A version of the Lenormand executed in the style of Pamela Colman-Smith? This creation of Edmund Zebrowski is a gift bestowed upon the reader, with the perfect synergy of Pamela Colman Smith (Pixie), A.E Waite and Mlle. Lenormand. This unique deck, so elegantly packaged in faux-vintage newspaper, captivates one’s imagination from the outset; the senses are awoken as if by pixie magic from slumber to daylight. This is a new vintage, carefully designed – perhaps even decanted from the imagination of a bygone age.
Once one has carefully undressed the deck, the first thing that strikes you about the box is the lesser-known artwork of Pamela Colman Smith which she created for the Polish Victims Relief Fund. This immediately gives us a sense of displacement because we are familiar with the artwork style, but do not immediately recognize the image. This thoughtful design prepares us for the partial familiarity we will experience within the deck itself.
Edmund has ingeniously taken common iconography from the PCS artwork and manipulated it (using Photoshop) into the format of the Lenormand deck. This really does work; it gives an extra dimension to the cards and has a comfy familiarity to it, and a rather friendly one at that. This deck is also imbued with the camaraderie energy which was around at its conception, arising in the company of friends as narrated in the LWB. The sense of play shines through the images throughout the deck – there is not a single dud card.
There are 36 cards in the deck as in the fashion of the Lenormand. The cardstock is good, laminated, with a reddened version of the speckled back of the Pamela B used for the back of the cards.
The images are constructed from a range of Pixie’s artwork and cards. Our first example, Card 31, that of the Sun in the Lenormand, shows the use of stock symbols from the Waite-Smith deck combining the Sun, The Four of Wands and Strength. In comparison, Card 27, The Letter, uses the reversed image of Pixie’s portrait of Ellen Terry (1902).
This deck also provides an extra and unexpected insight into the 1910 Waite-Smith Tarot creation. As an example, in Pixie’s Astounding Mlle Lenormand, Edmund Zebrowski is beautifully aware that Pamela Colman-Smith drew inspiration for her Six of Swords from her earlier 1902 illustration of the “The Lady of the Scarlet Shoes”. This illustrated the last stanza of a poem by Alix Egerton. Here the figure is in repose and lit by a single candle. Edmund takes the image further and in Card 8, The Coffin, the lady is surrounded by six candles. This wonderfully evokes the original poem that Colman-Smith surely had in mind with the Six of Swords:
“In ancient chapel faraway
Among the sculptured dead,
There lies a lady wondrous fair,
A crown upon her head;
Though her marble form is as white as snow
Her shoes are poppy red .”
To compare Card 8, The Coffin, in Pixie’s Astounding Mlle Lenormand to that of the Lenormand Blue Owl, one is struck by how light one is compared to the foreboding darkness of the other. There is an enduring tranquillity in the Card 8 Coffin of Pixie’s astounding deck.
This deck develops the Lenormand tradition by providing a recognisable stepping stone to Tarot. It encourages you to be conversant equally with both forms of cartomancy. It would be nice to think that as a story-teller Pixie would look at this deck and see that her images have a life all of their own, leaping beyond her original telling into their own further adventures.
One further game to play with this deck is to identify the sources of every image, for example, where does the fox on Card 14 appear in Pixie’s work? I will certainly be using this deck as a teaching tool in future for the benefit of the Lenormand and RWS as well as a divination tool.
Edmund is also working on an innovative Lenormand de Marseilles deck, another cross-over design piece that is fascinating.
I will use Card 23 to give a comparative reading with a Blue Owl standard Lenormand card. I shuffle the Pixie Lenormand cards and they tingle with life; the quality of the card, a semi-matt texture, enables the cards to move with ease. The shuffling of the Blue Owl Lenormand with its glossy finish has not quite got the sophistication of the powerful pixie.
Pixie Lenormand Card 23: The King rat is perched upon the centre cup which is drawn from the Waite-Smith Nine of Cups, this signifies a change from a dark regime. The French revolution immediately comes to mind: after the indulgence of the Bourbon dynasty, changes will occur which will result in good for the many, rather than for the precious few. However, it also draws attention to the salutary fact that no matter what, there will always be a fat rat who will take centre stage, even if he (or she) disposes of the previous rat.
In the Lenormand Card 23, The Mice, they gorge upon spoils of food, making the most of resources when they can. They breed and produce, their strength lies in their numbers, not size. This is a card of productivity and of working together. Take care, however, that something in your life does not get out of control.
Then we can triangulate these two versions of the card back to the Waite-Smith Nine of Cups. Here we have a card of satisfaction; the shadow side of this may be self-satisfaction. It also adds into the Lenormand card an awareness of the danger of resting too smugly on ones laurels. In fact, I now see that card and wonder if those mice, that King Rat, and all the other forms of change and revolution, are going on underneath the curtain behind the oblivious merchant.
In summary, this enchanting deck gives us a glance into not only the design – unpacked and redistributed – of Pamela Colman-Smith’s deck, whilst also taking us into Lenormand territory. It is an excellent bridge-over deck, and as we continue to promote this year as the “Tarot of Antiquity”, you’ll be seeing a lot more of Pixie’s Astounding Lenormand Cards.
The deck is only $20 + packing and postage, and as a limited edition of 400 this is well worth an investment for collectors alone.
Reviewed by Pippy Decker.