The Celtic Wisdom Tarot Deckcw3.jpg (28436 bytes) - Review by Michele Jackson

If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.

The first thing you notice when you get these cards out of the box is the stunning art. The style is a mixture of primitive, modern and fantasy art styles that works surprisingly well. The colors are deep and the only border is on the bottom of the card. The cards are larger than average at 3 1/2" X 5 1/2". They are coated with a high gloss finish. The backs are orange and feature a triple spiral. The Major Arcana in this deck are called "Wisdom Cards." Per the deck creator they, " not depict individual stories, myths or gods, but rather the deep archetypes, aspects and thresholds of the Celtic Otherworld." These cards have names that suggest action:

0 - The Soul VII - The Mover XIV - The Mingler
I - The Decider VIII - The Empowere XV - The Challenger
II - The Guardian IX - The Counselor XVI - The Changer
III - The Shaper X - The Spinner XVII - The Dreamer
IV - The Keeper XI - The Balancer XVIII - The Imaginer
V - The Rememberer XII - The Dedicator XIX - The Protector
VI - The Lover XIII - The Liberator XX - The Renewer
XXI - The Perfecter

One aspect of the Celtic Wisdom cards that I find interesting was what Matthews calls "The Seven Candles of Life." Based on the bardic triads (threefold sayings), the seven qualities are Will, Truth, Growth, Harmony, Lore, Devotion and Energy. When cards I - XXI are laid out in order in three rows of seven cards each, they fall into this pattern. For example, the candle of will includes I - The Decider, VIII - The Empowerer and XV - The Challenger; the candle of energy includes VII - The Mover, XIV - The Mingler and XXI - The Perfecter. The rows represent the Triple Spiral of Revelation. Each Spiral is a different type of wisdom.

The suit names are taken from "The Settling of the Manor of Tara," an old Celtic text. They are Battle (Swords), Skill (Wands), Art (Cups) and Knowledge (Pentacles). The Court consists of Woman (Page), Warrior (Knight), Queen and King. These cards are the heroes/heroines, gods and goddesses of the Celts. For example, the Queens are represented by the Morrigan, Rhiannon, Brigid and Dana. The numbered cards are illustrated with scenes and characters from Celtic myths and stories. Per Matthews, each number corresponds to a Celtic storytelling genre. They are:

1 - Augeries 6 - Foundations
2 - Dialogues 7 - Adventures
3 - Courtships 8 - Elopements
4 - Judgments 9 - Revelations
5 - Combats 10 - Quests

The hardcover book that comes with the deck is quite nice. Every card is illustrated in color and has a full page devoted to it. The Major Arcana have the Ogham Tree and Ogham title/letter. Matthews states that both were used by the Celts for divination. Divinatory meanings are provided - both upright and reversed. Although the card names are non-traditional, the divinatory meanings appear to be very similar to Waite's. This can be a bit disconcerting, since the scenes on the cards illustrate a story or myth. The illustration may or may not be useful in determining the meaning of the card. The bulk of the page on each  card is devoted to background information about the associated story or myth. This is followed by a section called Soul Wisdom that provides some advice regarding the card and a question to ask yourself or the querent when you get the card in a reading. The book provides information on how to use the cards, including sections on the Diviner's Responsibilities and Ethics and Divination. There are six spreads designed for this deck, including one for the Major Arcana only. There is also a year long exercise that uses meditation and a diary. Cards are assigned to different dates of import in the Celtic Year. You can meditate on more than one card per session and are encouraged to proceed at a comfortable pace.

The packaging for this deck is a bit different. The box opens on the side and has cardboard dividers that separate the cards from the book. The deck is divided into two piles that are also separated by a "T" shaped cardboard divider. While the deck and book can be stored in the original box, I think that a separate bag or box for the deck would probably be easier to use.

I recommend this set for those who are interested in things Celtic. Those who are familiar with the Waite deck will find the card meanings similar enough to get up and running fairly quickly. The Celtic theme (yes, this is a theme deck), provides a nice introduction to Matthews' knowledge of Celtic myth and culture.

See more cards from the Celtic Wisdom Tarot Deck here and here

If you would like to purchase this book/deck set, click here.

The Celtic Wisdom Tarot Deck
ISBN: 0-89281-720-8
Publisher: Destiny  Books, Rochester, Vermont (

Images and text Copyright 1999 Godsfield Press Limited


10 Quest of Battle

Divinatory Meaning

Upright Ruin. The worst is realized. Defeat. Hopes fail. Disruption. A hollow victory.

Reversed Ruin deferred. Temporary gain. Overthrow of combatants or hostile forces.

Background When news comes that Branwen has been ill-treated by her husband, King Matholwch of Ireland, the men of Britain sail to rescue her. During a truce, it is proposed that Gwern, Branwen's son by Matholwch, should be made king of Ireland. But Branwen's brother, Efnissien, kills Gwern, and conflict ensues. However, Matholwch possesses a cauldron that revives his dead, and the British are soon outnumbered. The battle ends when the living Efnissien gets into the cauldron and it breaks. However, Bran, King of Britain, has been mortally wounded: he orders his own head to be struck off and buried facing the English Channel to serve as protection against invasion. Only seven men escape from the rout; they bring Branwen with them, but on reaching Mon (Anglesey in Wales) she dies from heartbreak at being the cause of so much slaughter.

Soul Wisdom After the worst is realized, we can begin the rest of our lives. This is not to disrespect the loss, nor to ignore the mourning, but to know that all things have their season, including ourselves: we do not share the same cycle as another being. What is the source of your greatest help in crises?

Review Copyright 1999 Michele Jackson
Page Copyright 2000 Diane Wilkes