Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards were an spinoff to Lenormand cards.
If you are a fan of Lenormand cards, you might be surprised to find that you can easily read the cards inside that little orange and black box called The Gypsy Witches deck. It was the Chicago-based company, Frederick J. Drake & Co., that began publishing the Mlle. Le Normand’s Gypsy Witches Fortune Telling Cards back in 1894. It was a 52 card deck that was based on a 48 card interpretation of Lenormand cards by Berlin designer Danner G. Mühlhausen, who had taken the liberty of adding 12 additional cards to the traditional 36-card Lenormand deck. So, by the time the Gypsy Witches Fortune Telling cards hit the market, the number of cards found in a standard Lenormand deck had increased, in total, by 16 cards. This was mainly done to accommodate the playing card associations and, during the redesign, most of the meanings of the cards were changed or switched around. While the cards found a home at many other publishing houses over the years, today, they are printed and distributed by USGames.
But, their origins go even further back than this. If the Gypsy Witch were based on Lenormand cards, then where did Lenormand cards come from? While little is known about them, it is believed that Lenormands were based on Sybilla cards. A French publisher by the name of Grimaud commissioned the French artist Grandville to create the cards known as “Sibylle des Salons” as far back as 1840. Their inspiration was based on Austrian fortune-telling and a combination of cards used there. Lenormand cards weren’t published as “Lenormand cards” until Mll. Marie Lenormand became famous for her accurate fortune-tellings. It was then that they received their proper name as publishers sought to piggyback onto her reputation to make sales.
I recently acquired a 1922 advertisement for the Gypsy Witch’s Fortune Telling cards. You will see that the description mentions there are “53 cards of excellent quality.” This is because the Joker card was also added to the deck back in 1894.
From Sibilla to Lenormand, then on to become the Gypsy Witch cards, this deck has origins going back over 200 years. So, as you can see, this simple little deck you find so inexpensively in new age shops has a long history and probably deserve more respect than they are given. If you decide to read with them, know that you hold a lot of history in your hands.