“This is a tarot that answers back, for when you state the issue that has set you on your quest, the card will question you in turn. Find the oracle within yourself: if you were standing in this card, in this scene, what would you say or realize?” – From the companion book
Renowned experts in Celtic, Arthurian and shamanistic spirituality, Caitlín and John Matthews have reinvented their Hallowquest Tarot for its third incarnation: The Arthurian Tarot (2007 Connections Publishing). While this new offering still features the lovely artwork of Miranda Gray, the black borders surrounding the images are now white with two golden Celtic accents in the upper corners and the font has changed to a more readable script.
There’s a completely new backing for these glossy, sturdy cards (measuring 4 5/8 x 2 ¾ inches) — a golden Celtic knot mandala centered on a bright kelly green background. The 80-page companion booklet has been re-written, providing upright and reversed meanings, oracular “advice” from each card, and contemplative questions. There are four rather complex spreads presented, none under 10 cards, with a sample reading given for the Pathways of the Quest spread (however, all cards are upright).
With the quest for the Hallows, or “holy things”, as their inspiration, the authors maintain that these enduring treasures from Britain need not be relegated to museum artifacts, but are actual spiritual empowerments that align us to our soul’s vocation. The Hallows cannot be destroyed by time, they say, and are accessible to all seekers who desire to walk in compassion, truth, courage and wisdom.
In The Arthurian Tarot, the sacred Hallows are represented by the Aces and the elements represented in the Minor Arcana follow Earth=Stones, Fire=Spears, Air=Swords and Water=Grails. The Court Cards are Maiden, Knight, Queen and King and the Major Arcana are re-named thusly:
0 The Seeker (The Fool)
I Merlin (The Magician)
II The Lady of the Lake (The High Priestess)
III Guinevere (The Empress)
IV Arthur (The Emperor)
V Taliesin (The Hierophant)
VI The White Hart (The Lovers)
VII Prydwen (The Chariot)
VIII Gawain (Strength)
IX The Grail Hermit (The Hermit)
X The Round Table (The Wheel of Fortune)
XI Sovereignty (Justice)
XII The Wounded King (The Hanged Man)
XIII The Washer at the Ford (Death)
XIV The Cauldron (Temperance)
XV The Green Knight (The Devil)
XVI The Spiral Tower (The Tower)
XVII The Star
XVIII The Moon
XIX The Sun
XX The Sleeping Lord (The Last Judgment)
XXI The Flowering of Logres (The World)
In many ways, The Arthurian Tarot feels more like an oracle deck than a Tarot deck, especially with the absence of humans in the illustrated Minors. These inviting, and sometimes mysterious, scenes encourage entrance as through a door—asking you to feel your way through atmosphere and mood, dialoguing with the Infinite expressed both in nature and from within. Because it is thematic and profoundly intuitive, The Arthurian Tarot may not be a good beginner’s deck for those who are completely new to Tarot and desire to learn the cards. However, those on a shamanic path, especially a Druidic or Celtic one, could very well use it with ease as an oracle.
While this deck is absent of any nudity, there are some gruesome image—so keep this in mind if you’re looking to acquire a deck, or read for, a young person. For example, the Stone Maiden bears the severed head of Perceval’s cousin on a platter, while the Sword Nine card shows three heads impaled on a fence. (At first glance, I thought it depicted three men peering OVER the fence!)
I’ve received some profound insights from the images in this deck (especially the Sword Two reversed) which have little to do with traditional meanings. One of my favorite cards is Merlin (The Magician), which shows the great wizard seated at a stone table before two paths, one leading to the tower of Vortigern and the other to his otherworldly dwelling with red and white dragons form the infinity symbol above Merlin’s head.
The Arthurian Tarot would be a great deck for journaling and contemplation, as well as for deepening spiritual practice, honing intuition, and expanding card interpretations. If you’re captivated by Arthurian legend and Celtic lore, I feel you’ll be delighted with this updated version of the Matthews’ beloved deck.
Below are 10 images from this deck:
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