Tarot of the QTPOC Deck Review: Our Tarot, a feminist deck
This gorgeous deck is Our Tarot, a collage art deck filled with 78 history-making women from all walks of life.
Our Tarot is the creation of Sarah Shipman whose fascination with groundbreaking women and history moved her to create this beautiful deck. The deck was a transmutation of grief in the face of truly depressing politics emerging out of the United States around 2016.
By her own words, Sarah intended for the women in this deck to be as multifaceted as they were/are in their lives, hailing from and representing "many ethnicities, creeds, socioeconomic classes, sexualities, cisgender and transgender identities, ages, and abilities".
I'm happy to feature this beautiful project in my Tarot of the QTPOC series.
What Drew Me To It
The first card I saw rendered from this deck was Harriet Tubman as The Chariot. I was immediately interested... and a little worried. I'm so used to decks like this tokenizing marginalized folks to draw interest that after my initial excitement I immediately fell to cynicism.
I did have some hope for this deck however. Once the Kickstarter posted, and more of the politics behind this deck and its creator became clear, I started to feel better about it.
Our Tarot reflects my values as a person who seeks to empower and promote the rights of women and any and all other groups who have suffered from systemic, societal oppression.
I realize that in creating Our Tarot, and in being so transparent about my personal values, I'm risking alienating a great number of people who may disagree with the project's mission. That's okay; I wish you all love, light, and meaningful experiences!
- Sarah Shipman, creator of Our Tarot
I wasn't disappointed with the final project either.
Ranging from Joan of Arc to Maria Tall Chief to Abigail Williams to Rosetta Tharpe, Our Tarot promises to be filled with a multiplicity of women's experiences who have helped shaped history in both acknowledged and unacknowledged ways.
Look & Feel
The deck came in a gorgeous cardboard box, custom printed with the deck's signature florals. It's certainly something one could keep, but I'm not a big box person so I discarded it.
Inside the large box was the usual tuck box- one I'm actually tempted to keep because of how lovely it is. I'm weak for floral prints but I'm pretty sure that as soon as I find a floral tarot bag I'll move the cards there.
I'll start with my one complaint. The card stock is that plastic feeling matte coating that's more and more popular in indie decks nowadays. Thing about that is that the cards tend to warp, slightly curve inwards, and no longer lay completely flat on a surface. It bugged me that they arrived like that. My Wooden Tarot deck does the same thing although its curve is so much more pronounced now.
Still, that plastic coated matte has also been great for me because it's meant that cards can get wet and quickly be wiped off without damage. I'm not advocating for you to soak your decks in a bath, but if you spill tea around them you'll likely be able to save them if you're quick to get them dry. I also love matte finishes because they treat my phone camera kindly by not having that annoying glare that happens with glossy cards.
They are slippery buggers but because the cards are standard sized and fit well in my hand when shuffling, I don't mind it (I recently had to release my copy of the Mesquite Tarot because it had the same texture and was so tiny that whenever the cards slipped and slid, I was more than likely picking a bunch of them off the floor because they'd fallen).
Imagery & Content
I can only imagine the amount of time it takes to create work like this. The deck's art is a combination of painting, digital illustration, editing, and collage put together to bring forth a vision that both matches the woman featured on the card and the card's own meaning.
Each card features a woman from history who has left their signature mark on the world. I was deeply impressed about the range Sarah Shipman drew from for each card. If she ended up with 78 women, I can only imagine that her initial number must have been nearly double that. And also what a pleasure it must have been to deeply dive into women's histories.
As for whether one would be able to read with this deck purely from the art, without knowing these women's stories... I think it's possible. Particularly in the minor arcana which include standard symbolic representations of their respective cards along with a picture of the woman matched to it.
This is one of those decks whose guidebook is as valuable as the deck itself. It's not so much a guidebook as a mini history book. Each card's pages begin with a grey-scale thumbnail of the card. For a more traditional approach Sarah provides keywords for the cards in both upright and reversed readings. My favorite part comes after; each of the women's stories is told, often from childhood up to their passing, with a holistic approach rather than focusing on just one or two things that fit the card.
The time it must have taken to assemble these stories, write, and edit them for this book makes it easy to understand why this deck took so long to be published. It was a labor of love to be sure. Sarah also leaves the reader with a question that sparks further though on the card and how to integrate or evaluate the energy in our own stories.
I found it compelling that Sarah didn't particular admire each and every single woman in the deck. Which fits the reality of tarot- I know we have some cards we don't like. Some of the cards truly speak to the shadow. One that immediately stood out was Wallis Simpson, given the place of the Knight of Swords, widely assumed to have been a Nazi sympathizer (I'm not so pressed about her effect on the British throne).
In the guidebook, Sarah explicitly names her intentions as far as striving towards an intersectionally presented deck is concerned. Having grown up in the US South, it would have been remiss if she hadn't acknowledged how white privilege might shade a deck meant to be for all women. I was pleasantly surprised that she did this very basic thing that so many continue to miss the necessity of.
The range of women's cultures, religions, politics, and socio-economic backgrounds was also well curated. I do admit that I would have appreciated more queer women and non-binary representation than was present. Still, quite the effort.
This is one of those decks that anyone could read with, at any stage of their tarot journey. Tarot helps us tell and understand our own stories, and so in these women's stories we are given beautiful examples of how the energy of each card might show up for us. Which I believe is crucial for beginners working with the tarot.
And it's just plain inspiring.
This is one of those decks that would make a great gift even for folks who don't really mess with the Tarot.
Also I need the print of Assata Shakur as the Keeper of Swords.
Where to Purchase
The first edition of the deck is sold out but a second edition is currently being printed with a tentative date of late September for its re-release. It's worth the wait.
Nab a copy for you and your loved one at Our Tarot's shop here.