Old Cards – New Tricks…

I have been interested in learning about the Lenormand oracle and reading system for a couple of years now, but have not ventured further than admiring the many decks available, and lusting after a couple. As I have had a few weeks of more or less study freedom I thought I may try to get started. I decided the best way, (not to mention the most economical and potentially rewarding), would be to get an ordinary playing card deck and make my own.

My Homemade Lenormand Playing Card Deck

I took a playing card deck, a packet of OHP permanent markers, a fine permanent black Sharpie and a roll of white correction tape. I got my details and keywords for the cards from the Learn Lenormand website.

My Homemade Lenormand Playing Card Deck

I numbered each card and wrote the name on the top of the relevant cards from the playing card deck. So for the Rider, card number 1 in the Lenormand deck I used the Nine of Hearts. I screwed up on this card so had to bastardise another heart card to replace it! The words were written randomly with the fine Sharpie. I found that using the correction tape worked great for mistakes, and also for making white space to write the meanings on the court cards. You could also use white gouache.

My Homemade Lenormand Playing Card Deck

I found a lot of meanings for some of the cards, and now believe it would have been better to have one main keyword in large letters and a few in smaller writing. Anyway this is just the beginning, it can always be improved upon and developed. Katt, a fellow member of Aeclectic Tarot  told me they use three decks so there are three of each card with an alternate keyword on each. In this way, when you lay out the cards you get a scaffold, if you like, of a sentence and you just have to fill in the blanks.

Handmade Lenormand from Ordinary laying Cards

Anyway, I am sure I will have fun playing, and making this deck  gave me a lot of insight into the cards, in the same way that making your own Tarot Deck does. Lenormand is that bit easier to tackle as it only has half the number of cards! Another advantage of making your own deck is that ot gives you a basis to review other decks on the market before buying. Like everything in life it is ogod to have a go yourself  in order to appreciate what goes into something.

I am happy :) I shall make it a bag now… a cute wee one!

Handmade Lenormand from Ordinary laying Cards

Tarot of the Wyrd

I have owned Celestae’s Tarot of the Wyrd for a couple of years, but have not been able to spend the time with it that it deserves. I am surprised there is not more about it on the web, as it is a very special deck indeed.

Tarot of the Wyrd is a deck by an artist known as Celestae. It is available from The Game Crafter.


The gorgeous bag and cloth in the above photo, came from  Toadwerks, one of my favourite Etsy shops.

The deck is RWS based, and the images are heavily influenced by the artist’s love of Victoriana and dark Gothic imagery.

The box is a Gamecrafter style box with a sealed bottom, this is great because you don;t get that problem with the bottom flap munting the LWB when you try to close it.  The box front features the name of the deck, and an image of the Devil card. The artists words from the back of the deck box:

I invite you to take a walk into the world of teacups and Gothic Victoriana, a world of magic inspired by an era of eccentricity and regal splendor.

Each card tells a story, and every image has its own personality within that story.

Included in the box are the 78 cards of the Tarot deck and a small folded leaflet in black and white giving basic meanings for the cards. There is no title or artist signed card with this deck.

The Major Arcana cards have Strength at number eight and Justice at eleven as in the RWS tradition. Justice shows a very stern looking guy in a top hat. The Fool shows a child with a pet dog, a very Victorian image and the card is called Initiation. The Magician is renamed The High Priest and The Empress and Emperor are The Mother and Father. The other card that has been renamed is Number nine. The Hermit becomes The Shaman. The Death card is a lady in black, very like the lady in the movie of that name. A very dark and shadowy card, the image of the woman is very ghostlike.

Tarot of the Wyrd - the Chariot

The minor suits have been changed slightly to match the period. While Wands are still called Wands the imagery is mainly umbrellas, parasols and walking sticks. Beautiful, Victorian china teacups represent cups. Pentacles are symbolised by and renamed Watches. Swords in this deck are Cutlery. All of the images fit the period beautifully, and the artist has worked hard, to make sure, they remain true to the Rider Waite cards.

Tarot of the Wyrd - Two of Cutlery

Each of the minor cards has a keyword on the bottom, for example:

Seven of Wands – Rivalry

Six of Wands – Success

Two of Wands – Confidence

King of Cutlery – Authority

Eight of Cutlery – Blindness

Six of Cutlery – Solace

Nine of Watches – Recuperate

Seven of Watches – Waiting

Three of Watches – Competence

Knight of Cups – Movement

Ten of Cups – Reward

Seven of Cups Choices

While I don’t usually like keywords on my cards, in this deck I am quite happy with them. They are subtle within the design of the cards. The typeface is distressed in fitting with the appearance of the cards in general. it was only on my second look that I even noticed the keywords.

Tarot of the Wyrd - Initiation

 All of the cards have a dark raggedy distressed looking border which works really well with the old photographic images especially. The only think that irks me a little is that the black borders tend to have the odd white marks where the black appears to have chipped. It is a very small thing and it actually fits the whole look of the deck I guess.  Anyway it would not be difficult to colour the edges of the deck with a black Sharpie, which would eliminate this issue. . I have even considered colouring mine gold or silver. The backs are a dusky pink purple colour with an ornate swirl pattern. They have a vintage photo of a ghostlike face at each end, and are fully reversible.

The cardstock is a decent thickness, not too shiny and shuffles well. The cards feel like older style Tarot cards, not at all plastic feeling. The printing on my deck is not totally centered, as is the case with several other Gamecrafter decks, but again in this deck you hardly notice.

Tarot of the Wyrd is one of my favourite RWS style decks, it is quirky, eccentric, and dark. I can think of no other deck like it, but if I had to try, I would probably say a cross between the Bohemian Gothic, The Zombie Tarot and The Housewives. Any lover of Victoriana or Gothic imagery is bound to enjoy this deck. If this deck were a movie it would probably be Arsenic and Old Lace, or a very dark version of Mary Poppins!

Watch out for the new deck interview coming to you soon via this blog!

Beautiful People Making Beautiful Books

I had to share this video, found on Dispatch from LA… Thanks Mary Ann.

Such gorgeous people, and those papers hanging out to dry, yummy, you really wanna go and play with paint and glue. Love the rain scene too, I want that deck…

Paulus Berensohn is such an inspiration.


Soul’s Kitchen from TOTM Film on Vimeo.

There are many cages…

I haven’t had time to study the cards in depth recently, but I am hoping to get back into the habit over the holidays, and beyond. Tarot study gives me quiet time, a space in which to meditate and contemplate.

We spend so much time rushing from one thing to the next without stillness, as if we will miss something if we stop for breath. For me the opposite is true, I know I miss so much more of life by treating it like a moving walkway in an airport. It is important to me, to take time to do the things that bring me joy and add depth to my hours. The Tarot has been part of my life for so long, even with a new deck the relationship is somewhat established already. Sitting down with the Tarot is like taking tea with a close friend, comfortable and honest.

This week I am using two decks, The Tarot Noir by Chronata, and the Tarocchi di Connessione.  The latter is a major arcana only deck, in English it is The Tarot of Connections. The Tarot Noir is a Marseilles based deck, with funky black and white images, no borders and rounded corners – perfect.

I drew a card from each, Limits – XV from the Connessione and the Ten of Wands from the Tarot Noir.


The Connessione artist different names for the cards, and Limits is usually  The Devil card. The image shows an angry character firmly grasped in a hand, which he doesn’t seem too happy about. It feels as if he has been exposed for who he really is. The quilted cocoon that he is wrapped in suggests luxury t0 me, a luxurious prison. There is writing scribbled on the wall but even with a magnifying glass it doesn’t read as anything much just a few letters. Below the devil critter, on the bottom half of the card there are many cages. So we have someone in a prison of their own making, and the writing is on the wall. But I wonder if the hand is that of the devil, who has the person in his grip — or, is the devil the one being held? Could be either way.

Tarot Connessionne and Tarot Noir

The Ten of Wands here is a tightly locked knot too. It feels too bound, too stressed, a barrier to going any further without change or some let up. This card combined with the devil seems to underline a feeling of being held captive. It also makes me think of an illusion of order and strength that in reality is a cover up for something very out of control.

I think maybe I have overdone the partying this holiday season, and need to cut back now, before it becomes my master. I need to be in control, as I do have an addictive personality. Well, the cards are definitely honest and brutal at times.



Giant Sloth Food

If you did biology at school, you will know how seeds are naturally propagated by wind, water, birds and animals. Thus a tree fruits in a garden, a bird comes along and eats the fruit, seeds and all. Bird flies away, poops out the seed and a new tree grows — far away from the original.


I love avocado, perfectly ripe, the flesh evenly coloured with no brown, and slightly deeper green close to the skin. But that seed always makes me smile, it is so obba dobba*, for want of a better description. How on earth do they propagate naturally? Well in this day and age they don’t. Avocados are grown by humans, for human consumption. I recently found this video on YouTube:

The giant sloths that ate the avocados, and carried the seed, were something like this but with more flesh:

Megatherium Americanum
Giant Ground Sloth – Megatherium Americanum

Apparently along with a few other prehistoric fruits, avocados are an evolutionary anachronism.  This is explained  in the video, and in much more detail in The Ghosts of Evolution by Connie Barlow

Ghosts of Evolution
Ghosts of Evolution

Sadly it is not available on Kindle, but I shall be getting a copy. I love stories like this. As for avocado, I will appreciate it even more. After all, in consuming this delicious fruit I am following in the gigantic footsteps of those hip ground sloths who last walked this earth around 11000 years ago.

*obba dobba is a family word that we use to describe things that are rounded and funky and kind of larger than life… :)

That Clever Mantel Lady…

I am a new convert to the short story genre, I always preferred novels – something to get my teeth into. Having been submerged in this genre for the past few weeks, I cannot believe I have denied myself the pleasure of this art form for so long. Admittedly, the stories I have been reading are good, very, very good indeed. Recently I have been reading some short stories by Hilary Mantel. Her writing has me totally seduced, the stories are magical; they twist and turn and bite. Mantel constructs her narrative in such a way that you want to pick up the words and follow them like a trail of breadcrumbs, to find out where they go. Freshly baked breadcrumbs that fill your senses and make you crave more and more.

One fantastic example, is a story called Winter Break. This story was published in The Guardian in 2010, and you can read it here. This story is just under 2000 words. Short and sharp with not a breath wasted. The story is about a couple starting a winter holiday, the other character is an unpleasant taxi, driver who provides the shadow that echoes events in the couple’s lives. The ending of this story is stunning and cruel on the reader.  It is like something that I try to pretend I haven’t seen. I want it not to have happened, but it is etched deep in the part of my brain that becomes active at 3.00am.

For someone who has just begun to get into this genre, you really could not get a better introduction. I went on to read many more of Hilary Mantel’s short stories and each time I finish one the word ‘WOW” echoes around my room for several minutes after. Grab a cup of whatever warms you, and go and read Winter Break. You will not be disappointed. Then go and find more of her short stories.

Hilary Mantel – Photograph by Karen Robinson for The Guardian

An Angel from the North

Way back in 1999 I read a book called Skellig by David Almond. I bought the book for my kids, and ended up falling in love with it myself. Fourteen years and a few hundred books later, I still believe that Skellig is one of the most original and beautiful stories I have ever read .

The book may be aimed at teenagers, but it is ageless. It is a fairytale with a twist, well actually it is an angel tale. Skellig is about an angel, but not like any angel you have ever read about before, although he does have wings. I have lent my copy of Skellig to many friends, in both hemispheres, and they have all fallen for it as I did. Sometimes I had to persuade people to read it, but you know how it is when you find something so good that you really want to share it with the ones you are close to?

Apparently, they made a movie of the book in 1999, ten years after it was first published. Because it is a TV movie and I don’t have TV, I had not heard of it before, but I found it recently. The thing is I have been afraid to watch Skellig the movie. I didn’t want to ruin one of my favourite books. Anyway I have decided I will watch it. The part of Skellig is played by Tim Roth, who is one of my favourite actors, so that gives it some kudos. There is a more fundamental reason than the lovely Tim though. I have been studying writing, both fiction and screenwriting, and I want to see how this movie translated from one to the other. In my opinion, it is rarely very successful, hence my reluctance.

I am going to watch it — maybe today. Oh yes I am, and I shall report back!



Love has more stuff in it!

Today, I took part in a workshop with children’s author Kate de Goldi, during readers and writers week at Founders Park. This event was part of the Nelson Arts Festival program. It gave me a lovely warm feeling to see so many readers and writers and literary types, lunching, learning and listening all  around the park. It feels good to be living in Nelson when we have treats like this bestowed upon us.

Kate de Goldi writes for children and young adults, and the workshop focused on getting us to see through a child’s eyes. This is a useful approach to take for all fiction, and its a good way to approach many aspects of life. Looking at something as if for the first time, especially something you take for granted, like your hand, for example, can be enlightening and even mind-blowing. In their innocence children can make some very profound statements about life, which are so sharp and pure that they shine in the more gloomy and muddy world of grown ups. I particularly love this page from a book called I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Maria Popova and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The book was first published in 1952, long before Where the Wild Things Are, but Sendak’s illustrations are no less delightful.

Kate read from several vintage children’s books from the 1950’s onwards, and I was reminded of how much less patronising children’s authors were back then. In the days before everything became way too politically correct, children’s literature was a far more interesting and exciting place. When my children were young, I read them vintage books and found some new favourites of my own in the process. I found most modern books too icky for words. They would get very  upset when I refused to read them books with titles like Bunny in the Bathroom because I could not bear the bad writing, but it certainly hastened the process of their learning to read themselves!  I am happy to say that all of my kids now write, have great imaginations and cannot stand bad writing. Sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind.

I hope that things will start to turn around in the world of children’s literature and people will realise that all this PC stuff is probably doing more harm than good. This is especially true for kids, who only learn prejudice and judgement from adults. Until then, I shall stick to reading the older books, and I will soon have plenty of chances, with a very unexpected new generation about to bless our family!

I will leave you with a favourite book of ours, written in 1912 :)

There is a great post here about this book, which shows many of the covers, both good and bad over the years.

The Luminaries – A Magnificent Winner!

I was probably the only one in the room who felt the tension in the moment before The Luminaries was announced as the winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize. However, the other members of our graphics class were left in no doubt about the magnificent win by Eleanor Catton. Eleanor is the youngest person to win this prestigious literary award, being only 28. She is only the second kiwi ever to have won, the first winner being Kerri Hulme, who won in 1985 with her novel The Bone People. Watch this clip of the announcement, and tell me your spine doesn’t tingle!

The Luminaries is set in 19th century New Zealand, at the time of the gold rush in a small town on the West Coast of the South Island called Hokitika. I have made several visits to Hokitika, so this story feels close to home, but since I began reading The Luminaries I want to go back and really sniff around, maybe I will save the ending of the book to read in Hoki. There is something almost 4 dimensional about reading a book in a place that is very relevant to either the story of the author. I remember spending many weekends in Broadstairs, one time home of Charles Dickens. I loved to visit Bleak House (as it became known), where Dickens wrote David Copperfield.

Eleanor Catton’s language and writing style in The Luminaries is reminiscent of Charles Dickens. The narrative has a very Victorian feel to it, lots of telling, as was the mood of the era. Now it is very much all show not tell, but Catton does both and does them brilliantly. The book is so well written, I believe it would make a great movie. It would be hard for a good director to go wrong with The Luminaries, which was also the case with Lord of the Rings in my opinion. How exciting it would be, to have the movie filmed on our island. Here is a link to a wee look at how the news is going down in Hokitika:

Hokitika welcome the success of The Luminaries

I am totally enthralled by the book, life being so busy at the moment means I have been forced to savour the story in small snack size portions. I cannot help but linger over some of the phrases, I particularly love the characterisation of a young and proud Maori man called Te Rau Tauwhare. This thought of his grabbed me:

He would not sell pounamu. For one could not put a price upon a treasure, just as one could not purchase mana, and one could not make a bargain with a god. Gold was not a treasure — this Tauwhare knew. Gold was like all capital, in that it had no memory: its drift was always onward, away from the past.

Pounamu is a unique  form of jade, or greenstone, found in the rivers on the South Island of New Zealand, and especially around Hokitika It is said to be harder than steel and is a highly valued part of Māori culture. The Māori believe that pounamu has special powers that strengthen as the stone ages and is passed down from generation to generation. This is what is being referenced in the above quote. Mana is a Polynesian word which is hard to translate, but the closest I can come up with, is ‘life force’.

Illustration by Clifford Harper for Agraphia UK

The Luminaries is moving fast. Pre-orders are selling out before they arrive in our local bookshop. Happily I got my copy a few weeks ago. Even the cover is perfect with it’s vintage, stained look.I will be writing more on The Luminaries as I read, I also want to explore the whole astrological symbolism in the book. Look out for more posts.

Vintage Tattoo

The theme this year for the Nelson Arts Festival is Vintage Tattoo. Our graphics tutor, Klaasz, organised an installation of several large illustrated boards to decorate Founders park as part of the festival. Wanting to support the project and be involved I decided to submit a design on behalf  our writing class. We decided to use an anchor as a basis for the design, the anchor is a classic tattoo symbol, and with Nelson being a port, it seemed appropriate.