November/December 2016 / Gift Guide Issue
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The Sensual Wicca TarotReview
This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on January 11, 2009
Summary: A brilliant attempt to present the Tarot, Wicca, and the Wiccan aspects of sexuality that doesn’t quite succeed due to limitations of format and skill. Still, at times this deck soars above the limitations and is filled with brilliance and inspiration, making this a good deck for meditation and collection.
Name of deck: Sensual Wicca Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Creator’s name: Nada Mesar
Artist’s name: Elisa Poggese
Name of accompanying booklet: Sensual Wicca Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 64 (14 in English)
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes. The set includes the deck and a beautiful lined satin drawstring bag. The lining is silver and the exterior is violet. The bag is embroidered with silver Wiccan symbols: the full moon with waxing and waning moons on either side and a pentagram in the center. Above it is a dagger and below is a chalice and wand.
Magical Uses: Meditation
Reading Uses: All general readings, especially those for relationships
Ethnic Focus: multicultural
Artistic Style: Modern graphic
Theme: Multicultural Wicca with a focus on sensuality.
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Yes
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: Yes. They are:
The High Priestess
The Hanged Man
The Two Vessels
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: No, however the court cards are renamed. Page, Prince, Queen and King become Maiden, Acolyte, Mother and Sage.
Why was deck created?: According to the little white book (LWB) that comes in the kit: "This deck explores the themes of sex and sexuality from a spiritual point of view and, in particular, through the Wicca belief and symbology. It is intended as a tool to facilitate exploration, meditation, and communication."
Whenever I get a new deck to review one of the first things I do is simply fan out the cards. When I did this with the Sensual Wicca Tarot, the first thing I thought was, "Milton Erickson would have loved this deck." Huh?
In recent years, I’ve been putting a lot of time into the study of hypnosis, and the most important hypnotist of the last half-century was Erickson. He totally transformed the theory and practice of hypnosis. Part of his technique was developed overcoming his personal handicaps. One of those handicaps was being colorblind. He resolved this problem in terms of dressing in a simple way. He wore a lot of the one color that looked good to him, and by owning clothes that had a lot of that color, he always matched. That color was purple.
And believe me, purple is everywhere in this deck! It’s the main color of the outside of the beautiful satin bag that comes with the deck. It’s the color of the back of the deck (which has the same design as that on the bag). It’s the color of the large border on each card. So if you are not a fan of purple, you’re not going to like this deck. Luckily, I like purple, so the next thing I looked at was the graphics and images on the cards.
The graphics are easily as good as that found on many modern decks. It has a sort of cartoony-mangaish style that is very popular today. The major difference between the drawings on this deck and that of other Tarot decks is that artist Elisa Poggese did not shy away from nudity. There’s plenty of nudity here, including some very sexual images:
The Lovers has a pose from the Kama Sutra. Obsession (RWS=The Devil) appears as a kinky S&M scene with a woman chained to a large pentagram and a man, fully erect, in a devilish mask. Eruption (RWS=The Tower) shows a couple having ecstatic intercourse with a volcano erupting in the background. One-Ness (RWS=The World) has a couple in the sitting "yab-yum" position surrounded by the zodiacal symbols and the Earth in the background. The two of cups shows two women kissing and more. The 5 of cups shows a naked woman abandoned by a naked man who is more interested in holding another naked man. Acolyte (RWS=Prince) of Cups shows a young man riding a dolphin by holding the dolphin’s large dorsal fin in a masturbatory gesture. The 2 of Wands shows the back of two naked young men stand side by side, arms familiarly over each other’s shoulders. The Mother (RWS) of Swords incongruently shows a lounging, bare-breasted young woman receiving a named man holding a platter with a decapitated head (Salome and John the Baptist?). If you’re not open to this kind of imagery, this deck is not for you.
One problem I have with the art is that the artist seems to have trouble drawing women’s breasts. They seem to be going in opposite directions as if running to get away from each other. I think that may have been more of a limitation of the artist than a symbolic intention.
Does this deck achieve its goal of representing sex and sensuality from a viewpoint of Wicca? To answer that question, I would have to share a bit of what I know about Wicca as it would relate to this deck. The term "Wicca" is from old English, and is the source of the better-known term "Witch." The term "Witch" became negative at the hands of those who oppressed the Pagans of England, so when Gerald Gardner reintroduced a form of Western Paganism in the 1950s, he referred to it as Wicca. It was a specific single tradition. However, there quickly grew a few variations. These became wider and wider until an explosion of Wicca occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, opening up Wicca to other beliefs and cultures. So while Wicca was once strictly a British relgio-magical path, it has evolved to encompass traditions from native cultures of the world. This deck is highly multicultural, so if your concept of Wicca is that of Gardnerian Wicca only, this deck may not be the one you’re looking for.
Because Wicca has grown to encompass so much, it is impossible to state "Wicca is X" because there is bound to be some person or group who will say "No, Wicca is not X." Complicated, huh? Generally speaking, however—and I’m sure there will be some who will disagree—Wicca has what might be called a "sex-positive" attitude. That is, all forms of sexuality between consenting adults are approved. This is tempered with one of the most accepted beliefs of Wiccans (although again, not by all) known as the "Wiccan Rede": if it doesn’t harm anyone, do what you will. Therefore, non-traditional relationships are allowed as long as nobody is being hurt—mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Lesbianism, homosexuality, multiple partners, S&M are okay if all involved agree and nobody is hurt in any way.
Further, one aspect of Wicca is the acknowledgement that sexuality is an aspect of spirituality. In the "Charge of the Goddess," recited by many Wiccans during certain rituals, it says, "Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals."
With this admittedly superficial look at the nature of Wicca and sexuality, we can now look at this deck more closely to see if it "explores the themes of sex and sexuality …through the Wicca belief and symbology." I have to give this deck a decidedly mixed review. Some of the imagery is imaginative and powerful. For example, Lust (RWS=Strength, but this seems taken from the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot) shows a naked woman astride a galloping horse, clearly ecstatic with a lust for life itself. This is just wonderful imagery and certainly Pagan in tone. Time (RWS=Wheel of Fortune) is nothing short of spectacular. It shows the three aspects of the Wiccan goddess—Maiden, Mother, and Crone—as the Greek Fates, with the crone, Atropos, holding a knife to cut the thread of life at the end of our days. Behind them is the entrance to a dark cave in the form of a vulva, indicating that the power of fate itself is truly related to the power of women and the Goddess. This card alone is worth the price of this deck!
Unfortunately, the artist and designer, needing to fit this into what the LWB describes as "…constructed according to the traditional Tarot structure…" where unable to carry the Wicca/sexuality theme through all the cards. Some just don’t seem to fit. The Hanged Man shows a Native American hanging from a tree limb by his feet. The Stars shows a bare-chested African in loose green pantaloons, his arms outstretched. The Moon shows a stature of Anubis in front of pyramids. The 4 of Cups shows a mournful young Asian woman with three spilled cups and one cup upright. The seven of cups has a fish swimming through waters around seven submerged cups. The Ace of Pentacles has an angry, cartoonish bear on his hind legs in front of a pentagram carved into the side of a mountain. The 10 of Wands shows a woman being burned at the stake.
How about as a Tarot deck with meanings similar to that of the RWS deck? Again, this deck is a mixed bag. For example, Arising (RWS=Judgement) shows a sleeping man astral projecting. The Mother (RWS=Empress) shows a woman walking a child and leading a horse. The Chariot shows an empty chariot with a man and a woman astride horses that draw the cart. I found all of these images jarring and not related to the RWS model, in some cases (such as the Chariot) not even implying the meanings given in the LWB.
As is usually the case, the LWB leaves much to be desired. It does include two spreads and a meditation that could be helpful for a relationships and for understanding each other more thoroughly.
This deck gave me delightful highs but unfortunate lows. As a result, I frankly felt uncomfortable trying to do readings with it and wouldn’t trust them. That’s probably my fault and my loss. I have no doubt that if this valiant attempt intrigues you, with a little work you would have no trouble using this deck successfully. Some of the art in this is so wonderful. I already described Lust and Time. I didn’t mention how, if you pay attention, you will see characters from one card appearing in others. For example, the man and woman in The Chariot reappear in the 6 of Wands. The African man from The Stars shows up in several places. Transformation (RWS=Death) shows an evil, white-masked woman bending over a sleeping figure with a large portrait of the RWS Death card hanging on the wall! Brilliant and haunting, but I’m going to have to meditate more on the meaning of these symbols.
Although the intention is wonderful and some of the art is just spectacular in its passion and imagery, I regret to say that the deck really doesn’t achieve its stated purpose. But as a collector’s item for some of its art and symbols, this is a collectible item and worthy of more exposure.
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