Ferret Tarot by Elaine Moertl
Review by Diane Wilkes
If you are looking for a deck that will be interchangeable with your copy of Lon Milo DuQuette's Tarot of Ceremonial Magick, this isn't what you're looking for. However, as multifaceted human beings, we have complex and varying needs. Sometimes we just want a grin and a warm puppy (or ferret) and this new deck by Elaine Moertl fits the bill.
There are many things I like about the Ferret Tarot. It is playful and charming, but has hidden depths; it's not just a cute and cuddly face, but it's also a usable deck that can offer insight to the seeker who doesn't need astrological and qabalistic trappings to recognize the universal wisdom of the animal kingdom, specifically the ferret species.
Ferrets are known for their playfulness, and, aptly, The Fool plays with a hand-puppet (paw-puppet?) and clasps a jester's stick. The Magician rubs his belly, energizing his power chakra so that he manifests little flying animals above his head. I am not sure what those animals are, but clearly, he is. Clearly, Moertl is aware of the chakras--the Hierophant's are pronounced as he sits in a meditative pose, aural vibrations emanating from every pore.
The High Priestess is marvelously mystical, gazing into her triple-moon-decorated water dish with an inscrutable mien. Some of the ferrets do things less typical of the species; they dance the tango in the Lovers card and the Strength card (above) shows two ferrets pumping iron.
One of my favorite cards is the Moon, which shows a white ferret standing in front of that large orb. Behind him, holding his paw, is an all black ferret. Is it his shadow side? Only the Moon knows...There's something about the white ferret that reminds me of a different animal--a chipmunk named Alvin. Can't you just hear that shrill voice now?
Moertl has not focused on the Major Arcana to the detriment of the Minors. No, in keeping with the appreciation of the small things in life (like ferrets), the Minors are just as winning and clever.
The Ten of Wands depicts an overburdened ferret carrying a large sack. His tongue hangs out of his mouth, indicating an exhausted spirit. The Six of Swords shows a ferret paddling his canoe onto dry land, and the Nine of that suit shows one curling into his starred blanket, a look of terror on his furry ferret face.
The ferrets on the Three of Cups have never known terror. Their circle is all that is fun and completely fearless. This card exemplifies what I mean when I describe it as evocative--the image makes you want to smile...and get up and dance around a bit yourself. The feeling of joyful celebration is infectious.
In the Ferret Tarot, the suit of Pentacles is my favorite. The Six, with its image of one ferret bestowing flowers and a wrapped gift box upon another, the Nine, with its currency-fondling ferret standing by a graph showing a stock going up, up, up, and the Ten, showing a family of ferrets "puttin' on the Ritz" are all just too adorable for words.
The Court Cards are also a joy. The Queen of Wands conducts an imaginary band of ferrets, her face rapt with the magnificent melodies that only she could stir up with her magnetizing baton. Like the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) Page of Cups, the Ferret version holds a fish swimming in a vessel--but his look is decidedly more avaricious than that of his RWS counterpart. The Queen of Swords has a single teardrop in her eye, yet her stance shows the steel that forms her ferret spine.
Some of the card meanings are a bit quirky. The Seven of Wands shows a self-congratulatory ferret hopping about a room decorated with balloons and a banner proclaiming "You did it!" There is only celebration in this card, with no evidence of struggle. I guess ferrets have it a bit easier than humans. My first interpretation of the Knight of Pentacles is not romantic, but the Ferret Tarot depiction clearly is. Fret not, so is the Knight of Cups, who is known for his Sir Galahad-like ways.
The art, which consists of pen and ink drawings, is inconsistent. Some of the images are quite engaging and evocative, but others are less accomplished and somewhat awkward. Sometimes the ferrets look like some other, perhaps mythical, animal. One gets the sense that Moertl grew more proficient as an artist through the creation of this deck and most of the time, the ferrets' personalities and motivation are crystal clear, and convey the desired message effectively.
The artist has put a lot of time and energy into the presentation of this limited edition deck (of 500). The Ferret Tarot arrives confined in a fabric bag, and the design puts one in mind of pawprints. How apropos. A signed and numbered title card is included, along with a simple, stapled, little white booklet and a one eight by eleven inch "Ferret Tarot Cheat Sheet." The Majors aren't numbered, so you can choose whether Strength is VIII or XI. A card with three suggested spreads is also included. The cardstock could be a bit heavier--the cards aren't laminated and somewhat fragile because of that. The reversible card backs depict the ferret Fool, all energetic glee. That description fits the Ferret Tarot equally well.
I must be honest here--while I find this deck quite charming, I would find it less so if the price wasn't reasonable. It is almost too reasonable at $14.95 plus shipping. It's a terrific bargain and allows beginning collectors on a budget to attain a limited edition deck. The Ferret Tarot reminds me of the Hello Kitty and Stick People Tarots in that way. And you know what both of those decks go for on eBay nowadays.
I highly recommend this deck for collectors and potential collectors, as well as ferret enthusiasts and individuals looking for a working deck with a sense of humor.
You can see more images from and purchase this deck from the artist's website.
The Ferret Tarot by Elaine Moertl
|Strength VIII, Justice XI||N/A|
|Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana||X|
|Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks)||X|
|Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions||N/A|
|Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/4" X 2 3/4")||X|
|Smaller than standard
(approx. 3 3/4" x 2 1/2")
|Larger than standard||X|
Images © 2003 Elaine Moertl
Review and page © 2003 Diane Wilkes