Friday, 26 October 2012

John Matthews | Camelot Oracle

In the first part of this two-hander, I spoke with Camelot artist, Will Worthington, with the focus on the portraiture and artwork of the new deck.  Today it's the deck's author, John Matthews who chats about Camelot.

You are exceptionally prolific as an author!  It seems only a few weeks ago I was talking to you about the Tarot of Nostradamus and here we are again, talking about another new publication - The Camelot Oracle.  Do you ever sleep?

Sleep? What’s that? I’m just a workhorse; I work all the time. Can’t remember the last time I had a holiday. No, wait, I did go on holiday to the Orkneys two years ago with some very dear friends. I remember I spent the first week trying to get used to not doing anything, then I did a bit of work on a children’s novel I was writing; then it was time to go home! 

I work late into the night most days, sometime as late a 2 am, then sleep a bit longer in the morning, then start again…..In fact, there are three new projects just about to come out. The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus, which you mentioned, was finished last year, but got held up, and it’s only just released. Then there’s the Camelot Oracle, which is due any day; then there’s a third deck: The Steampunk Tarot: Gods of the Machine, which is something I’m sure we’ll be talking about some other time. That’s due out in November. But really this is not because I’ve written and completed three big jobs in one year (though in fact I did do two other things as well as working on a documentary film I’m making for my own production company), but because there were various problems with the printing, so they all ended up coming out of the same time.

You already have the Arthurian Tarot under your belt and many other Arthurian-inspired publications - including the Ladies of the Lake - what prompted the creation of the Camelot Oracle?

I’ve been using The Camelot Oracle as a teaching device for several years. I used to draw a map on a flipchart, and put in the places and what was found there; then I’d tell people about the characters - little summaries of their lives - and invite participants to select one of these characters to journey with. It worked so well, that I started thinking: wouldn’t it be great if I could have a permanent map and information about the characters that anyone could work with.  That was the beginning. I put it together in such a way that we had cards with the characters on, and the map of the Lands Adventurous, which is where all the magical things from the Arthurian legend take place, in a huge forest. The publishers loved the idea, and it didn’t take much persuading to get Will Worthington involved, because this is the theme and subject that brought us together in the first place. He and I have always loved the Arthurian legends, and when I suggested to him that we do this project he jumped at the opportunity. The results, as you’ll see, are amazing. He’s given us 40 portraits of the most familiar and extraordinary characters from the Arthurian legend. It’s not hard to think how one great it would be to select one of these to be a champion - someone to go along with you on an adventure.

My blog is about Court Cards, do the characters in the Camelot Oracle operate like Court Cards?  If so, are there any direct correlations between the citizens of Camelot and the citizens of the Tarot?

The Camelot Oracle isn’t really a tarot in any sense of the word. The idea is that you take one of the archetypes as a champion, a companion on the quest. Then you take another one to be your challenger. Then you set out on your journey; your champion goes with you, your challenger awaits your coming, and has a question for you, a challenge. You answer to that, and the direction the path you take, and where it leads to, generates the Oracle. So the characters in the Camelot Oracle are a little bit like the courtiers in tarot in that they can be interacted with, and can help you find answers to issues.

Can the cards be used as, say, a card of the day.... Or other quick spread (eg whose energies help/hinder me today)?

Yes you can do that - most assuredly. One of the ideas is that you can take any one of the characters as a companion. Each entry includes a meditational sketch for this. And of course you can extend the reading experience by following several paths with several characters.

Tell me about the Path cards?  

The Path cards are intended to act as either randomly chosen or selected pathways to a particular place. So you might take one path leading to the castle of the Grail, or another to Lancelot’s Castle of joyous guard, and in each case this represents a different reality and helps you find an answer to your question.

What does the Camelot Oracle bring to the divinatory table that other decks do not?  

I think what makes The Camelot Oracle original is the opportunity gives all those who use it to actually interact directly with extraordinary archetypal characters from the Arthurian legend. Who can imagine not wanting to go with Arthur himself, or Guinevere, or Galahad, or Boars - or any of them, on an adventure. Not just any adventure, but one that will actually help you discover truths you did not know, answers to issues that may be troubling you, actual advice from the great heroes and heroines of the Arthurian world?

Which is your favorite illustration?

JM: Really I love them all. I think inevitably my favorites have to be Arthur and Guinevere; but I also have a special affection for Palomides, the Saracen knight – there’s something about that amazing face, the hawk on his wrist, his costume, that really inspires me. Plus of course he’s a great character anyway, though not so well known are some of them.

Who is your favorite character in the deck and why?

Again I have to say really it’s all of them. But if I answered the question in a different way by saying who my favorite character is in the Arthurian legend, then I would have to say Merlin. He just has everything. He’s a magician, a seer, a poet, and a warrior. What’s not to like?

What are you currently working on and what is your next publication?

I’m afraid the list is quite long! Partly this is again because of delays between books getting finished and actually getting into print. Right now I have just finished working on the Oracle of Dr John Dee, which has amazing art by Will Kinghan, who did the Steampunk Tarot and a couple of other decks that I’ve created. This is going to be again quite different from a tarot, but involves all of the many disciplines that the amazing Dr Dee practiced. Then I have a couple of children’s novels, featuring a character called Henry Hunter, who’s a kind of young Sherlock Holmes crossed with the Young Indiana Jones. He solves mysteries using his intelligence and knowledge of books! It’s a departure for me, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they go, because if they go well I have a whole series worked out. I’m also just working on a short book about the history of shamanism. And if I survive all of those, there are a whole bunch of other projects in the wind – including a couple more with the amazing Mark Ryan. So plenty to look out for.


  1. I'm supposed to get my deck Mon or Tues. Amazon apparently got them in earlier than expected. Thanks for doing the interview - it makes me happily anticipate its arrival even more!

  2. I finally received my copy yesterday! I have been reading the companion seems like a unique system, certainly unique to my small oracle collection.


Never mind what I think, what do YOU think? :-)

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