art style. Some do. It's as simple as that, really. 

There are also complaints that major characters have been left out. That's true, a lot of names are missing, but can you imagine how huge the deck would be if everybody got a card? The places represented in the deck do a good job of triggering thoughts of certain characters, and the system seems more about evoking places (journey through Middle Earth = journey through life) than about particular characters. 

I got this deck as part of a trade for my unused Daniloff Tarot. I am pleased with my trade, because I love Lord of the Rings so much, and this deck is a cross-collectible for me, as well as a tool to help me work more deeply with the themes, archetypes, characters and settings of Tolkien's truly gifted and rich imagination. These books have meant so much to me for most of my life, whereas I only bought the Daniloff because there was a group buy on TABI. No brainer. 

If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings and you respond favourably to the art work, you will probably enjoy this deck. If not, probably ought not bother.

 Namárië, ar nai aistalë Eldar ar Atani ar ilyë Léralieron hilya le
Eleni sílar antalyannar! 
(Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves, Men and all the Free Folk go with you. 
May the stars shine upon your faces!)

-- Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Stop badgering me...

Vintage Wisdom Oracle (US Games 2014)
Vintage Wisdom Oracle by Victoria Moseley (US Games 2014)

Tuesday doesn't feel like a big day for adventure to me, certainly not flying-on-the-back-of-a-butterfly-around-the- Eiffel-Tower-in-a-painfully-cinched-corset-adventure! So I thought I'd check the little guidebook to see what the heck:

'This card speaks of a willingness to learn. Now is the time to review your direction or contemplate a new way of dealing with an existing situation. Reset your internal compass, shake the dust from your wings, and head for new horizons.'


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Triple Goddess Line of Nine

Chloe McCracken's Celtic Lenormand contains some extra cards that can be used to add a layer of neopaganism to the Lenormand. Now, usually I'm a purist about these things, and fastidiously pick such cards out of the pack and stick them in the back of the box behind the LWB so they don't get mixed up in my working deck. I tend to ignore 'extra information' written in guidebooks, if it is outside of tradition. But today I thought, what the heck, and I started looking through the back of the Celtic Lenormand and spotted this Triple Goddess Line of Nine and decided to try it out. 

The Celtic Lenormand includes three versions of the Birds card (12):  one with songbirds, which can double as a Maiden card (as in Goddess aspect), one with chickens, doubling as the Mother card, and one with owls doubling as the Crone card. The Triple Goddess spread has you remove these cards and then draw six additional cards to create a Line of Nine. 

Now, I've marked the three bird cards as Maid, Mother and Crone to make things simpler to follow, and you can see that the line of nine cards forms a nice pattern of three triplets. (When I first laid the cards out, I added seven, which put an extra card at the end and really confused me. I'm easily confused...and not too good at counting, obviously.) It makes me wonder how much the reading experience would change if you just put the Bird cards down the middle and laid out the others on either side, like this: 

You wouldn't need to read it as an actual Square of Nine (or Portrait Spread, as Caitlin Matthews calls it), just a series of triplets. The mirroring of the Line of Nine is not disrupted as you can simply mirror corner to corner. I think either would work, and I like the square shape better than the long line. :)

Anyway, back to the cards. If we look at the Bird cards not as Bird cards but as expression of the three Goddess aspects, according the guidebook the Maid 'inspires', the Mother 'creates' and the Crone 'guides'. So the first triplet Coffin - Maid - Pathways could mean 'Inspired to leave something old behind and venture off in a new direction,' or 'Something comes to an end and a choice must be made.' The second triplet of Child - Mother - Rider works with that interpretation, because it could mean 'Learning of new skills is shared with others,' or 'New training/learning whets enthusiasm,' or 'New discovery leads to vigorous activity.' The final triplet of Ring - Crone - Stars could mean, 'Strong commitment will guide you,' as both the Crone card and the Stars card are interpreted as 'guidance'. And course, the three Bird cards reinforce the importance of communication and community. 

So the interpretation I would give this Line of Nine is: 

You will (or should) leave behind some old habits/beliefs and become inspired to find new ones. You will (or should) make some choices that lead you in new directions. You can't know what may be a dead end path, and that is okay, but moving forward is of the essence. As you explore new ideas, you will (or should) share them with others, in order to clarify them in your mind and stoke your own enthusiasm for them. You will (or should) find yourself becoming more active. Your deep commitment to your new habits/beliefs will serve as your guide in the future. 

I asked Chloe this morning what her take was on the cards and she gave me this quick fire response: 'One set of inspiration is ending, so you need to make a choice for something new that will bring you greater creativity. It may have to do with gathering information, or spreading messages. You will need commitment to this spiritual wisdom, which will multiply and flow if you follow spirit.' (That last bit is because I told her the Fish card was on the end -- I didn't realise it was an extra card not needed in the spread until I counted them up again. But either way, our interpretations are very similar.)

And what does this remind you of? How about this: Magical Working?! Yes, my spell that I created and decorated my altar for and have yet to work. Look, I'm a tarot card reader, but I'm not perfect. I'm just as reluctant at times to follow through on the advice of my cards and my own convictions as any client -- as any other human being. At least I'm truthful about it. I'm real. I'm not going to tell you something that is not actually happening in my life, and this is what's actually happening: I'd rather eat cake than work a spell on eating well. That's where I am right now. But at least I am moving toward it enough to start the process, which is a lot closer than I've been in the last few years. It's just funny to me that this very same message popped up again, in a completely different medium and without warning, as I had no topic in mind. I mean, there are all sorts of areas in my life where I might apply this advice, but nutrition is the one I most dread starting on, and so that's the one I figured is the one I probably need most. :) 

If you try out this spread, do tell. If you don't have the Celtic Lenormand, you could take the Maid, Mother and Crone out of any other goddess deck and lay your Lenormand cards around them, or you could use tokens such as crystals, or runes, or even take slips of paper and write 'Maid', 'Mother' and 'Crone' on them. Have a go!