I’ll admit that tarot has never been one of my favorite mediums for art or divination, somewhat because divination as a whole gives me anxiety but mostly because the gender symbolism in the arcana has always felt incredibly constricting, a word I don’t particularly want to associate with my future. Thankfully, Slow Holler is here to change that. A fluid group of creators and makers with ties to the South, Slow Holler is releasing a tarot deck that amplifies “Southern voices, queer voices, and voices that speak from the intersections of identities. The collection and collaboration of these perspectives will create a beautiful, relatable, thoughtful, deck that has intention, integrity, and a storytelling quality.”
The Slow Holler Tarot Deck, priced at $46 and available from their website, was collaboratively illustrated and imagined by over 30 artists and 3 writers. Some of them have lifelong experience with tarot, some came to tarot specifically for this project, and all have Southern ties, identify as queer, or both. This doesn’t mean that the illustrations are “about” queerness or the South, the same way that my being a non-binary Russian person doesn’t make all my work about genderless matryoshkas, but the personal is political and representation is everything. The identities of these artists and writers shines through, making the Slow Holler Tarot Deck a perfect example of how truly vibrant a many-voiced thing can be.
I loved this Autostraddle interview by Beth of Little Red Tarot where she points out that not only is tarot a tool but also “a hand-held exhibition of (usually) 78 miniature works of art.” Talking about their experience with tarot and with the creation of this deck, Slow Holler organizer E Henderson says:
Slow Holler is part of a bigger idea. I think there is a longstanding pattern in the US of hushing, ridiculing and misrepresenting Southern and also queer voices. I grew up rurally in the pines and sand of South Carolina. At a fairly young age I learned to be embarrassed by the soft drawl of my words, and those of the people around me. I felt an undercurrent of shame about where I came from. Across the US and in popular culture, the South and its people are often portrayed as cruel, stupid, backwards, one-dimensional. But really, Southerners have varied and complex identities. We tell stories to stay awake. We tell stories to communicate. It is how we come to know each other. It is a part of our culture. We may be black, brown, white, queer, undocumented. We come from swamps, foothills, and sandy pines. We have different histories and experiences, but we came from this place and we shape this place.
Each deck comes with 78 cards (2.75″ x 4.75″) and arrives wrapped in a black and metallic gold hanky designed by one of the project’s artists. Also included is a booklet including information about the project and artists as well as explanations of each card’s meaning; everything is printed in the Southeastern United States using red, black, and gold inks. The Slow Holler Tarot Deck is collectible art piece, divination tool, and re-imagining of the tarot as something freed from stereotypes and set narratives — you can decide for yourself which of these rings loudest in your heart but, like with the deck itself, we’re finding the biggest draw in the intersections.