Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlín Matthews.

Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

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Wednesday 14 October 2015

CARTOMANTIC ENCHANTMENT two reviews by Caitlín Matthews

Marseilles Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading by Camelia Elias (978-87-92633-42-3) Eyecorner Press, 2015

Marseilles Tarot & The Oracle Travels Light by Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias is an expert cartomant whose blog, (www.taroflexions.wordpress.com, has been educating and invigorating our divinatory practice with a variety of cards, methods and spells for many years.  As you might expect from such an experienced practitioner, her two recent books reveal a wealth of knowledge and wisdom seldom found in the run-of-the-mill tarot book.  For me this factor alone makes both books like cartomantic gold. As a writer myself, I understand the dumbing-down factor that enters into most editorial minds when considering a tarot book proposal: this process usually leaches out any originality and restrains any ‘reaching beyond the beginner’s level,’ usually to the detriment of the more experienced reader.  So to find a book written for intelligent adults which has not suffered this customary de-fanging process, and which still engages minds and hearts with enthusiasm, verve and creativity, is absolutely wondrous! These two books have been good companions to me this year.

Marseilles Tarot: Towards the Art of Reading is a must-have addition to the bookshelves of anyone who works with historic decks and unillustrated pips.
The author has given profuse examples of divinatory encounters, giving both question and card response with laconic vigour: Camelia is not a reader from the school of tarot longeur!  The cards speak cartomantically and colloquially, with a ‘take it or leave it’ speed, which is very much to my own taste. These examples clearly illustrate the dynamics of historic card reading: speedy and to the point. Each trump card entry explores the appearance and nature of the figure upon it, picking up on resonances within the deck, as well as giving a three card reading in which the card appears, and the keywords, function, health indicators and the combinatory associations with public figures. 

The Devil. The Emperor with Fool and Moon, Carolus Zoya Marseilles
So, for example, with the Devil, she notes the torch that he is carrying in his right hand is the same that is found on the Wheel of Fortune, that the keywords of the Devil are ‘Passion, Unconscious drives, Materialism, Pride and Obsessions,’ and that, if we drew the Devil with the Moon then we might be looking at Dracula, or if combined with the Emperor, then Nero.

Throughout, the reader is encouraged to find the tarot images and read the random combinations as if there were no Little White Book behind dicatorially directing you. As she writes, ‘I like to play with the way in which the cards appeal to our ludic sense, as we engage in seeing how the cards permute their essential meaning all according to what other cards they happen to enter into equation with…. The Emperor is not likely to perform the Fool, but if he happens to be near the Moon, then he might.’ (p.111)

Most people who approach Marseilles Tarot reading are usually most trepidatious about reading the unillustrated pips, and here the author directs you to examine the colour, suit and number, as well as the frequency of suit and number appearances.  In fact she treats the pips like the black and white notes on a piano. Cards 1-10 are given simple qualities: twos are cooperation or divisions, fives are speaking about health and the body, sevens are challenges etc. Aces and Tens are given stronger entries than the other numbers. Her treatment of the Pages and Knights is more cursory than the Queens and Kings, which may be frustrating to the less experienced user of historic decks.

Apart from the three card reading, her spread of choice is the French Cross, which uses five cards, sometimes with an additional three to confirm or amplify. This, and the thirteen card Council Spread, are fully expounded.

 Camelia’s writing supports the diviner in a way that I find honest, but which some might find challenging.  She never ducks an issue, but looks squarely at it. This method is part and parcel of reading with an historic deck, which is essentially pre-New Age in style and content.  Those who don’t like this kind of thing can give this book a wide berth and stick to more ‘friendly tarots.’ But for those who want to read with Marseilles Tarot and other unillustrated historic decks, please give this book a place and you will make better progress.

Compared with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of Tarot, Marseilles Tarot, Towards a Reading, is more feminine and less showy or Freudian (thank goodness!); compared with Yoav Ben-Dov’s Tarot: The Open Reading, it is more ecstatic and much more engaged with what the cards are saying.  While both other books have their merits and wisdoms, Camelia’s book encourages me more, both as a woman and as a reader.

The Oracle Travels Light: Principles of Magic With Cards 
(978-87-92633-28-6) by Camelia Elias, Eyecorner Press, 2015

The Oracle Travels Light deals with the magical use of the cards in reading, ritual and spellcraft.  Here the cards stand up, become hologrammic signposts, pointing the way to action and the implementation of their messages.  Reading the book is like visiting with Camelia: you lay some cards together, an issue is looked at, some solutions are signposted, and then you go out to the lake and do a ritual that brings that solution into total focus: float a paper boat, talk to the winds and hear their song, burn what needs to pass away.

As the late Justine Glass said, ‘Mind is the instrument, the channel and perhaps in some cases the creator of the forces which produce “magical results.”’ (in Witchcraft: The Sixth Sense, 1978.) These effects are really experienced by us all since we all, ‘read cards for the story of ourselves, and not only for the story of others. But as we end of serving the community in ways that are less consecrated by culture at large, we discover the magic in us.’

Many are afraid of putting their minds anywhere near magic because of the influence of religious shibboleths or cultural norms, but when we engage the enchantment, magic happens or, as we say commonly, ‘it is marvellous!’ The very instruments of marvel lie in our hands everyday, as cartomants.  Camelia reveals the heart of this book by her practical examples of marvels that result from her weaving of the cards, which she sees ‘as poetry, not cosmology. I think of the cards as the voice of my magic, uttering the words that invite the stellar power into my sacred space.’ By this means, she works with necromancy (contact with ancestors) and with the magical morals of action and belief, whereby we serve our own integrity and the world’s essential being. By looking wider, we gain a perspective that sees the linkage between the worlds of everyday and otherworld, and so we do not get stuck in the gap.

Between the Worlds by Cilla Conway; painted on vellum
This is a thought-provoking book, full of reading examples, that enable us to cross the threshold in order to engage with the deeper levels of cartomancy and seership, to further our skills and find the guiding voices. Due to a busy summer, I had the opportunity to read it very slowly, in smaller sections than I normally read, and I think this was ultimately a good practice that allowed the enchantment in cartomancy to find its place.   This is not a book that everyone will take to their hearts because it challenges who you are and how you perceive yourself: for those who don’t mind walking into the forest of the mind and striking a match, this fire will keep you warm for your whole life long.

In both books, which are both just under 200 pages, I would have liked an index to help me rediscover parts of the book that I would use again;  I ended up using sticky markers and making my own rough index of themes on the blank back page.  Both books are written in an inspired divinatory style which is at the same time mischievous and down to earth.  Like a good Romanian witch, Camelia eschews any nannying of the reader: she assumes that you are a person with free will and that you will make decisions based on what you know and what has been discovered. What you do with it, that’s for you to chose.

Both books are delightfully illustrated by Camelia’s own distinctive scribal sigils and by the Carolus Zoya cards,  a late 18th century Piedmontese Marseilles deck from the collection of K. Frank Jensen owned by Roskilde University Library in Denmark. As a Marseilles Tarot collector, I would love a full edition of the cards, I must say!

Available from:  www.eyecornerpress.com and other distributors.

Sunday 2 August 2015


‘In a case in the Natural History Museum lie the sparse remains of shooting stars that have embedded in the earth, solemnly labelled “fragments of former worlds,”’ reported by Jacquetta Hawkes in her moving snd poetic topographical history of Britain, A Land

The Milky Way by CM
A second 'earth-like' planet, older than our own, has been discovered in the galaxy: excitement about colonizing this distant  rocky world is gripping many who have an eye to the main chance, as the human ability to asset-strip another world through our greed hoves into view again. However, there is a draw-back. Scientists are viewing this new planet now as it once looked in 615CE - a mere 1400 years ago. The timeslip involved between cup and lip may be sufficiently wide to prevent any such colonization, we hope.

In every age, fragments of former worlds are alive within the nesting generations alive at one time, from great-grand parent to great-grandchild.  As successive generations grow older and die, some of these fragments are forgotten, while others stick out like markers, leading to who knows where.  There is nothing more poignant than the detritus of those who were alive and have been gone for some time, just as archaeologists find who dig up items whose use has long been forgotten, hazarding a guess as to their purpose, so as to compose a label in a museum. 

What fragments of former worlds are you hosting?  Not just granny’s biscuit barrel or the neolithic hand-axe you dug from your garden while laying the foundations for shed, but the deeply embedded fragments within your consciousness that are the gifts of memories not yours. For  there is a department of our psyche that is a true museum - a word originally meaning ‘a place dedicated to the muses.’  Within that museum of the soul, we carry ancestral memory, the blueprints of knowledge and skill, the atavistic remnants of what once blazed glorious with life but which is now merely dust waiting to be reborn.  These remnants often lie dormant until such time as we add a liquid ingredient that reconstitutes memory in a remarkable way: this happens in infinitesimal moments, triggered by a scent, the line of a poem or the view of a landscape.  Then, hologramically, the memory stirs back into life and you are suddenly living a memory you can never have known in your present form.

The Mound of Wonders from
The Celtic Shaman's Pack by John Matthews
It is almost as if you were part of a set of Matryoshka Russian dolls, nesting one within the other and you are resonant with someone before or behind you.  The fragments of former worlds stir and reconstitute themselves in your soul.  These ancestral memories come in many forms: sometimes as true knowledge, sometimes tinged with apprehension, at other times with a neutrality of vision that doesn’t quite develop into understanding. Yet when we give this fleeting impression the time and space to reveal itself, we find we have a window that opens wider.

We think of ancestors as only being human, yet we have ancestry and kindred that go back through every single living being, right  back to the protean stars whose remains were once so quaintly labelled in the Natural History Museum in London.  When we begin to consider this prospect of our wider ancestry, then the Matryoshka doll effect changes shape.  Embedded and encoded within us is not just the matter from which universes were and will be made, but also the memory of those universes also, past and to come. 

When we begin to think of ourselves as museums of the future, not just of the past, we gain a very different way of considering the world in which we live, and maybe we shape our behaviour in different ways.  While our present fashions and customs will undoubtedly seem out-moded by our descendants, there is that within you that they will find of value in times that we cannot yet imagine.  When you are dust, your prayer for them can still be revolving, waiting for that moment when their need, or their lack of vision, requires something that only ancestry can provide.  Those precious fragments of knowing or understanding that you have hosted, can leap beyond the generations to become living guidance that shapes worlds yet to be.

You too leave your own trace in the universe, especially when you hold in mind all who share it with you:

Recognize your companions and give them honour,
For they stem from the same source as yourself.
Out of every generation we have been called as seekers, as children of wisdom.
It is right to remember how your quest began, the books that you read,
The wise words of the teachers that replied to your simple questions.
But books and teachers are not the only guides. In the silence of your heart,
In the watches of the night, you have closed your eyes and discovered
That your companions, your sisters and brothers, have been praying with you eternally.
Now that you are one in understanding,
You can make the journey and achieve your quest. 

- adapted by Caitlín from the Hermetic Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth, Corpus Hermeticum

Monday 20 July 2015

The Zone of Sophia: a prayer form for difficult times

Over the last thirty years, I’ve practised a prayer-form that I first received in a dream. I’ve used different forms of it over the years, but the core of it remains the same. Within the dream, I was ushered into an enclosed garden which was surrounded by a high hedge with a central gateway in each of the four sides. It was the numinous hour before dawn and the air shimmered. From each of the gateways came four strong, tall, faery beings who bore the emblems of the elements in their hands. They walked with dignity and beauty as if carrying the most precious things in the world. In turn they spoke a blessing for each element. They then taught me the words and instructed me in what was done and intended, since all ritual and prayer comes with specific intention.

The Four Hallows by Miranda Gray
from The Complete Arthurian Tarot
by Caitlín & John Matthews
They showed me the stars and the *zone or belt of Sophia, the atmosphere which shrouds our earth. The faery women instructed me to tell people to send up our deepest aspirations for the universe nightly to this boundary of the earth's soul that all beings might imbibe, dream and be nourished by the common pool of aspirations gathered there. In daily life, we can bless the elements, and be aware of the messages of our bodies. In addition, we can dance to help keep our sense of connection between the worlds. If we maintained these things then all beings would learn to see these connections. The blessings of the elements were repeated to me in this vision:

Blessed be the precious and preserving air, by which we are given life.
Blessed be the precious and preserving fire, by which we are warmed.
Blessed be the precious and preserving water, by which we are cleansed.
Blessed be the precious and preserving earth, by which we are sustained.
Blessed be the precious and preserving spirit that is within and around me.

These are now the last words I utter before sleep and the first upon waking every day: sometimes the words vary, but the first part of the blessing remains the same. I sometimes add, ‘Blessed be the precious and preserving ancestors, now, then and to come.’ I especially use these blessings when I light the stove, draw water or step out of the house.
The Zone of Sophia - our atmosphere
In the last few weeks, the pressure has been on me to share this prayer form again, as I’ve been reminded that the aspirations we send up to the earth’s atmosphere, which is bounded by the sacred zone of Sophia, can also include those of peace for which our world yearns so much. The simplicity of the elemental blessing has its own effect around us, but the aspirations of the heart and soul that we send to become part of the earth’s atmosphere, have a much wider one: they become part of the zone or belt of Sophia, or the scarf that is woven by Persephone (see below.)

In doing this, we don’t need to specify an end to the aspiration because it is offered without condition from you to your equals. As soon as we try to refine aspiration or prayer to a specific aim, we get in the way of it. It was clear from my original instructions, that this prayerful aspiration was to be freely offered and made available, not sent to some particular person or aim: no-one and no being is excluded from this form.

About six years ago, over the weekend of a conference, I was asked to lead a dawn meditation at a house in the south of England. I went on a recce to check out the terrain, discovering that the designated place wasn’t really suitable for elderly people to get down to in the dark, and so I walked the extensive grounds to find a better place with a more even footing. Imagine my delight when, on turning into the unassuming gate of a wall, I found myself in an enclosed garden with a gate in each wall! Within that blessed place, at the first light of dawn, we recreated my dream in the enclosed garden. May we all contribute to bringing and maintaining the peace!

• The Zone or Belt of Sophia is a concept that is found in two sources: in the myth of Persephone and that of the Gnostic Sophia. According to Thomas Taylor, the Platonist, ‘Jupiter instructs Venus to go to her abode, and betray Proserpina from her retirement, that Pluto may be enabled to carry her away; and to prevent any suspicion in the virgin's mind, he commands Diana and Pallas to go in company. The three Goddesses arriving, find Proserpina at work on a scarf for her mother; in which she had embroidered the primitive chaos and the formation of the world.’

• In 4th century account by Claudian of De Raptu Prosperina, we read how this scarf was worked: ‘Proserpine herself, soothing the house with sweet song, was sewing all in vain a gift against her mother’s return. In this cloth she embroidered with her needle the concourse of atoms and the dwelling of the Father of the gods and pictured how Mother Nature ordered elemental chaos, and how the first principles of things sprang apart, each to his proper place – those that were light being born aloft, the heavier ones falling to the centre. The air grew bright and fire chose the pole as it seat. Here flowed the sea; there hung the earth suspended. Many were the colours she employed tricking the stars with god and flowering the sea with purple. The shore she embossed with precious stones and cunningly employed raised threadwork to imitate the swelling billows.’

• In the Gnostic text, On the Origin of the World, the will of Pistis (Faith) emanated as Sophia who ‘manifested itself as a likeness of heaven, having an unimaginable magnitude;’ and so Sophia ‘functioned as a veil dividing mankind from the things above.’

The Ever Living Lady by Danuta Meyer
from The Celtic Book of the Dead
by Caitlín Matthews

Thursday 28 May 2015

The Mothers of Change - guest blog by Anastacia J. Nutt

THE MOTHERS OF CHANGE   by Anastacia J. Nutt

This year's guest blog by Anastacia J. Nutt examines the nature of the changes which our world is facing and opens a powerful way of undergoing these times with love and discipline, and the guidance of the Mothers of Change - the Goddesses best able to support us at these times. In Anastacia's book, The Mother of Change*, the Goddess Orchil, Sekhmet, Athena, Inanna, Myriam and Ananke reveal pathways by which we can walk with good guidance.

Ananke's Daughters

Without a doubt, we are facing unprecedented change at this time; no one denies this social, spiritual, political and environmental truth. However, those who would make us believe that these forces of change must be “battled,” “conquered” and “commanded” are offering neither wisdom nor truth. Those who fill our minds with the fears of externally-derived tyrannies, be they human, geologic, viral or technological, to which our only response is an embattled one, are offering neither wisdom nor truth.  These two precious gifts can never be found in the throes of separation; they may only be found within the unity consciousness of all living beings. 

To this end, we must strive to become spiritual ambassadors of the human race. Various sources tell us that 21st century was destined to be a time of great change. The discovery that awaits us is how best to live within these times while continuing to offer ourselves to the world.  The Mothers of Change help us adjust to the changing Cosmos, while staying fully engaged in life.

The Mothers of Change are the Divine Feminine forces who, over the course of our lives, guide and direct us with the same balance of love and discipline as our human guardians. When we work them in this unique sacromagical manner, these six Mothers enable us to face and gracefully navigate the forces of change challenging humanity and the planet today.   
Inanna and Sargon
Change is thus created by the reordering of the elements. As the proportion of Earth to Water and Air to Fire fluctuates, old patterns and influences are released and new patterns and influences come into form.  Moreover, these changes occur first in the Divine templates of Cosmic law before they become manifest in the physical world of form.

Ananke and the Spindle of Necessity
Because the temporal Mother Goddesses mediate the power of the elements, in real time (from moment to moment, never ceasing), through their part human/part Divine form, they also mediate the changes of the elements as they occur. Thus, when we work with these Mother Goddesses and the powers they mediate, we receive intimations of the yet-to-manifest whispers of change to come.  The work with The Mothers of Change enables us to work with change as it materializes!

You can join Anastacia and R.J.Stewart for their retreat at Hawkwood College:

9-12 July 2015 THE MOTHERS OF CHANGE & THE FIFTH NAMELESS GODDESS with R.J.Stewart & Anastacia Nutt, introduced by Caitlín Matthews  

Based upon Anastacia's book, this sacromagical series brings us into deep communion with six Mother-Goddesses who have inspired, uplifted, and guided humankind though times of change since antiquity.  Now, when so much profound change occurs, we remember and return to The Mothers of Change. Our retreat includes intensive work with the unique meditational and visionary system of The Fifth Nameless Goddess, created by R J Stewart, taught to small groups from the 1980s to the present. See www.rjstewart.org (calendar) for more information. Single  £415, Shared  £365 Non res £300  Please send your non-returnable deposit of £120 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW. Book on 01453 759034 or enquire at info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk,quoting course 15-272  

Anastacia J. Nutt and R.J.Stewart are authors, teachers and stewards of the sacromagical systems of the Western Esoteric Tradition.  To learn more about their work, please visit: www.rjstewart.org.

*The Book and CD of The Mothers of Change by Anastacia Nutt are available from