The Irony of Fate

In researching the Arthurian Tarot before I purchased it, the only information I had come across was that the deck existed. As my original post indicates, this blog was to serve as the jumping-off point for putting together material for a book similar to the companion for Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. Irony of irony and cruel twists of fate, only after purchasing the stand-alone deck did I discover that a companion book already exists. In a crueler twist, it appears the book is only available as part of a book/deck kit. I am still mulling over whether or not to purchase the kit and just have a spare deck of Arthurian cards lying around, and am still looking for a copy of the book by itself. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be anything I have been able to find. Until I make my decision regarding the book, I will content myself with daily meditations on the cards and the companion material that was supplied with the deck.

To that end, for now, this blog will serve as a hosting space for my meditations on each of the cards. I intend to do a daily mediation on each of the cards in the Major Powers (as the Matthews call the Major Arcana) utilizing the supplied meditations and information from the Arthurian mythos. Once I am in possession of the official companion, I will expand upon these meditations.

Our first card is The Seeker, the 0 Trump, analogous to the Fool.

The description provided by Caitlin and John Matthews says “In a wasted landscape, the Seeker, who is every person, sets out on a quest, taking the rainbow path, impelled by the song of the Birds of Rhiannon, who enables him to follow his vision. When the world is laid to waste and people yearn for healing, seekers heed the call to find solutions. their quests open up possibilities.” This is reinforced by their “Oracle” definition:

“The world is darkening about me. The feet of dancers are stilled; the voices of singers are silent. Someone must find the soul of the land once more. I travel to restore what has been lost. Oh, blackbirds, may your singing be my guide as I step upon the rainbow road of dreams!”

The upright and reversed meanings are fairly standard for a Rider-Waite deck:
(U) Childlike trust. Divine discontent. Protection. The folly to be wise. Optimism. Adventure. Spontaneity. Youthful energy.
(R) Foolhardiness. Limitations of ignorance. Reactionism.

To anyone who is familiar with this deck, the first two descriptions are apt for the imagery of the card. A youth steps of a cliff looking forward, a strong oak behind him, above a rainy and desolate landscape while blackbirds circle above him. The darker aspects of the card are omnipresent whether the card is upright or reversed. But the standard divination of the card borrowed from the Rider-Waite tradition doesn’t seem to mesh with the card, its description, or its imagery. The card is far more urgent than a standard Rider-Waite Fool and seems less dependent on the providence of God or the Gods, and invokes a much broader sense of agency. He is elevated above the ruined landscape upon a rainbow, implying faith in heaven and divine providence, yes, but the oak stands behind him blocking the way back. He is spurred on by the blackbirds, knowing he is venturing into the the unknown. The Seeker requires more than faith and trust to embark on such a journey.

The card is easy to read as new beginnings, but its deeper meaning suggests that of destiny and the sacred quest. All people are on their own quests, so all people are Seekers. The three blackbirds are the voice of destiny urging them on, and the oak is the strength of determination that gives them the resolve to overcome obstacles. When the Seeker represents challenges and other negative aspects of the journey, it is indicative then of poor planning, and so the reversed meanings are rather apt. But when the Seeker is positively aligned, it is more about the journey and the movement forward, the steps we take next to get to our goals, the middle part of the quest. The Seeker starts the tarot off already on his journey. Whatever lies behind, just like on our own quests, is already behind us. So the beginning is never really the beginning, but just a point upon the line that is our lives. The Seeker is reunited with Trump XXI, The Flowering of Logres, in which the desolate landscape of the former is rejuvenated with new life. The Seeker’s quest may have come to completion in this later card, but the life and the wheel of the Seeker is ever-turning, never ending.



Arthurian Fortunes: An Occult Exploration of the Arthurian Tarot. A blog title in Latin. How pretentious must an author be to begin things like this? Think what you will, there is method here. Setting a tone is as important in verbal communication as it is in visual communication, especially in a medium of verbal-visual communication such as a blog. In any event the stage is set and our production can begin.

The purpose of this blog is simple–it is to explore the Arthurian Tarot by Caitlin and John Matthews in a way beyond the normal “tarot as a tool for divination”. The authors explain that the Arthurian Tarot is a spiritual deck, one that is meant to be respected. My initial reading of it involved an eight card, four-part spread of my own design inspired loosely around Aleister Crowley’s Operation described in the Book of Thoth, and led me to a similar conclusion. This deck plays with mythic and epic themes and does not seem to want to yield to such mundane and banal questions as “will I land the job” or “how do I pay this bill this month”. This more-spiritual-than-divinatory idea is repeated in the design of the cards. As any review of the deck will turn up, the first things people notice are that a) the Major Arcana have all been redesigned to feature characters and locations from the Arthurian legends (they maintain a 1:1 equivalence with the more familiar versions, though), and b) the Minor Arcana have all been redesigned as well to portray landscapes with a single representation of the suite.

I will not dwell on these redesigns except to say that, in regards to the Major Arcana, it invites a study and review of the Arthurian mythos to engage with the deck to its fullest, and the design of the Minor Arcana draws you into a mental wilderness of exploration and self-reflection.

For such a deck that promises such openness and vastness, it still relies on some conventions of the Rider-Waite with which everyone is familiar. Principally that there is a separate meaning for upright versus reversed card placement, and the divinatory meanings all correspond with the Rider-Waite. The authors provide a small book with the deck detailing all this, and it is quite helpful if you are not as familiar with the Rider-Waite system (such as in my case where I began reading the Thoth and am most familiar with that system). But the accompanying book is so limiting. There are accompanying meditations to help you understand the cards and what the cards may be asking you in response to your own question, but with such a rich collection of lore and such a rich mythos inspiring it, the accompanying book could be so much more.

In this spirit, and in the spirit of the relationship between the Book of Thoth and the Thoth Tarot, it is my endeavor to explore the Arthurian Tarot in the same way. If it is, indeed, a tool for spiritual growth and development, and it is to be used as such, then a measly 20-some pages do not do it justice. Familiarity with the legends and scholarship regarding Arthur and his court, as well as studying and reading on pre-Christian Britain will be featured in this blog as well as discussions regarding individual cards. I hope to eventually have enough content to have a separate page for each card with internal links to relevant topics and external links to any online sources. If it is in a book, I will try to locate it and link to where you can obtain the book.

My ultimate goal is to take this content and condense it into an online book that functions as an unauthorized companion piece for the Arthurian Tarot. I hope you enjoy.