Sm{art}: Taking Back Tarot with the Collective Tarot

It makes sense that a centuries-old tradition would need an update. When Annie Murphy and her friends found that they couldn’t identify traditional tarot decks, the five friends formed a collective to reimagine the deck while honoring the tradition of tarot. What came out was a more inclusive 78-card deck with illustrations from almost two dozen artists.

Here’s what Murphy said this about the deck’s origins:

We set out on this project because we wanted to access the ancient tradition of the Tarot, but were unable to relate to what we saw as archaic Christian, Euro- and hetero-centricities of modern decks available on the market. With the Collective Tarot, people can expect to see beings and bodies of size and of color represented, as well as differently-abled, multi-gendered and multi-generational characters. Tarot itself is Euro-Centric, originating (arguably) in 15th-century Italy. It is folk-art-magic that has amazingly survived through centuries of repression. We wanted to be able to use the Tarot as a tool while making the images relevant to ourselves and our communities.

The Pope become an Instructor (“None of us actually knew what a Heirophant was”), the Emperor and Empress—symbolic of the gender binary—became the Code and Reception. They traded in the Jack, Queen, and King for seeker, apprentice, artist, and mentor; the major Arcana (pentacles, swords, clubs) became their favorite found objects: bones, feathers, bottles and keys.

The Code card, featuring a red color palate and an androgynous figure at a bar with a hanky in their back pocket, looking suggestively over their shoulder.The strength card, which features an illustration of a woman from the Victorian era side by side with a lion. They are blue against a bright yellow background.The three bottles card. Three women stand around holding beer bottles, singing and smiling together. You can see the music float out of their mouths.

After printing two small rounds of the cards (both of which sold out), they started a Kickstarter to fund their third printing—and largest yet. They met their goal, but are still welcoming funds, plus you can easily pre-order a pack of your own. Check it out below! Even if you’re not familiar with tarot (like me!) you can’t deny the stunning illustrations—Murphy is also the editor of the queer comics anthology Gay Genius (interview here), and the pack includes several of the same contributors, like Jackie Davis, Ellery Russian, and Mat Defiler. For some good visuals of the deck, you can watch the video below or visit this MySpace photo album. Order yours today!

Previously: 5 Menstrual Blood Artists/Projects Worth Seeing, #1 Must Have: Queer Photo Zine

by Kjerstin Johnson
View profile »

Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

8 Comments Have Been Posted

A heirophant is someone who

A heirophant is someone who gathers people and brings them to a place of worship, or at least <a href="">so says Wikipedia</a>, and was one who interpreted ancient and arcane mysteries and principles. It seems to me that this was, in the binary-ness of the traditional Tarot, the male counterpart to the High Priestess. In the Tarot deck, the Heirophant symbolizes conforming to societal norms. So I like the idea of changing this figure to an "Instructor."

Anyway, this sounds like an interesting project. I have a thing for Tarot decks but I gotta say, $30 for a deck is a little out of my price range. I know, I know, activism, I know, I know, artists. But really.

Okay, I bookmarked the purchase page anyway.


Hi Kjerstin Johnson,

I have gone through your post and I found it very informative for me as these days I am learning about tarot reading. I just love it.

Hope to see some good blogs from you in future.

Not sure about this...

Look, would it make sense to take an Afrocentric mythology and whitewash it? Or make Native American mysticism more African? How 'bout making the Kabbalah into a Christian mystical system? Turn I'Ching into something European? It wouldn't. It would be offensive. As someone who is interested in mysticism and history, I don't much care for attempts to eradicate the history of the Tarot. I have used Barbara Walker's feminist Tarot, but it still sticks to the ideas behind the Tarot. Tarot is European mysticism. There's a valid reason to study that mystical thought, just as there are valid reasons to study other mystical systems.

Mystical systems are

Mystical systems are essentially software packages for interpreting experience; so what's wrong with making software more accessible and more widely compatible? Is it offensive that someone might install Snow Leopard on a Dell computer and make a Hackintosh? Some people would think so I suppose, but most people would rightly conclude that taking offense at such an activity is dumb. Why limit ourselves for the sake of tradition or appropriateness, when doing so stands in the way of making anything more useful and fulfilling?

It is folk-art-magic that has

It is folk-art-magic that has amazingly survived through centuries of repression. We wanted to be able to use the Tarot as a tool while making the images relevant to ourselves and our communities. <a href="">click here</a>

music in video

Anyone know what this awesome music is? Thanks!

Add new comment