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 ChloĆ«, 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!

Sunday, 7 April 2013


©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
In a previous post, I talked about the two different Woman/Lady cards that are to be found in the Celtic Lenormand deck.  The same is true for the Man/Lord cards, which likewise can be used for same sex readings, or to give the querent a choice of which card resonates more with them.  They can also be read somewhat differently: what associations do you have to an opulently dressed warlord, as opposed to a gentle-looking man carrying a farm tool?

Having asked for the Lord and Lady/Man and Woman to be painted as though looking at one another across the doorways of their respective homes, one of the delightful touches which Will Worthington came up with was to actually paint each couple as a single image!  So, when placed together (and I'm hoping the deck will be printed borderless), it will be obvious that the two are in the same place, that they are two halves of a whole.  Whether that is taken in terms of a relationship, or in terms of the masculine and feminine sides of our personality will depend on the reading.  And of course, the cards could still fall so that they are back to back... 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
The directionality of the cards is an interesting question in the world of Lenormand.  Different people give importance to the directionality of some cards, but not of others.  For example, while the system I follow gives importance to which way the blade of the Scythe is pointing, it doesn't examine which way the Rider is looking, just the position of the card in relation to the question.  Some people interpret the direction in which the Court cards face in the playing card inserts, while others ignore it, and many decks don't have playing card inserts, nor any reference to them at all.  The Celtic Lenormand will be a halfway house between those two approaches to the Court cards, but that's a story for another day...