Baroque Bohemian Cats' Tarot - Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov
“There seems to be some definite, if indefinable, link between cats and tarot…Could it be that people who are attracted to animals as enigmatic, untamable and yet at the same time as warmly emotional as cats also find some of these same qualities in the tarot?” – From the companion book
Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov, the creative geniuses who run baba studio and Magic Realist Press in Prague, meld lavish costumes, posed cats, stunning Bohemian scenery, and quirky art and architecture in the Baroque Bohemian Cats’ Tarot. While many “cat decks” are mostly art decks, this gorgeous Tarot is a bona fide reading deck based on the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition.
Sumptuous fabrics and lovely detailing grace the costumes created by Finnish artist Anna Hakkarainen, while many of the “models” used in the Baroque Bohemian Cats’ Tarot were from the Prague Cats Rescue Home. Russian Blues, Tabbies, Persians, Siamese, Orientals, British Shorthairs, mixed breeds—all manner of hue and personality infuse these cards.
From the singing Abyssinian on the 3 of Pentacles to the wide-eyed kitten on the Sun card (which was coaxed to stand up on a horse with a teaspoon of cream!), the almost-human expressions surprise and delight. The fierceness of the Siberian on the Knight of Swords crackles with energy, and the sweet innocence of the 6 of Cups elicits an “awww!” for both its cuteness and the way it captures the essence of this card. The 9 of Cups is a hilarious card, with a British shorthair licking his lips in snarky Puss in Boots fashion. Ms. Mahony writes of this card:
“A somewhat portly and obviously very satisfied cat sits on a barrel in the public room of an inn, licking his lips. Behind him, carved in wood, can be a seen a scene of grand merrymaking.”
Because some readers prefer Strength and Justice as either Trump 8 or 11, the deck designers have chosen to keep the Majors unnumbered. In addition to the standard RWS attributions and format, Ms. Mahony and Mr. Ukolov have also added a “good luck” card to the Baroque Bohemian Cats’ Tarot: Hermes—which shows a golden statue of the god in a sunny courtyard while a lovely cat clothed in a sage green gown with white ruffles looks on. At first glance, it appears the card backings are fully reversible, but upon closer inspection, you can see the names Ukolov and Mahony on opposing sides. Because the script is so small, however, the backings still work wonderfully for reversals.
This deck, like their Fairytale Tarot, arrives in a box set with a beautifully bound soft cover book. With 207 pages, the glossy pages depict black and white reproductions of the cards as well as photos of fountains, sculptures, paintings, and various architectural elements found therein. Ms.Mahony’s prose, as always, is a sheer joy to read, and she offers a brief overview of what’s going on in the card, a “cat’s interpretation”, keywords and phrases for both upright and reversed meanings, and a lucid, in-depth explanation of the card. She also notes source materials for each card.
The Baroque Bohemian Cats’ Tarot is an excellent reading deck, and especially good as a deck for children or cat lovers. Because this deck follows RWS, it can be used in conjunction with many Tarot books, making it a great beginner’s deck, as well. I’ve had quite a few insights with these cards, which I’ve jotted down in my Tarot journal. While an artistically exquisite Tarot that belongs in every art deck collection, it’s an excellent deck for both reading and meditation.