Haindl Tarot – The Chariot

January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Some thoughts on the Chariot, presenting an alternative view to that found in the companion books, one more suited perhaps to spread positions requiring a less positive slant.

The charioteer stands with arms open, victorious, triumphant. He says, “Look at me, I’m master of all I survey, I’m the victor, I’m the champion, I’m king of the waves.” And yet, he is protected from the waves by the enormous chariot – a man-made structure ploughing through the sea on giant waves.

And behind him, a fear he doesn’t face, that he is driving away from, in denial of its existence, because to acknowledge it would threaten his sense of self, his ego. He attempts to obscure it with technology and grandeur.

He is at sea yet completely safe – the waves barely touch him so distant is he, so raised above them on his mechanical podium. He has removed himself from the raw untameable power of the ocean and nature, which is also the raw, untameable power of the unconscious. And yet still he claims mastery over it.

The rune on this card is Hagall. Rachel Pollack explains this means destruction. It’s a reminder that victory is never absolute, that just because we can force our will on something doesn’t mean we have complete dominion over it. It’s a warning against arrogance.

The Hebrew letter is Cheth and the zodiacal sign is Cancer. Cheth means fence and Cancer is the sign of the crab, whose hard shell protects it from injury. Even Cancer’s glyph, shown in the bottom corner of the card, makes it look like it is curled into a ball to protect itself. Both of these things hint that the charioteer’s victory may not be all it seems. It’s not quite so impressive when you hide behind a safety fence and clothe yourself in thick heavy armour. It’s like a gladiator fighting a lion whose teeth and claws have been removed, then proclaiming how mighty he is for slaying the monstrous beast. Compare this with the next card, Strength, where we see a woman, naked and with both feet on the ground, holding the snake. It seems she is much braver than the charioteer.

The charioteer tries to escape the wolf-like animal following him, but it hounds him even in victory. We must be aware of the fences we construct around us and try to identify what it is we’re hiding from.

Seven is a challenging number. In the minor suits of the Haindl Tarot, we have Illusions of Success (Cups), Uselessness (Swords), and Failure (Stones). Only Courage (Wands) can bring us through these difficult times.

Haindl Tarot – 2 of Cups

January 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

Rachel pollack writes that the 2s represent positive action.

The hexagram is 1, the Creative. It is made up purely of yang lines, reinforcing the idea of action. Hilary Barrett writes:

“It begins with an opening to the source of the creative impulse – not plans or intentions, but the vital energy that powers them. Then you create success by sustaining a continuous, two-way flow between source and action. You step into the heart of a process of creation, welcome its momentum and find ways to join and work with it.”

Usually, the 2 of Cups describes a connection between people, something that exists or occurs without conscious effort. Yet the word “love” is a verb. To Love. I love. You love. Be loved. Love.

Despite the earnest nature bestowed on it by its title, the colours are bright and the peacock cocks his head in friendly flirtation. It’s a question, an invitation to play. This isn’t the Lovers, it’s just a two. Yes, there’s something there – a spark of recognition, a connection, a kindred soul – but without action it will come to nothing.

I always think of this card as having a subtitle: Beauty. The peacock is beautiful and he knows it. He uses it to his advantage when seeking a mate. It is important to bring something to the relationship.

I don’t read reversals but if I did I would see this card representing vanity, self-love, and superficiality. The cups would be upside down and unable to hold anything. All love flows back to the source.

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.)

A Year With The Haindl, cont.

October 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

So, for the record, this is what I’m trying to achieve. Despite having had the Haindl for 5 years now, my study of it has been slow and fragmented. It is the deck that I keep coming back to, the one that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the one I feel at home with, but there is still so much of it I don’t know all that well. Recently I have been lazy, allowing myself to ignore all the ‘twiddly bits’ (Hebrew letters, runes, I ching hexagrams, planets and signs) and whilst that’s fine, it means I only ever really scratch the surface. I would like to have the kind of deep knowledge suggested by the 8 of Stones – a slow, elephantine knowing.

Haindl Tarot 8 of Stones

I have decided not to set any sort of structure (e.g. study one card every 4.68 days) as I know I’ll find that too confining. Rather, I am just going to use it for readings, study whatever cards pique my interest, and also find some good books to help me understand the twiddly bits. Over the course of the next 12 months, I want to:
– learn more about Kabbalah (including which way I should be spelling it), runes, the I Ching, and astrology
– learn more about the historical and mythological figures who make up the court cards
– become more comfortable reading with the deck, first for myself but also for others
– go into each card more
– use it to help me grow, to understand myself and the world better
– play with it, using the excellent activities in my forthcoming book 😉
– assign timings to each of the cards
– become one with the deck

All of which sounds fun and do-able right? I think so.

Anyway, after making my pledge yesterday sitting, as I was, in the car park of B&Q (where all great life-changing decisions are made), I thought it would be nice to draw a card from the Haindl as a kind of commentary. The card I drew was the 5 of Swords – Defeat. Never let it be said that the Haindl doesn’t have a sense of humour.

Still, I am undeterred and have made the 5 of Swords the first subject for scrutiny. Illuminating insights to follow…

A Year with the Haindl

October 7, 2011 § 2 Comments


Stay tuned for more on this momentous and foolhardy decision. 🙂

Quick thoughts about the Magician

April 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Magician card is full of contrast – of brightness and shadows. Where is his body? Has he even noticed it’s missing?

By seeing both light and dark at the same time, he can explore all possibilities. He occupies both night and day. The beauty and complexity of crystals mesmerizes him. There is no problem that exists for which he cannot find a solution.

The Magician lives simultaneously in the world of reason and magic. He knows there is no difference between science and imagination – that there cannot be one without the other. We cannot hope to understand reality without first embracing fantasy.

The Power of the Earth

March 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Four of Stones

I am beginning to feel that the questions I ask the universe are mere formalities. A question can open a dialogue, but the reply isn’t always about the same subject.

In the middle of 3-cards I drew today was the Four of Stones – the Power of the Earth. The question I asked was about an immediate problem and I interpreted them accordingly. Later, I looked the cards up in Rachel Pollack’s books. I always do this for any reading I do with the Haindl – partly to jog my memory but also as a form of bibliomancy. Sometimes I find another aspect to the reading this way.

As I read about the 4 of Stones, these phrases sprung out at me:

…if we understand our fears we can overcome them

…with most people living in cities, the Earth seems less fearsome

…and understood their own place in the world

…tell us to…find our own place

Reversed, the Four of Stones indicates losing a sense of place…

…does not know where she or he fits…

When some conqueror…forced them to relocate, they became lost.

All of which probably won’t mean much to you, until I tell you that we’re in the process of moving house. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with the question I asked.

We have yet to find somewhere we want to live but this week the couple buying our house have found a first-time buyer for theirs, so the pressure is on. We are planning to move from the “city” (it’s technically a large town), to the sticks. I won’t deny I’m a little anxious. (Excited, yes, of course, but the thing I’m excited about still appears so distant that anxiety trumps it, no problem.)

…it describes thunder as a great shock…people become terrified…yet in summer a thunderstorm can also bring joy

As well as describing the situation, the book suggests solutions:

The background for the Four of Stones comes from the same painting as the Seven of Wands [Courage] and the Ten of Cups [Success].

The card calls us to respect the sources of power in our lives.

We have lived here a long time. It is familiar and safe, and although we want to start a new life somewhere else, it takes a ridiculous amount of courage to do so. The last line I quoted suggests recognising the other things in my life that make me feel familiar and safe – most of which I will be taking with me when we move. And when we get there, the power of the earth – nature, wildlife, the seasons and the stars – will provide me with a familiar background against which to build our new life.

Spider Woman

February 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mother of Stones in the West

Who is Spider Woman? This is what I see when I look at her.

She is old. The lines on her face are deepened by the labyrinth etched across it. She has endured hard winters. She squints in sunlight. She stays in the shade.

She is still, unmoving. The landscape changes around her. Seasons come and go. Children grow up, fall in love and bear their own children, but she changes not. She is beetle-bodied, a small head on a round torso. When she moves, she moves slowly.

She is silent. For her, words have no use. She listens, she nods, she says nothing. Even her thoughts are wordless. Much can be learned from the wind, from the running of a lizard, from the earth itself as it moves. Her expression is inscrutable. She gives nothing away.

She weaves and cooks. She feeds and clothes. She tends sickness. She knows how to do all these things. She does them silently, without sympathy or emotion.

She sees all. The labyrinth extends from her eyes, ears, and nose like a spider’s web. She senses everything that happens as a spider feels every vibration on a thread. She has lived a long time. She has experienced thousands of days, hundreds of years. Nothing shakes her.

She is the centre, the hearthstone, the matriarch, the source. Through her, all her people are connected. Brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, generation after generation, she is the grandmother of them all.

For her, every day begins when the sun rises and ends when it sets. For her, every day is the same. For her, this is life. Breathing the same air as the coyotes and the eagles. Walking the same earth as the ants. Letting the animal of her body live in the world.

Hermann Haindl – Tarot – The Film

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Frustratingly, I don’t know any German, so I can’t understand a word of this film. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to see the cards being created.

Part One: in which Hermann Haindl splashes a lot of paint on a large canvas and we zoom in for a close-up of the Star.

Part Two: in which we’re shown the early stages of the Universe, the Magician and the Moon, plus the Devil coming to life.

Part Three: in this, the most action-packed episode, we see Haindl choosing backgrounds for the minor arcana and painting the cups on the 2 of Cups, plus what must be the very first set of cards.


August 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

7 of Wands – Courage

Seven wands reach for the moon. This card always makes me think of someone standing on tippy-toes, stretching as tall as they can, yet the thing they want remains out of reach. These wands are striving so hard to reach their goal yet they’re still clinging to the rocks. Is it fear that holds them back? The rocks are familiar, safe. They provide stability. But it’s madness to believe you can touch the moon without taking your feet off the ground.

What is courage? It’s a quality of spirit that pushes us forward in spite of fear. The word screws itself into a ball, like fear tightening your heart in your chest. Courage comes in all forms. Telling someone how you feel about them takes a lot of courage. So does standing up to the bad guys, or even the good guys if you think they’re doing something wrong. Anytime we put any part of ourselves on the line, we are courageous. Even when we know there’s a chance we’ll get hurt, the consequences of not doing anything are worse than the prospect of failure. Maybe just the smallest glimmer of hope that we might succeed is enough to help us overcome our biggest fears.

It takes courage to change the status quo as well. There’s nothing wrong with not leaving those rocks but could you live with yourself if you never even tried? That’s what this card is speaking to me about today. I’m trying to make a big change in my life and, at times, the enormity of it overwhelms me and I start allowing compromise to creep in. I start looking for a safety net. What if I didn’t take such a big step all at once? Would it really be that bad? Things aren’t so bad where I am so why take such a big risk? It’s very difficult to leave the familiar when you’re not entirely sure what you’re leaving it for.

The hexagram on this card is 40, Loosening. It symbolizes release from obstruction and from whatever has been holding you back. Knowing what that is is half the battle. If you look closely at the base of the wands (starting with the leftmost) you can see that the first, fifth and sixth wands aren’t touching the rocks. They have begun to rise, to leave behind the safety and stability of the rocks. With this small but tremendous act of courage they are on their way to the moon.

Some courageous quotes:

Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.  ~Arthur Koestler

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

Courage can’t see around corners, but goes around them anyway.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.  ~Raymond Lindquist

But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail. ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth

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