When Lynyrd-Jym Narciso, the designer behind Paraluman, asked me if I wanted to review his newest, the Gravenchase Lenormand, I could not be happier. For quite some time now I wanted Lennies on the The Queen’s Sword. But as a relative beginner, who still struggles with the GT, I wasn’t sure if I should. I guess I do ;-). So, here’s the first ever Lenormand review. The Gravenchase really made me dive down that Lenny-rabbit hole with gusto, so I am pretty sure it won’t be the last either.
Paraluman’s Gravenchase Lenormand arrived in a simple, but thick, plastic protective case. Nothing fancy, but definitely good for storage. It opens like a book and is deck-sized, so the cards fit perfectly in the extra indentation made in the case. The front of the box is slightly more see-through than the rest of the murky-white plastic, so this gives you ample opportunity to make it ‘Gravenchase-y’. Perhaps by sticking one of the copyright cards there on top of underneath the clearer part.
LWB & two sizes
Speaking of those copyright cards…they are a source of information. Not only do they tell you about Lenormand and the inspiration for the deck, but some cards give you lists of useful books and websites for Lenormand beginners. Paraluman does not provide us with a Gravenchase LWB and he did so with a reason: “I have no confidence in my writing skills. Plus, there have been several great books created by people. As well as free websites which offer a lot of information for the beginner. I opted to just direct people towards these.”
When it comes to look, size and feel (oh, the jokes one could make…) the Gravenchase Lenormand is a race horse. Minimum gloss, just a light sheen, no sticking, but soft, fluid shuffling. Easy to grab and lay out a Grand Tableau or any of the smaller lines/squares. The cards come in two sizes (the one I am reviewing is the regular bridge-sized deck). Designer Lynyrd-Jym Narciso saw it as “a nice compromise”, since there are as many Lenormand readers who prefer bridge-sized decks as there are those who want a mini-deck for GT’s.
So, if you’re interested in the Gravenchase Lenormand, you can order it in the bridge-sized variant, or opt for the mini-version; cards are around half the size of a regular poker card. The stock is premium for sure: thick, but not too much so. Flexible cards that feel great while shuffling. Not surprising though: the deck is printed on 310 gsm casino-quality linen stock. And we all know that linen (well, for me it is so) is – as miss Turner would sing – simply the best. Also: no borders! While borders have less, or no, reading impact on Lenormand, I still like the elegancy it gives this deck.
The back of the cards are really very beautiful, with quite the esoteric vibe. You definitely have something to look at while shuffling and before turning your cards over. The Gravenchase Lenormand backs have a blueish background, like a night’s sky, covered with tiny stars. The same sky and stars will come back in Clouds and Star. In the middle a yellow sun with an eye in it and above and below you’ll see a crescent moon. While reading reversals is somewhat of an isolated practice in Lenormand, it is possible with this card.
Because Lenormand reading is symbolic and quite analytic it is important every symbol is recognizable in an instant. Especially when working with a Lenormand Grand Tableau. The Gravenchase Lenormand does not disappoint in that regard. I didn’t need the medieval looking scrolls that hold every card name. I could guess all 36 cards within a second and didn’t miss a beat. The only two cards that look a little too much alike for my taste are Crossroads and Cross though.
Some designs are also a bit different, based on its style. Like the Bear, which resembles a scary sheep, or the Snake: this card has a touch of dragon. The only other card that deviates from known imagery is 27, Letter. Here the Gravenchase Lenormand shows a lengthy scroll instead of an envelope (Fun fact: the text on the scroll means “Pick up and Read” in Latin).
If there’s one thing to putt you off, it might indeed be the type of art. And that is also where I could find the one negative that could persuade you to go for a deck with simple, blank backgrounds and more traditional art.
Inspiration & dark GT
The deck was inspired by the Age of exploration, medieval woodcuts and manuscripts…the pretty things from the Dark Ages. When Paraluman created this deck he had just finished making a tarot deck inspired by Tarot de Marseille. The whole woodcut and engraving vibe is still noticeable in the Gravenchase Lenormand. Especially the people cards could have been in a TdM-like deck and the color-scheme is (vaguely though) reminiscent of those used in the traditional decks. As far as Lenormand decks goes, the Gravenchase definitely shows something new. I really like the style and vibe and have been enthusiastically using the cards for weeks now, but I know: it’s all a matter of taste 😉
What makes this deck interesting and cool art-wise (in that humble opinion of mine) is also what makes it a little challenging in a larger spread or Grand Tableau though. That is the ‘negative’ I talked about earlier. As a result of his fascination with the older decks, the designer gave all the cards an ‘old look & feel’ to them.
All the cards have an overlay, like old grainy photographs can have. Those little spots, dots and stripes. In some cards heavier than in others (Ring and Sun, or Whip show it a lot better than the Mice card, for example) and that comes on top of the very busy backgrounds. While the symbols are crystal clear, this means that every card has a lot going on. And as a result any Grand Tableau will be ‘in your face’. Once natural light disappears, the Gravenchase Lenormand definitely becomes a tad harder to distinguish with all 36 cards out. If that is something that bothers you, this particular design choice might not be your favorite.
Playing card inserts & extra’s
The deck does have playing card inserts (pci), but they are very subtle. To make a good division between card number and pci, you’ll find the Lenormand card number on the left in latin numbers (1,2, 3) and on the right you’ll see a number and a suit symbol. Paraluman chose to have the card numbers in the same colors as the suits. So Rider now has a red 1, because he’s 9 of Hearts (red). Same goes for the black 21 in Mountain because the playing card insert is also black (8 of clovers). These color-combinations make it easier to recognize the insert, but don’t distract from the actual Lenormand symbol printed on the card.
Nowadays it has become quite the practice to supply card readers with a double male/female card set. The Gravenchase Lenormand also has a double Woman and Man card, as well as two cards for Child. On top of that, this Lenormand comes with a Zodiac Oracle. 12 cards in the same style that picture the astrological signs. You can use the Zodiac Oracle with the deck itself, or combine with tarot or other oracles… It can be used for timing questions, work as a significator or function as a ‘character witness’. You could also use the Gravenchase Zodiac Oracle to advise your client. “In this situation be more like a Capricorn…” for example. Or, when Virgo falls, “focus on cleaning (your 6th) House. I haven’t tested it out profusely, but it definitely is a nice and useful extra to get with your deck.
All in all: the Gravenchase Lenormand is a great deck. The card stock is excellent and that is definitely scoring points. Linen is premium stock and worth a higher price-tag. The style is original and wonderfully portrayed. It will definitely appeal to people who also like traditional (tarot) decks. Despite the overwhelming art-style a beginner like me could work with this deck, no issues at all.
Symbols are clear and the quality stock is lovely. The busy backgrounds and dark overlay – a style I personally appreciated – might be the reason you will save your $$ for another deck, though. If you don’t know the deck that well yet, a ‘GT at first sight’ is not as clear. Overall it could lessen the readability and that is something I feel obliged to mention. However, this is the first Lenormand deck (I have a couple) that actually doubled my enthusiasm for the oracle system. I wanted to study and play again. That counts as high praise; it is something recommended Lennies like the Piatnik or Blue Owl could not do (for me). I am sure I won’t be the only beginner responding like that. Plus, there will always be advanced readers who appreciate this splash of medieval color on their table. Just light an extra candle as the monks did, when *they* wrote their Gravenchase scrolls ;-).
Buy the Gravenchase Lenormand at the Paraluman Etsy Store
Or directly for multiple items at Make Playing Cards: bridge size.
The Etsy store also has zip pouches for the Gravenchase and his Anino Lenormand
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