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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Deck Review: Maybe Lenormand

It's been ages, but I finally bought a new deck! It's the Maybe Lenormand by Ryan Edward, US Games 2016.

One of the unexpected pleasures of this deck is its lovely box with magnetic clasp. The cards are divided into two stacks with a little ribbon to help you get them out, and a mini guidebook.

This deck comes with extra cards to make up a 52 card pack, and I am happy to say that you can put the 36 'real' Lenormand cards in one side of the box and the 'extras' on the other side of the box, and the book will still fit and the box will still close. Result! (I hate extra cards. Never use them. I know hate is a strong word, but it fits. I don't want them! They're a waste. You should be able to choose to leave them out and pay less. But alas, it's not my world... :) )

I love this deck and there's one simple reason for it -- it's minimalist. The cards are average or medium-sized for a Lenormand. Each card is a slightly off-white colour with a large, clear number in the upper left corner, a prominent and easy to see playing card at the top centre, and a relatively easy to discern symbol at the bottom. Not all of them are easy to discern, which is a pity. I'll show you what I mean.

Easy to discern -- a very simple drawing, instantly apparent:

I really love this type of Lenormand, because I tend to read in grand tableaus or large squares, and when the cards are muddy and collaged and fuzzed up for artistic effect, a throw really does look like one big smear. What's the point of that? I want to be able to quickly find Book or Ring or whatever, and see what's close to it and what's far from it, and what house it's in. If I have to squint and strain to even find Book...well, I just scrape the deck up, throw it back in the box and sell it.

This one is not going to be sold.

That said, this art is 'stylised' and some are not as easy to discern:

Why the smudges over the fish and ship? The mountain looks rather like a wave. Why not make it a straight, simple mountain?  Is that a dog or a bear? And what is that, a pile of grey cloth? A stormy sea? Yes, it must be the sea. But wait -- there's no 'sea' in Lenormand! There's no way for me to know this is Clouds except that no other card in the deck is Clouds, either. Process of elimination is not what you'd call a quick method for identifying a card. (Yes, there's a number but if we were going by numbers why bother with an image at all?) They're just not as instantly apparent, and that annoys, distracts and slows me down in a reading.

It's called the Maybe Lenormand because 'Maybe it's a Lenormand, maybe it's not.' With 36 cards, it is, but if you add in the rest, maybe it's not.

The cards added are:

37. Pig
38. Lion
39. Hands
40. Rose
41. Bacchus
42. Rapiers
43. Cats
44. Medal
45. Sick bed
46. Eye
47. Flame
48. Cupid
49. Lightning
50. Broken mirror
51. Train
52. Safe

'There are those who say extra cards are bothersome,' says the guidebook. I am one of those.

The creator of the deck says that the extra cards here are 'based on a tangential lineage of similar decks, all claiming Mlle Marie Anne Lenormand ownership'.  Of course, Marie Anne Lenormand surely never saw a Lenormand deck in her life. The Game of Hope, on which Lenormand decks are based, came out circa 1799-1800, as a kind of portable board game. One laid out the cards in 6 rows of 6 and rolled dice and moved a token along the cards. There was no shuffling and certainly no divination involved, and Mlle Lenormand was at the time under 30 and had yet to publish any books on fortune telling. She was not yet famous as a fortune teller. No one knows how or when the cards came to be used for fortune telling, but that is true of every game that eventually became a fortune telling tool -- tarot cards, playing cards, and the Game of Hope are just the beginning. So yes, lots of decks have claimed Lenormand's ownership. So what. I personally don't see that these cards add anything, but lots of people probably do.

That's not to say I might not occasionally shuffle them in and have a go...wait, what am I saying? I know good and damn well that will never happen. Call me closed minded, I don't care! LOL

The guidebook is simple, concise and very useful. It does contain an error in the subjunctive mood, which I can't understand why a proofreader didn't catch: 'If I was using only 36 cards...'  UGH! If I WERE using only 36 cards, please. The subjunctive use of 'were' may be dying out in spoken English, but not to me nor many grammar traditionalists like me! (Long may we kvetch!)

Rants aside, I like this little deck and will keep it. I may even use it for some readings this week. :D


  1. I'm very fond of this deck. Ryan Edward gifted me a prototype, and I also own the standard editions.

    The style and inspiration come from several antique Lenormands,specifically the so-called Mertz and Glück (named after the two individuals who restored them, original names unknown). Both contain Clouds like this and Rods and Mice that aren't especially clear.

    I am not convinced Mlle Le Normand never used the GoH or variants. We know she used a German set of cards, and it is still unexplained why the GoH was resurrected. It was not mass produced due to being expensive.

    Early versions of le petit jeu didn't always claim authorship, just usage and that it was found in her possessions.

    1. Maybe I should have said 'probably' never used it. :) We don't know what possessions she had, according to what I've read (admittedly not much), her heirs burned her occult collection and just kept her money.

    2. The burning is a modern invention :). He (there was just one nephew) auctioned her belongings, and took out several lawsuits over people using her name.

      Odd thing is - he didn't challenge the deck. Or the grand jeu. Publishing under someone's name in France was illegal under commerce laws. He could have challenged the French publishers but didn't.

    3. This is what comes of trying to find a historical basis in anything. Occultists weave a tangled web. Just go with whatever floats your boat and if you want a history make one up -- everyone else has. That's the true occult tradition! ha ha