Friday, July 27, 2012
Vendredi: A Divinatory Diversion
Now, a step away from Friday's usual dark stories of the Underworld; today we look at the left hand of Empress Josephine.
Napoleon's first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, was a great believer in divination. Even before accepting the crown of her husband's empire, she owned several one-of-a-kind tarot decks hand painted just for her. As Empress, she frequently consulted a then renowned but now shadowy mystic known as Mademoiselle Le Normand. In particular, Mademoiselle offered the Empress palm readings to help her in her day-to-day decision making as well as, one must imagine, her advice to the Emperor.
Le Normand kept notes and sketches of her readings for Josephine which she published in a memoir after Napoleon's fall. One of the most intriguing illustrations is a sketch of the Empress' delicate left hand complete with palmistry notes. The long fingers and slim palm, as well as the slender wrist, give a clear picture of a lady of breeding and life-long leisure, but Mademoiselle saw other things as well.
According to Le Normand, Josephine's over all outlook was amazing. She was blessed with what the psychic called "multifarious lines" pointing toward "boundless glory." Unfortunately, not all the news was good for the then Empress. She would know rejection and bitterness, Mademoiselle proclaimed, and find a "premature end."
Now, of course, all this sounds perfectly believable. Josephine is still celebrated as a lady of exquisite taste, a great beauty, a survivor and an influence in history. All the same, she was mortified to be set aside by the Emperor in favor of a younger, more fertile, Empress and some say this tragedy led to her early demise. What of all that, if any, Mademoiselle Le Normand actually saw in Josephine's palm remains an issue for debate.
Header: Main gauche de l'imperatrice Josephine from the Memoirs of Mademoiselle Le Normand via Look and Learn