I got my first Tarot deck when I was in high school. It was rather plain, with only the Major Arcana illustrated but it had a guidebook that opened up a wondrous, esoteric world for me, where images could tell stories and impart wisdom. A year later I brought the traditional Raider Waite deck and then received the Thoth Tarot as a birthday gift. Over the years, I’ve collected other decks, Oracle sets, and Angel cards with different affirmations printed upon them. I’m deeply attached to all of my decks: they are my imaginary friends and my spiritual advisors, bearing letters from the Universe.
The gorgeously illustrated Fat Folks tarot deck is the latest addition to this family.
I received my copy a few days back in the mail, at a time I was going through a family crisis. It’s a deck I immediately bonded with. Opening the package enfolded me with warmth like a stranger’s tight hug. The cards felt just right in my hands.
I spent the next few hours going through the deck, lost in the evocative images, in the interconnected stories they seemed to tell. I did a few quick readings, and the answers were spot on. It was a lovely feeling, like receiving a gift that was personalized just for you.
Celebrating Diversity and Fat, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Lives
Created as a non-profit project (with proceeds from the sales being donated to Trans Lifeline), the Fat Folks tarot deck offers a diverse, inclusive, and much-needed update to the traditional imagery of Tarot cards, by representing fat, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ folks in different dynamic poses. The full spectrum of human experience isn’t just restricted to cis, white, and able-bodied folks and this beautiful deck affirms and celebrates all those whose unique experiences are usually marginalized in mainstream discourse.
The origins of the Tarot, despite gaining popularity in Europe as a playing card game and now “trending” with (mostly white) New Age communities, has far murkier origins, tracing back to Ancient Egypt and the Templar Knights. Indie decks like these are a valuable reminder that the wisdom of the Tarot is accessible to all those who choose to seek it.
Evocative and Enchanting Art
Unlike most mainstream decks, this one doesn’t come with a guidebook, most probably to cut down on printing costs. But this deck doesn’t need one. The pictures are lavishly detailed and wonderfully intuitive: you don’t need to be a Tarot expert to interpret what the images are telling you when you pose a question. The cards draw upon the traditional meanings and symbolism, with a queer and quirky twist, and are perfect for beginners, seasoned readers, and even those who are keen to celebrate some diverse and very badass art. (Don’t believe me, yet? Just check out the Devil and Five of Wands cards!)
Given that several different artists were involved in this project, the cards showcase a variety of art styles, yet they are united in representing fat folks in affirming and diverse ways. Personally, I’m extremely fond of the purple-haired girl petting her wolves in the “Moon” card and the woman looking to the horizon with a diary and map by her side in the “Two of Wands”. I adore the rainbow pride flag and the witchy background details in the “Eight of Pentacles” card which features two women at an occult tattoo parlor. The “Lovers” has a lush Edenic vibe, the “Nine of Cups” brings to mind a groovy celebration, “Six of Swords” recalls a children’s fairytale, and the “Magician” exudes confidence, cheer, and strength. There’s so much thought, love and detail put into each illustration, and I’m full of gratitude for all the artists as well as to Ruby and Jordyn who brought this project to life.
Truly Accessible and Affordable
Moreover, this is a deck that is indeed “accessible”. During the preorder phase, the team offered several giveaways and even a “Deck Scholarship Program” where people who wouldn’t be able to otherwise afford this deck could apply for one. From where I’m based, paying for something in dollars is not only expensive but also near impossible (PayPal regulations, non-availability of international banking services, exorbitant shipping fees) and if it hadn’t been for the generous donations of strangers, I wouldn’t have been able to hold a copy of this beautiful deck today. As someone who’s been involved in the zine community for the last year or so, such thoughtful initiatives are really rare, although I hope this is something that creators can implement in future endeavors in order to make works of art truly accessible to everyone.
As a queer woman writer, artist, and tarot reader of color who has faced a fair share of fat-shaming, colorism, and sexual harassment, it is absolutely empowering to see a wonderful deck like this in print, that urges us to rethink beauty standards, internalized ableism and fatphobia and instead imagine what a truly diverse and inclusive world would look like. Kudos to everyone who made this project a reality! Here’s hoping they do another print run, soon.
To know more about the Fat Folks Tarot project, visit their website or donate to Trans Lifeline here.
If you’re interested in Tarot readings or witchy conversations, feel free to contact me.