“Gypsy Fortunes is an introduction to tarot reading using 36 gypsy fortune-telling cards instead of the traditional 78-card deck…The cards have simple and beautiful designs and each one is a powerful talisman of knowledge, and a key to wisdom.” – From the companion book
According to author Lady Lorelei, the design of old gypsy catomancy decks can be traced to Marie Anne Le Normand, who famously predicted life events for Josephine Beauharnais. Young Josephine was a widow, but Le Normand foretold that she would marry a soldier who would later crown her Empress. Le Normand not only accurately predicted the marriage of Josephine and Napoleon, but also read the Emperor’s palm—and his near future—with deft precision.
In 1940, Whitman publishers produced a 36-card deck called the Old Gypsy Fortune-Telling Cards, which were very similar to the images from Le Normand’s deck. The Gypsy Fortunes deck simplifies the imagery with updated art, but the general motifs remain the same. Like the Wisdom Well archetype set by the same publisher (Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.), Gypsy Fortunes features a unique hardback slipcase. The set contains a glossy, full-color book of 96-pages glued to one side of the sturdy flap, while the boxed 36-card deck is nestled in a recess. A yellow ribbon anchored underneath the box of cards allows for easy extraction.
Lady Lorelei provides general background on the gypsies, including the unfortunate history of discrimination against them, as well as the cards themselves. She also outlines how to prepare for a reading and offers both sample readings and spreads.
Each card gets a thorough treatment in the Gypsy Fortunes set: a large, full-color reproduction of the card, detailed symbolism, upright and reversed meanings, and keywords. Lady Lorelei also connects each card with a Tarot card/s or suit and includes a sage Gypsy saying connected to theme. For example, for Card 23 The Mice—a card warning of theft of either material or immaterial items—the Gypsy Wisdom is “A thief believes that everybody steals.”
• The Sun
• The House
• The Sick Person
• The Scythe
• The Children
• The Letter
• The Cats
• The Broken Mirror
• The Heart
• The Train
• The Safe
Some cards in this deck bear direct correlations with the Tarot, such as The Lightning card with The Tower and The Cupid with The Lovers. Others, such as The Pig’s connection with The World card or The Clouds with the 7 of Cups, are more oblique.
When I saw the Gypsy Fortunes in the store, I was immediately captivated. The everyday images seemed enigmatic and inviting. What could a flaming hearth mean? What about a train headed in the viewer’s direction? The woman on The Letter—why has the envelope fallen to the floor…and what might the letter reveal?
Certainly, such familiar images beg for interpretation—especially without a context. As such, the Gypsy Fortunes would be an excellent set of cards for contemplative journaling, solution generation, creative writing and oracular insights.
Several personal readings proved eerily accurate and synchronistic, while a few seemed not to apply to anything in my life at the time—so the deck seems hit or miss for me. Granted, I didn’t keep track of the reading to see if perhaps they would make sense in hindsight...
If you’re looking for an unusual but accessible oracle—especially one that can be used in conjunction with a regular Tarot deck—the Gypsy Fortunes would serve admirably. The presentation is lovely, the construction sturdy, and the ways to use the deck virtually inexhaustible.
Below are 10 images from this deck:
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