An Interview with John Matthews:
John and Caitlin Matthews live in Oxford, UK, so it was relatively easy for them to be part of the UK Tarot Conference in 2013. Their partnership has resulted in more than 150 books featuring mythology and oracles. At the conference, John Matthews had an impressive range of his books and decks on display.
He was happy to share stories of his involvement with Tarot, and my first question related to the number of years he’d spent working on Tarot and Oracle decks…
John Matthews: The first one we did was the Arthurian Tarot, which is about seventeen years ago, then we had a long gap between that and the next one, but in more recent years I’ve started doing some on my own. Now we’ve started doing a whole new series, and in the last five years we’ve done about five Tarots. Recently we did the Steampunk Tarot, which was a bit of a diversion for us.
John Matthews: We’d always been interested in the idea of Steampunk—the whole idea of dressing up and becoming a Victorian character, or pseudo-Victorian character. And the whole thing now has become a big cultural movement, so we thought, well, what archetypes are there in the Steampunk world that might work for this, and we created the Steampunk Tarot. Since then, Caitlin’s just done The Enchanted Lenormand Oracle, the first of the vast realm of Lenormand decks that are coming your way, and I’ve just done The Oracle of Dr John Dee.
Mister Tarot: What’s the story behind the Dr John Dee deck?
John Matthews: It develops the whole idea of the Elizabethan magus as a way of enquiring into your own mysteries.
Mister Tarot: You seem to be on a roll with Tarot decks at the moment—why do you think you are driven to create so many?
John Matthews: It’s a way of thinking…when you’ve done several you start looking at every theme and thinking, ‘How would that be in Tarot terms?’
Mister Tarot: Are there any other new ones in development yet?
John Matthews: The next one, which I’ve almost finished now, is a Sherlock Holmes Tarot. That’s a very interesting example of the kind of thing I mean, because as soon as you start thinking about Holmes, the enquiring detective looking for answers to clues, I thought, well, isn’t that exactly what Tarot does? So, it fit into place very well. Once I’d sat down and started to think about it, within the space of a day I discovered that all of the archetypes were there. All the characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories are all in my Tarot deck…you’ve got the bumbling inspectors, you’ve got Holmes’ brilliant brother Mycroft, you’ve got Mrs Hudson, you’ve got all of the characters that everyone knows so well, and they all work perfectly as Tarot archetypes.
Mister Tarot: Are there any other decks planned for the future?
John Matthews: After the Sherlock Holmes deck there will be the Byzantine Tarot, which looks at the very early Western Magical Tradition before it really became formulated, and how the Tarot images might fit into that. So lots of interesting things are on their way!
Mister Tarot: We will keep our eyes open for these new creations. Thanks for your time, and thanks for bringing such interesting concepts into reality.
Click here for more info about John Matthews.