My first exposure to Tarot was in the movies: Guy Hamilton’s 1973 James Bond spy film Live and Let Die. Bond (Roger Moore) meets beautiful Solitaire (Jane Seymour) who reads Tarot for the villainous Dr Kanaga (Yaphet Koto). Bond stacks the deck in order to seduce Solitaire and ultimately defeat Dr Kanaga. As there were no esoteric bookstores where I lived in those pre-internet days, I had no access to purchase and study Tarot. At University, I had a good friend who had her own set of cards and experience reading, having learned this from women in her family and from Eden Gray’s Complete Guide to Tarot. She correctly refused to allow others to “play with” her cards in order to maintain a stronger spiritual connection to them. Over the years since then, I’ve ordered a number of different sets of Tarot cards and kits in various designs and themes. However, I usually found that I would return to my Rider Waite deck. . .sitting comfortably in their cloth bag, waiting for when I felt inspired to either smudge them or read them. Tarot, however, is very very challenging. Look at the math: even for a 3-card quick reading of the whole deck, there are more than 450 thousand permutations of cards. For a Celtic Cross – with the variations, interactions, reversals, numerological and astrological influences – interpretations can be in the trillions! When one adds the several hundred year history of Tarot cartomancy into the mix, humility is required when approaching them.
In the many internet forums that I’ve browsed related to the Tarot, I came across another cartomancy tool. In the late 1700s, Johann Hechtel (a Bavarian businessman) published a card game: Das Spiel der Hoffnung – The Game of Hope. One of the most famous fortune-tellers of those days, Marie Anne Lenormand, may have used those cards among others to provide advice to the French revolutionary leaders and to various European nobility (leadership tended to change often in around that time). A few years after her death, the 36 card deck was re-published as the Petit Jeu Le Normand (there’s also a 52 card Grand Jeu Le Normand). I love these cards and feel much more in tune with them than my Tarot. While Tarot cards are read intuitively, Le Normand cards are more metaphorical within an almost sentence-like syntax. But what about movies? One day, I was browsing through Netflix and came across Michael Steiner’s 2018 comedy The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch. It’s about an Orthodox Jewish student (Joel Basman) who falls in love with a wordly, gentile girl (Noemie Schmidt). In one scene, Motti visits a client of his family’s insurance business – Frau Silberzweig (Sunnyi Melles) to discuss his future: and she pulls out a set of Lenormand Cards to do a reading !! Not something you see much in movies or in synagogue ! The movie is very funny; and the cards are fabulous.
If Tarot are intuitive and Lenormand are metaphorical, I wondered if there were more practical cards. Internet to the rescue: I was introduced to Kipper. Around the late 1800s in Bavaria (again?), Matthias Seidlein published a 36 card deck named for a German fortune-teller, Frau Kipper. These cards are very literal – what you see is what you get. I purchased a set but had a strong reaction to it: not a good match as the cards felt very “harsh” to me. Then I purchased another set which was a little more modern and gentle in its orientation, called the Rainbow Kipper. They are very nice cards but, like the Tarot, I don’t feel as strong a connection to them as I do with the Lenormand cards. I don’t think they’ve made a movie with any Kipper scenes in them yet.
There are previous posts in this blog focusing on runic divination as part of esoteric practice. However, even with a deck of standard playing cards, you can tune yourself towards interesting insights through cartomancy. Try it.