An Ukiyo-e Lenormand by Robert M. Place is beautiful. It comes in a red cloth two part box that slides out, with arched grooves on both of the boxes for easy access. This is the packaging that Robert Place looks to be implementing in all his new decks and I love it. As per Place himself: “The box is based on an antique deck in my collection. It is a design that I have not seen being used for 100 years.” It keeps the deck neatly in place, provides a sturdy home for storing the deck, and also for carrying it around in a bag. The top box has two labels, one on each side.
The deck comes inside the inner box wrapped in a thin layer of plastic along with the small guidebook. The cards themselves are edged in gold, and their size is more square than rectangular, slightly larger than a regularly sized bridge or poker deck. Four by three inches to be exact. The cardstock is a silky smooth matte, and easy to shuffle. I should add that I’ve owned previous Robert Place decks in the past and in comparison, the cardstsock quality on this one is much improved.
The guidebook is small and brief, mostly including the same information already available on the cards themselves from Robert Place’s website, linked below. There are one or two paragraphs on the Lenormand in general, and a couple more on how to read the cards towards the end. What I liked about the guidebook, which can also found on the website, are the description of the cards. Although each is short in length, it addresses how he linked the traditional cards within Japanese culture, mythos, and the ukiyo-e aesthetic. There are tidbits from history and Japanese culture that I enjoyed as well.
“The name Ukiyo-e, meaning “floating world,” refers to the style of Japanese woodcuts and paintings made famous in the 19thcentury. The deck references Japanese art and culture, including Shinto deities (called kami), Buddhist bodhisattvas, and other mythic figures. At times, these references may modify the meaning of the card.”
Some of the traditional cards have been re-positioned through the Japanese cultural lens, and I love the added nuance this contributes. These cards add a rich texture of Japanese mythos. They are re-interpretations that offer different perspectives on the traditional card meanings, while remaining within the Lenormand world. It should be noted as well, that some of the cards are reworkings of Ukiyo-e prints from Place’s own collection.
Qualities of the cards include strong lines, a rich color palette, borderless cards, with a background the color of rice paper. The inserts are large and clear, and I find the courts to be surprisingly animated.
There are also sets of cards in no particular order, or grouping, from what I can see, which I find interesting because the coloration above or below lend themselves to an added subtlety of tone within a reading when looking at a tableau. Especially considering the interplay of color significations and their associated meanings. For example, and these are brief:
Bad words and malicious gossip eat away at the fecundity on offer throwing a cold pall over the gathering/party. (The green in the mice card that turns into the blue in the garden card, from fecund to stagnant.)
Or, looming difficulties cloud loyalty, dampening commitments. (Looking specifically at the grayish bottom of the mountain card and the bottom blue of the dog card.)
Overall, this deck is cohesive in presenting the art and culture it aims to explore, in keeping with the Lenormand frame. Robert M. Place has created a deck imbued with a deep appreciation and respect for Ukiyo-e art and the culture within which it arose. It is harmonious and elegant. A divinatory reading with the deck is clear and dynamic. To be frank, there is nothing I do not like about the deck, I bought it because of its beauty, and find myself reaching for it often because the readings are incisive and eloquent. Needless to say, I highly recommend this deck for Lenormand and cartomancy lovers alike, especially those that appreciate a different voice within the traditional Lenormand world.