grandmother’s divination cards

this day began with inappropriate snowing which then turned into a miserable raining which is now turning into sunshine, as I write this. What better day could there be to look at… my grandmother’s divination cards!

you’ll recognize some of the occult symbols!

I don’t know how they ended up in my possession. My grandmother has been dead for over 25 years — possibly one of the greatest losses of my life — and I know I didn’t obtain them then. Perhaps I got them after my grandfather died. I saved them because they’re funny, but also because I remember grandmother and I playing with them. For me, as a small child, it was a great game, an exciting story. I have a feeling that was what it was to her too, but I don’t know — and it’s too late to ask.

‘good company’ — the card in the middle — isn’t that the ethereal kiosk?

So, we did divination card stuff. We played on — what are they called, you fill in stuff on a paper, a special form of some kind, turn it in at the shop, and next week you know if you’ve lost or won. I never understood exactly how it worked — I still don’t –, but participated anyway. Grandfather smoked, and then smoked some more. They taught me good things. Actually, they did. Grandmother taught me to count, to knit, to sew, to weave… She was quite artistic and had great intuitions about colours. She had an amazing memory; could beat anyone in memory games. She also loved dogs, and was probably a caninosophist without knowing it. My grandfather, who was very old, taught me how to ride a bike.

I like how the cards are bilingual! I also enjoy the pictures.

these and the ‘picture’ ones are different sets, but I don’t know anything more about them.

on the backside of these cards is a swastika (an occult symbol too); they’re pre-WWII.


23 thoughts on “grandmother’s divination cards

  1. they belong there, don’t they? In fact, I think my grandmother belongs there too. She once saw a bear in a window on the 4th floor of an apartment building in Stockholm; didn’t I tell you? Turned out to be a clothes hanger, but anyway.

    I’ve been googling divination cards to find out what kind of cards these are — but it’s very difficult as they’re old and look nothing like the modern cards. Anyone knows?

  2. I’m not sure! When I googled, tarot cards seemed to be the big thing. But somehow the motives on the cards don’t really match the ones I have (it’s possible they have evolved, I suppose).

    I’m not even sure if there’s any connection between the ‘picture’ cards and the more ‘complicated’ cards with the symbols. Are they related or two completely different things? They’re different sets, but I’m not sure if what separates them is the visual or the content. In short, I don’t know anything!

  3. That’s a beautiful mystery! I don’t think they are tarot cards, but surely they would have been used in similar ways. Italo Calvino used tarot cards to create a novel, very interesting but not considered as one of his best: Could the cards with planets be theosophically inspired, or are they just astrologically inspired?

  4. my fascination with fin-de-siècle esoteric movements was what got me into this kiosk in the first place. However since I’m here now, and the baboon is offering me peanuts on a silver salver, I’d like to recommend a novel. It’s called Fou and it’s by Christopher Wilson.

    I can’t remember if the heroine dabbled in theosophy (I lent it to a man who didn’t give it back, for obvious reasons, if you read it). But it’s perfect reading sprawled on a velvet sofa under a chandelier, gobbling Viennese cakes and drinking Krug. Whilst being fanned by the wings of a bored archangel.

  5. Oh no, did the baboon get in here again! Well, as long as he doesn’t start to throw peanuts all over the place… (Btw, did you know I actually used to have a red velvet sofa before? I inherited it from my grandparents.)

    What a book cover!

    Clearly, this is reading for Rudi:

    ‘With a sharp-tongued, bitter-sweet nostalgia, from her attic in Islington, sustained by cognac and crisps, Liselotte Berg recounts her golden youth. Actress, sublime beauty, analysand of Freud and model for Kokoshka, Klimt, and Schiele, confidante of writers, kleptomaniac, drunk and multiple personality, her story is full of sharp wit and verve. What secret shame surrounds her cousin Felix’s nose? Whatever happened to her innocence? Why were her lovers so often named Carl or Gustav? Why did she spill mayonnaise on Franz Kafka’s manuscripts? Did she really help cause two world wars? Poignant, quirky and sparkling, ‘Fou’ is an erotic tragi-comedy and psychological mystery, set against the decadence, extravagance and perversity of ‘fin de siècle’ Vienna.’

  6. oh look, peanuts in my glass… but no idea where the baboon is. Never mind.

    This novel is about the only feasible manner of ‘losing’ and ‘finding’ yourself – there are gaps in Berg’s memory and odd things in the pockets of her dressing gown.

  7. Eerily similar to the ethereal kiosk — everyone has memory gaps! Even the baboon. Actually, the baboon is the worst.

    I bet I will have to spend tomorrow picking up peanuts from under the sofa cushions!

  8. I’d love to see more of these divination cards… why not post the set here or on flickr?

  9. I’ll consider it! There are quite a lot of them, and it was difficult to get more than 3 in one photo, which made the job — photgraphing and editing — a bit tedious, to be honest!

  10. Let me know if you do – these things should be preserved before they disappear… Very interesting combinations of symbols and sigils.

  11. What an interesting post! I’d love to reprint the whole series with the symbols. Alicia, do you think it might be too long for you to scan them in medium/high quality and post them all? I do want to understand where they come from. Thanks in advance,


  12. Sorry! Tee … Hee … Oh, the tears. i suppose it depends what sort of proof you want. Now, there’s a real decision.

    Wag tail.


  13. Denis — unfortunately I don’t own a scanner. I could take photos of them (like the ones I’ve posted above), but I’m up over my head right now! If I do, I’ll try to remember to notify you. I’m not sure how many cards there are in total, perhaps around 40.

  14. Ok, many thanks, in case I can retrace the images with Illustrator. Then I can send them to you if you want to make them downloadable from your site. Let me know! :)


Comments are closed.