If you’ve been following me on Facebook or other social media in the past half a year or so, you know that I’ve been somewhat obsessed with the Deste. Besides the lovely aesthetic of the cards, the individualist (or the masochist) in me is impulsively drawn to things that are hard to come by. And the Deste is a pack that is not only hard to find, but it’s also difficult to learn to read — unless you’re fluent in Greek or Turkish, of course!
I first saw the cards on Chris’s YouTube channel. Chris is a young man from Greece, who often records cartomancy-related videos in English. And in one of Chris’ videos dealing with his fortunetelling collection he revealed the Deste — an oriental-looking (for a lack of better words) system of divination composed of suites / elements, courts, and ‘core’ cards that resemble the Lenormand. The deck also includes four Horses, four Djans (magical spirits and advisors), and two matriarchal divinities representing the polarity of good and evil. Attart (also Attartee) is the energy of “light”, while Valide (Valinde) is the bringer of misfortune and doom. The pack totals 65 cards.
This deck was created by Mara Meimaridi, who is a published Greek author and a hereditary psychic. Meimaridi claims to be a reincarnation of her great aunt, Katina, a powerful witch from the Greek town of Smyrna. Rising up from tragically humble beginnings, just like the famed Voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, of New Orleans, Katina became a force of magical influence in her own town. Guided by a pack of very special cards, the sorceress knew what spells to perform and what potions to use get all she desired. Can you guess what cards Katina had used? You’re right, the Deste!
One day, while staying in the house of her late great aunt, Katina, Mara Meimaridi had multiple revelations that led her to locate Katina’s hidden deck. Meimaridi knew how to lay and read these cards. What followed is numerous books chronicling the life and times of Katina, including a cosmology of Attart, Valinde, and other mystical forces influencing our world. In addition, Meimaridi owns a pricy cosmetic line attributed to Katina’s knowledge of magical herbology, while ruling a psychic empire of books, cards, and more recently a Deste-style Quija board. Katina’s adventures captured the Greek audiences so much, that a soapy TV show was produces about the witches of Smyrna.
Interestingly, the design of the Deste does not resemble Katina’s original pack. Claiming the cards to be too fragile, Meimaridi composed the aesthetic of her deck by using snippets taken from original, antique oriental art. The author published two versions of the deck: the Greek, which is more liberal looking; followed by a flimsily modest, Turkish edition.
After seeing Chris’ initial video about this pack, I spent many hours online hunting for the cards. Eventually I found a Turkish website that sold them. The cards arrived to the western suburbs of Chicago almost two months post ordering. However my excitement of finally having a copy of the Deste quickly turned into frustration. It all boiled down to being incapable to learn using the system because I don’t speak or read Turkish. And apparently Google translate doesn’t either because after typing in whole passages from the accompanying book, all I got was gibberish!
“How am I supposed to learn to read with these cards if I’m having a hard time translating their damn titles?”
My salvation came in the form of a Facebook Group, founded by Maree Bento, the creator of the Antiquarian Lenormand. Luckily for all of us, Dimitra, of Greek Tarot, who is also a professional translator with a perfect knowledge of the English language, also joined the group early on.
Dimitra has made a generous series of tutorials about the cards. She shared not only the meanings and the reading techniques, but also the back-stories underlying this particular method of divination. I must say that I absolutely adore Dimitra. Besides being a talented and knowledgeable reader, she is cool lady with a Mediterranean sense of humor — something I miss so much in my Midwestern hood. I am thrilled that she has recently agreed to formally teach the Deste. Dimitra’s seminars are accessible internationally. For more information please visit her website.
In the group Dimitra shared invaluable tips, like card combos and keys to understanding the complicated court cards reflective of politics of the harem structure during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Other group members also helped tremendously by compiling and editing on card definitions, drawing from various sources like Chris’ videos, Dimitra’s translations, and the English definitions randomized by the card drawing application on Meimaridi’s site.
Even though a lot of the core cards resemble the Lenormand, it is a completely separate system and it would be a mistake trying to read these based on Lenormand theory. For instance, though there are cards with similar titles, like Child and Tower, many of these cards’ meanings critically differ from what we’re used to in Lenormand. For example, the upright meaning of the Clouds card is actually very positive — something along the lines of “the clouds are clearing above your head after a period of dark storms.” Additionally, the core division of the pack includes additional cards that the Lenormand doesn’t; like Camel, Nile, and the East Wind. It’s also important to note that Deste is read both, upright and reversed. It even has its own, unique method of shuffling and a special way of question-framing.
One of the things I particularly enjoy about the Deste is that it was made for spellwork. Both, single cards and card combinations can be applied for magical purposes. Here’s an example of a small beauty ritual I came up with using the cards.
Finally, I find this deck to be people-oriented, as opposed to the Lenormand that, in my opinion, is more event-based oracle. It’s not recommended to use the Deste for day-to-day readings (even though I do that all the time), but to keep its advice for more weighty concerns. Also, Fridays are considered a traditional day for Deste divination.
Tomorrow, November 24th, 2013, I’ll be a guest reader on the Lucky Mojo Rootwork Hour along with Miss cat yronwode and Conjureman Ali. If you have a chance, please tune in. The show is always a lot of fun. And who knows… I might even pull a few Deste cards ;-)