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Rolla Nordic

Rolla Noric (Muriel Berulfsen) Photograph courtesy of Adam West-Watson
Rolla Noric (Muriel Berulfsen) Photograph courtesy of Adam West-Watson

Rolla Nordic was a pseudonym of Murielle Doris Berulfsen (née Baker), (2 Dec 1898 – 14 Sep 1995)1 2 3

Nordic was an accomplished author, teacher, a designer of tarot cards, practitioner of divination by several means, including rune stones as well as Tarot; and under the Craft Name of Lady Boadicea, she was also a well-known Elder in the New York Pagan Community during the 1960s-1990s.4 

She likely was a student of Frank Lind, or at least was familiar with his work on Tarot, as her book “Tarot Shows the Way” echoes the closing line “The Tarot points the way.” of one of Linds books. She had traveled widely and amassed a large collection of Tarot and other decks.

Her Tarot deck and its accompanying book, The Tarot Shows the Path, (with original illustrations by Paul Mathison) were first published by Regency Press, London in 1960, and then later by Esoteric Publications, Phoenix AZ. Regency Press was a ‘vanity publisher’ (the authors paid all the costs of printing and publication themselves) which specialised in esoteric and occult subjects, and may have been connected to a magickal collective known as ‘The Regency’ in England in the 1960s.  Both book and deck were reprinted in the 1980s and 90s by Weiser and US Games. The Tarot Shows the Path (London & Phoenix 1960 & New York 1990) notes that although her permanent home was in London, she conducted classes in New York, and throughout the United States and Canada, as well as her appearances on television.

It should be noted that she was using rune stones in 1960 as a form of divination, long before Ralph Blum wrote “the first book on runic divination”, in 1982.

The Tarot Shows the Path was accompanied by a new Tarot deck, with artwork produced by Paul Mathison in black and white so that the owner might colour the cards by hand (a coloring guide is included) to complement their learning process and enhance the very personal relationship of the tarot reader and the deck. The Major Arcana mostly follows the Tarot de Marseille tarot but shows some details borrowed from Waite-Smith deck, yet there are some significant differences as well.

The card most often called the Fool in modern decks, is herein named The Magus, and is not numbered, although the remaining Trumps are. Other changes are as follows:

  • The Juggler = The Magician
  • Wheel of Life = Wheel of Fortune
  • The Enchantress = Strength (XI)
  • The Reaper = Death
  • The Black Magician = The Devil
  • The World Magus = The World, as noted above,
  • The Magus = The Fool

She was also one of the early claimants to come from a Hereditary Witchcraft family, claiming to have been initiated into a coven  by her grandmother.5 She later went on to form a coven that allegedly met in a cathedral during the Second World War, and also stated that;

During the [Second World] war there two hundred of us [Witches] and we met every Tuesday in a certain place in London, and always sat at the same place and we sent colour rays to where was the worst fighting. And we could see by the newspapers it would slacken off.’6 7

She stated that she had studied with “the best Ceremonial Magician in London”, the ‘Witch of St Giles’, Madeline Montalban (aka Dolores North) and also to have met Gerald Gardner.8

During an interview on with Geraldo Rivera, she commented “When the psychiatrists can’t deal with anybody any more they send them to me. Knowing about your previous lives helps you understand certain fears about this one. It’s a carry-over from the past, and once you understand it, you can let it go. New York is becoming a city of psychics, when I first came here in the 1950s people said not to mention Tarot or I’d be put in jail.”

In 2008 Mrs J Sparke donated to The British Museum a pack of 1909 BP Grimaud ‘Grand Jeu de Mlle Le Normand‘ which was from “Her aunt Muriel Berulfsen’s playing card collection”.

PUBLISHED WORKS

  • ‘The Adventures of Saymi’ by Jennie Callahan & Muriel Doris Berulfsen, (1956)
  • The Tarot Shows the Path by Rolla Nordic: Originally published Regency Press, England 1960; United States Games Systems (July 1990) 0939708256 (ISBN-13: 978-0939708253)
  • Rolla Nordic Tarot Deck by Rolla Nordic: art designed by Paul Mathison, several editions from 1960 onwards; U.S. Games Systems; Gmc Crds edition (September 1997) 0913866385 (978-0913866382)
  • The Rune Stones In The Witch’s Pouch by Rolla Nordic & Frank Andrews (pseudonyms of Muriel Berulfsen & Frank A Iacuzzo): Rolla Nordic & Frank Andrews 22 Jul 71 A265043
  • Let’s Talk about the Tarot: A Tarot Story for Children and the Young at Heart by Rolla Nordic: Vantage Pr; 1st edition (May 1992) 0533096863 (ISBN-13: 978-0533096862)

Notes

  1. Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration
  2. The Goddess In the USA/The Pentacle and the Wand. – sound recording reviews “And both may seven-year-old daughter and I were captivated by Rolla Nordic, a 92-year-old British witch, who was initiated into Celtic traditions by her own grandmother.”
  3. Elf M. Sternberg – The Burien Strawberry Festival “The late Rolla Nordic, a British “traditional” Witch who lived in New York City, and did a lot of work with Tarot and runes, was once a guest on a Halloween TV special with Geraldo Rivera.”
  4. A Geographic Roster of Past and Present Covens, Groves, Neopagan Associations, Journals, and Other Public Evidence of Craft Activity (privately published)
  5. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1510/is_n74/ai_11906192
  6. Interview in Enchanté magazine
  7. Howard, Mike. “Gerald Gardner: The Man, the Myth & the Magick” in The Cauldron magazine. 1997
  8. Howard, Mike. “Gerald Gardner: The Man, the Myth & the Magick” in The Cauldron magazine. 1997

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