Korean artist Kown Shina is probably most famous in the West for the successful Dreaming Way Tarot, authored by Rome Choi. The Dreaming Way Lenormand followed, this time in collaboration with Lenormand writer Lynn Araujo. It is a mass market deck and easily available.
The deck is nicely proportioned (6x9 cm), borderless and in a nice, satiny-finish cardstock that is smooth but not slippery.
The watercolour art is beautifully done, more tightly controlled than in the DW Tarot (drier application on a structured paper), in bright, often pastelly hues. Every card is a little work of art. The card symbols are large and easy to identify.
The card numbers show up in a pretty, dotted little medaillon on top of the card; the card name is written in slender capital letters at the bottom, with a dotted frame as well. The corresponding playing cards are added minimilistically: a letter and the outline of the suit symbol, all in the slender black lines of the fonts.
One of the nicest things about this deck is the cardback pattern - what a pity we never see the cardbacks in a Lenormand tableau. I confess I'd like to invent a spread where you have to turn the cards around one by one, like moving from a view of a city to a view of what's going on in the life of one specific persons. I also love the attitude of the artist who "wastes" energy on a feature never much in use - like medieval stonemasons who lovingly carved figures for the church spires nobody would ever see from close up.
Now le'ts look at the cards.
Some cards have been re-named: 22 is Choices, not Crossroads, and it shows a much more bewildering array of alternative ways than a simple crossroads. You really have the feeling that you can't see far enough to decide.
The lwb starts with a quotation and ends with keywords which are okay but you can see the problem with the lwb right here. "This choice card illustrates that there are no wrong answers." I'm sorry to say that I don't buy this kind of "everything is wonderful" approach. We have all been in situations where we had to decide, where the decision was difficult, and we have also all made WRONG decisions. I don't believe that anyone can say in retrospect that all his choices were perfect.
If it was so, decisions were easy and we didn't need the card. The tricky thing about decisions is to get it right.
The text, like many divination texts, downplays these problems, and I'm not happy with it. But probably I'm in a minority and most people nowadays believe that choosing A or B or C is right in any case? Well, the picture conveys the difficulties in finding the right way better than the text!
Then, if you look at the booklet again and you know your Lenormand, you notice that the text is not enough to get you started with Lenormand. The nice and nifty thing about Lenormand is that every card is "loaded" with meanings. The cards characterize a person, hint to health problems, indicate time spans and numbers, and of course influence other cards. All this can't be packed into a lwb, however nicely written and produced (it's a beautiful little booklet), and you will need a good basic book anyway (Matthews, George, Boroveshengra are all excellent) to work with this deck.
Now look at those beautiful clouds. I don't know about you, but when I see that card, I hear Carly Simon singing to me about clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee... There is something so nice and cosy about this cup of coffee, the clouds are so clever and white - but hey, they don't have a dark side, and they're opaque, they're just fluffy and white and dreamy. But I read Clouds as difficult cards - vague and unclear obstacles, a bit like the Hanged Man, being stuck without knowing why - it's more fog than clouds.
Traditional clouds have a dark side (where trouble is coming from) and a bright side (problems that are clearing up). We lose all this in the lovely picture before us.
So am I unhappy with this deck? It turns out, no. The author is very aware of the traditional way of reading Lenormand, and encourages us to break out a bit. She advocates taking a "Gestalt" approach to the cards, treating them a bit like oracle cards - i.e., taking visual clues from the cards.
We really enter the cloudy area between intuitive card/oracle/tarot reading, and rebus/graphic/symbolic Lenormand reading.
Did they plan it that way, or did the artist simply take artistic freedom with the traditional images?
This rider is female (that's not traditional but doesn't disturb me personally) and rides into one direction while looking into the other. This is nearly a pun on the traditional meaning of the traditional Rider, so focused on the forwards, forwards movement.
You can read it traditionally, but wouldn't be a pity to check at least the cards in the viewing direction of the rider?
And the ship. This card emphasizes the dream aspect, the longing for movement and travel - but actually, this ship goes nowhere.
Well, what is my verdict?
This is probably not an ideal deck for beginners, especially not if they're steeped in intuitive-narrative tarot reading practice. The visual interest and wit of these images might bring up too many associations, pull the reader into too many directions all at once. But for readers who know Lenormand, who have made their readings with the "classical" decks, this one can be refreshing, challenging and interesting.
I decided to buy it although I saw online already that this deck is not adhering to the traditional iconography completely (in many cards, it does). I personally don't use them in a "Gestalt" inspired way but I think it's good that this deck exists. For users who want to use Lenormand cards but feel the traditional approach is a bit too schematic, this deck is ideal.
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