Tarot Deck Reviewed
The Da Vinci Enigma Tarot
by Caitlin Matthews
Publisher: Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit
Publication Date: 12/08/2020
The Da Vinci Enigma Tarot by Caitlin Matthews, published by Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit, an imprint of Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA, copyright by Caitlin Matthews in 2005. This set is visually rich, luxurious, and filled with the art, sketches, writings and inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci, both within the card images and the accompanying guidebook.
The Da Vinci Enigma Tarot comes in a sturdy 7 1/8 inch by 9 5/8 inch gift-style cardboard box with glossy finish yellow background and deep red lettering, with a self-portrait of Da Vinci on the front of the box and a brief description of the set, five card images, and a brief bio of the author on the back. When the glossy cover is removed, the first thing we see is the guidebook. The soft cover is a deep rich glossy red with off-white lettering and an image of the Vitruvian Man on the front and the same self-portrait of Da Vinci from the box on the back. Next are the cards themselves, nestled in a sturdy pocket.
The cards measure 3 inches by 4 3/4 inches with rounded corners; the card stock is sturdy and durable (the pack is more than 1 1/4 inches thick) but soft enough to withstand shuffling; the finish is matte, with the face of the card nicely slippery but the card back a bit grainy. While substantial, the cards shuffled nicely once I worked with them a bit. The card images have an off-white border, with the name and number of the card at the bottom. The Minor Arcana numbered cards also have a handy keyword. The card images themselves are truly compelling. Every image is a line drawing taken from Da Vinci’s notebooks, drawings and writings, with softly colored backgrounds of grays and creams and tans as if taken directly from old paper and parchment. Leonardo was a favorite of mine, and I could easily fall down a rabbit hole just looking at these images and seeing their associations with the individual Tarot card archetypes. The backs of the cards show an image called the Enigma Grid (very cool, and more about that in a bit) in silver onto that deep rich red of the guidebook cover.
The guidebook is as visually well done as the deck. The glossy color soft cover book, 6 3/4 inches by 8 3/8 inches, has 144 off-white pages with easy-to-read dark red text. No surprise, Caitlin Matthews’ guidebook does not merely present card meanings; this one is also very liberally sprinkled with the thoughts, experiments, interests, observations and beliefs of Leonardo himself, as well as his artwork.
The guidebook begins with an Introduction by the author, then the very necessary Chapter 1, which offers a brief (if that is possible, with this genius of a man) history of Da Vinci. Chapter 2 is called Finding Your Way, and it explains the setup of this beautiful deck. Here we find the card names for the Majors, called the Macrocosm cards, some of which names have been changed to better fit with the theme of the deck, and the Minors or Microcosm cards suit descriptions (Air, Fire, Water and Earth rather than Swords, Wands, Cups and Pentacles). There is a definition offered for each number of the Microcosm cards, as well as a chart of the keywords found on the cards themselves, and a description of the Court Cards of this deck, Page, Knight, Lady and Lord.
Here is where we find more information about the Enigma Grid on the backs of the cards. All the card backs look the same at first glance, but they are different, and we learn this through one of the two extra cards in this deck. All the card backs fit together into a poster containing mandalas and the Platonic solids, as shown on the first extra card. The second extra card shows the sequence of the entire deck face-up that creates the Enigma Grid.
Next comes an explanation of the card meanings section, followed by a How To Use Your Cards description. Then we move on to the card meanings section, all 101 pages of very useful and intriguing information. The Macrocosm Cards each get two pages, including a card image, card number and card name, a question to ask when interpreting the card, the name of the image from Da Vinci’s notes and background information about the image, a “Soul-Code” which helps unlock the meaning of the card and its effect on the seeker’s destiny, the usual upright and reversed suggested meanings, and a “disconnected” meaning for when you find the card difficult to interpret or when you are feeling ambivalent about the card and its place in the reading. The Microcosm and Court Cards have the same information but on one page rather than two pages. The guidebook finishes with a chapter that offers spreads and sample readings. One inventive spread involves the Enigma Grid described above and the Platonic solids within it as a divination tool, very cool.
This is a Tarot set that will capture your mind as well as awaken your intuition. Many of the images on the cards show visionary designs for machines and innovations that were clearly created before their time. Other images show faces and full body drawings of friends and contemporaries in Da Vinci’s life, including himself, as well as a certain enigmatically smiling lady.
This is not a deck that would be useful to a brand new Tarot reader who is taking the first steps to understand the Tarot deck. The images do not offer traditional tarot imagery, archetypes and symbolism, and a good portion of the Macrocosm/Major Arcana cards have alternate names. The Da Vinci Enigma Tarot is not an instant-reading deck but rather, it requires taking the time to get to know the images and the meanings associated with each card. A few of the cards depict nudity, so if that is objectionable to you, this is not your deck.
However, even someone with only a little Tarot experience would enjoy this deck. The Da Vinci Enigma Tarot will appeal to readers who are interested in the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and Renaissance art in general. The combination of Da Vinci’s line drawings and the meticulously crafted guidebook offer exciting texture to card interpretations give us an insight into the mind of Da Vinci by creating interesting connections between traditional Tarot archetypes and technology and artistic expression. The guidebook offers a unique view of the cards and card interpretations. Combined, a reader can offer to a Seeker a sophisticated reading that digs deep and brings valuable and thought-provoking advice.
Caitlin Matthews, partner of John Matthews, is the creator or co-creator of numerous Tarot and Oracle decks such as the Arthurian Tarot and the Celtic Wisdom Tarot, and is the author of over 60 books. Information regarding her work, her seminars and available newsletters may be found at her website, hallowquest.org,uk.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.