Queer and Southern Voices: The Slow Holler Deck
Slow Holler: “A slow and building yell. An amplification of queer and southern voices and of the intersections where queer and southern overlap. A place of refuge for queer/southern creators” (p 182).
In the land of tarot decks funded through Kickstarter, there are few decks that compare to the Slow Holler. Many of these decks are poorly thought out, strangely constructed, or obviously made for the sole purpose of getting funds unrelated to the production of the deck. Not so this deck.
The Slow Holler is a “collaboratively illustrated and imagined tarot deck” and uses the artwork and concepts from thirty artists and three writers. These artists and authors have ties to the American South and/or identify as queer, making for strangely specific criteria. With only a month and a half to complete their cards, the artists and writers managed not only to create a stunning deck, but one that works well with itself in a reading. It is likely that the unification of theme works well due to the similar or at least intersectional experiences of the creators.
The deck’s palate uses only five colors: black, gray, red, white, and gold. This color scheme unifies the otherwise disparate art styles for each card and illustrates their efforts to “struggle together to make something bigger and more layered than any one of us could make as an individual” (p 183).
The deck arrives wrapped in a gold and black cloth, tied with a red ribbon. With it is included a 192 page booklet that describes how to read the cards (giving examples of spreads) as well as how they have changed the names of the cards from the traditional Rider Waite composition. “Many cards throughout the deck bear new titles that move beyond the gender binary and make room for many expressions of gender” (p 7).
This change is most apparent in the court cards, where they have transformed the page, knight, king, and queen into the student, traveler, architect, and visionary, respectively. They have also renamed the suits in order to make them more like everyday items, changing the wands to branches, swords to knives, coins to stones, and vessels to cups. These changes, rather than being jarring, work well toward unifying the sense of the deck within itself, making it feel like a coherent and cohesive system.
When examining the cards for the first time, the ones that struck me as the most stunning were Death (13), The Storm (16), The Moon (18) and the Architect of Knives and Visionary of Knives. As can be obvious from my selection, this is not necessarily a happy go lucky deck, nor one that is easily read. However, from my first reading, it does have a lot to say and says it boldly.
This deck is approachable both to the novice reader and the expert. It subtly uses elements of the traditional Rider Waite (such as the Fledgeling’s backpack and walking stick), which will communicate well with readers who are familiar with those decks. However, the allusions to that imagery are not a barrier for those unfamiliar with the traditional decks as it does not play a dominant part in the composition of each card’s art.
Overall this is a fascinating deck and one that will compliment any collection, or as a primary reading deck for those interested in examining our place within a changing world. This deck is eminently approachable and significantly more inclusive than most decks out there, making it easier for those who do not find themselves or their tastes aligning with the traditional gender roles as illustrated by the Rider Waite and similar decks.
All quotes in the article are from the Slow Holler companion book.