The Oracle of Dr. John Dee by the illustrious John Matthews and one of the tarot community’s favorite artists Wil Kinghan was first published in 2013. Anything with the name John or Caitlin Matthews on it is guaranteed to be well-researched and worth your while.
John Dee was an alchemist, astrologer, mathematician, geographer, philosopher, and historian. In other words, a polymath. Dee met Edward Kelly, who claimed to be a powerful medium. In a vision, Kelly told Dee that he saw Archangel Michael seated on a throne with a kneeling figure at the archangel’s feet, and that figure was none other than John Dee. Needless to say, Dee took a liking to this Kelly.
Dee and Kelly formed a partnership where, over the course of several months, the two downloaded an entire language system from Heaven, the language Adam used to converse with the Creator and the angels. Dee called this language Enochian.
The card back design features the Hieroglyphic Monad, Dee’s personal emblem. The deck itself consists of 28 cards divided into four sets, color-coded Green, Red, Gold, and Silver signifying the four alchemical phases.
Each of the four sets consists of seven archetypal cards. The seven cards are:
- The Magus for Knowledge
- The Alchemist for Transformation
- The Astronomer for Perception
- The Astrologer for Futures
- The Geographer for Journeys
- The Physicians for Well-being
- The Historian for the Map of Life
The card illustrations feature portraits of Dee, alongside other key luminaries from the Elizabethan world of John Dee, along with historical figures who would have influenced Dee’s work.
So there’s a Green Magus, who in this oracle deck is John Dee as a prophet and seer, and a Green Alchemist, a card featuring Nicolas Flamel, and a Green Astronomer, featuring Nicolaus Copernicus, and so on.
The Red Magus is Edward Kelly, the Red Alchemist is another portrait of John Dee, the Red Astronomer is Johannes Kepler, the Silver Historian is Polydore Vergil, and so on.
The Gold Astrologer is Simon Forman, a physician, occultist, and astrologer from Elizabethan times. The Gold designates the alchemical phase (Citrinitas, transmutation from silver to gold) and Astrologer is the archetype of a sage of Futures.
Although the outer margins of the cards are parchment-toned and the card titles are in color-coded boxes, I’d still consider this a black and white deck, given the illustration work. The inner border features Enochian script, the alphabet-based written language system that Dee and Kelly used to communicate with angels.
The deck comes with a reading mat of Dee’s Golden Talisman for setting out your oracle readings, a diagram taken from Dee’s notebooks Golden Talisman (and currently held in the British Museum), circa 1659, and which is further explained in the companion guidebook.
The four alchemical phases producing the Magnum Opus, color-coded Green, Red, Gold, and Silver in this deck, bear the correspondences as noted below.
|Watchtower:||Tower of the North||Tower of the East||Tower of the South||Tower of the West|
|Archangel:||Angel of Septentrio: Uriel||Angel of Oriens: Raphael||Angel of Meridiens: Michael||Angel of Occidens: Gabriel|
|Ruling Over:||Work||Health||Intention or Direction||Love|
Anchoring the deck’s structure and universe are the Four Towers, which you’ll find on the diagram of Dee’s Golden Talisman. Each Tower governs one of the four divisions of life. The Tower of the North, where Archangel Uriel reigns, is the realm of your Work. The Tower of the East and Raphael is Health. The South and Archangel Michael represent your intentions and the decisions you make in terms of the directions you go. The Tower of the West under Archangel Gabriel’s watch is Love. Red-coded cards dominating in a reading, then, indicate core themes relating to your health, etc.
You can use the fold-out reading map as reference to start. Following the Golden Talisman’s design, you draw four cards going clockwise and set them upon the Four Towers. Each of these cards reveal something about that quadrant of your life at the moment of divination.
As for the center card, I alternate between designating it a significator or querent card, where it denotes something about my present status or a summary of the matter being inquired about and interpreting it as the key that brings the four corners into harmony. I love this five-card reading method and this oracle deck is particularly well-suited for that type of reading method.
Also, you’re really going to enjoy the guidebook. Any time you see John Matthews or Caitlin Matthews in the byline, you know the guidebook is going to be meaty, thoroughly well-researched, and invaluable to your studies.
I would not be shy about consulting the guidebook when doing readings with this deck. Do all the ceremonial woo you do to cast the reading, but then look up the cards drawn one by one in the book. The creators have done an incredible job making sure this deck is practical and operable.
Wil Kinghan’s artwork is just spectacular. Every time Kinghan and Matthews collaborate, the resulting deck is a masterpiece, and the Oracle of John Dee is no exception. Kinghan deftly achieves the aesthetic of 16th and 17th century engravings.
From tinkering with this oracle deck, my sense for the tool is that its creators, Matthews and Kinghan, have reconstructed the magical system devised by John Dee, made available a roster of talismanic calling cards to occultists throughout Western history that operate in a way likened to spirit guides or ascended masters, through which you can perform divinations by invoking angels.
The book, to me, is part of the divinatory system, because the text includes what reads like channeled messages or inquiries from the archangels to you. So, for instance, if the Gold Physician appears in your reading, with Hippocrates as the vision of the ascended master guiding you, Archangel Gabriel is also present, and in the text for the Gold Physician, you’ll see questions prompted by Gabriel for you to ruminate on.
I’ve had this deck for years now but only this year while doing a major spring cleaning and overhaul of my deck collection rediscovered Oracle of John Dee. If you enjoy decks like the AlcheMystic Woodcut Tarot, the premise of decks like the Angel Tarot, Occult Tarot, or the Tarot of Ceremonial Magick, where DuQuette integrated the Enochian system of magic into tarot, or are looking for an oracle deck that pairs well with your Hermetic Tarot, then you’re going to love the Oracle of John Dee. The deck also pairs well with Tarot of the Holy Light and the Rota Mundi Tarot.