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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Haindl Tarot -- We're so tiny but we're all heading in the same direction

I've been playing around with loads of decks in the last few months (and not blogging about it, sorry!). Today for some reason, I decided to get out the Haindl Tarot. 

I have a complicated relationship with the Haindl. I guess a lot of us do. I really admire the deck, but I find I can't work with it much because for me the imagery is just so poignant. The cards are just throat-achingly rife with an emotion that I find hard to name. There is so much there. Decay, regret, the sense of an ending...but also beauty, a feeling of the eternal, and even glimmers of hope. But just glimmers.

I guess the thing that gets to me in this deck is the deep sense of how temporary humanity is, how fragile. How delicate we are in our emotions, our spirituality and our bodies. This is represented through the four suits and the court cards. Haindl uses Egyptian mythology in the suit of Swords, Native American in the suit of Stones (Coins), Western Europe in the suit of Cups, and Hindu gods and goddesses in the Wands. So in the courts, I see reflected the attempts of humanity to make sense of ourselves and our place in the universe and in relation to each other and our world.

The pip cards show the fragility and frailty of human daily life set against a backdrop of sky, rock and sea--those elements of the earth that seem to us to be so longlasting.

Then there are the majors, Haindl's own vision of the traditional meanings shining through in his unique and unsettling style.

I think 'unsettling' may be the word I've been looking for.

I haven't even mentioned the backs of the cards, which for some people are so intense as to put them off the deck entirely. A staring, lashless eye, with a sty. The perfect expression, really, of beauty side by side with suffering, and the feeling of this deck of looking at both squarely and without self-deception.

Because I am so deeply immersed in Rider Waite-Smith decks, it's hard for me to leave those attributes behind when using other decks. So for the Haindl, I decided write traditional Golden Dawn attributions onto the deck, incorporating them into the design as is my usual method. I used the traditional names of the pips and wrote them on the cards. For example, 10 of Cups is known as 'Lord of Perfected Success'. I wrote on the card 'Perfected Success'. Five of Wands is called 'Lord of Strife', so I wrote on the card 'Strife'. (I should add that I trimmed all borders and titles off my cards a long time ago--they were in German anyway, as I have the lovely jumbo Haindl with the stiff, near matte cardstock.)  The writing is very unobtrusive, following the design within each card and written in 0.3 fine line. I also wrote 'Princess of Cups' or 'Queen of Wands' at the bottom of the court cards. I left out references to the cardinal directions. 

Must add, I have both Rachel Pollack guidebooks and don't much like them.  They're a bit overblown.

Also must say I completely ignore the i-ching, Hebrew and astrological symbols on the cards. Can you spot the new labels below? I think they blend very well. (I threw in the one of the backs just to freak you out, ha ha). 


  1. Hi Carla,
    The new labels do work very nicely - I'm always impressed by how you personalise your cards! You have such neat writing, for one thing ;)

    This is a deck I don't get on with very well. The Thoth influence combined with pips where the images are just chunks from other paintings with suit elements added in later doesn't sit well with me. Some of the cards are amazingly beautiful - the Aces, and the Two of Cups spring instantly to mind. I'm a little half-hearted on some of the Courts. And not all the Majors do it for me, either... I guess it's a very personal thing.

    I agree with you on the runes and I-Ching - maybe if you understand those systems deeply they would add something to the cards. Otherwise, they're just black marks on a picture :( I like the way Roxi Sim incorporated runes into her Pearls of Wisdom deck far better.


  2. Hi Chloe, You know the Haindl doesn't strike me as your style of deck. It is an odd deck. I'm not sure why I like it, as for, as I said in my post, it feels weighed down with sorrow for the world and humanity, more mourning and yearning after them than celebrating them, it seems to me. I only get it out occasionally, and then not for long because it's just not the kind of deck you'd reach for for mundane daily draws. Too epic!