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Kamasutra Tarot Review

This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig, Certified Tarot Grandmaster on May 12, 2009
posted under

Kamasutra Tarot Review

Summary:
While catching the flavor of 17th and 18th century Indian art, this deck seems to force the explicit sexual images into fitting the Tarot model. Still, a collection of such art is rare and valuable, making this a wonderful collectors deck. Experienced Tarot users may find specific and unique times to read with this deck, but beginners may want to use other decks that have more traditional Tarot symbolism.

Actual Review:
I feel I have to start this review by stating that this deck is filled with very explicit illustrations of couples involved in sexual relations. If that alone is a "deal breaker," you have no reason to continue with this review.

Next, I’d like to look at the source text for this deck, the Kama Sutra. Many people talk of this book as having great spiritual value. They approach it as a key Tantric (a small part of Tantra involves spiritualized sexuality) text. Neither concept it true. It is far closer to what might be called a rule book for marriage. It is composed of seven sections, of which sections 3–6 are about how to get a wife, how a chief wife should act, how other wives should act and advice on how to become a courtesan. Section seven is about how to attract a partner and includes the closest thing to instructions on sexual magick found in the entire book. Section one, the introduction, introduces various Vedic spiritual concepts and may simply be slapped onto the book in order to give it some legitimacy. Indeed, at least one historian claims the entire book was a collection of other texts.

The remaining section is the part of the book that is most famous. It includes numerous legalistic and dogmatic concepts on how to have sexual relations, some of which require a great deal of physical strength and agility. It also describes 64 types of sexual acts. I vividly remember getting a copy of this book when I was about 14 years old on a vacation in Palm Springs. I eagerly tried reading it and no matter how much I skipped, I couldn’t help but find it stultifying, dated, and silly.

That brings us to an overview of the art in this deck. As described in the deck attributes below, the Art School Vijai & Ram of Rajastan have done an absolutely magnificent job of producing sexually explicit modern art in the style and character of of 17th and 18th century Indian art (heavily influenced by Mughal-style art) often found in published editions of the Kama Sutra. You’ll instantly recognize the style. But I had two difficulties with the basic nature of the art: first, many of the explicit poses seem to imply that the participants are mutants with genitals located closer to their stomachs than their groins. It may be that the artists did this to make the genitals more obvious (the same reason that modern adult movie players shave their pubic hair allowing for better camera angles), but it just looks weird. It’s a traditional technique, but it take the art out of any form of eroticism and into the world of symbolism, although the nature of that symbolism remains (as opposed to the characters in the art) unrevealed. Second, the 78 images of genitals with miniscule differences in many poses and faces that betray no emotion quickly remove any form of eroticism from this deck. So if you’re looking for images that will sexually arouse you, I would suggest you go elsewhere. You won’t find it here.

Now let’s get a bit more specific (explicit?). According to Madan’s included Little White Booklet (LWB), they thought of using the 64 different images of sexual relations, but this was impossible to relate to 78 cards. So they did their best. The Major Arcana has images of sexuality with symbolism from the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) deck thrown in for good measure. The fool shows a couple standing and copulating near a cliff with a small dog at their feet. The Magician shows a standing couple having sex with the tools of the magician positioned around them. The Empress shows a couple sitting in an impossibly complex sexual position. On the ground near the chair is a shield and a crown. Justice shows a couple sort of seated and having intercourse. They’re both blindfolded with a sword in the foreground and balance scales in the background.

So the limited Tarot symbolism will help with card interpretation for the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana has no such symbolism, making interpretation of them by people dependent upon their RWS pictorial images…difficult.

The LWB spends of lot of its precious space discussing the Kama Sutra, the Tarot, and the combination found here. Then it presents one reading with two layouts. The spread for men is a straight vertical line. The spread for women to use is a circle. Both use six cards and the meaning of the positions are identical. The only reason for the different shape, then, is to link it with the gender of the person giving the reading (or perhaps for the client).

For interpreting the cards, the author suggest that you should "study each card, experience its energy and subtle message first-hand, and draw your own conclusions as to the message the card has for you." The author goes on to ignore his advice and provide proposed meanings of the cards which are coherent with the RWS interpretations. Also included are concepts for each of the suits: Wands represent the theme of desire and creation, Cups stress the importance of the "passive aspect of sexuality," Swords emphasize the "aggressive aspect of sexuality," and Coins suggest "the flat, passive expanse of the earth element."

You are advised to make the reading a "sensual experience" with dim lights, candles burning, incense, etc. "You are encouraged to use this deck naked, symbolizing your purity and vulnerability."

I have always contended that the Tarot will always give advice. If there is something you don’t like it will show you how to overcome it. If there is something you do like it will show you how to strengthen and encourage it. Here, however, the author says that if you don’t like the reading you should put out the candles and take a bath to remove the negative energy of the reading. If you do like it, the LWB advises that you perform a type of sex magick by yourself or with a "willing partner" to seal the session.

When I first systematically studied the Tarot, my training included memorizing the meanings of each card. The idea was that this would start you interpretation which would then be modified by any images on the card and your intuition. For awhile, for fun, I practiced doing readings using 3 x 5 cards that simply had the name of the Tarot card on them. I’m sharing this to indicate that with the system I use I really don’t need a pictorial Minor Arcana. Indeed, I don’t really need the images at all, however I like to have them to expand the reading.

Here, most of the images don’t add that much to any Tarot reading. In several readings I gave using this deck I was able to tap into my training and give effective but limited readings. But I did get an interesting learning from this deck. A single sexually explicit illustration is interesting. A few can be arousing. A bunch of them, however, is boring. As I wrote above, if you’re looking for arousal, you’ll want to go elsewhere.

Still, this deck is usable. It’s also a great deck for collectors. There are some decks I use all the time and some I use for special purposes or interests. This deck won’t go into either section. Rather, it will come out on rare occasions and for fun. I can’t recommend this as a first deck or a deck for regular use, but for special situations, experienced readers will find this deck useful.

Deck Attributes
Name of deck:Kamasutra Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
ISBN: 0-7387-1004-0
Creator(s) name(s): A. R. Madan
Artist’s names: Art School Vijai & Ram of Rajastan
Name of accompanying booklet:Kamasutra Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 64 (14 in English)
Author(s) of booklet: A. R. Madan
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes. The kit includes the deck and a 148-page, full-sized book.
Magical Uses: Some may use this for sex magick
Reading Uses: Love, romance, and for some people, general readings.
Ethnic Focus: India under the Mughal Empire
Artistic Style: Sexually explicit modern art created in the style and character of of 17th and 18th century Indian art (heavily influenced by Mughal-style art) often found in published editions of the Kama Sutra.
Theme: Sexual exploration of the Kama Sutra
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: In name, if not in image.
Does it have extra cards? If yes, what are they?: No.
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits? If yes, what are they?: Swords, Coins, Wands, Chalices.
Does it have alternate names for the Court Cards?: No
Why was deck created?: It was commissioned to combine "the erotic intelligence of the world’s best-known work on the art of love making with the structure and mysticism of the Tarot."
Book suggestions for Tarot beginners and this deck: Tarot for Beginners by P. Scott Hollander, any edition of the Kama Sutra, or Sexual Secrets by Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger.
Book suggestions for experienced Tarot users and this deck: Tarot & Magic and Modern Sex Magick by Donald Michael Kraig, any edition of the Kama Sutra, and Sexual Secrets by Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger.
Alternative decks you might like: Erotic Tarot of Milo Manara, Sensual Wicca Tarot, Decameron Tarot.

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