Tantra Tarot by Leah Levine and Bertram Wallrath
Review by Morwenna Morasch

This is another deck and book set whose publishing date I awaited – not because I'm so much interested in Tantra, but because I like Indian art, and some of the card previews did look promising. 

This time, I was not rewarded. While the book is a good introduction into Tantric ideas, the deck itself is nothing more than an eclectic collection of Indian and Hinduist artwork which looks like it was randomly gathered. The cards show everything from wall paintings to ink drawings to photographs of statues. Some show erotic positions, like it is common for some Indian temples or illustrations of the Kama Sutra, but most cards show just – well, some Indian art.

I tried to consult the companion book to find out who or what is actually depicted on the cards. I recognized Kali as Death and Krishna as the Fool, but the book says nothing about its sources. There are some efforts to relate the symbolism on the pictures to the tarot, but since the deck obviously uses already existing images, I doubt whether this is legitimate. For example, the Hermit shows a man in a lonely landscape who carries his hat on a staff. The book just states, "It is like a lantern to show him the path." The only original card in the whole deck is probably the Hanged Man , showing a woman making love with a man while she is held upside down by him and thus experiencing a situation where she gets a new view while not being able to be active.

The court cards are done in the same way as the Majors; there are not even suit symbols on them to show what they are. The suits are Swords, Cups, Wands, and Discs. They are pips showing the respecting number of icons on a colored background (blue for Swords, red for Wands, green for Cups, and purple for Discs). The swords look like daggers and the cups like small roundish vases or urns. The cards are larger than average and measure 14 x 9.5 cm. They are printed on glossy, slightly slippery cardstock and have beautiful, non-reversible backs showing a dancing couple. At first glance, this really is an attractive pack! 

The book is a slightly better deal, at least as far as the introduction to Tantra in general goes. The basic idea is explained in plain terms and easily understand. As an overview, it sketches the three forms of Tantra (red, white and black), explains the substantial terms like Kundalini and the Chakras, as well as the basic elements of a Tantra ritual.

The next chapters tries to connect Tantra and Tarot. I suspect that it is a rather forced marriage, especially since I normally think a "special purpose deck" is somewhat wasted – the great thing about Tarot is not being limited to a single purpose! The authors also found their connection on a correspondence between the four philosophic stages of Tantric life and the four suits of the Tarot:

-         Sambhoga, the stage of the joyful life – corresponds with water, youth, emotions and family life (=Cups)

-         Nirmana, the stage of building – corresponds with fire, adolescence, activity,status (=Wands)

-         Artha, the stage of wealth and possessions – corresponds with earth, middle age, harvest, success (=Discs)

-         Moksha, the stage of breaking free or the art of dying – corresponds with air, old age, the separation of body and mind (=Swords) 

To me, this is just an indication that not everything that can be connected with the elements is necessarily connected with the Tarot! 

Another one of the good points about the book are the spreads it provides. There are two or three basic ones and some tantric ones. The spread I like best uses 20 cards. It gives three cards for the rational, the emotional and the instinctive side of a relationship: Main theme – strong points – weak points and a card for the conclusion, for both partners.

However, the idea of using the four Aces as a means to tell the partner about a "silent wish" seems rather cheesy to me. If I'd put the Ace of Cups on my pillow to signal my beloved that I "wish for a luxurious hot bath" it would most likely result in disbelieving laughter – why not just say it? Why not just start doing it?? And what is so difficult about asking for a hot bath, anyway??? 

I recommend this deck for collectors. I can't see myself ever do a reading with it, neither does it offer much input for meditation. It might be interesting to get a more in-depth tome about tantric philosophy, though!

See more cards from the Tantra Tarot here.

You can order this deck from German Amazon (mind the shipping costs!).

Tantra Tarot by Leah Levine and Bertram Wallrath
Publisher: Urania/AGM AGMόller, Switzerland, 2002
ISBN#: 3-908654-16-5