|Summary: The Yoga Tarot combines two powerful tools of self-discovery into one. This deck encourages a turning inward, a self-examination, and a questioning that may, for a while leave the reader with more questions. But then, eventually, the path will lead to truer answers to deeper, unanticipated questions. While not a beginner deck, it is a gentle and surprising experience.
Name of deck: The Yoga Tarot
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Artist’s name: Adriana Farina
Name of accompanying booklet: Yoga Tarot
Number of pages of booklet: 63, 14 in English
Authors of booklet: Massimiliano Filadoro
Available in a boxed kit?: Yes, it includes a red velvet bag for the cards
Reading Uses: general divination, spiritual readings
Ethnic Focus: Indian
Tarot, Divination Deck, Other: Tarot
Does it follow Rider-Waite-Smith Standard?: Somewhat
Does it have extra cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Major Arcana cards?: No
Does it have alternate names for Minor Arcana suits?: Yes
Pentacles = Mandalas
Wands = Vajras
Cups = Lotus Flowers
Swords = Trishulas (tridents)
Why was deck created?: To combine Yoga and Tarot, two different paths that lead to a profound knowledge of the self.
Yoga and Tarot are tools that, ideally, lead to balance and knowledge. This deck combines these two paths into one very interesting tool. Must one be knowledgeable about yoga to use this deck? Not really. Such knowledge will undoubtedly add to the experience. However, the deck and Little White Booklet together provide enough to springboard any user into a really powerful experience. Although definitely NOT charmed by the art and only a very casual yoga practitioner, I had my doubts about this deck. Don’t you love it when being wrong leads to being pleasantly surprised?
First, let’s discuss the structure of this deck. The Major Arcana are all named in the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith manner on the cards. In the booklet, we also see an association with yoga. For example, Dhyana (meditation) is the High Priestess, Karma is The Wheel of Fortune, and Pratyahara (the withdrawal of the senses) is the Hanged Man. All of these associations and the images connect very nicely and recognizably with the RWS Major Arcana cards.
The Minor Arcana, as is often the case with Lo Scarabeo decks, is where things move out of many people’s comfort zones. Although the suits and numbers of the RWS format are there, they are named differently (Mandala, Vajra, Lotus Flower, and Trishula) and the images and meanings do not follow the common RWS meanings. Each suit illustrates a path of yoga. The suit of Pentacles (Mandalas) is Hatha Yoga. It is associated with the phrase "to live" and is a path of physical healing. The suit of Wands (Vajras) is Karma Yoga. It is associated with the phrase "to create" and is a path of freedom. The suit of Cups (Lotus Flowers) is Bahkti Yoga. It is associated with the phrase "to love," and is a path of connection with the Divine. The suit of Swords (Trishulas) is Raja Yoga. It is associated with the phrase "to be" and is a path of meditation.
Instead of trying to match yoga postures or tenets to the common RWS images and meanings, this deck uses the structure of the Minor Arcana to show the development of the practitioner along the various yoga traditions. Each suit is a progression; it makes sense. While some people may be uncomfortable with the deviation from what they are accustomed to, it might be worth the discomfort to experience this journey.
Since I’m not that well versed in yogic tradition and don’t easily recognize the symbolism or postures in this deck, I really appreciate the guidance provided by the booklet. Using both together opened a whole world to me. The booklet includes the usual keywords for divinatory purposes, but it also includes a short phrase that kind of turns on the light so that the image makes sense (at least that’s how it worked for me). Let’s look at the Cups as an example. It begins with the Ace, of course, and says "All experiences come from a single source." The three of Cups says that "the path of the heart has been traveled and the act of love becomes meditation." Other phrases in the Cups include: "Which emotions emerge from my past to confuse me?" and "Feelings that have nourished me up to now have become encumbrances that hold me back."
This deck is certainly an interesting study of the paths of yoga and of how Tarot can be used very effectively as a map of systems of belief. This is important because the RWS deck and its derivatives are essentially mapping out the same system of belief. This shows the Tarot’s beautiful flexibility (good pun, there, yes?) in mapping other systems.
The Yoga Tarot is also a challenging journey for the user. It asks questions of us that we may not be ready or able to answer. It may raise more questions. It suggests that the answers are less important than the process of questioning. This is not a comfortable assumption for most Western minds. At the same time, though, this deck has gentleness about it, an honoring of discomfort and limitations. It does, really, feel a lot like practicing yoga.
This is all very nice, I can practically hear you saying, but you want to know, how does it perform as a reading deck? Frighteningly well. Really. The "Four Energies" spread included in the booklet is quite nice. It is both self-reflective and practical. That is, you can use it to reflect on your state of being or you can use it to answer a question. With a deck designed to encourage more questions, I was surprised that it really does, in the end, lead to practical answers born of deeper reflection. Impressive.
The Yoga Tarot will end up in my "I’ll use it more often that I expected" pile.