Saturday, 21 December 2013

Yule Blog Hop: The Light of the Moon


Wow, look at that!  It's been a year since the Celtic Lenormand first posted as part of the Tarot Blog Hop.  Last Yule, the cards for this deck weren't finished, and I shared a spread that will be in the companion book.  This year, I would like to share the finished card that represents this spoke on the Wheel of the Year in the pagan-themed Celtic Lenormand deck. 

Our wrangler, the Sun Goddess herself, Joanne, presented us with our theme: turning darkness into light.  And that's an interesting one to consider in the light of the Moon, so to speak.  The Moon travels around the earth and around the sun, and brings light to our nights by reflecting the sun's rays.  And yet, it is still nighttime, despite the light.  In the same way, Yule is still midwinter, the longest night, even if it does reflect the point after which days once again start to get that little bit longer.  So, it was the Moon card that I chose to represent Yule in the Celtic Lenormand.

The black-and-white sketch is incredibly atmospheric, yet I still prefer the colour version.  Interestingly, Will suggested that the dark of a moonlit night be painted in green, as he has in other decks.  It's also a choice made by several artists from the Victorian era, heroes of his, such as John Atkinson Grimshaw.

I adore the play of the light on the water in this image, and the way the rocks stand out, jagged and sharp.  The clouds, too, are very atmospheric, and the moon itself is shadowed and textured. 

One meaning of the Moon in the Lenormand system is about reputation and fame, the way we are reflected in other people's eyes and minds.  This can be seen as coming from the fact that the Moon reflects the sun's light, and is also why I put the reflection in the water in the Celtic Lenormand image.  Another meaning is that of emotion, not necessarily just happy, loving emotions (more the realm of the Heart).  Hence the deep waters and jagged rocks.

Here's hoping you enjoy the Moon's light on this longest night: that it helps illuminate how others see you, and how you feel.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Samhain Blog Hop: The Making of the Burial Mound

©McCracken & Worthington
Previous / Master / Next

Welcome to another hop around the world via the blogs of tarotists and other diviners :)  Our wrangler this time is the wondrous Alison Cross, who asked us to talk about love.  Well, that's a tough one as I love many things about this Celtic Lenormand deck!  One of the things that makes it rather different, though, is the fact that it uses the Pagan sabbats rather than days, weeks, months and years to look at timing.  I also love this season, with its spectacular colours and the suggestion to take time to look inward and to connect with those who have passed.  Honouring our forebears is something which I am finding more and more relevant as I grow older.

Connecting all these dots, I would like to share with you the card that I designed for this spoke of the Wheel of the Year: the Burial Mound (Coffin).  It's one of my favourite images in the whole deck: I think Will Worthington did an exquisite job on it!
©McCracken & Worthington

This card was a slightly tough one, as the Celts didn't bury their dead in coffins, instead inhumating them (putting the whole body inside a burial mound in the earth).  Still, I tried to capture both the traditional aspects of the Coffin card, and also to honour celtic practices.  So, in this card there is a crow flying off to the left, to echo the black pall often found draped on the left side of Coffin cards.  The crow also points to the sickness interpretation of this card, as they are known to feed on carrion, the meat of animals that may have sickened and died.

The mists emphasise the idea of the thinning of the veil between the worlds at this time, as well as adding an edge of uncertainty to the card.  The dark of the inside of the tomb echoes the dark of the grave into which a coffin is lowered, and also lends more eeriness to the card.  Yet, the slight crescent moon in the sky above reminds us that new beginnings follow endings, no matter how dark they seem at the time, and that even in times of sickness, there is hope of improvement.

A dark, but beautiful card, then, and one I hope you will love as much as I do.  My partner refused to have a print of it on our wall, finding it too dark, but I think it's wonderful, deeply atmospheric!

Previous / Master / Next

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Prototype on Show

This week, I will be running a workshop at the UK Tarot Conference on ways to combine the tarot and the Lenormand in readings.  The Celtic Lenormand will be there, both in prototype form, and in the images on the slides of my presentation.  On top of that, I've created a slideshow with a selection of the images from the deck - 33 of the final 45.  Wouldn't want to give away everything, with still 5 or 6 months to go until the deck is to be published!

So, if you're anywhere near London, why not think about attending?  And if not, well, I'll keep sharing more images here over the coming weeks and months - ever the ambassador spreading the word of the Celtic Lenormand :)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Mabon Blog Hop: The Making of the Meadow

©McCracken & Worthington
Welcome to another Tarot Blog Hop!  You may have hopped forward from Tarot Trends, or back from Pure Blessed Tarot, depending on which way round you like to go.  Or maybe you found your way here from the Celtic Lenormand Facebook page, or somehow else.  Whatever the case, I hope you'll make your way round the hop, there are sure to be plenty of interesting posts!  And if you get lost along the way, here's the Master List.

For this hop, our wrangler, Christiana Gaudet, invited us to look at myth as it connects to the cards.  What I'd like to offer is a look at the card that I chose to represent this spoke on the Wheel of the Year in the Celtic Lenormand, and the myths that might be associated with it.

In traditional decks, this card would be the Garden.  While there is much evidence of the Celts being involved in agriculture, there is little evidence of them having gardens.  And those they did have were more of the kitchen-garden variety.  Whereas the Lenormand garden was originally based on the Parisian (or generally city) practice of going for a walk or ride in the local gardens to see and be seen.  It is connected with socialising, events, and hospitality, as well as our public persona.

To represent that idea, I decided to rename the card Meadow, and show a space prepared for the gathering of a village or tribe to celebrate the Mabon harvest, focused more on fruits than on wheat, though that is present, too.  Of course, one myth we see here is that of celebrating Mabon.

There is plenty of discussion as to whether or not people in the past actually celebrated any or all of the 'pagan' festivals which are highlighted today.   And strangely, the myths associated with Mabon refer to Beltaine as the time of his birth and to the Winter Solstice as the time of his rescue from imprisonment by King Arthur's knights.

The naming of the second harvest for Mabon is probably a later pagan association, connecting with the idea of the cyclical battle between the Summer and Winter Gods.  The young Son/God defeats the old to win a wife and continue the cycle of life, bringing fruitfulness to the earth.  The time when Mabon is imprisoned could be associated with the harvest and the storing up of those fruits over the winter.

Yet, even if Mabon is a name only later associated with the time of harvest, there is clear evidence of harvest festivals from the past.  Though they may not have fallen on this exact date, the fact of giving thanks for the fruits of the season would have been a common occurrence.  And gathering to celebrate that as a village or tribe would have been one of the times when groups came together, seeing friends old and new, telling tales of the trials of the year, and generally socialising and putting on a public face.  So, though not exactly a Garden, the Meadow fits the spirit of the Lenormand card, and the spirit of this turn of the Wheel.

Now, for more myths and cards, please hop on over to Pure Blessed Tarot.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Wheel of the Year

Image from White Goddess
In the Tarot Blog Hop posts since last Yule, I've been writing about the eight cards in this deck which are associated with the festivals of the pagan Wheel of the Year.  You might wonder what these cards are intended for, when reading with the Celtic Lenormand.

Timing is something which a lot of people ask about, and having a simple system to look at it was my intention with these cards.  One possibility is to use them in specific spreads to look at the energies around that time of year in particular, as I did for the Yule blog hop back in December 2012.  This can be done not just with a nine square reading, but also with simpler lines of 3, 5, 7 or 9, or with more complex spreads such as the Master spread.

Another thing you can do with these sabbat cards is to look around each one in a Grand Tableau, to assess the timing of certain situations and events.  Or, as with the timing board system, you can re-shuffle the cards after a GT and lay them again, looking to the sabbat card houses for the timing of the events you saw in the GT. 

And speaking of the Wheel of the Year, the next post on this site will coincide with Mabon, on the 22nd of September at 7pm BST.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Making of: The Anchor

A few weeks back, I posted a brief reading which included the Anchor card.  It made me realise this is one of the cards I haven't talked about much yet.  Time to remedy that!

This is a fairly traditional depiction of the Anchor.  Probably the two things that distinguish it from others are firstly that this is an iron anchor, rather than being made of the more modern steel.  Secondly, I think Will has done a beautiful job adding in small details to this beach scene - barnacles and the like - to bring it to life.

Anchors of one sort or another have been in use, as far as we can tell, at least since the Bronze Age, when they were generally big stones on a rope or in a basket.  In the Iron Age, welded iron started to be used.  This was much less robust than modern anchors, which are cast, because the welds didn't necessarily hold very well.  Also, as in this image, the "teeth" of the anchors were generally straight, rather than rounded and with catching tips as is the case with modern anchors.  So, the anchors sometimes broke, with the teeth snapping off, or the whole thing coming apart.  Still, they were better than not having an anchor, and commonly used from early Roman times on.

©McCracken & Worthington
In the Lenormand system, the Anchor is sometimes considered a "work" card.  I like that definition.  After all, your job is something that provides a certain stability in your life.  Yet, you can still up anchor and change, if you want.  And without an anchor or a job, you float free, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the situation.  Some people also see the Anchor as representing married life, along the lines of "the old ball and chain".  If asking about a holiday, it might suggest a beach holiday, or somewhere by the sea (while the Ship would suggest actual movement, such as a cruise). 

I love the still waters that Will painted, and the sweet little flowers growing above the anchor, as well as the colourful pebbles on the beach.  Finding work, or a sense of groundedness, that includes points of interest, calm, and emotional satisfaction, are all good things.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


©McCracken & Worthington
Given the number of decks with extra cards these days, be it extra man and woman cards, two versions of the Birds, or additional cards like the Cat, some people wonder how to deal with a reading where more than one card of the same sort comes up.

In my experience, if two cards of the same number come up in a small reading, it can emphasise the differences in their meaning.  If just one had come up, you might use meanings from either version, but when two come up, you are often advised to focus on the differences.  For example, think what differences you perceive between Songbirds and Owls, or between people of different social classes, occupations or ethnic backgrounds. 
©McCracken & Worthington

For instance, in the Celtic Lenormand it is possible to read the Woman and the Lady cards in a single spread as indicating different aspects of the querent or their life.  The Woman might speak more to the area of crafts and hobbies, or home concerns, while the Lady might speak more to work or spiritual questions.  However, I have had readings where the two came up and indicated two different women - context is vital here.  With practice, and based on the situation being explored, you will see when to read the cards in these different ways.

Another example might be the Cat and the Dog appearing in a single reading.  This happened in a reading for Derek, who was asking about a new friendship.  We drew the Man, the Dog, and the Cat.  Derek associated the Man to himself in his social life, as in his work life he is a high level executive and associates more to the Lord.  Socially, he had recently made a new friend.  The first sentence that came to me was “Loyalty begets loyalty.”  Exploring deeper, we saw that if he was loyal (Man, Dog) to his new friend, then the friend would prove a steadfast support, without being a yes-man (Dog, Cat), as so many of Derek’s work colleagues seemed to be.  This friend, coming from outside that world, had an independent nature, and would treat Derek according to how he was treated in return, rather than caring about Derek’s status, or ability to affect the friend’s career.

I'd love to hear what your experiences have been reading with decks that have duplicates and extra cards.  And if you have any questions you've been wondering about, please feel free to email me at info (at)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


This is the first post about some questions I have been asked a lot. Some are general to the Lenormand system, others are more specific to the Celtic Lenormand. I hope you find the answers useful.

The cards just tell me what I already know!  Am I doing something wrong?

This is a question I have heard many times, it seems especially with practical Lenormand readings.  My belief is that, when this happens, the cards aren’t just being contrary.  Rather, we simply need to dig a little deeper to find the useful aspect of the reading.

Christine came to me and asked, among other things, about an up-coming visit from her mother.  We drew House, Ship and Bear.  At first sight, it seems as though the cards are simply reporting “Travelling (Ship) to your home (House), is a motherly woman (Bear)”.

On looking deeper, though, we came up with: “Nostalgia (Ship) for family (House) is brought up by your mother (Bear).”  And Christine could acknowledge that she gets along well with her mother, and that visits often give her a sense of security like she felt when she was a child.  Already, owning these emotions changed her perspective on the visit.

Still, I suggested another interpretation: “A dream (Ship) home (House) connected with your mother (Bear).”  At this, Christine remembered that there had been some talk in the past of finding a holiday home that they could all go to together, and determined to start looking into it again, and suggest it to her mother, who would enjoy the time with the grandchildren, too.

So, what seemed at first to just be a re-stating of the facts actually had other messages in it that were useful and empowering to Christine.  If you look deeper, you will often find this to be true.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Gone Fishin'?

This week, I decided to do something a little bit different.  Here are three cards I chose from my prototype Celtic Lenormand: Anchor, Book, Sun.  They represent why there is no 'Making Of' nor any new card backs to look at this week.  So, how would you read these? :)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Second Card Back Poll

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a number of potential card backs and asked for feedback.  Based on that, I've created one new option, and tweaked another.  So, round two: which do you prefer?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Sharing with Community: The Making of The Scythe

©McCracken & Worthington
Welcome to another Tarot Blog Hop!  You may have hopped in from Christiana's Tarot Trends, or from Cassandra's Quick Card Reading, depending on which way round you like to go.  Or maybe you found your way here from the Celtic Lenormand Facebook page, or somehow else.  Whatever the case, I hope you'll make your way round the hop, there's sure to be plenty of interesting posts!  And if you get lost along the way, here's the Master List.

This time around we are looking at Lammas, Loafmass, August Eve, or First Harvest.  Our wrangler, the fabulous Arwen, asked us: "What can you share from your table with your community?"  In the past, what was most often shared at this time of year was the first bread of the season, as suggested by the name Loafmass.  And what I will share is the card I chose to represent this time of year, as there are cards allocated in this deck to each of the pagan festivals, which can be used for timing in a reading.

©McCracken & Worthington
For this time, the Scythe seemed the obvious Lenormand choice.  A Scythe, after all, is used to harvest wheat to make bread.  That doesn't mean to say that I only see the Scythe in terms of harvesting.  For me, it's still about something that is cutting, sharp, possibly painful.  It can be a clean break, or a surgical procedure, or making the cut in an exam.  Cutting and harvesting link up.  After all, some people see the harvest as the Summer God sacrificing himself, being cut down in his prime, so that the village, tribe or community can survive the winter.  And when we make the cut in an exam, or break off a relationship, or have surgery, we harvest the consequences of those actions or situations.

As you can see, the direction that the Scythe is pointing changed between Will's original sketch and the final image.  Traditionally, many people read the card towards which the Scythe's tip is pointed as the one that is being cut.  (Some people see the handle side as being a bit of a thump, but not sharp in the same way.)  And most traditionally, that sharp tip points to the right.  After some thought, I decided to go with tradition on that one...

I hope that you enjoyed sharing this glimpse into the making of this deck, and that you will carry on hopping with Cassandra's Quick Card Reading.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Card Back Poll

Well, as promised last week, I've been working on a few ideas for the card backs.  This is what I've come up with so far.  Please leave a comment to say which you like best :)  With the cross detail cards, I could also make the cross on the green back smaller, I'm just trying out options.  And no, the Stars card doesn't look like that, it's a highly photoshopped version of it ;)

P.S.  Next week's blog post will go live on Thursday at 6pm, instead of Monday at 8am, because it's part of the Tarot Blog Hop!

Stars Detail b-w
Stars Detail Sepia
Plaid Back Painted
Cross Detail Burgundy
Cross Detail Green
Plaid Back Photoshopped

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Progress Update and Question

This week I am working hard to scan all the original artwork from Will to send over to US Games, as well as trying to finish up the companion book, and figure out some issues around the borders and numbering.  Still, I thought I could share a picture of a Lenormand-sized card from the prototype deck I printed from Will's scans, and one of the actual paintings.

There is a greater vibrancy, a rich depth to the original, which is just beautiful!  Hopefully, some more of that will come through with these higher resolution scans and the far better printing technology that US Games brings to the table.

So, a quick question: do you have a preference regarding the colour of the backs of these cards?  I have an idea of what to do for it, but am just not sure whether to go with green or purple, or something else entirely?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Making of: The Letter

©McCracken & Worthington
There were quite a lot of questions in my head when I designed the Letter card.  What sort of script should be used?  What sort of medium: paper/papyrus/ogham sticks?

My choice in the end was to show a scroll and ogham script, for a number of reasons.  A scroll, because there were a lot of them in use at that time, and it is more obviously a Letter than a stick with scratches on it.  And ogham, because it was used a lot by the Celts as a way to hide what they were writing. 

They would transcribe whatever language they were writing into ogham text as a sort of cypher, to keep it from being easily read if found by someone it wasn't intended for.  So, you find ogham texts which, when returned to the regular alphabet, are actually in Latin, or Gaulish, or Ancient Irish, and so on.

©McCracken & Worthington
When Will started work on the brief, he asked me what the Letter should actually say.  It wasn't something I had really thought much about, but he assured me that some of his fans would transcribe the text, so it should have some meaning.  Took me a while to figure out what to put, and it's in Ancient Irish, as I preferred the idea of a letter going between Celtic Brittany and Ireland, to one written in Latin.  If you want to know what it says, you'll have to be nerdy enough to do the cypher yourself!

Another factor in my design was that I wanted different forms of light in the different cards.  So, the Book shows sunlight piercing the gloom of a roundhouse's interior, while here the scene is lit by a rough, beeswax candle.  And then, the outdoor scenes are alternately by sunlight, starshine or moonlight.  The single candle is more intimate than sunlight, and suggests the light of the mind that has crafted its text...

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Making Of: The Dog

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Last week, I talked about the differences I see between the oft-added Cat card and the more traditional Lenormand Dog.  Today, then, it seemed appropriate to take a look at our Celtic Lenormand canine.

In designing this card, I wanted it to be set on a beach, as many of the cards in this deck are.  There is a beautiful balance of elements by the sea, which feels appropriate to the Celtic and pagan theme of these cards.

I also wanted the sense of humans close by, suggested by the stick and the dog's expectant air.  After all, this is a card of friendship and the known, not of isolation or uncommon situations.  Our Dog looks alert and happy, ready to take part in whatever his humans suggest, glad to be alive. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
When picking out a breed of dog to show, given the deck is based in Brittany I chose a Brittany Spaniel, or Epagneul Breton.  As you can see, in the original sketch the dog had a short tail.  Will and I, being cat people, saw nothing strange in this.

Fortunately, before he made a start on the final painting I did a little more research and realised the short tail was due to cosmetic docking in modern show dogs, rather than being innate to the breed!  And while the Romans did sometimes dock their dog's tails, there is no evidence of this practice among the Celts.  So, in the final image, our Dog has a natural fan of tail held high :) 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Making Of: The Cat

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Last Wednesday, I showed this sketch for the Cat in the Celtic Lenormand.  Adding a Cat card to Lenormand decks is a very recent phenomenon, yet one which has quickly become quite popular.  Perhaps unsurprising if you consider how many cat-inspired tarot decks there are out there.  However, popularity alone is not the reason why I decided to add a Cat card to the Celtic Lenormand deck. 

Firstly, with its pagan theme, it felt only right and proper to add in this most traditional of familiars.  As such, the Cat card in a reading can be taken as a friend or loyalty; as an actual cat; or as any kind of familiar. In fact, it could be seen as any creature or object that helps provide support in magical workings or more mundane pursuits.

Secondly, for me there is a very clear difference between a Dog and a Cat.  Both can be dear friends, both can be loyal, both can support us.  And yet, a dog's loyalty is more unquestioning, and can fall into sycophancy and dependence. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
A cat, on the other hand, is loyal, but won't lie to please you, nor accept what you say or do without question.  As such, a Cat friend or colleague, while still having your best interests at heart, will use their intelligence to try to find the best way forward.  They will stay independent, and encourage you to do the same.  They will be there as a shoulder to cry on, but once the tears have dried they will prod you to find a more lasting solution.

As for the card itself, Will based the painting of the Cat on his own feline friend.  This cat is a little chunkier, with thicker tail and fur, a little less domesticated than a modern puss.  I placed it in a flower-filled meadow, enjoying the sunshine, because cats are good at finding the joy in life, and bringing a smile to our faces, too.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Making Of: The Sun

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Welcome to another round of the Tarot Blog Hop, and another in the series looking at the making of the Celtic Lenormand.  You may have followed links here from Joanne's Cosmic Whispers, or from Pepi Valderrama, if you're headed in the opposite direction :)  There's always the Master List, too, if you get a bit lost.

Our wrangler, Sharon Cumming, asked us to talk about creativity, so here I offer this glimpse at the creative process behind the Sun card of the Celtic Lenormand deck.  As to why the Sun card: it's the card I associate with this spoke on the Wheel of the Year, the Summer Solstice or Litha.  Today is, after all, the day when the sun shines longest, and has long been celebrated by rising and welcoming the sun.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Many of the cards in the Celtic Lenormand are set close to the sea.  In part, this is because of the Brittany connection, and the fact that sea-faring was important to ancient Celts.  Another part of it is because I wanted the cards, as much as possible, to feature all four elements: fire, water, earth and air.  This isn't explicit in the card meanings, nor in how they are read, but it is an underlying feature that emphasises the pagan understanding inherent in this deck.

From the outset, then, I wanted a scene of bright sunshine pouring down onto a beach, lending that sense of happiness and joy, energy and life, that are key meanings of the Sun card in the Lenormand system.  My brief to Will read simply: "The sun illuminates a beautiful, somewhat rocky beach, with waves gently lapping at the shore."  I also included some reference images that caught my eye. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Though I loved Will's first sketch, I asked him to alter the trees in the painting, as I didn't want something that could detract from the 'Sun-ness' of the card.  We also had a discussion about the colouring.  Will used watercolours for these paintings, with some egg-tempera for highlights.  It gives the cards a lovely, soft feel, with a lot of lightness.  However watercolours mingle, as Will pointed out, and mixing blue and yellow risks giving you green, rather than a nice sun in a blue sky.  His creative solution: show the sun as a bright, white light which, if you look at many photos of the sun, is exactly how it does appear!

When the first painting came back, the Sun, trees and landscape were great, but the clouds felt overly central to me.  Requesting that Will change those made some extra work for him.  Still, I think the final outcome was worth it.  What I see here is a warm summer's day, with barely a breeze.  A time to enjoy the light and the time of ease, to feel energised and joyful.

I hope you've enjoyed this insight into what goes into the creation of these cards.  For more creativity, please hop on over to Pepi's lovely blog!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pangur Bán

A friend pointed out a poem to me, which she thought of when she saw the Book card from this deck a few weeks ago.  It made me smile, and think of the Cat and Mice cards, too.  As this week's 'Making Of' post will form part of the Tarot Blog Hop on Saturday, 22nd June, I thought I'd share an English translation of the poem (courtesy of with you here, as well as a sketch for the Cat card!

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.
'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
Translated by Robin Flower

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Making of: The Clover

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Once again, I'd like to take a look at the evolution of one of the cards in the Celtic Lenormand deck: the Clover.  

As Will worked through the briefs I sent him in order, this was one of the first images I received from him.  My original brief read: "A gold trefoil coin lies in a patch of bare dirt by the side of a path.  Nearby, we see a four-leaf clover growing."  I also sent some images of the kind of path I had in mind, and the trefoil coin and clover.

After seeing the first sketch, Will and I talked a lot about perspective.  One of his visions for this deck was to have a wide-open view on the majority of cards, a feeling of openness and space.  I really liked the idea, though in practice found it wasn't always entirely practical.  Many of the Lenormand objects are quite small, and I didn't want them to get lost in the landscape.  

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Posting the first image to Facebook, people's ideas about what it showed varied from Paths to Mountain, with only a few spotting the Clover (though I think the black-and-white also played a role there).   We decided, therefore, to make the Clover and the trefoil coin more central (and the coin dustier so it doesn't overwhelm the plant by its side).

Another thing you can see in the original Clover sketch is the basic idea for how to include Lenormand numbering and playing card associations on the cards.  As Will retains the right to sell these paintings after the deck is made, the originals won't have this numbering painted on.  I'll be photoshopping that into place over the next month or so.  Wish me luck :)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Prototype Deck!

Since I first started this project, I've been looking forward to the day I'd have the cards in my hands.  When I was still thinking about self-publishing, I had planned to send the artwork off to and wait for them to work their magic.  However, given the problems with pirating that even firms like US Games have been experiencing recently, and given my contract with them, I didn't want to risk that.  Then, about ten days ago, Pepi Valderrama talked about the release of her Vintage Poster Lenormand, a free resource that people can download and print off for themselves.  So, I decided printing from my home printer was probably my safest bet.

These cards use the slightly wonky, low-resolution images Will has been sending me via email, printed on the thickest card my printer could take (200 gsm), which is about a third of what a normal card thickness would be.  And, obviously, there's no shiny finish, nor high quality toner.  I'll also be adding numbering and playing card associations to the official card images before sending them off to US. Games.  Still, after trimming them and cutting the corners, they look and feel like proper, if somewhat flimsy, cards, and are just beautiful!

Finally having a set in my hands has been amazing!  I've done several readings, which worked wonderfully, and feel re-inspired by the cards and the project.  This is, after all, what it's all really about, a lovely deck to play with ;)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Making Of: The Book

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
As I mentioned last week, it is my intention to regularly post on the ideas and process behind the creation of the Celtic Lenormand.  This week, I thought we'd take a look at the Book.

This was a somewhat tricky card, because there is no evidence of books as we know them in Celtic times.  Instead, my idea was to show a pair of linked bronze tablets, or wax tablets inset into wood.  These were used during that period, either for permanent messages (bronze), or for messages which could be deleted and the tablets re-used (wax).  There is evidence of two of these being linked together and folded closed, thus protecting the wax and the message. 

At first, I thought to have the 'Book' lying open, so it would be more obvious that this was two tablets, rather than a paper book.  However, that conflicted with the idea in Lenormand that the Book is closed to indicate secrets (though there are some exceptions, even in quite traditional decks). 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
It also raised the issue of what to put as a text, and what type of writing to use.  There is a known ancient Irish script, and closer to the Brittany home of this deck there is Gaulish.  Often, especially in the later period, Celts used Latin for writing, as a kind of lingua franca, and because there was no unified celtic language.  With all those considerations in mind, I opted for a closed Book.  The 'tablet' nature of it may be less apparent, but it fits better overall, and still creates a lovely image.

Another factor was the light.  Celtic roundhouses didn't generally have windows, so the two main options were a candle or daylight streaming in through the open door.  For the Book, I decided to go for the latter, to represent the light of illumination that can come from study.  This is brighter far than the single candle of our own minds, the combination of the ideas and insights of generations and multitudes!  None of this is necessary to our understanding of the Book, it is simply intended as an unconscious support for the traditional meanings.

In my eyes, Will did a beautiful job with this card.  I love the rough stone wall that shows in the background, and the celtic knotwork detail on the table legs.  The Book itself is also wonderful, the wooden nature of it very apparent, as well as the beautiful binding to highlight the importance of what it holds.  Hopefully, reading with it, and the other cards of this deck, will help us study and explore some of the mysteries in our own lives.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Making Of: The Owls

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington

The creation of cards, the thoughts and ideas behind them, and how that eventually gets expressed, is something that has always interested me when looking at other people's decks.  That is the kind of insight I'd like to offer in this post...

Working with Will Worthington has been absolutely amazing.  He is a wonderful artist, with decades of experience, and an eye for animals, plants and nature that I have always admired.  When we started work on the Celtic Lenormand, I sent him through "storyboards" (which he later called briefs) on each of the cards.  In these, I included reference images taken from the internet, as well as a written description and suggestions of which aspects of the reference images would best depict that.  Most often, these were enough for him to create sketches, and later paintings, that expressed beautifully what I had been trying to put across.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
While Lenormand cards aren't read according to the images in the same way that tarot cards would be, we are still affected by images at many levels.  Art therapists, Jungians, and other psychotherapists, as well as neuroscientists, recognise that art affects us at the level of instinct, in visceral ways.  And many also talk about how images work with our intuition, tapping into cultural ideas that are often not conscious.  Due to this, unless you have a card with just a word on it you cannot avoid a "visual" response to a card image.  Even then, we react to the shape of words as though they were images, and respond to the meaning of words at a symbolic level! 

For this reason, although I am not trying to create cards which should be read by image alone, I still feel it is important for the image to offer the same sense as the card meaning.  For the Owls, I asked Will to draw three European owls sitting huddled together on a tree branch, looking in different directions.  When he sent me through the first sketch, though, it really didn't have the "feel" I was hoping for. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Originally, I wanted European owls because in French folklore these "eared" owls are considered wise, while the "earless" owls are seen as harbingers of death.  Will and I had an email discussion about whether European owls, with their tufty ears, could ever look wise and calm, and I finally agreed that in most photographs of these birds they do look rather grumpy and arrogant.  Photos of non-eared Barn Owls look much nicer, and they also seem more sociable, which fits with the idea of communication.  On that basis, we agreed to try them out in a sketch.

While this sketch was much "rougher" than the majority of those Will sent me, I decided I liked the feel of it, and gave him the okay to go ahead on that basis.  And I'm very glad I did! 

Although the final painting doesn't fit as well with French folkloric ideas, it fits perfectly with what I wanted the card to express.  I find the colours on the owls' wings beautiful and their expressions lovely.  The dark outline of the tree branches behind the owls lends an air of mystery and uncertainty, and their posture echoes this, a certain nervousness that requires them to sit close together and try to watch each other's back.

This painting, for me, expresses both the idea of communication as well as that of nervousness.  It supports an intuitive understanding of the basic keywords connected with this Lenormand card.  I hope that others will agree and enjoy using it in their readings.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Birchrods: Whip or Broom

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
One traditional way of reading Lenormand cards suggests defining cards as positive, negative or neutral.  This can be a useful technique to help decide amongst alternative interpretations.  For example, if a negative card falls next to a neutral card, the latter will take a more negative meaning from the spectrum of possibilities associated with it.

Alongside this, though, it can be useful to see all cards as having both positive and negative interpretations inherent in them.  While some dismiss this as a New Age approach, there are good reasons to consider it.  Psychologically, all symbols (including words) can take more than one meaning, and can also be interpreted in nuanced ways. 

At what might be seen as a more practical level we can think in business terms, taking as an example the classic SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).  In this, every strength implies an opposing threat and every weakness suggests opportunities.

Following these ideas, we find even within traditional Lenormand meanings that something similar is possible.  Take the card Birchrods, for example.  In some decks this is titled Whips, in others it is called Broom.  And if we take a look at the Celtic Lenormand image, we see how these are both potential uses to which a bundle of Birchrods can be put.  Lift those rods high and bring them down on someone, they are clearly a whip.  Hold them with the free tips down, and you can sweep the floor clean. 

The same holds true for the interpretations of the card.  It can indicate a tongue lashing, physical abuse, or a pattern of negative behaviour.  And what might be a solution to these situations?  Performing some kind of cleansing: of your mind, behaviour or life.  You may need to sweep out your own negative patterns, or brush someone out of your life, if you want to break free of the unpleasantness indicated by the Whips aspect of the card.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
This solution-within-the-problem approach can be taken to many cards.  For instance, the Fox can represent someone deceitful.  In which case, you may need to trust your instincts or bring particular skills into play in order to deal with the situation.  Likewise, if you see someone poisonous in the Snake, you may need to take a winding route to your destination in order to avoid them.

In the same way, there can be difficulties inherent in positive cards.  The Sun can represent optimism and energy.  Yet displaying these can encourage others to want to harness our energy to their projects, and our sunny nature could make it hard to say no.  Still, if we are aware of these potential threats, we may be better equipped to deal with them.

This way of looking at the cards as having their opposite pole - or their solution - within them is not a blind denial of the difficulties life can throw at us, nor of the generally positive or negative nature of particular cards.  Far more, it is intended as a proactive and empowering way to use their messages to navigate our lives.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Card-Reading Traditions

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Whether you've jumped here from the beautiful and wise Tierney Sadler, or found your way here another way, I bid you welcome to another Tarot Blog Hop.  And if you should lose your way at any point, you can find the Master List here.

The question our wonderful wrangler Arwen set us this time round was: What traditions are important to you in how you read Tarot?  I'll adapt it to reading Lenormand cards, though ;)

It may surprise some people to hear me say that tradition is important to me.  Admittedly, the Celtic Lenormand has non-traditional aspects: extra cards and a 'theme'.  And yet, the fundamental structure, and the basic way of reading the cards are totally traditional, while the meanings and keywords simply expand on the traditional Lenormand perspective, rather than throwing it out the window.  The images, though, are admittedly very different to what is found on 19th century cards...

What it comes down to is that being wedded to a single tradition does not suit me.  In this, as in many things, an integrative rather than a purist approach is my preferred route.  So, this deck honours the Lenormand tradition, but also honours pagan traditions.  And the melding of those two different approaches mean the deck expands on tradition, rather than following it absolutely.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
For example, today is Beltane or May Day.  To represent this spoke on the Wheel of the Year, I chose the card traditionally called Bouquet or, as in this case, Flowers.  This is no bouquet plucked by a florist and arranged to give as a gift to a pretty girl one is wooing.  No, this is the gift that nature offers us every year when flowers blossom anew after the winter snows.  The meanings of beauty and a gift remain, but the perspective is somewhat different, and the connection to Beltane is something that is not a traditional Lenormand association.  Yet, as the saying goes: April showers bring May flowers.  This card was, for me, the obvious choice to meld these two traditions - Lenormand and a nature-based spirituality.

So, to answer the question asked, it is important to me to follow the semantic approach of Lenormand reading.  I don't read Lenormand cards the way I read tarot cards.  I allow my intuition to be sparked by the range of keywords, rather than by particular elements in the image.  And those keywords start from the traditional basics, expanding out in somewhat different directions because when I read my focus is almost always on personal development, psychology and spirituality.  That is what I work with on a daily basis, so that is what I bring to my readings. 

Yet, each reader will have their own keywords, and so your words don't have to be the same as mine.  Another tradition I follow is that of honouring the person doing the reading: if you read with these cards, then your interpretation is the one that counts!  And I hope you will read with these cards... :)

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the blog hop.  Next stop is The Cauldron Born, for some more purely pagan wisdom and tradition.

Friday, 26 April 2013

TABI Interview

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
A little while ago, I was asked to give an interview about the Celtic Lenormand deck, which was published in the Spring edition of the TABI Ezine (a members-only perk).  The questions are from Sara Donaldson, who used to create the TABI Newsletter (Tracker - the sign-up is on the left at both of those links), and who is now applying her considerable talents to the Ezine.

SD: So first of all, can you tell us a little about the project, your vision and how you came to be working with Will Worthington?

CM: Coming from a tarot background, I was struck by the relative lack of themed Lenormand decks (though that has changed a lot in the last year or two).  Having always loved decks with pagan elements, and having celtic roots myself (hence the McCracken), it seemed a natural fit.  I’ve spoken with another deck creator, Kendra Hurteau, who also had this idea, but hadn’t come up with a clear plan for it (too busy with her many other ideas!)  Though I think there is plenty of room for more than one celtic/pagan Lenormand deck...

The Lenormand system is already very nature-based, with cards for various animals and plants, as well as tools and elements that fit easily with pagan concepts, and so it wasn’t a huge leap to envision a pagan-themed deck.  Once I had the first idea, the rest of it came together pretty quickly in my mind.  I created “briefs” for all the cards, describing what I imagined the card would look like, and what elements I wanted in them.

As for working with Will, I had long had the idea that if I ever created a deck, his art would be my first choice.  Actually approaching him, though, was terrifying.  I decided to ask Alison Cross how to contact him, as she has known Will for years, being his web person.  She just forwarded my email straight to him, which at least stopped me agonising about it for ages.

And why Lenormand?

Part of the answer is just that I got inspired.  I’d been reading with Lenormands (well, originally with Titania’s Fortune Cards) since 2007.  I love the semantic approach these decks encourage, being a bit of a linguist (I speak four languages fluently, another to upper intermediate level, as well as having a smattering of a further five).  As the Lenormand craze took off, I had a sudden inspiration - why not a pagan-themed Lenormand?  It seemed to me to be a perfect fit, as there are already so many nature-based cards in the deck.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
And what’s it like working with Will? How do you convey your ideas to him, and do you give him free reign with the images?

Working with Will is absolutely great.  He’s a real professional, with an eye for detail, as well as being a wonderful artist.  As for conveying my ideas to him, I sent him “briefs” at the outset, which included both a written description of what I wanted in the card, as well as images taken from the internet to give a more visual idea of colours and perspectives.  I know some authors send sketches, and I did send Will two where he had remaining questions, but overall my drawing skills aren’t up to showing what I was looking for! 

After that, he sent me back “rough” (his word, not mine) black and white sketches to check whether he’d understood what I was looking for.  In most cases I just emailed him back saying “Perfect!”  A few times I asked him to alter something, and sometimes he queried some detail, and we negotiated how to best express the idea within what he knew to be possible artistically.  That kind of back and forth has definitely improved the cards, and I’m very grateful to him for it.

Now, this Lenormand is set in Brittany…why not the UK, what’s special about Brittany?

Well, there’s nothing particularly special about Brittany, per se.  However, I wanted a Celtic theme, and also to be true to the “theoretical” French heritage of the Lenormand.  So, as one of the six remaining Celtic nations, Brittany seemed the natural choice.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
And why have you strayed from the 36-card form of the Lenormand to add new cards.

While I agree that extra cards aren’t necessary, I have long been a fan of them, both in tarot and Lenormand decks.  With Lenormands, in particular, I honour the idea that many people don’t want additional cards changing the structure of the deck, which is why I created extra cards that can be substituted for each other.  So, for example, there are three Birds cards, two Snake cards, and so on.  You can read with all of the extra cards, as they are clearly different from each other - Songbirds, Owls etc - or you can choose which card you prefer, and the numbering will remain traditional - all the Birds are still numbered 12. 

Can you tell us a little about the extra cards and how they fit into the deck?

Well, there are extra people cards, so you can choose if you chime more with one version of a particular person or another, or include several depending on your question.  There are also two extra Bird cards, an extra Snake card, and a Cat card!  These extra cards express ideas which felt important to me, and they seemed to fit well with the deck’s theme.  As I said above, you can include any or all of them in your readings, or pick which one you prefer and stick with traditional Lenormand numbering.  I always want to give people choices, rather than imposing my own ideas.

So far the images I’ve seen have been beautiful black and white sketches. Were you ever tempted to keep them as black and white?

Not really.  When I originally negotiated with Will, it was always our intention for the cards to be in colour, and having seen quite a few of the colour images now, I don’t think people will be disappointed!  I admit I was surprised by the power of some of the black-and-white images, but it would have been incredibly complicated to re-negotiate with Will, as well as interfering with my contract with US Games.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
I think my favourite card so far is the Choices card…do you have a favourite so far?

Funnily enough, in sketch form I had to ask Will to re-do the Owls card, as his first draft really didn’t chime with me.  He then sent me a very rough sketch of his second idea (far less detailed than the images I posted on-line), and I decided to just trust him on it.  When the final painting came through a little while ago, it was one of the most beautiful cards I’ve yet seen, which is saying something!  Still, as we’re only up to 12, I may yet change my favourite...

Now, the Lenormand has become fashionable in the last year or so, what advice would you give to someone who has never used them?

Start out by creating a set of keywords that make sense to you for each card.  It’s best to base that on some of the standard interpretations, rather than just going anywhere you like with it, but the keywords do have to make sense to you personally.  I like understanding the history of the images, as that often helps explain why the traditional keywords exist. 

Ultimately, this is just another tool to tap into your intuition.  It connects more with the semantic brain than the symbolic brain, which allows a different perspective to tarot.  Intuition is still vital, though!

There are also lots of good resources out there, especially on the internet.  And soon there should be more books in English for those wanting to study the cards.  Or if you can read German there is a wealth of material already available ;)

These days social media is incredibly important for getting your vision out there. You have a fb page and a blog page, are you finding these a good way to communicate with the community? What has the feedback been like so far?

Most of the feedback has been very positive, and both pages continue to garner new likes, though I’m not very active on them.  Since signing with US Games, I feel less pressure to publicise the deck myself, and that’s a relief in many ways.  I’d rather spend my time writing the companion book than doing marketing.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
So who is publishing the deck, and were there any discussions as to whether you should self-publish.

I definitely considered self-publishing!  However, in the end the deck will be published by US Games.  Although it will take longer to come out, I decided that their distribution network and experience in card printing and creating quality products outweighed that.  I was also glad not to have to do the marketing myself, nor struggle to find a decent way to self-publish - some indie authors have had very disappointing experiences with printers and so on.

Will there be a guide-book with the deck?

I certainly hope so, I’m writing one, anyway!  And given that there are 9 additional cards, Wheel of the Year timings, moon phases and other pagan elements incorporated into how the cards can be read (although none of this detracts from it being read as a standard Lenormand), I think the explanations would be helpful.

And when is the deck due to be available.

That is in the hands of US Games, now.  I’ll be providing the completed card images and accompanying text by August at the latest.  However, the editing and so forth will take a while, so I’m guessing some time in 2014.

Finally Chloë, thanks talking to us…is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for the opportunity, Sara.  It’s been, and continues to be, an amazing journey creating this deck.  So I guess I’d just say, if anyone has an idea, they should go for their vision and try to make it a reality!

Thank you!