Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots by Caitlín Matthews

This is an excellently presented book, a manageable size and a delight to handle with its sturdy glossy cover and pages. A remarkable amount of information has been included in a book of this size through clear layout and illustrations of beautiful images of old cards and older style cards. This is a book which will be read, re-read and used as a book of study. Be prepared, have a Marseille deck at the ready because you will be wanting to pick up the cards when you start reading.

Caitlín Matthews sets the scene for the book with her concern that “five hundred years of tarot has begun to be lost”. Her dedicated research, study and practice over many years comes together in Untold Tarot to rectify this. Caitlin takes the reader from the big picture of the history of tarot to the instruction on ancient reading techniques, methods and spreads and then back to the big picture of our world today and the relevance and importance that the of art of reading ancient tarots can have on our lives and our communities.

The book covers how to read with these ancient decks which did not have illustrated pip cards but emblems instead. In the past one hundred years the Rider Waite Smith deck with pip cards depicted with pictures, with which we are all so familiar, has become the most popular deck and as a result, older skills have been lost. As Caitlín Matthews points out, reading these old cards is not merely a case of interpreting them through our knowledge of modern decks with illustrated minor arcana cards. Other skills and methods are needed to reveal the vast array of possible meanings which these cards can give and how to identify the specific meaning for each question.

The book outlines 2 major methods of reading the pip and court cards and the skills needed for reading older tarots. The reader can choose to work with either of these methods or may find that they prefer one to the other. Caitlín Matthews takes the reader from the basic skills of shuffling the cards to more complex skills of blending, reading in lines and directional reading. Many books on tarot give less emphasis to reading the minor arcana or pips and to the court cards than to the major arcana but that is not the case in Untold Tarot. The pip cards and court cards are thoroughly dealt with and the major arcana as well. Reading with these old skills and methods provide very concise and to the point answers, which is very helpful to those who read for clients who want clear answers and direction.

In Untold Tarot, Caitlín Matthews opens a door to a new world in tarot, albeit an ancient one. She invites the reader to step through that doorway and guides them to expand and deepen their knowledge and skill in reading tarot. As she writes, “In this book you will find ways of reading that enable the cards to be endlessly talkative, telling the story of your question like a landscape.”

Untold Tarot is an important contribution to tarot in the 21st century.

Review by Linda Henery