Tarot Sutra by Patricia Canova     Review by Diane Wilkes

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A dear friend has oft accused me of being a prude--I think Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott would find me quite racy, even vulgar, but that's another discussion entirely.  I don't think prudishness alone, however, accounts for my distaste for Tarot Sutra. 

Well, let me tell you about this deck/book set, and you be the judge.  The oversized box is attractively concocted--it has a magnetized fold that you open like a box containing Kama Sutra products (Was Louisa May familiar with this line?  I ask you.)   The box shows an image of two naked bodies in flagrante delicto that also adorns the card backs.  Inside is a well surrounding a knock-off of the Rider-Waite and another well containing a 128-page book that holds "the vision the tarot affords of our search for physical union."

First, I have several comments about the deck itself.  The paper stock is flimsy and clearly punched out--the card edges are rough and, paradoxically, for a deck that is supposed to appeal to our sensuous side, not remotely affective to the touch.  Then there are not just keywords, but a catchphrase underneath each card.  The Majors have a bonus--an added suggestive statement like, "Discover yourself in the search for sexual meaning" (The Hermit) or "Wade into the deep well of your erotic nature and release your fantasies" (The Devil).  I find keywords an annoyance; these moronic sexual allusions are beyond distracting.   I happen to like the mostly-pastel coloring of the cards, though I expect it would not be everyone's cup of tea.  Unfortunately, the shoddy physical quality of the cards, combined with the irritating keywords, would preclude my using the deck on a regular basis.  Still, I find it incomprehensible that the author made a conscious decision to use the Rider-Waite-Smith drawings for a deck about sex.  It's like choosing Queen Victoria as poster girl for a Couch Dancing establishment.  Thoth I could understand...but Waite's approach to the tarot was anything but sexual.  The Tarot Sutra box implicitly promises a deck filled with writhing bodies.  Talk about false advertising.

But let's move on.   As you peruse the book that comes with the deck, your belief that the author is doing some major projection (or consciously scamming those with an interest in the tarot) becomes more cemented than Jimmy Hoffa.  What does the  Strength card have in common with The Chariot, The Hanged Man, The Devil, The Three of Wands, Ten of Wands, Queen of Wands, Eight of Swords, and the King of Swords?  If you failed to reply, "Handcuffs, and lots of 'em!", I guess it's time to go back to Tarot 101.  

I'll never see the lemniscate in quite the same way again. 

It's not that this deck offends me on a prurient level.  It doesn't, really.  It just seems like a silly way to use the tarot.  Many of the suggestions are repeated so often that the tarot doesn't seem to have a lot of bearing on the sexual options provided.  If you want to write a sexual how-to, why force the tarot into the shackles (so to speak)?

Some of the allusions are amusing.  The keywords for the Four of Swords are "Behind Closed Doors", evoking Charlie Rich's song in a way I never would have thought of for this card.  The author has only attributed "Music to Make Love By" for the Majors, though, not the Minor Arcana.  As a Chariot, Personality and Soul card, I can assure you that the theme music to Rocky and/or Chariots of Fire would not get me in an amorous state of mind, despite Canova's claim to the contrary.  And oysters are certainly not my idea of an erotic food.

Death  in this deck has been changed to Transformation...and you can guess what the keywords are for this one: Le Petit Mort.  Quelle surprise.  The Eight of  Wands has also been called the orgasm card, but here it's "A Flight of Fancy."  The text recommends you should "relax and have meals in bed."  Huh?  Not the image that comes to my mind from this card.  The Eight of Cups is "The Elegance of Thrust and Parry"; wouldn't that line allude more to Swords interplay?   Guess which card's keywords are "The Eyes Have It"--The Two of Swords.  Doesn't this just seem too inane for words?

Some cards make a bit more sense.  The Nine of Pentacles is a "Garden of Private Contentment" and the Knight of Swords' mantra is "When Fools Rush In," which is a perfect motto for this card.  However.  I know the Nine of Cups is often referred to as the wish card, but does that really mean the appropriate keywords are "Your Wish is My Command"?

I am all for devising new and creative ways to use the tarot.  I think it's an excellent tool to facilitate all kinds of communication, including sexual communication.  But Canova's treatment of the subject seems pro forma to me (the sexual tarot equivalent to Tarot Made Easy)--where's the room for creativity and spontaneity, the real keys to sexual excitement--not to mention, intimacy?  I am confident that there are better ways to use the tarot for individually-designed sexual gratification if that is your sole desire (as it were). There are also several "erotic" tarot decks out there--it seems to me they would be a more natural match for a project of this nature. 

I have heard glowing things about Patricia Canova as a tarot teacher from people I trust.  I have no doubt they're true.  However, this deck/book set does not serve her well.  

It may well be that I am, as my friend accused, a prude, and not the best person to review Tarot Sutra.  I think the deck would profit from more nudity, not less, so I'm not sure that's a fair criticism.  Nevertheless, I would only recommend this set for people who are more interested in a how-to sex manual that conveniently includes 78 cards than to tarot enthusiasts.


Four of Wands: Exultation of Eros

This card offers a tremendous capacity for endurance and a certain joie de vivre, but also a tendency to kiss and tell.  Ride through the Four of Wands and ask:  How many people does it take to give you pleasure?  What about one at a time, at least?  Make sure you have your partner's permission before you sell tickets to your love fete.  That urge to brag, compete, and partake with others may bring you to computer chat rooms.  Chart a course to an all-out erotic destination.  Don't forget to bring your partner along for the cruise of a lifetime.  Or perhaps visit a club that specializes in hedonism to satisfy your more unusual musings.  Of course, all this can happen without leaving your much-loved domicile--where you could also put on your own show by getting naked together on a painter's dropcloth with massage oil.

Challenge:  Not to be too predatory and demanding.

If you would like to purchase this deck/book set, click here.

Art and text 2000 Patricia Canova
Review and page 2001 Diane Wilkes

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