It was a few years after I bought my first tarot deck that I first became connected to the internet. In those days, I’d trail through the few big tarot sites [like Taroteca] on my dial-up, looking at all of the attractive tarot decks and formulating my mental wish list. I remember consistently returning to one set in particular, created by Robert Petro and illustrated by Pat Morris.
Native to the state of Connecticut, Pat Morris is a wildlife illustrator. Working primarily in pastels and acrylic, she also uses pencil and oils. She says of her work, ‘The spirit of the animal is my motivation, fueled by my lifelong wanderings in the wilds and treasured encounters and relationships with both wild and domestic animals’.
It is Pat Morris who is responsible for illustrating The Wolf Pack Tarot Deck, which was first published in black and white in 1995. Comprising of just 60 cards, the set was later revised: in 1999, a further 18 cards were added and the deck was printed in full colour. Even though illustrated by Morris, the set was created by psychic and trace medium, Robert Petro. Once again, we see that familiar dynamic between creator and artist.
I didn’t buy the set back then. In fact, it took another twelve years for me to purchase it. On a journey through London’s tarot stores with Shaheen Miro, we found a copy in the infamous Watkins bookstore.
My copy of this deck is the one printed in full colour. It contains 78 cards but there is no Major or Minor Arcana. Similarly, there are no suits, and [aside from male and female significators] there are no court cards either. Each card is numbered (from 1 to 78) and a meaning is printed on the foot of each. All of the images are horizontal, rather than vertical.
It is kind of misleading to call this a tarot deck, since aside from there being 78 cards, it bares little relation to any recognisable tarot system. Of course, there are cards which mimic some traditional tarot keys – Balance (#6), Love (#7) and Battle (#39) but this seems to be merely coincidental. Despite some cards using tarot titles (Judgement, Fool, Strength), I have no problem with labeling this deck as an oracle.
If you are looking for a deck following Golden Dawn systems or symbolism, you will be majorly disappointed with this set. However, if you are open to something different, the Wolf Pack Tarot Deck will reward you with insight, since a lot of what we know in tarot sits between the tag-lines of each card. As an example, the twenty-eighth card, Walking Away, is inscribed with the words ‘Walking away from a difficult situation. Even though you are starting over, be patient. Your actions will be rewarded. Happiness to come’. There are echoes of the 8 of Cups in this card. Similarly, Temptation (#44) might be inspired by The Devil of traditional tarot. However, not all cards connect to tarot meanings.
Robert Petro’s writings (printed straight onto the cards, since there is no pamphlet accompanying this deck) are thought-provoking. For Compassion (#38), he writes ‘You realise the innocence of a person and choose not to create harm. The lesson is to know that you CAN, but choose not to’. In the illustration, a wolf is shown beside a sleeping deer.
Each card contains a wolf, which is shown interacting with it’s surroundings. We see wolves amongst family, in battle, communicating, and encountering obstacles. Pat Morris’s artistry has given the animals a very human feel. The real strength of this deck is in her [and Petro’s] ability to bring these animals to life so that they can communicate with the reader. I find it pretty easy to empathise with the wolf and relate its trials to my own situations through the use of these images. Somehow, it is easier to find nuances and meaning because of the distance between myself and a different species – more so than if the cards had contained people. There is only one card in this deck which shows a human – Danger (#29). This card reminds us that the wolf is endangered in many parts of the world.
So, how does this deck sit with me? This is actually one example where it is a blessing that the cards do not fit with traditional tarot and order, since it gives this deck a clear voice of its own. It is what it is. I have read that many people do use The Wolf Pack Tarot for large and professional readings, but personally, I enjoy to use it for very small layouts or daily guidance. The tag on each card might be used as advice, an affirmation, or in some cases, can be predictive. In each, there is something to think about. The writings touch your mind, where as the images speak with your soul. This combination can lead to a very powerful exchange when using the deck.
As much as I enjoy the rich symbolism of traditional decks, I do like the mundane edge that this set provides. It is down-to-earth and I think that this has a lot to do with it’s lack of tarot-conformity. Despite being wild, like the animal it portrays, it has a deeply-sensitive side, which makes it a deck I pick up when I just want a friendly ear and some practical words of advice, without swords, elements and Aces.
To finish this review, I asked the deck to speak for itself, which is something it does well. The card it gave me was Innocence (#15). The animal in the illustration watches a feather fall from above. The card suggests that we are open to new ideas and seek the child within. When using this deck, this card tells us to not take things too seriously. The Wolf Pack Tarot Deck is not a set for study. As the young wolf in this card reminds us, it is a deck for play, simple answers and gentle reflection.
Illustrations from Robert Petro’s Wolf Pack Tarot Deck by Pat Morris. Both the black and white and colour sets are available here