Zener Cards header by Simon Scott

Zener Cards by Pierluca Zizzi Zener Cards, by Pierluca Zizzi
Lo Scarabeo, 9788865274422, 25 cards, 127 pp., 2016

Zener cards have a solid place in popular culture, they’re featured in many movies and books that tell stories of the paranormal. Still, I had never laid my hands on these cards meant to test for ESP and clairvoyance before. The Zener Cards from Lo Scarabeo are a fun, well-made deck.

The kit comes with 25, five of each type. Each card features a black shape — either a circle, wave, star, square, or cross — against a plain white background. There is also a handbook included for use that comes in five different languages.

Most of the book is simply the translations, as there is not much information needed for the use of this deck. It goes over a brief history of the cards, that they were created in the 1930s by Karl Zener to test for mental or psychic powers. Other than that, there’s a brief introduction to how they are supposed to be used and some variations on the “game.”

The cards themselves are very well made. They are durable, plastic-coated card stock. The back is an attractive geometric design. They are the size of typical oracle cards — larger than tarot or playing cards — which makes them a bit tricky for those of us with small hands to shuffle, but not impossible once you get the hang of it.

Using these cards was very simple. The game or test is performed with two people. One holds up the card, and the other person tries to name which card they are holding. Take a few moments, and then name your answer.

Despite its simplicity, this was surprisingly difficult! It’s theoretically possible to count the cards but with such a small deck and the swiftness of it, you would have to be a lightning fast card counter. Having five instead of four suits throws off the interior guessing mechanics of a typical deck of playing cards. In fact, during my test, the person who was helping me completely forgot there was a fifth suit and never once named crosses as their pick.

These cards were very fun to use with another person, but they became more of a game and less of a test. The cards are so simple in structure, they are accessible to a variety of people across the age spectrum.

Despite the fun we had with them, there is a scoring system. Anything above five is a good reading, between 11 to 18 shows some ability, and above that is extraordinary. The book includes instructions on how to handle people who give many correct answers, but also warns that they may just be cheating.

Although these are meant to be used with a second person, it is possible to use them to work on your own psychic powers by putting them in an envelope and picking them, if you are honest. Still, they have limited use to those who are not interested in clairvoyance and would likely be considered little more than a novelty investment.

Overall, these are well-made cards; I would love if some of my tarot decks came in this quality! They are easy to use and provide some enjoyment. For those who are interested in ESP or clairvoyance these Zener Cards are an excellent deck to test with, but for all others they are just a fun pastime once in a while.

Image Credit: Simon Scott