I'm very picky about the decks I buy, and usually it's love at first sight when I see one that I want. But Slow Holler was a slow burn for me. I originally dismissed it because, as a rule, I don't like collaborative decks. I think they usually lack the cohesion that a deck needs to work well for me. But this deck kept popping up on my Instagram feed, I slowly but surely fell in love with it, and now here we are!
The Slow Holler tarot is the creation of a group of artists who are Southern and/or queer. The deck explores the intersection between those two identities, and because I identify with both of those labels, that's what initially drew me to this deck. I've lived almost my whole life in Texas. I grew up in the country, running around in dusty pastures, chasing rabbits and climbing trees under a blanket of oppressive, omnipresent heat. Slow Holler brims with images of stones and bones and pocket knives, red blood and gold sun and dark night, and it speaks deeply to my childhood experience in the South. I'm also bisexual, though because I'm married to a straight man and have only been out to *myself* for about a year, my queer experience is pretty vanilla. I am, though, intimately familiar with feelings of guilt and denial and confusion, and I do know what it feels like to be very deep in the closet for a very long time. I feel like Slow Holler recognizes and speaks to all of those feelings, and I didn't realize how much I was missing an explicitly Southern, explicitly queer deck until I had one in my hands.
More than any other deck I own, the Slow Holler strays from the traditional names and images of tarot. And for someone like me, who's worked mostly within the framework of traditional tarot, it's blowing open my practice in an incredible way. In particular, there are a few major arcana cards that really spurred me to finally buy this deck.
The first is the Navigator. In traditional decks, this card is the Emperor. I have a contentious relationship with this card, as a lot of people do. It's my birth card, and I feel a connection with it because of that, but I've always had trouble relating to it because the image of a stern, powerful, masculine ruler screams PATRIARCHY. But the Navigator gives us the pure root of the Emperor archetype--power, control, structure--without having to work around the patriarchal imagery that we see in traditional decks, and I really like that.
The second is the Precipice, renamed from the traditional Hanged Man. Of all the cards of the major arcana, the Hanged Man is probably the one I have the most trouble with. The card deals in themes of suspension and sacrifice and letting go, but the traditional name and imagery never connected with me. This, though, I get. A name like the Precipice, coupled with images of bondage, teases out the more subtle meanings of this card, ones related to surrender and enlightenment and being on the edge of something powerful.
The court cards are another reason I finally sprung for Slow Holler. In this deck, they're renamed as Students, Travelers, Visionaries, and Architects. I love court cards, but here's a confession: I have a lot of trouble moving past the gender binary that traditional court cards (and really, traditional tarot as a whole) promote. I grew up in a conservative, Christian home that upheld strict gender roles. I'm still unlearning ideas related to masculinity and femininity and what that means and if it even matters. And when I read tarot, working within the traditional structure of Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings doesn't do me any favors. So in that sense, the Slow Holler is going to be a great learning experience for me.
I do deck interviews for most of my decks. I do them because I think they're fun, but I don't usually place much stock in them. My deck interview for Slow Holler, though, felt especially poignant. Several of the major arcana cards that inspired me to buy this deck showed up in this first reading. And that fact, coupled with the Eight of Vessels and Eight of Branches, feels like an encouragement to let go of past perceptions and shed old sorrows to make room for the warmth and energy of one's most authentic self.