I have a bit of a thing for collage art decks. I still haven’t quite put my finger on why, but ever since my first collage deck (the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot by Jen Kruch), I’ve been smitten with the style. Irene Mudd’s Guided Hand Tarot has found a happy home in my collection; it’s a joy to look at and work with its delightful mixed media, collage style. Every time I pull out the cards, I wish I could meet Irene and get my hands on the originals. I just want to feel the ridges and edges of the art; the texture of the deck is clear and obvious and authentically raw.
The deck comes in a sturdy, two-part box that was drawn and designed to match the art style of decks. The hand drawn lines and purples, pinks, and blues feel inviting and calming. The deck itself fits perfectly and show off a collaged back of two hands grasping a circle with the triangle alchemical symbols of the four elements. The silver gilded edges complement the deck well, even if they tend to leave a little bit of sparkle behind on your hands. …And I’m not exactly mad about that! The cardstock is my ideal: smooth, thicker than mass market cardstock, but thinner than other indie decks, which makes it incredible at riffle shuffling. The vibe and feel of The Guided Hand Tarot is delightful to me. It’s a little queer, a little hard femme, a lot “we work together.” It’s filled to the brim with triangles, abstraction, and alchemical symbols. Irene discusses her inspiration and muses for the deck in her kickstarter:
The aesthetic of this deck is deeply influenced by abstract painter Hilma af Klint, who makes a cameo as my High Priestess! She believed unseen mystic forces guided her hand to create her stunning geometric paintings, which is how my deck got its name. The geometric compositions and triadic color schemes in the deck pay homage to her mystical art. There is also a repeated use of triangles in the deck, which represent the alchemical symbols of earth, fire, air and water– an integral facet of the tarot.
The structure of the deck is a traditional RWS structure: suits are standard majors, wands, cups, swords, and pentacles. The court cards are pages, knight, queens, and kings. Some of the courts are folks from near and far history, as are other cards, like the High Priestess and Hierophant. One of my favorite touches in the courts is the Queen of Wands, who is represented by Marsha P. Johnson, the trans woman credited with throwing the brick that started the Stonewall Riots and threw the LGBTQIA rights movement into high gear. It’s easy to pick up, use, and learn to read this deck with the help of any RWS based book for beginners and experienced readers alike. It also provides space to go in depth with its layers of history and non-traditional symbolism.
There are some deviations from the standard RWS imagery, and I think they really add to the deck. Irene’s take on the Death card is creative and inspired, with the moth and moon phases illustrating the change inherent in the card. You can see the skull imagery incorporated into the moth heads, and I love it. It goes beyond the typical skull and flower motif I see in a lot of modern reworks of the RWS’s Death, and I’m grateful for the creative chance she took on that card. The Hermit is unique as well – it’s a kid playing with a kit of some kind (a radio making kit, maybe?) with a galaxy background. I love how it showcases the solo learning of the Hermit while also digging into the creative play aspect of it – it’s not something I’ve seen before!
I also love the Ace of Wands and Ace of Swords. They’ve got more typical imagery, with hands holding out the Sword and flowered stick that signifies the Wand. However, the Ace of Wands is held more like a pencil than a staff and the creative creation energy I get from the Wand is palpable. On the other hand, the greenery of the Ace of Swords reminds me of the time my grandmother taught me about beheading flowers. In order for more flowers to grow, you’ve got to remove the dead ones. It’s a reallocation of resources, allowing more water and nutrition to go towards growth. The Ace of Swords is like that – you cut things out that you can’t or shouldn’t feed in order to grow the things you want and need.
When I got the deck in my hands, I immediately shuffled it and laid out a deck interview spread. The Lovers, the Devil, Judgement, and Death all showed up. This deck is all about choices, about reflecting back and and working with you and what you put into your relationship with the cards. This is also born out with the 8 of Pentacles and King of Pentacles rounding out the spread. It’s work, but it’s work towards your best self, as the 8 of cups shows us.