Haindl Tarot – 5 of Swords

October 26, 2011 § 1 Comment


This is the card I drew as commentary on my decision to spend a year with the Haindl. I was not thrilled – the title is Defeat. In my mind, it seemed to confirm what I already knew – that I’m not very good at sticking at things and a year is a very, very, very, long time. However, as I wrote in my journal: “I know it’s doomed to failure but I’m doing it anyway. Eyes wide open. Defiant in the face of defeat.”

The RWS 5 of Swords is famously ambiguous with its image of both the victor and the swordless losers, but it focuses on the dishnourable winner. The Haindl, on the other hand, with its unflinchingly painful image of a dying unicorn, emphasises the victim – the oppressed, the defeated, the loser, the weak and powerless. Rachel Pollack writes that the unicorn is a symbol of innocence and purity. Here we see it being destroyed by swords, symbol of war, aggression, technology and power. In the Haindl worldview, this card comments on the suffering and destruction wreaked by humankind in its quest for supremacy.

Haindl chose a very claustrophobic viewpoint, framing the unicorn in extreme close-up, which makes the image – especially the panicked expression in the unicorn’s eyes – even more uncomfortable. This also means we can’t see what’s killing it. Perhaps even the unicorn can’t see it’s attacker – it can only feel the pain being inflicted. The oppressor is so great, so powerful, perhaps it isn’t even aware of the unicorn’s suffering. The unicorn could represent any victim of crime, bullying or torture – or simply a victim of circumstances too great to understand.

One phrase that caught my attention as I was reading about the hexagram (47, Oppression) is “the moment of truth”. How we deal with defeat makes all the difference. The unicorn meets its own defeat with eyes wide open. It struggles, it rails, it does not go gentle into that good night. The hexagram (which in my book is titled Confining) talks of needing to be “strong, clear and focused”.

I had presumed defeat, and maybe I’ll turn out to be right, but in a way drawing this card has helped me start off on the right foot. Instead of being blindly optimistic, I know the odds that I’ll give up at some point. I know my own moment of truth will come, and when it does, I plan to rage, rage.

God, you’d think I was facing the electric chair, not pledging to spend a year with my favourite deck. 😉 (Actually, I’m having lots of fun.)

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§ One Response to Haindl Tarot – 5 of Swords

  • Great post. And I also believe that is good to start off realistically. I think that often, we can jump into these projects with the highest hopes, only to die beneath that sword all the more painfully when things don’t work out as we’d hoped. However, once you journey deeper into The Haindl, start meeting new characters and getting return visits from those you have formed relationships with already, I think it will become far more rewarding than reaching for a different or new deck. I am kind of working with one deck a little longer than I had thought I might and am really enjoying the surprises and familiarity that comes with doing so, so I can understand how exciting all of this is.


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