Tarot/Oracle Decks

Kamasutra Tarot

Kamasutra Tarot  
by A.R. Madan, Vijai & Ram
Llewellyn, 2007


“Sex sells! Tarot sells! A Kama Sutra Tarot will sell, too!” You can hear this pitch echo from the halls of the publisher’s offices, and the set’s notes confirm it. “When the deck was originally designed,” the editor admits, “the first impulse was to associate one card with each of the Kama Sutra positions. Ultimately, though, this approach proved fruitless.” The publisher’s response? Commission two Indian artists “to create a series of authentic images in the style and character frequently found in illustrated versions of the Kama Sutra. Twenty-two of these images were selected, adapted, and related to the twenty-two Major Arcana of the Tarot. Fifty-six were organized into four suits, and then related to the divinatory meanings popularly assigned to the Minor Arcana.” In short: “These systems weren’t compatible, so we just made stuff up.” Yeah.

This is the least of the sins found in the Kamasutra Tarot, a product intended to “combine the erotic intelligence of the world’s best-known erotic work… with the structure and mysticism of Tarot,” yet that insults the intelligence of both systems. This product also features cheap production, flimsy materials, silly rites, and artwork that’s flat-out bad. Aping the look of classical Hindu art, these cards beg the question: Has either artist ever seen a naked woman? If so, one might assume they’d know that her yoni is located between her legs, not halfway up her abdomen. While the actual Kama Sutra’s take on sexual realities is fanciful, the positions in this deck defy gravity, physiognomy, and animal husbandry laws! Added to Madan’s suggestion that couples “request permission to attempt” the acts in question while using the cards, this art becomes even more absurd. Sure, a skilled yogi or yogini might “attempt” certain advanced Kama Sutra postures, but not even the most enthusiastic tantrika can relocate her vagina. Such practitioners are not this product’s intended audience, anyway. Gullible westerners are, and Madan treats them contemptuously.

In the Author’s Preface to the companion book, Madan whines that “…the Kama Sutra Tarot [yes, the very name of the product is spelled inconsistently throughout!]… appears on the market with two strikes against it… the disdain of sex-negative Westerners — particularly the Americans… (and)… the prejudices of those who see the tarot [it’s inconsistently capitalized, too] as a venue for Satanic influence.” True, Americans do have cultural preconceptions about sex and the occult, but this complaint appears on the first page and the author never really stops whining.

Next, the booklet offers a sarcastic overview of the Kama Sutra itself.

Summarizing the seven parts of the original text by Vatsayana, Madan notes the sexism, economic impossibilities, and questionable pharmacopoeia of the legendary “book of love.” The next section details Madan’s exasperation with the “angry and unhappy… documentarians” and “pale, sour… psychologists” who supposedly “dominate… most talk about tarot.” For two pages, Madan rails against folks who only think they know what the Tarot means. “I plead with you,” the author concludes, “do not allow your ideas about tarot to be dictated by frightened scholars and impotent magicians.” No, indeed.

Then comes the section that had me coughing with laughter: uses of the deck. Space prevents me from describing the physically impossible, socially ludicrous, and erotically absurd rituals offered but suffice it to say that if card-assisted circle jerks and intercourse on elephant-back are your thing, you might find something useful here.

There’s more: a second booklet that condenses the first one, but in five different languages; cards that feature six languages but no discernible connection to Tarot imagery; multiple typos and editing errors; packaging that boasts of features the set does not contain… Enough. This misfit insults both traditions and treats users with contempt. Spend your money on something worthwhile.


RATING: Zero broomsticks

» Originally appeared in newWitch #17

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