The Cartomancer: K. Frank Jensen

The Cartomancer: K. Frank Jensen September 14, 2016
K. Frank Jensen (Photo: Eric Fransen)
K. Frank Jensen (Photo: Eric Fransen)

Exactly a week ago the world of Tarot lost a grand magus and man of cards, legendary collector and historian, K. Frank Jensen. His legendary status can be traced in all the most important reference books, from Michael Dummett to Stuart Kaplan.

Frank Jensen was not only known for his vast collection of cards – 98 percent complete within 20th c. Tarot – rare and unique decks, tarot and divination related artifacts, books and grimoirs from the 1500 and onwards, but he was also known for his historical writings and encyclopaedic knowledge.

About three years ago he donated the whole collection to Roskilde University. I have the pleasure of sitting on the board of directors and act as president.

K. Frank Jensen at the event organized by Roskilde University Library for 15 diplomats in Copenhagen (Photo: Manna Hojda)
K. Frank Jensen at the event organized by Roskilde University Library for 15 diplomats in Copenhagen (Photo: Manna Hojda)

But Jensen was not only a man of cards, and a notoriously fair man where divination history is concerned – fair in the sense that he never talked any nonsense in an area that’s often informed by legends and fictions.

He was my best friend. As such, and along his most magical and gracious wife, artist Witta Kiessling Jensen, he acted as a great host, mentor, storyteller, and enchanter.

Camelia Elias and K. Frank Jensen (Photo: Bent Sørensen)
Camelia Elias and K. Frank Jensen (Photo: Bent Sørensen)

After every visit to his house, a house that I came to think of as a House of Spirits, as it was filled with old books and cards, masks from all traditions, and most mystical objects from East to West, I would come home and experience an outpouring of resources into the magical whirlpool.

K. Frank Jensen and Frigg (Photo: Camelia Elias)
K. Frank Jensen and Frigg (Photo: Camelia Elias)

Frank would pick the most exquisite wine and cards to look at, and after all the stories I would rush home to google and splurge on eBay or other auction houses. Frank made me covet things in a most shameless way, and that in spite of our shared interest in all things Buddha and detachment.

I simply had to attach myself to all the rare cards that I could get my hands on. Frank would laugh, of course, wishing me good luck with hunting. The things he would refer to were either completely unique, long gone, or too expensive. I would insist though. And when I would succeed, I usually hurried to tell the rest of the world through the social media that such and such could still be gotten.

Yes, I learnt temptation from Frank. The Buddha on his coffee table he was leaning on every time he had to get up from his chair would send us a smile. In fact, that Buddha made me acquire some antique Buddha heads and statues of my own, to Frank’s own surprise.

K. Frank Jensen and Camelia Elias (Photo: Bent Sørensen)
K. Frank Jensen and Camelia Elias (Photo: Bent Sørensen)

He would ask: ‘You did what? Got another Buddha head? Be careful,’ he would say, ‘you’re becoming a collector, and that’s a very bad idea.’ I would assure him that 8 Buddhas on my table are hardly ever a collection.

Same thing with the cards I would acquire the same way, and because of his influence. I would tell Frank that I’m safe. I’m safe because I don’t have a registering system, and that whenever people asked me: ‘how many decks do you have’, I would answer: ‘I have no idea, anything between 300 and 600.’

Not knowing how many decks of cards you have in your house is unthinkable for a collector. So I would assure Frank that as long as my cards were all over the place, in the living room, the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom, behind and on top of tables, shelves, and beds, I was safe. Such disastrous chaos makes no collector.

When the university took over his generous gift, the head of the library had the insane idea to suggest that the cards be registered according to the library’s system. As the president of the collection and friend of Frank, I assured him that was a very bad idea. After some 6 months he came to the conclusion that no one on this planet can perform a better job at registering cards, telling a story along the way, and be meticulous to the bone as Frank was.

Witta, his wife, estimated that Frank must have invested 100.000 hours or more in his office, looking at the cards, investigating their origin, and appreciating their art form. The knowledge Frank acquired throughout the years is unique. No one knew more about cards, divination, and magical discourses from all traditions than Frank.

Witta Kiessling Jensen (Photo: Bent Sørensen)
Witta Kiessling Jensen (Photo: Bent Sørensen)

I’m not sure what we can do with such a loss, but one thing I can say for sure: His legacy is here with us, and I can only hope to be able to honor it to the best of my ability.

Most significantly, however, I’m convinced that radiant people such as Frank will keep on radiating. His generosity will keep illuminating us all, as we still have access to his life work, writings, and memories. This is the greatest gift of all.

K. Frank Jensen and Camelia Elias in the company of dead Tibetan monks, their skulls, and their sacred objects.
K. Frank Jensen and Camelia Elias in the company of dead Tibetan monks, their skulls, and their sacred objects.

Frank will be buried on Friday, September 16, 3 PM at Østre Kirkegård in Roskilde, Denmark. The full moon will preside, and so will his spirit.

His website created with Arnel Ando is still up and running, and worth a visit.

Roskilde University Library is not quite done with cataloging and digitalizing some of the material, but one can keep an eye on what events and activities will occur at their website dedicated to Frank’s collection.


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