The Tarot of Prague - Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov
“We designed the Tarot of Prague to be a vibrant expression of the city. The images are collaged from thousands of original photographs of the streets and houses, the murals and statues, manuscripts and drawings, and even from the games that make up Prague’s rich visual treasury.” – From the Booklet
In some ways, I’m working my way backwards when it comes to the richly produced art of baba studio. To my knowledge, I own every deck and book created by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov, having reviewed most of them. However, it wasn’t until now that I began to work with The Tarot of Prague, baba studio’s signature deck that is so beloved in the Tarot community. (In fact, this deck was recently used in an episode of the TV show Ghost Whisperer!)
I don’t have the Tarot of Prague Kit, just the small box with the L(ittle) W(hite) B(ook), so that’s what I’ll be reviewing. The Tarot of Prague follows the Rider Waite Smith system, although the Majors aren’t numbered, and there’s an extra Majors card: Prudence. The upper left hand of the cards depict the number or letter (in the case of Aces and the Courts), with a golden Cup, Sword, Wand, or 5-pointed Star (Pentacle) in the lower right hand corner. Matte-finished cards measure approximately 5”x 3”, with card backings depicting an intricate assemblage of graphite hued scrollwork, birds, candelabras, and humans representing the four elements. At first glance, the backings appear reversible, but upon closer inspection, they are not. However, if you’re not looking too closely, you probably won’t notice during the shuffling process.
The 32-page LWB gives a brief overview of Tarot history, as well as learning and reading the cards. Also provided is a good overview of the general meanings of the numbers and Court Cards (e.g. Pages often indicate exploration, study, enthusiasm, risk-taking beginnings, news, and messages, while the number two often deals with issues of union, balance, decisions, and dealing with emotional forces.) A few spreads are shared, including the Celtic Cross and a specially created 5-card Prague “Threshold” spread. Upright keywords are given for all the cards, but the Majors are given more attention with a brief explanation. Karen gives a great overview of each of the suits/elements, including the positive and negative sides of each expression.
Aesthetically speaking, The Tarot of Prague didn’t appeal to me at first. In fact, I still have mixed feelings about the mish-mashed media used for the cards, especially some of the cartoon-like images paired with gorgeous photography. If it were a photo-only collaged deck, like the Tarot de Paris, I think I’d appreciate it more.
Because of this initial lack of resonance, I had my doubts about how The Tarot of Prague would read for me. However, I’m happy to please that I just did a 3-card Body, Emotions, Spirit spread and it was quite clear, surprising, and accurate! I had just finished walking over a mile on the treadmill, and was feeling energetic, centered, and clear-minded. I drew the 4 of Cups, 3 of Cups, and Ace of Cups for my spread, and, admittedly, the 4 of Cups in the Body position threw me. I had expected a “fiery” card to represent the fat-burning engine that had just been stoked (LOL)—a card like The Sun or the Ace of Wands. What in the world was the card of “boredom” doing in that position?! So I went to the LWB, and to my surprise, it mentioned “withdrawal from excesses” as one of the possible meanings. How uncanny! You see, I had began a (mostly) low-fat diet back in August, and have lost over 30 pounds so far. One of the things I noticed is that food preference seems to be a habit of sorts, because I no longer craved high-fat foods; in fact, they didn’t even appeal to me! So my body was, indeed, on a “withdrawal” from excess fat—in a good way!
The 3 of Cups reflected the emotional “high” I had felt towards the end of my workout (hello endorphins!), as well as my desire to make it to the 2007 Readers Studio in NYC in April. In my spiritual practice, I had been (trying) to work on cultivating compassion and such, so the Ace of Cups in the Spirit position spoke several meaningful messages to me.
So while I didn’t immediately connect with the images of the Tarot of Prague, it is proving to be a unique, incisive, accurate deck. Incidentally, the same thing happened with baba studio’s Victorian Romantic Tarot; I ABHORRED the artwork (originally) and now it is one of my favorite personal decks for my Card-a-Day readings and journaling. Honestly, there’s just something special about Team Karen and Alex!