Review by Chloë McCracken
You’ve got to hand it to Schiffer, they know how to do packaging. This Lenormand Cartomancy kit (Schiffer, 2013) comes in a nice, firm box with a magnetic lid and a ribbon catch. The box is quite large, a little bigger then a small novel. And the companion book is novel size, yet not all that easy to read, due to the font being rather small. This is disappointing, especially as the book is not so thick that they couldn’t have had some more pages, nor the pages so crowded that the font couldn’t have been larger…
The book has quite large black-and-white scans of all the cards. For each card there is a section on the symbolism associated with it, what the card represents as a person, and in terms of timing. There is also a section on combination meanings for at least a few different pairings of cards. Not all of the symbolic interpretations are purely traditional, which will please some people and not others. For instance, Chris Butler talks about the Birds/Owls as being a symbol of building a home or a life together, connected to birds nesting in pairs.
The card is a traditional Schiffer stock, quite thick. Normally, for tarot decks, I don’t like this stock. However, for Lenormand cards with their smaller size and lesser number, it doesn’t matter as much. In fact, at this size and number of cards, the deck shuffles nicely, both hand over hand and riffling.
The art work was digitally created by the author Chris Butler. It is a mix of photographic art and basic computer generated images. With this, there is not a consistent feel to the cards, even though they were all created by the same artist. The photos have been digitally altered, with lots of added swirls, sparkles and swooshes, as well as composite images. For example, the Bear card has a kind of shadow bear, which is superimposed over a photo of a bear’s face, and also a mountain. In the background, we see the same mountain, as well as three silhoutted trees. The CGI images are flatter, using blocky colours. The CGI cards have some interesing use of shadow/silhouette, too, and an equally complex mash-up of images.
Overall, I find the cards a little busy. This is compounded by the fact that the author created artwork for the playing card inserts. In the book he explains that he was unaware of meanings associated with the playing cards. So, he created these more intuitive images for the inserts. While an interesting idea, this does make the playing card inserts much harder to read. With the suit symbols in random patterns, if you do not have the playing card associations memorised you have to count the objects quite carefully. This would make using the quintessence difficult, for example.
Another issue I have with the artwork is that it is a little confusing in some cases. There are at least four cards with a sun prominent on the card. Looking at the Ship and the Stars, both have boats on them quite clearly. And the mountain on the Bear card strikes me as more obviously a mountain than the CGI lines of the actual Mountain card. Still, if you like the art enough to use this deck regularly, this wouldn’t be a problem.
The deck has an extra Man and Woman card. These are alternately numbered, so if you are using both Man cards, one is 28 and one is 29. That’s pretty handy, as the images are otherwise a single photo of the same person, with just some alteration in direction and colouring. On the woman cards, the differences are even slighter. Personally, I don’t like the fact that the men cards have the man within a smaller frame, with writing on the card. Especially as the writing says “postcard” in Italian and German, linking this card more to the Rider.
This re-using of photos becomes rather worse with the Court card inserts. With each rank, the same photo is used, just with different elements added in in varying positions. Once again, the suit symbols are not always easy to make out. And it doesn’t help that a Fleur de Lys symbol has been inserted both on the King of Spades (the Lily), as well as on the King of Hearts (the House), in addition to hearts and spades. This reuse of the same photo, without any alteration, means that all the Kings face the same way. So, these inserts cannot be used for directionality, a common practice with the Courts.
If you like the modern, somewhat cluttered artwork, and are open to non-traditional understandings and ways of reading Lenormand cards, then this deck may appeal to you. If you are a traditionalist, steer well clear.
Author and Artist: Chris Butler
Published by Schiffer
Available from Gazelle Books and all good retailers