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Cathar Tarot - tarot decks

Playing Cards
Playing Cards -> Tarot decks

Price: US $16.60

ProductID: alt1322

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About this item
  • The Cathar Tarot moulds the 78 cards of tarot to the archetypes, spiritual beliefs and initiatory journey of the European
  • Cathar order. The deck is a partnership between John Matthews and Wil Kinghan, who each have created several
  • tarot decks, and draws on Gnosticism and Grail symbolism as well as Cathar belief.

Name Cathar Tarot
Creators John Matthews, Wil Kinghan
Publisher Watkins 2016
Deck Type Tarot Deck
Cards 78
Major Arcana 22
Minor Arcana 56
Card Size 3.00 x 4.50 in. = 7.62cm x 11.43cm
Card Language English
Companion Material 112-page companion book is packaged with the deck.


Central to their beliefs was the idea that the Demiurge (not God) created the world - a paradise in which there was no expulsion from Eden, and no 'Original Sin'. Jesus Christ was viewed as a wholly supernatural entity thus invalidating the possibility of resurrection after death. In addition to this Cathars were pacifists, vegetarians, disinclined to procreate – although the sanctity of marriage was not essential in Catharism either. It was basically a path of tolerance, kindness, and self responsibility, quite diametrically opposed to the orthodoxies of the powerful Catholic church. In spite of the extermination of the Cathars by the mainstream church, their ideas have passed into and profoundly influenced Western spiritual and philosophical development.

The Cathar Tarot takes as its foundation ideas rooted in Gnosticism and also the Nazarene church, as well as myths surrounding the holy grail. The Cathar Tarot follows the established constructs of tarot, and overlays it with Cathar ideas and beliefs. Given that the Cathars viewed life as a journey of an initiation, which aligns beautifully with the Fool’s Journey, Ii's easy to see how Catharism parallels tarot stories and myths.

This is a 78 card fully illustrated tarot –with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. The cards are ordered according to A E Waite’s standard, and features both numbers and titles. The suits of the Minor Arcana have 10 number cards and 4 Court cards –Squire, Knight, Lady, and Lord.

The Major Arcana titles have all been changed to reflect Cathar beliefs, with the sole exception of Death, and are for the most part are given in a mixture of French and English. Accordingly The Fool is now known as The Bonhomme, The Magician is retitled The Parfait, the High Priestess is now known as Lady Wisdom and so forth.The essential meanings of the Major Arcana remain the same.

The Minor Arcana too have been reimagined in order to fit into the mediaeval Cathar framework; accordingly this suits are now known as Books. Wands are called Shields, Swords remain Swords, Cups are now called Love, and Pentacles have been designated Wisdom.

The cards measure 75 x 115 mm, which puts them and a fairly average size range for tarot cards. The cardstock is thick but not particularly heavy, this does make them quite a dense deck and something of a handful. They are flexible with a smooth and glossy finish which makes them very easy to handle and shuffle. The print quality is excellent, reproducing the subtleties and nuances of the medieval colour scheme. There are no misprints, no blurred images, and no colour bleeds.

The artwork appears to be mixed media, expertly reproducing the ofttimes enchanting world of mediaeval miniature paintings. The pictures do have the tell-tale blurring and smoothness which is a surefire indicator of digital enhancements. The artist’s palette is rich and naturalistic in accordance with medieval interpretation of the natural world. Greens, browns and greys abound, as do vibrant greens and glowing golden tans, highlighted with deep, rich crimson and potent blood red.

The images are contained and defined with a tarnished-yellow border. The title and number of each card is given in plain black print at the base of the image. The picture on the back of the card depicts the Cathar seal or cross, there are some minor details which make the image asymmetrical but they are so insignificant that the image is essentially reversible.

The cards and guidebook come packaged in a solid cardboard box, which slides out of and equally sturdy slipcase with the aid of a blue satin ribbon. This box set, although probably a little too bulky to put into a handbag is still small enough to drop into a backpack, and will withstand the rigours of travel without sustaining damage.

The 111 page guidebook is written by author and tarot expert John Matthews and artist and writer Wil Kinghan. The Introduction gives the reader an excellent overview of who the Cathars were, and what they believed, as well As drawing pertinent parallels between Cathar belief and the tarot.

Part One: The Books Of Life introduces the reader to the Major Arcana. Each card is reproduced in Full size and full-colour. The card title as well as it’s RWS title is given at the top of the page alongside a key phrase which summarises the essence of the card. This is followed by a historical outline of the image, establishing its links to the Cathar tradition, and the divinatory meaning for Light (upright) and Dark (reversed) interpretations. The Light and Dark interpretations are also summarised in keywords for easy reference.

The Books or Minor Arcana are given substantially less information, a much smaller colour reproduction of each card, no historical perspective is included and links to key Cathar beliefs are minimal. The focus is largely on the divinatory meeting, and keywords for both Light and Dark interpretations are given.

Part Two: Working with the Cards – these sub chapters give the reader some solid information about getting to know one's deck and activating it. This is followed by a small collection of divinatory spreads; the Cathar Cross Spread which is very similar in essence to the Celtic Cross, The Court Of Wisdom Spread which helps the Seeker gain a clear idea on the energies which surround them, The Grail Knight Spread which aims to help the Seeker identify goals/aspirations and a course of action toward attainment.

The final chapters of the book feature some excerpts from the actual Cathar writings which gives the reader a small but genuine window into the Cathar world. This is followed by a small resource list, and an appendix featuring a chart showing the relationship between traditional tarot and the Cathar deck.

If you are interested in the Cathars all the world of medieval Europe you will undoubtedly find this deck fascinating. Although it draws are many parallels with the traditional tarot it does not feature any standard symbolism or imagery, and therefore is not recommended for beginners. It is a rather charming deck depicting a long lost world, in the wonderfully naive illustrations of the time. Is also a deck full of wisdom and insight which will help any Seeker gain new perspectives in readings. It is both an excellent resource, and a highly credible and reliable tarot deck.

Combine shipping is possible.

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