Over the last few of years, the Lenormand method of cartomancy has exploded. The system of 36-cards with symbols like the House, Fox and Key has inspired artists and creators to make their own sets of cards. Korean artist Kwon Shina, artist of the Dreaming Way Tarot, was commissioned by U.S Games to illustrate a Lenormand deck and The Dreaming Way Lenormand is the result.
I’m glad they did it. Kwon’s style is bright with an added bit of surrealism, which she uses to bring together the expected symbology with her unique touch. The Lenormand method works because it has remained consistent since its inception as the Game of Hope (aka the parlour game Das Spiel der Hofnung by J.K. Hechtel, who created it some time during the late 1790’s). The symbols, their titles (with a bit of variation) and the associated playing cards (minus the twos to fives) have survived since then. The Dreaming Way follows the model but rather than playing card inserts the associated playing cards are next to the title. The visual choices that enhance rather than distract from the meaning of the cards. There are a few title choices to note; rather than a singular Whip, we have Whips (a whip and a birch rod). Kwon has chosen Stars rather than a single Star, and we have Man and Lady rather than Gentlemen and Lady or Man and Woman.
A more substantial change of title is Paths (or Crossroads) becoming Choice. The image of a fork-in-the-road becomes a maze with a stepladder leading to an alternative way out. Paths does go way from the more direct idea of a split decision but still leaves an alternative exit strategy. There is another addition that might divide readers, the people in cards that don’t traditionally have them. The Snake, Fox, Bear and Dog all have an individual with the animal. Now, these cards often represent people, so it’s not that much of a leap. And it’s been done quite cleverly. The woman in the Snake looks afraid, the lad in the Dog looks friendly, and the expression of the women in the Fox matches that of the fox in the card.
Other touches, in Fishes the fish are swimming in the rain coming down inside the umbrella reminding us that too much of a good thing might not be good, as ‘It never rains, but it pours’. The Anchor is a tattoo on a sailor’s arm – and that echoes the meaning safe mooring and arriving home. The Coffin card has a person in a sardine can but is it being opened or closed? There so many more additions that I enjoy like the door in the Book and the clouds coming from the comforting hot drink. It’s a joy to look at. Two questions that linger with any deck are; is it a good deck to read with? And can I get away with just the Little White Book (LWB)?
Answering the first, I hope that you can tell I like the choices that move this deck to a modern imaginative take on old meanings. I don’t see any problems with an established reader using their keywords with these cards. To answer the second, the LWB is 92 pages long with each card getting two pages There is a long (10 page) intro about the birth of the deck and others that U.S Games produces (like the grand Maybe Lenormand). The card meanings themselves are constant with traditional definitions and writers like Caitlín Matthews and Rana George. I suspect Rana’s influence in the definition of the Moon card as it focuses on Dreams and Intuition rather than Honour, the message that I associate more with it. Speaking of missing meanings, I’d like to have seen commerce mentioned alongside ships. But those two cards aside I’m impressed by the consistency and care in making the meanings of the cards clear; Rings highlighting obligations alongside commitments; Coffin closing yourself away; Stork’s relocation as examples. The LWB ends with a short guide to reading giving the pair’s noun+adjectives to practice and two spreads to try. To be honest, Lenormand is a system that you need to see working, so it’s best to get involved in it by joining Facebook Groups, or trying classes (either online or in person) and watching YouTube tutorials. But if you had the LWB as your starter guide you’d be off to a good start in knowing what the cards mean and how they can be read at a basic level. Physically, the cards are slightly wider than a standard playing card deck. They are matte with only a little bit of shine, and are the right sort of thickness. The Dreaming Way Lenormand is a deck I’d recommend to beginners or traditionalists looking for a modern deck that won’t interfere too much with their well-established interpretations.