Tarot Pers*  - Review by Paula Gibby

You’ve heard of the Not Ready For Primetime Players? Well, make some room for the "new" kids on the block as the "PAST Their Prime<time> Players" take center stage as the 22 archetypes in Michael Kutzer’s Tarot Pers*.

Tarot Pers* is a modern social commentary in pictorial form. Michael has looked into the future and he’s worried about what he sees -- a world in danger of suffering the consequences of self-centeredness, self-gratification, complacency and a general lack of vision and foresight of whatever those consequences may be.

However, Mr. Kutzer is not without a rather twisted sense of humor; a humor deftly and skillfully infused into the art of this quirky little deck.

Which brings us back to our archetypes and how to describe them as a group. Well, it’s blatantly obvious that they didn’t exactly follow any type of diet and exercise regimen when it would have counted. They have espoused a sedentary existence – with unfortunate results. Gravity has taken a rather nasty hold and it’s much too late to make amends. In truth, they’ve gone a bit soft.

Ok, they’ve gone a lot soft. The adjectives "middle-aged" and "paunchy" come to mind.

They’ve become self-satisfied and complacent. They didn’t take care of themselves. They’ve lived the high life and now they have to pay the piper.

What goes around has most definitely come around.

They’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, smoked too much, watched too much TV and, in the case of the Strength card, have experienced firsthand what you and I already know – that you must never, EVER turn your back on a lion.

It makes me wonder if my idea of riding my exercise bike while I’m eating my dessert is really accomplishing anything. I may have to rethink my strategy.

But there are deeper levels to be explored here. The deterioration is not just physical. There has also been a mental and spiritual erosion; a careless squandering of talent and ability. This cannot be over-emphasized. Nothing has been taken from them. They have voluntarily forfeited mind, spirit and body…and they couldn’t care less.

In summary, they have embraced the mediocrity that they have become.

The Fool has long since lost his innocent and zestful outlook. There is nothing ahead of him. Even if there was, he’d only yawn and turn his back. In fact, he can barely keep his eyes open as he strokes his pudgy housecat, which is also not the go-getter it used to be.

The Empress and Emperor are the personifications of "couch potatoes". Our Empress sits, staring vacantly into space and chewing absently upon one fingernail. Her stretch pants seem to be unequal to the task of containing her jello-like girth, as they slide well below her belly-button and stretch agonizingly around her thighs. The Emperor looks as if he’s watching Sunday afternoon football and is, unfortunately for us, shirtless. One hand keeps the beak of the eagle (symbol of his "station") firmly closed and the other loosely clasps his droopy scepter. I’ll leave it up to you to arrive at the significance and positioning of this clever bit of symbolism.

The Pope represents the only youthful figure in this deck and it struck me a bit odd at first. But it makes perfect sense. In a "world" where no one cares because they are just too jaded and cynical to bother with it, what better idea than to have a child be the spiritual leader? No one else feels like it. And so, our young one waves his hands energetically over the globe. All for nothing, because the devil (cloven hooves, horns, pitchfork and all) is clearly taking over.

Plastic surgeons, please pay a visit to our Lovers…even Cupid is repulsed by this pair! And then proceed directly to Justice, who has come up with an inventive way of preventing her breasts from traveling any further south. The Chariot has incurred some major collision damage (hmmm, maybe the driver was trying to eat his dessert at the same time). Strength forgot what true strength is all about and has suffered the consequences, to the delight of the lion (who won’t need another meal for the next few days). The Devil is nastily bursting the bubble of a young companion – no happiness is tolerated in this cynical little world. Our Tower is merely prolonging the inevitable conclusion to his lack of vision and foresight.

At this point, having decided to pursue intoxication (as opposed to meditation) as her personal method of inner exploration, the Star is (literally) seeing stars. We have Natasha and Boris look-alikes as the Sun, and the World is enough to make you rush out to your nearest gym and plunk down some serious bucks for a membership. He reeks of the most extreme of over-indulgences. His excesses are legion.

Like a slightly overripe banana that smelled so good just last night, a gorgeous rose just a couple of days past its peak bloom, or some persistent, undefined smell that you just can’t seem to locate, everything is just not quite right in Michael Kutzer’s tarot. It’s a great piece of artistry born of an individual with a keen sense of humor and an unerring command of the ironic. But make no mistake, it’s not a piece of fluff. What is the perfect world after all, but a place of balance where the physical, mental and spiritual aspects all perform in exquisite harmony? Too much of any one aspect and you may begin to detect and experience that inexorable erosion; the interior rotting and atrophy resulting from the neglect of the other aspects.

Yes, the "world" that Michael has created in Tarot Pers* is definitely "bent". But it does make you think, doesn’t it? It may not be desirable, but isn’t it uncomfortably recognizable?

I’m thinking I should stop eating ice-cream on my exercise bike.

Michael Kutzer was first inspired to create tarot images during a visit to an exhibition at Frank Jensen’s Spilkammeret in Roskilde, Denmark. Frank, author, lecturer and publisher of the incomparable Manteia Magazine, is an internationally-recognized tarot authority who has put together one of the largest and most important tarot, playing card and cartomancy deck collections in the world. Tarot Pers* was published by Ouroboros (Frank’s own publishing enterprise) in a numbered edition of 35 decks. The cards measure 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches and the card stock is highly laminated and extremely flexible. It makes for a very sturdy deck that welcomes perusal and handling.

Everything that Frank produces is of high quality with a meticulous attention to detail. He has created his own clever version of the slip-sleeve box (complete with attractive frontispiece) often found accompanying Lo Scarabeo’s art decks. Made of heavy construction paper, these "boxes" are attractive, utilitarian, perfectly fitted, and much easier on the cards than any of the mass-produced, flip-top boxes used by the large publishing houses.

Michael has produced two other tarot decks in addition to Tarot Pers* : Michael’s Tarot (1989) – an absolutely breath-taking set of hand-colored original etchings (only 12 copies in existence) – and the Original Neugereuter Tarot (1987), which was created by 22 of Michael’s students and also published by Frank Jensen.

Against a backdrop of a myriad array of tarot, oracle and cartomancy decks, the Tarot Pers* more than holds its own. From its highly original concept and artistic rendering, straight through to its careful, personal (yet very professional) production, this distinctive little deck is a true gem.

Tarot Pers*
Michael Kutzer, Germany
Limited Edition by Ouroboros, Roskilde, Denmark
22 cards + 2 text cards. B&W

About the Author:

Paula Gibby first began to study the tarot in the summer of 1996, as a result of studying Kabbalah and the Tree of Life.  She completed two B.O.T.A. tarot courses and is an active member of Tarot-l and Comparative Tarot.  She has contributed tarot reviews to Wicce's Tarot Page and is a major tarot collector--at present, she owns over 300 decks.  Her spiritual studies continue to widen; she has completed several Reiki courses and has received the Reiki II attunements.  Inspired by the work of Arnell Ando and Michele Jackson, she plans to create a tarot deck sometime in the future, but is presently quite busy as a Finance Manager in the Washington, D.C. area.

Review Copyright © 2000 Paula Gibby
Page Copyright © 2000 Diane Wilkes