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A companion to the 5-cent tarot celebrating the principles of Phrenology.


Dating back to the 1700s and now classified as a defunct pseudoscience, Phrenology was the study of the shape of the skull as indicative of mental faculties and traits of character. Not only did Phrenology enjoy great popularity well into the 20th century, but also found a beloved place in the mysterious world of boardwalk Fortune Telling and divination.

Why Phrenology in an oracle deck?
Aside from rich visual appeal and the creator's fascination with the realm of vintage fortune telling, Phrenology offers a truly comprehensive division of mental faculties that align beautifully with an oracle system of guide words. With the Two Penny Oracle, the idea is to see these words as tools — not to measure our propensities — but rather to suggest what perspectives we may call upon for a given question or scenario.

Know Thyself and The significance of the Elephant
The Ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself" is one of the Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In Latin the phrase, "know thyself," is given as nosce te ipsum or temet nosce. Know Thyself has had a variety of meanings attributed to it in literature with roots in the works of Plato and Socrates.

Phrenology popularized the term as a way to promote the self-help aspect of the now pseudoscience. For the Two-Penny Oracle, the creator chose the elephant as a primary symbol for a very good reason. Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, joining only humans, apes and dolphins as animals that possess this kind of self-awareness. According to research this would seem to be a trait common to and independently evolved by animals with large, complex brains, complex social lives and known capacities for empathy and altruism, even though the animals all have very different kinds of brains.

Phrenology and Controversy
It is important to acknowledge one truly negative aspect of Phrenology that was misused in its brief history. Aside from ultimately being classified as quackery, the pseudoscience has also been criticized for promoting racial and other prejudices, aligning certain physical qualities with less desirable mental faculties and associating other physical qualities with success, intelligence and happiness. For obvious reasons, this aspect has no place in the world today.

However, defining a full spectrum of propensities has tremendous value in our own self-awareness, development and growth! So to be clear, this deck only uses Phrenology for its comprehensive list of faculties as a system of words and not a tool assigned to any measurement or physical qualities. Furthermore, this deck will follow suit from the 5-cent tarot, never depicting humans, and only representing animals, insects and florals.


  • 43 cards to represent the 43 propensities associated with Phrenology
  • The design system will complement the Victorian poster aesthetics of the 5-cent Tarot – antique engravings, subtle color, vintage typography
  • Premium 350 gsm with a linen finish and superior shufflability, similar to a bicycle deck
  • 2 color options: Pumice with Matte Copper Edges or Graphite Gray with Matte Graphite Edges
  • 2 shape options: Rectangular (standard tarot size) or Round
  • Each deck will include a matching custom designed pouch in a choice of Pumice or Graphite

Two-Penny Oracle (2 Colors & Shapes Options)

  • Meet the Creator, Madam Clara

    Our mysterious creator made up the Madam Clara character as part of a year-long project leading up to the Salem Witches Ball on Halloween, having always been fascinated with the dark and mysterious world of antique carnival and circus imagery. Madam Clara is an experiential "costume" that was based on a vintage penny arcade fortune teller (the old lady in the glass box), dispensing single fortune cards to bring the experience full circle.

    Under Madam Clara, 3 tarot decks were created: The Madam Clara Sees All Fortune Teller Tarot (the original deck), The Midcenturian Tarot, and The 5-Cent Tarot.