Hedgehog Tarot by Michael Kutzer
Review by Saskia Jansen
I wrote this review to talk about the Hedgehog Tarot, but I can't really do this without mentioning its 'brothers and sisters' and a little bit of the background. The Hedgehog Tarot is one of the new Cudahy tarot series by the German artist Michael Kutzer (Michael's Tarot, Tarot Pers). The series is called after the town in the U.S. where Michael Kutzer now lives. Each tarot in the series features a different kind of animal. Right now, three decks are finished and have been published: the Elephant Tarot, Frog Tarot and Hedgehog Tarot. In the future these will be joined by Pigs, Mice and Seals Tarots.
These Tarots are more art tarots to be admired and kept than for use in actual readings, yet they do offer some very interesting perspectives. The decks are self-published by Michael's partner Susan, who has done a tremendous job in printing these beauties. Each Cudahy tarot will be printed in a limited edition of only 32 copies. They are printed on thick watercolor paper. Cards measure 2.28 by 4.01 inches. When looking at the images, you get the feeling that you are looking at the original pencil drawings. The backs of the cards repeat the names Susan and Michael and the Cudahy Tarot over and over and therefore are not really reversible. The price of the deck is pretty steep at $135, but looking at the amount of work involved in making and printing this deck, it is not surprising.
The Cudady Tarots are all ULTRA cute, but also very funny. Michael Kutzer has an excellent sense of humor and that can clearly be seen in the decks. At the same time, he is true to the nature of the featured animal in each of the decks and even addresses certain issues like environment and the sometimes deadly threats on the particular animal.
In the Hedgehog Tarot, this environmental issue is clearly pointed out in the High Priestess card, where the High Priestess Hedgehog points at some trash that has been left behind in the forest as if to say, 'shame on you.' Hedgehogs have developed a special tactic to deal with enemies, namely, rolling up like a ball and extending really nasty barbs. This usually is enough to ward off any enemies, including the Hangman (executioner) on the Hanged Man. Unfortunately, though, this is not enough to save them from cars, making them the biggest mortal enemy of hedgehogs. This is shown in the Chariot, Wheel, and Death cards.
The author also writes in his LWB that, "men and hedgehogs have a common interest: hedgehogs to find snails and men to get rid of them". This fondness of snails is features on quite a number of cards in the Major Arcana. So the Hierophant contains images of snails on his stole and on the Star and Judgement cards, snails distract the hedgehog from any 'higher messages'. Another treasured goodie is an apple
Hedgehogs are really solitary creatures, so the Hermit card is very appropriate for them. Because they hibernate in winter, Temperance fits them very well; the Hedgehog Temperance card shows a hedgehog all rolled up into a little ball while it snoozes through the winter. It is one of the cutest cards in the whole deck, I think. I feel extremely sorry for the poor Hedgehog who gets his barbs cut off in the Devil card. That sure must be torture for the poor little creature.
The traditional minors are also in this deck replaced by alternative ones, more befitting Hedgehogs. In this case, they are Snail Shells, Sticks, Fleas, and Apples. In another example of Michael Kutzer's excellent humor, the snail shell on the Ace of Shells cards has a sign up saying 'not at home.' Hedgehogs are smart. That is shown on the Six to the 10 of Sticks, where a hedgehog has used sticks to make a raft, a chair and even a swing. On the Three of the suit, the hedgehog is training his bugs to jump through a hoop and the 10 of Fleas echoes the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, luring away the fleas with his flute. All in all, the minors are well-executed, although they are more like illustrated pip cards than ones designed to convey actual messages. But again, the art is excellent and each card is a feast for the eye.
All in all, the Hedgehog Tarot is a very interesting and wonderful deck. The deck is well thought out and nicely executed, so you do get your money's worth. Because of the nature and price of this deck, I would recommend it primarily for collectors.
The Hedgehog Tarot and other Cudahy Tarots can be purchased directly from the artist by contacting Susan Arenz.
Saskia Jansen is a tarot collector and reader from the Netherlands. She bought her first tarot deck in 1996 and has been hooked ever since. Her main interest is in historical Rider Waite Smith decks and clones, and is the proud possessor of a Roses and Lilies Pamela-A Tarot. Her collection currently contains more than 600 tarot decks.
Images © Michael Kutzer
Review © 2005 Saskia Jansen
Page © 2005 Diane Wilkes