Review by Bonnie Cehovet
This deck had my heart and soul from the very
beginning. The presentation of the book stopped me in
my tracks - it drew me
to paying attention to it before
I even looked at
the cards! The 143 page book is
hardcover - very
unusual for books that act as a
companion to a deck, the
pages are high quality glossy,
and there are numerous
scans of the cards, in differing
sizes - but all in
color. The sequence of presentation is
well thought out
and easy to assimilate - which is of
for those of us lacking a background
mythology, which is what this book is based on.
several layers of understanding within this
Matthews has based the "Celtic Wisdom
Tarot" on the oral
tradition of the "celtoi" (hidden
people) and the Celtic
belief that all things have soul.
The soul's path is
viewed through the 22 Wisdom
Cards (Major Arcana), which
depict the archetypes of
the Celtic Otherworld. The 56
minor arcana cards depict
the everyday aspects of our
The first layer of understanding for
this deck comes
through the use of Ogham trees -
following the tradition
that each species of tree has
wisdom of a specific
nature to impart to us. Each of the
carries the name and energy of a specific
The second layer of understanding comes through the
presentation of the "Seven Candles Of Life". Matthews
describes these as the qualities that form the foundation
of the "Celtic Wisdom Tarot", based on the bardic
(threefold sayings). The Soul (traditionally
Fool) is separated out, and cards I-XXII are
laid out in
three rows of seven cards each. The
specific qualities of
the cards are given as Will, Truth,
Lore, Devotion and Energy.
us to the third layer of understanding - the
Spiral, which represents the soul's journey
Each of the three rows of cards from the
Candles Of Life" represents one of the spirals.
I-VII are the First Spiral of Revelation (our
awakening to ancient wisdom), cards VIII-XIV
Second Spiral of Revelation (here we
learn to impliment
the wisdom of the Seven Candles -
indicates is largely done in dreamtime),
and cards XV-XXII,
the Third Spiral of Revelation (here
we mature our
wisdom until the soul is freed from the
Matthews states "After all three
spirals have been
experienced, the Soul (card 0)
continues its "tuirigini" or
"circuit of lives".
The deck itself is a fantastic example
of primitive, or
perhaps "fantasy" style art. The
cards are open - no
borders - and the colors are
vibrant. They are on high
quality, glossy card stock, 3
1/2" by 5 1/2" (a little
large for my hands, but well
worth the effort!). The
backs are an orange-yellow,
with an imprint of the
triple spiral theme. The Wisdom
Cards (major arcana)
are labeled at the bottom with the
card number and
the card title - which is basically a
description of its
archetypal function. The minor arcana
labeled at the bottom with their respective
title and suit.
The titles for the major arcana are as follows:
0 The Soul - The Fool
1 The Decider - The Magician
2 The Guardian - The High Priestess
3 The Shaper - The Empress
4 The Keeper - The Emperor
5 The Rememberer - The Hierophant
6 The Lover - The Lovers
7 The Mover - The Chariot
8 The Empowerer - Strength
9 The Counselor - The Hermit
10 The Spinner - The Wheel Of Fortune
11 The Balancer - Justice
12 The Dedicator - The Hanged Man
13 The Liberator - Death
14 The Mingler - Temperance
15 The Challanger - The Devil
16 The Changer - The Tower
17 The Dreamer - The Star
18 The Imaginer - The Moon
19 The Protector - The Sun
20 The Renewer - Judgment
21 The Perfector - The World
The suits for the minor arcana - Skill/Wands,
Battle/Swords and Knowledge/Pentacles - were
from an old Celtic text ("The Settling Of The
Tara"), which discusses the division of
number cards depict Celtic stories, and this
this deck has a bit of a problem. The
definitions for the
cards are rather along the traditional
(Waite) line, but
that is sometimes not evident from the
Each of the numbers is based on a
storytelling genre of
the "seanachies" (Celtic storytellers),
illustrated by Celtic myths and stories. The
(1) Auguries - Prophetic
encapsulations of the total of
(2) Dialogues - These affirm and balance the augury
revealing relationships and communications.
- These are an attempt to explore and
auguries. They indicate growth, expansion
(4) Judgments - These teach the essence of the
and indicate stabilization.
(5) Combats - Here we see the lessons that cause us
insecurities and necessitate attitude adjustments They
indicate change, friction and testing.
(6) Foundations - This is the
harmony of each suit,
indicating balance, sharing and
(7) Adventures - These are cards of exploration.
They represent the promotion of ambition and ideals.
(8) Elopements - Matthews terms this the realization
of what is lacking. They represent the struggle for assimilation and success.
(9) Revelations - This is the integration of the principle of each suit. It represents attainment and achievement.
(10) Quests - This is the culmination of all things. It represents endings and conclusions.
Each card in the deck has a page devoted to it, with a
full color photo, upright and reversed meanings, the
background of the story associated with each card, and
a paragraph called "Soul Wisdom", which gives a short
synopsis of the energy of t he card, and a question to
ask yourself in relation to how it works in your life (or
the life of the Seeker, if you are reading for someone
else). This last bit impressed me - very a la Mary Greer
in "Tarot For Yourself". Forming the right question
is the first step to seeing the right
Matthews gives a short discussion of how to treat the
cards, how to get ready for and perform a reading, and
what to expect from the cards. She has also included
several very in depth spreads at the end of the book.
The Three Illuminations Spread - used when issues
appear to be clouded.
The Soul-Protectors Spread - Used as a
daily reading when learning the cards.
The Five Streams Of The Senses Spread - Used for
perception into or clarification of issues.
The Co-Walkers Spread - This is basically a relationship spread.
The Weaver's Celtic Cross Spread - This is a basic Celtic
Cross Spread, but laid out in such a manner that when
the cards are flipped over, the pattern forms a Celtic
Cross (cards overlapped one on top of another).
The Seven Candles Of Life Spread - This is a majors only
spread, revealing hidden patterns and opportunities in
For those who wish to truly understand this deck, and
the Tarot in general, Matthews presents guidelines for a
year long study of the cards, in specific combinations
following the seasons.
The charts and graphics in this book make it an excellent
tool for personal or group study. The interaction
between the cards becomes a very visual thing - making
it very easy to place the wisdom into ones life.
I recommend this deck highly for those following Celtic
or shamanic paths, or for those following earth/nature
centered spiritual paths. I would not recommend this as
a beginners deck, as the symbols are specific to the Celtic
culture, and not reflective of traditional (i.e. Rider-Waite)
tradition. This deck has a myriad of gifts for those that
choose to place it on their path of study.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.