Deck Review: Meeting the Kitty Kahane Tarot by Kitty Kahane & Lilo Schwartz
The Kitty Kahane Tarot is a deck by artist Kitty Kahane and guidebook by psychologist Lilo Schwartz. I was drawn to it by its odd illustrated subjects drawn in a limited palette of beautiful colors, primarily blue, pink, and purple with spots of green and yellow. It looked like fun, like it didn't take itself too seriously. I'd seen the deck around on tarot readers blogs but it wasn't until I read Maranda Elizabeth's See the Cripple Dance column (you should definitely read and support their work) and paid attention to how they read with the deck that I saw its potential.
Trying to get my own copy was a bit of an internet dance. For the most part the deck seems to be out of print and the few copies you can get are in German, which I assume was its original version. I got lucky and nabbed one from a re-seller who must have been cleaning out their collection or something because they actually had it on sale for a fair price! It was the German version though, which I was a bit disappointed buy, but Tarot isn't about the writing, it's all in the art and symbols used and how they spark our intuition.
The deck came in a rigid two-piece box and contained a deck and the guidebook. The box was a bit larger than the cards, likely to accommodate the guidebook. The cards are a standard size, fitting easily in the hand. They are semi-matte, easy to shuffle and photograph though a bit slippery. Neither nothing to write home about or complain about. I still keep the cards in their box since its compact enough but I'm always tempted to shift the cards and guidebook to a bag.
Imagery & Content:
The Kitty Kahane Tarot is strongly influenced by the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. Most of the scenes will be familiar to anyone who has worked with a RWS deck before. The characters of the deck's art are humanoid with some exaggerated features and oddities. The illustrations are bright and colorful and often the characters are dressed in snazzy prints that catch the eye.
Due to the art style, one couldn't definitively make determinations on ethnicity and as for gender, there is space for ambiguity. The Ten of Cups card is pretty normative though; I look to that card to see how a deck really shakes out. The combination of the characters and the colorful landscape make me feel as if I'm on some alien planet that just looks the earth (or the earth looks like it, idk), so who knows what the norms are!
Each of the card titles are in German, so I couldn't tell you for sure whether their names have been changed. It's not too hard to figure out which card is which as some of the words are easy to translate like (Stabe for Staff) and as I said the scenes are familiar to the RWS deck. The modifications from the RWS versions are interesting and add to the card's meaning rather than distract the reader away.
Most of the characters feel very dynamic and you expect them to move about in the scene. This is one of those decks where it's very easy to relate cards to each other because of that. You can easily tell a story from card to card and follow the narrative through the reading especially as it appears some of the characters a repeated in different cards.
This is a great deck for anyone to have, at any level of experience. It reads easily and precisely. I'd still like to have an English copy one day, if not of the deck I'd like the English version of the guidebook. The little bit I've been able to parse thanks to Google Translate is insightful and I've enjoyed Lilo Schwartz approach.
She writes as if she's talking right to you, relating the card's meaning to you, often with a question. The second part of each blurb in the guidebook is an affirmation to take with you going forward. I think it's a great way to ground the card's meaning for the reader who might need some guidance or a different perspective.
Can one learn a different language from use of a tarot deck? Probably not, but should I ever end up in a German speaking area I guess I'll have some idea of how to ask for the local High Priestess.
WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT YOU? ACE OF SWORDS. This deck tells the truth. Every reading I've had with it afterward has proved it so. Sometimes it's a truth I need to hear, sometimes it's a truth I need to speak. Whatever it is that may need speaking out about, it will do so. I also understand this to be a great deck for channeling messages from guides.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS? JUSTICE. There's that sword of truth again. Not only telling the truth, but unafraid to weigh the consequence of the truth and perhaps help me work through how to deal with or disseminate it.
WHAT ARE YOUR LIMITS? SEVEN OF CUPS. Ain't nobody got time for that. That being wishy-washy, indecisiveness. And also, it speaks to its limitations about alternatives. Even with all this truth-telling there might be options I'm not seeing because the initial message of the deck is presented so powerfully.
HOW WILL WE BEST COLLABORATE? FOUR OF CUPS. I have to look up at what is being offered instead of dwelling over the impossibility of whatever I'm going through. It's easy to miss a life-line when its thrown out if you're focused only on what you are trying to escape.
TREASURE. DEATH. Surrender to that truth, and allowance of whatever may need to come through to do so. This may not be the sweetest of deck relationships, but it will be transformative and healing in its own way.