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Board game + role play + self-help = Camelot Oracle
on 11 July 2013
The deck comes in a sturdy box featuring a large portrait of Arthur on the cover. Inside the box, you will find a 128-page companion book, a large paper layout sheet referred to as the 'Lands Adventurous', and a deck of 40 cards: 32 Arthurian characters called 'Archetypes' and 8 Path cards.
The cards are a reasonable size, measuring 7 x 12 cm. They have narrow white borders. The cards feel like cards, not plastic. If there is lamination, it is extremely light. (Certainly you should think twice before getting them near liquids or reading while eating crisps! -- not that you would!) The texture is very pleasant. The cards are thick enough to feel substantial but still thin enough to easily riffle shuffle, if that's something you like (which I do!). The colours are rich, and more reminiscent of the artwork in Worthington's Druidcraft and Plant and Animal Oracles than his more recent Wildwood Tarot. I am a tremendous fan of Worthington's art; I bought this deck because he painted it, so I am biased toward him. But I find these cards extremely beautiful.
The archetype cards
There are 32 archetype cards featuring characters from Arthurian legends. Most of the portraits contain enough attitude in facial expression, stance and background to help you understand the qualities represented. A few of the cards were modelled by members of Will Worthington's family, and they really stand out from the rest. For some reason, portraits from a model always seem more 'human' than those from the imagination. Each card features the archetype in a character-revealing pose. The character's name is shown at the bottom of the card, framed by a scroll. Bedivere is my absolute favourite card. I love everything in the card: his aged, noble face, the stance he's taking as he reaches back to fling Excalibur into the lake, the moonlight across the water. This card is epic. I can almost hear the music from the movie 'Excalibur' playing in the background when I look at it. The most compelling card is Igraine. She's amazing. Literally. The first time I saw this card, I thought she would be Morgana. But putting the Morgana and Igraine cards side by side, I can see why the choice was made. Igraine's look is so knowing, and so completely NOT 'otherworldly'. (It so happens this card is one of the ones based on a real model. So is Gareth, by the way.)
The path cards
There are 8 additional 'path' cards in the deck, which will be explained below under 'The System'. They are black and white images, very evocative.
The book is a sturdy, 128-page, full-size book. The pages are nice and thick, and the book is stitched and glued, so that if you play around with it a bit, you can get it to lie flat (if you're careful). It's constructed just like the Druidcraft book.
It is divided into five parts: Intro, Archetypes, Paths, Places and Working with the Camelot Oracle. For the Archetypes, Paths and Places sections, there are 2 pages per card. A black and white image of the card, a list of aspects and qualities, a brief summary of the character's role in the Arthurian legends, then the character as champion, challenger and in meditation. (More on these below). The book finishes with instructions for how to use the layout sheet and cards, gives one sample reading, three short guided meditations, a list of other characters you might want to research further, and suggestions for further reading.
All in all it is a useful and practical guide to using the cards, though I would have liked to have been given more back story about what each character does in the Arthurian legends, but I suppose that would have made the book too long, and might be tedious for those familiar with the stories.
The system for using the cards appears to have grown out of meditation exercises Matthews conducts in his workshops. In essence, you imagine you have gone into the Arthurian universe where a character will help you find your way to the answer to your question or problem. Along the way, you will encounter another character who challenges you in typical Arthurian fashion--by posing a question to you.
The method is this: You separate the deck into archetypes and paths. You then draw one path card and two archetypes. The first archetype is your champion. You can choose your champion rather than draw it, if you wish. The second archetype is your challenger. The path is the journey you are on in finding the answer to your question, or whatever the issue is that you are reading for.
Your journey always begins at Camelot, where in your imagination you have stated your case or asked your question of the Round Table and have been assigned a champion to accompany you on your journey. You place the champion archetype on the Camelot spot the layout sheet provided. Then you look at your path card, laying your challenger card on the place where that path leads.
The contemplation then begins, as you check in the companion book for the explanation of your Path card and the Place of your destination. You read the personal message your Champion has for you. Then you turn to your Challenger's page where he or she will pose a question to you. Pondering the answer to this question is meant to give you your answer.
It's an interesting concept, almost like a combination of board game, role play and self-help. There are variations on this basic method given in the book. The book also encourages you to meditate on and journey in the cards.
I am very taken with the deck, intrigued by the system, which I feel that as your familiarity with the archetypes and method grows, will feel less clunky, more natural and of course you would begin to make it your own, doing things your own way.