The Mystery and the Mastery: Some Essential Decks

Let’s start by reiterating my thoughts on reviews: everything is subjective.  What I am presenting here are Tarot, Gypsy, Lenormand and oracle decks which meet a standard I am drawn to.  They are my own personal standard because they work for me, and because they are not cluttered or difficult to read.  They are also up to par with me because they are not gimmicky, crude or cliche.  They are, in short, passion projects of the men and women, writers, poets, artists and philosophers, who created them.

Here’s what I choose to read with:

For daily draws, I usually srart with a Lenormand reading.

What is a Lenormand reading?  The Lenormand is a system of 36 cards inspired by the French cartomancer Marie Lenormand and her methodology, though that’s almost impossible to prove.  What can be proven, more or less, is that the Lenormand cards represent a culmination of long term European cartomancy (divination with cards or playing cards).  Like their cousins the “Gypsy” cards, they came from a specific culture, in this case, the culture of French card readers.

Where the Lenormand cards differ from well known card decks like the Rider Waite Smith Tarot is in the way they are read.  Typically, the Rider Waite Smith is read in a three card spread representing past, present and future.  The Lenormand cards are read like separate words in a sentence.  There is a Dog card representing loyalty or a friend. There is a Rider card representing a message or progress. There is a Heart card representing love, and so on. If you had a three card response laid out as Man, Heart, Letter, you can probably bet your boyfriend is sending you a love letter or text.  It’s as simple as that.  The Lenormand system is slightly less esoteric than the Gypsy or the Tarot.

My first and favorite was Laura Tuan’s Lenormand Oracle, by Lo Scarebo.  Lo Scarebo usually puts out stellar work and this is probably one of their best sellers.  The cards themselves are sometimes referred to as over sized. The same artwork also appears on other decks, like the Classic Lenormand. The Classic Lenormand is a smaller size, and perhaps more durable, but I’ve always loved the feel of the larger deck, even if they will be more prone to bending over time.  The images themselves are beautiful and the coloring sits well with me because it is not what I would consider abrasive or  distracting.  Everything is fluid and minimal.


A close second to the traditional Laura Tuan decks would have to be the so-called Blue Owl , a fantastically durable, and classical looking deck, slightly smaller than Poker cards.  The imagery is more or less Victorian.  The coloring is a bit duller than the Tuan decks, but it fits with the bygone mood.


Of course I enjoy using the Tarot as well.  For a simple three card, run of the mill scenario, I will usually employ the Rider Waite Smith. But what could I say about the Rider Waite Smith that hasn’t already been said?  They allow me to gauge the past, present and future of a situation.  They may present a deeper, below the surface look of a situation.  They might grant me insight into the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a situation, which the Lenormand, typically, does not.


I’m also a big fan of the Tarot de Marseilles, specifically the Convos decks.  I’m just partial to the minimal, clean coloring and the dimensions of the people and objects who populate their world. The court and Major Arcana cards seem to communicate with one another for me, in a way that the Rider Waite Smith decks do not.  I typically read them as a scene with a four card spread.

Halfway between the Lenormand and Tarot systems are the Gypsy cards.  The Gypsy decks have a special place in my heart.  They are the unsung heroes of cartomancy.  I’m sure I’ll elaborate in future blog entries, but the Gypsy system should never be confused with the Lenormand, just as the Lenormand should never be confused with the Tarot.  One of the biggest differences between the Gypsy and the Lenormand is that the Gypsy decks typically employ about twenty more cards than the Lenormand decks.  They have a larger vocabulary. While the Lenormand may have two finance and budget cards (the Fish and Bear, depending), the Gypsy cards can have up to six (Fortuna Major or Fortuna Major,  Some Money for smaller sums, and a Safe for lump sums of cash). I find this extremely useful, as not all financial situations you’re going to read about for a client will be the same.  The Gypsy decks can get a little more specific.  They sometimes include emotional cards, which the Lenormand  (aside from the Heart or, arguably, Cloud cards) lack. There are Sadness cards, Anger, and Jealousy.  They include the emotional aspects of everyday life.

I have two Gypsy decks to share with you, which I may expand upon on later entries:

Piatnik’s aptly named Gipsy deck is probably my favorite, though we are still getting to know one another.  Most of the positive points I made about Gypsy decks in general (more emotion cards, financial cards, etc) apply here. There are also a number of portrait cards, giving insight into specific people in the reader or querant’s life.  While the Lenormand simply employs a Man and Woman card, Piatnik’s Gipsy deck employs male and female lover cards as well as cards like the Officer, Judge and Priest.  Everyday life is captured very well here.

I am also a fan of Lady Lorelei’s Gypsy Fortunes.  I plan to do a full scale review of these cards, but they are at home in my essentials chest.  The coloring is beautiful. They remind me of circus and carnival posters.  The images are so semantic there’s no need for a titles.

Of course, my collection continues to grow.  I’m curious to see how my essential roster will have changed if I do a follow-up this time next year!


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