Alexandre Musruck is one of the better known names in the Lenormand world. The reader behind Angel Cartomancy self-published his The Art of Lenormand Reading – Decoding powerful messages in 2016 and was recently picked up by Schiffer Books/Red Feather for a mass market reproduction of said book, including a deck created of the accompanying Lenormand examples. This review comes in two parts, the book and the deck. First up: The Alexandre Musruck Lenormand Oracle Cards.
When Musruck wrote his book before the initial publication in 2016 he didn’t – like so many authors need to do – want to ask permission from a designer or publisher to use their Lenormand pictures and pay a fee. He decided to create his own deck, one with 36 cards he eventually not just used as examples, but also published under the name The Classic Lenormand. In the YouTube video where he announces his Schiffer contract he talks a bit about the adapted version in 39 cards (the regular 36 + an extra man, woman and child) that came to be The Alexandre Musruck Lenormand Oracle Cards.
Musruck has been reading Lenormand since his teenage years. He’s probably its biggest (self-proclaimed) fan and thus the deck is something of an ode. To the craft, the system and its name giver: Mme Lenormand herself. His idea was to create an archetype of Lenormand where simplicity, elegance and the grace of the Parisian atmosphere in the late 1700’s, early 1800s were ingrained. To put it in his words: while creating the deck he thought that Mme Lenormand would have been really happy to read with it*.
Kit de Lenormand
Schiffer Books probably recognised Musrucks original title for what it was: the potential of an actual great new classic Lenormand. As a result the cards that were initially just created to spruce up the pages of his studybook are now a Red Feather publication for you to add to your collection. While paperback & Lennies don’t come together in one box set, seeing them as a kit if you’re a beginner is a smart move.** Since Musruck believes a LWB is never enough to start learning Lenormand (I am beginning to think this is common in Lenormand decks: ), you won’t find a companion or even a printed card with keywords or spreads. If you’re new to ‘Lennies’ and want this deck, maybe getting the whole Musruck package is the way to go (see my review of the book to know for sure).
The Alexandre Musruck Lenormand Oracle Cards, from now on called the Musruck Lenormand for short, come in a deck sized package with a lid lift top. I have super long nails 90% of the time, but I had quite a job separating top half from bottom half in order to get the cards out – a bit of clawing is involved. That is the only qualm I have with this box though: it is made of very sturdy, thick materials and has a cover suitable to the whole deck. You won’t accidentally be grabbing for the wrong deck if you were looking for this one, plus it is always nice to have a good box to keep your decks in.
The cover of the box is also the picture that can be seen on the back of the cards. That’s a choice I would not have made, especially since it also carries the designers name. Most readers find this a little off-putting and the backs now look a little ad-sy.
Elegance & classic
When it comes to the actual deck my first, and overall, impression was pretty positive. If you read the author/designer’s inspiration and idea I am not surprised the Schiffer rendition is what it came to be. The entire deck breathes an early 19th century history – the time of Lenormand’s birth – and one with class. And I don’t mean just the sepia toned backgrounds or the lack of borders. Nor the gilded edges done properly (no golden flecked hands after using them) or even the shuffle worthy nice matte card stock in a decent thickness. Yes, all those things definitely complete the picture, but the true elegance comes from the choices Musruck made when he selected his pictures.
I am assuming these are al pre-existing photographs and illustrations, but where that often leads to cards that don’t fit, here it results to a classic cohesion. One that truly says: this Lenormand deck is a modern version of the early decks and offers the simple, but beautiful symbols we need to tell a story with. There is no relatable pattern to the Musruck Lenormand; it does not fit into Blue Owl, Piatnik or Dondorf. It stands on its own, with symbols that are easily recognisable. Musruck chose images that aren’t overwhelming. He picked the ones that say immediately we’ve drawn an 11, or a 4 or a 26 in our reading. Intermediates and advanced Lenormand aficionados will have no issues whatsoever to read this deck straight out of the box. And I think there will be quite a similar experience for beginners.
Is there nothing but perfectness? Well, I do have a few things to pick on. Things that aren’t over the top wrong, but could still annoy you (or perhaps even decide you don’t want the deck). If you’re a riffle shuffler I have bad news: the type of card stock will lead to fast bending of your deck. I’ve tried and after two riffles I had to take out the heavy books, if you know what I mean. My personal biggest issue with the Musruck Lenormand is with the placement of its inserts. The Lenormand oracle has larger playing card inserts (pci), it is what makes it a more historically inspired deck in the first place.
After a course with Bjorn Meuris I’ve started to appreciate those inserts a lot, but if they almost ‘collide’ with or eat up part of the symbol picture it bothers me. This happens with plenty cards, f.e. Tree, Bear, Snake and Bouquet, and both the Lady and Gentleman almost miss part of their hats because they bump into the insert box. A slightly smaller PCI would have been a better design choice. But hey, that’s just me…
Then there are a few cards that do not make the ‘straight from the box’ cut. At least not if you’re just starting out with Lenormand. Since the Musruck Lenormand has only numbers (in circles on top of the card) and no titles any imagery needs to be straightforward. Therefore – strangely enough a whole section – 19 Tower, 20 Garden, 21 Mountain, 22 Crossroads can’t be counted among my favourites. I also imagine a few people will be irritated by the fact that clouds does not have a darker or lighter sight.
And no matter how pretty, a couple of growing flowers being pollinated by bees won’t easily be recognised as the card of temporary luck. There, you actually really need the number 2 to say it is Clover. But I agree: these are details and quite possibly only a (mini-)hurdle for novices that work with other Lenormand teachers (too). All those cards do still fit with the style of this ‘Parisian atmosphere’-inspired deck, so if you can forgive… I can too (except for the Sun card. Sorry: that one looks off – as if it lacks pixels).
Decks with preexisting illustrations are always a risk. Some or many of the cards can feel as forced choices, leading to the whole theme or concept falling apart. This is definitely not the case with the Alexandre Musruck Lenormand Oracle. Musruck made an excellent choice in imagery, supported by good, matte card stock and gilded edges. This combination created the simple but elegant ode to Mme Lenormand he wanted it to be.
Even if there are a few details that do not fit ‘level perfect’, the Musruck Lenormand is a straight out of the box-read for many, if not all, levels. There are already some pretty nice classics out there, especially decks that are recommended as good beginner decks. The Queen’s Sword would not be surprised if Musruck manages to get his Lenormand to be counted among them one day.
* Even though Mme Lenormand actually never read with a Lenormand deck, but most likely used playing cards and perhaps what we now call Gypsy cards (or decks of that variety). Lenormand was created in Germany, with the Game of Hope (most likely) as its foundation. The creator simply used the name of the most illustrious and famous fortuneteller (posthumously) around that time as a sublime marketing ploy.
** The deck is very reasonably priced and Schiffer/Red Feather delivers one of the best card stocks in the oracle mass market industry. Having a book with an accompanying deck strengthens the learning process.
BUY THE ALEXANDRE MUSRUCK LENORMAND ORACLE DECK