This deck will be most appropriate for those who are concerned with their soul’s direction and purpose; it is not the best choice for mundane interpretations. I have found that it’s most useful when I have a serious life decision to make, one that might have its roots in the past and will also affect me for years into the future.
Caitlin Matthews encourages us not to attempt “instant enlightenment” with this deck, but to get to know it over time, since its purpose is to guide you on the quest of your soul’s ultimate ‘enigma,’ which is to determine your destiny. Each card represents a sketch or drawing from one of Leonardo’s notebooks; unlike traditional tarot cards, each image represents the essence of something Matthews is trying to convey about the meaning of each card.
Although the cards are divided similarly to traditional tarot, there are some important differences. For example, the suits are divided into Water, Earth, Fire and Air, symbolising the classical four elements the Babylonians relied on, which eventually influenced the four humours of the Renaissance (yellow bile—fire; black bile—earth; blood—air; phlegm—water).
The images on each card are unexpected. The card for the Nine of Water, for example, is called “Airborne,” its picture a sketch of a man using a flying machine. Its message is summed up with the question: “What is your heart’s desire?”
Since Water would be equivalent to Cups in traditional tarot, and the 9 of cups represents the “wish card,” there is the sense that Matthews has followed the basic “rules” of traditional tarot, but she has taken the meaning of each card and expanded it to include a variety of interpretations depending on the spread you use. Check out her various spreads in the accompanying guidebook, and give yourself plenty of time to get to know this deck.
Although Ms. Matthews offers a number of shorter spreads, the most important and personally revealing seems to be the “Vitruvian Man”, so named after the famous Da Vinci sketch of approximately 1487:
The Vitruvian Man spread tells you much more than a Celtic Cross spread can about how you got yourself into the situation you’re asking about; what you can do to prevent the same thing happening in the future, and what it is you need to change, let go of, or accept, for your new situation to come into being.
The Vitruvian Man Spread “shows the perfect human being who has discovered the point of integration between the microcosm and the macrocosm.” The purpose of this spread is to help you change your attitude about your problem.
One of the most revealing placements, I believe, is the “Dominant Hand”, which tells you how you conventionally deal with this issue; the “Supporting Hand” position shows you what instinctive gifts you can draw upon to transform the issue.
A great deal of research went into the making of this set. On each of the 144 pages of the accompanying guidebook, you will find background information into Leonardo’s life, his philosophies, hopes and dreams, and the enigma of his complicated personality.
Even if you only use the cards sporadically, the guidebook is a wonderful resource on its own, filled with inspiring thoughts that will prompt you to do the kind of soul-searching necessary to effect real change in your own consciousness.
There’s really no way to find out who you are without some sort of self-analysis, and this set, more so than most Tarot decks, inspires the kind of depth of self-analysis missing from tarot decks that offer much simpler, direct interpretations.