Kali in my Corner

February 23, 2010 § 4 Comments

Kali – Mother of Wands in the East

Everyone should have a friend like Kali.

A few days ago I drew a card to help me decide what to do about a loved one who disapproves of my interest in tarot. When I sat down to do the reading, I braced myself to do some soul-searching. Then Kali barged in.

“Screw them!” she says, in the most literal way imaginable. “You love tarot. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about doing what you love!”

I see her point. It’s hard not to.

“And don’t try to hide it either. Live it. Own it. Wear it all over your body. Show everyone – this is what you do. This is who you are! It’s not a dirty little secret, it’s a wonderful beautiful exciting thing. And so are you.”

Well, that solved that problem. It’s great having Kali in my corner.


November 11, 2009 § 1 Comment


Strength bears the Hebrew letter Teth, the ninth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. On the Tree of Life, Teth is associated with the 19th pathway, the path that connects Chesed and Gevurah. Chesed is mercy and Gevurah is power. In The Kabbalah Tree, Rachel Pollack writes of Chesed:

“…here in Chesed we revel in the sense that the cosmos loves us, and will protect us and help us as our souls journey through experience. When New Age people say ‘The universe will take care of you,’ or ‘Ask the universe for what you need,’ they are invoking Chesed.”

Of Gevurah, she writes:

“Kabbalists often describe Gevurah as the most severe place on the tree, a testing point. If we think of ourselves as traveling upwards on the tree (in a sense, back to our origins), then Gevurah becomes the place where we must shed our own weaknesses before we can revel in the overwhelming love and mercy of Chesed.”

I know very little of Kabbalah and am learning as I go along with the Haindl Tarot. If Gevurah is the testing point, then it seems to me it’s the place where Strength is needed most. I can identify with Strength (or, rather, Teth) being placed on the pathway between mercy and power. I have been pondering this a lot and I have come to the conclusion that Strength is not a quality or trait like honesty or patience as I once believed.

Strength – at least in the tarot card sense – is a process. It’s not a noun, it’s a verb. It is not an Oscar-winning moment of grace under pressure; it is the continued giving of yourself, your love, your kindness, and your soul when all you get in return is pain.


October 26, 2009 § Leave a comment


Strength is the card I drew for this week.

Number: 8 (VIII)

Element: Fire

Hebrew Letter: Teth (“snake”)

Rune: Sigil (the “Sun”)

Astrology: Leo

Title*: Inner Strength

Motifs: Snake, naked woman, crescent moon, pool of water.

*from The Reader’s Handbook.

Splitting Apart

April 19, 2009 § 2 Comments

5 of Stones – Material Difficulty


On Sunday, I drew a card as guidance for this week. I knew it would be a difficult week so I was saddened to draw the 5 of Stones. A member of my immediate family is ill and is having to undergo tests. In this card, I saw my feelings of despair and helplessness reflected back at me.

Like the 3 of Swords, the 5 of Stones is another card that manages to convey both suffering and beauty. The image shows a winter scene, with deep shadows plotting to overthrow the weak sunlight. The trees are gnarled; their bare branches reduced to frail skeletons. The ground is dry and pitted. Five stones rise weightlessly and disconcertingly into the air. Solidity and security have forsaken us: even gravity can’t be relied upon.

The keyword for this card is Material Difficulty. Winter is frequently associated with hardship. In winter, as in periods of hardship, life is reduced to the bare bones. All the rich and diverse pursuits that occupy us in better times seem frivolous and empty; all that matters is survival. But this card doesn’t just concern questions of life or death – there are many difficult things that we need to survive. “If I can just get through this,” we say, “everything will be okay”. 

The hexagram is 23, “Deterioration” or “Splitting Apart”. It can take an upset in only one part of life to feel that everything is falling apart. It’s a feeling that things are outside of our control; suddenly the future is uncertain (it always was of course, but we can happily ignore that when times are good). Everything gets turned on its head: nothing is where it should be, or so it seems.

Hilary Barrett of Online Clarity calls the hexagram “Stripping Away” and says this about it:

“Everything outworn – every image, idea, possession, protection – must go. Even if it feels like your skin. Then the space will be cleared.”

As far as I can tell, not being an I Ching scholar, the hexagram represents a necessary time of material difficulty. It advises against taking action. Rather, the emphasis is on allowing the loss to take place – to be willing to let go of something so that something else can fill its place. This is not something I want to hear right now. But, it is important to remember that I did not consult the I Ching – I consulted the Haindl Tarot. The hexagrams can add depth to a reading, but they are not the reading. In this case, I find comfort in the message of allowing this situation to happen (as if I have a choice!). As Rachel Pollack writes in one of the Haindl companion books (I forget which one):

“Now is the time for acceptance, and waiting.”

Five is an odd, unstable number. It signifies a time of revolution. Everything is up in the air, but what goes up must come down. Gravity will reassert itself eventually and the stones will fall to the ground, their proper place, albeit possibly in a new configuration. Knowing that spring follows winter allows us to endure all the hardships winter throws at us. In the same way, knowing that we also face such hardships in our personal lives from time to time, and that those hardships are unavoidable yet temporary, allows us to keep moving through the landscape shown in the 5 of Stones.

Remember the RWS 5 of Pentacles? The huddled figures keep on moving, despite their handicaps, because to stop moving would be to give up all hope. In the Haindl 5 of Stones, the pure white bird feather that reaches down from the sky suggests some kind of comforting message from the divine, much like the RWS’s stained glass window. It tells us that everything will be all right, no matter how bleak it is in the present. And at the right edge of the card, a warm red glow hints at better times ahead.

Perplexing Hexagrams

March 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

Last weekend I decided to do a reading using the Hagall spread. This is the spread Rachel Pollack designed specifically for the Haindl Tarot. I’ve found it’s excellent for general readings to look at what’s going on in my life right now. For this spread, you separate the deck into minor arcana, major arcana and court cards then draw four cards from the minors, three from the majors and three from the courts.

I’m hoping to get the reading posted here at some point, but today I just wanted to talk about the I Ching hexagrams that appeared in the reading. The minor arcana cards I drew were the 5 of Wands, 7 of Cups, 5 of Cups and 2 of Stones (in that order). Take a look at the hexagrams that appear on those cards:

49 – 5 of Wands and 7 of Cups – 4

91 – 5 of Cups and 2 of Stones – 16

The hexagrams for each pair of cards are exact opposites! That is, where there is a light (unbroken) line in the hexagram on the 5 of Wands there is a dark (broken) line in the hexagram for the 7 of Cups. The same goes for the hexagrams on the 5 of Cups and the 2 of Stones. It was surprising to see this once; amazing to see it occur twice in the same reading. Can there be any significance to this or is it just an interesting coincidence?


March 11, 2009 § 9 Comments

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been finding comfort in my Haindl and instead of wildly posting here every single tarot thought that comes to mind (or at least, trying to), I’m enjoying some quiet contemplation here.

It’s a bit too quiet though…apparently, I one day I got a record TWO visitors. If you like the Haindl and would like to make my contemplation a little less quiet, please come visit. 🙂

The Empty House

March 11, 2009 § 2 Comments

3 of Swords – Mourning

Believe it or not, the 3 of Swords is one of my favourite cards in the Haindl – for its powerful yet simply imagery. This is one of those cards where I appreciate Hermann Haindl, the artist. The 3 of Swords in many decks depicts a heart pierced by three swords, or some scene designed to show heartbreak, betrayal, etc.; but next to Haindl’s those cards seem crude and overly explicit. This image makes me feel sad when I look at it. Like any great work of art, it has been created not to show or tell, but to evoke feeling in the viewer.

The background is taken from a painting of cats hunting mice (the same as is used for the background of the 10 of Wands). Rachel Pollack writes that “the detail is so close we lose a sense of the original painting”. When I look at the card, I see a damp wall in an old, empty house. The card is titled “Mourning”. It is a card of tragedy and ghosts. Empty houses are always sad because a house is designed to be a home – to hold people just as a heart is designed to hold love. The teardrop in the centre of the card seems to come from the wall itself, as if the house is crying.

The arrangement of the swords is also sad. The single sword is separated from the others. The space between, with the teardrop falling, speaks of a division that is too painful to cross. Things said, things left unsaid; whatever the situation, it feels too difficult and painful to make things right. The image speaks of isolation and loneliness. It used to be “us”. Now it’s just me.

Uncle Odin and the Quest for the Pole

March 7, 2009 § Leave a comment


Odin – Father of Cups in the North

Continuing the family theme, this week Uncle Odin is visiting. (Yes, I know he’s a father, but he’s not my father. He seems much more Uncle-ish to me.) People think he’s a bit mad, what with his one eye and his two pet ravens and his penchant for hanging upside down from trees, but to me he’s just dear old eccentric Uncle Odin. He looks a bit like an old sea pirate and, who knows, maybe he once was.

If you ask him how he lost his eye, he’ll reply, “I didn’t lose it. Losing things is careless. I swapped it for a heart, which took great care”. Press him further and he’ll tell you the story of how he met, fought for, and eventually married a beautiful teacher, the woman who was his wife for 55 years until she died. He never complains about his missing eye, never regrets a thing. “It comes down to this,” he says. “How much are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? I only had to pay one eye, but I would have given more.”

He’s a romantic, of course, but not a sap. Loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment are the codes he lives by. He dreams big, with his whole heart and mind, and fully commits himself to everything he does – otherwise, why do it? The day you let fear bind your heart is the day you relinquish your right to happiness, as Uncle Odin likes to say.

This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with Odin, but my imagination was captured by what Rachel Pollack wrote in the Reader’s Handbook:

“Imagine studying with a professor who lost his right eye in an experiment, but who would do it again for the sake of knowledge, and expects the same kind of commitment from his students…Odin can teach us about commitment and firmness of purpose. Even if we would not go as far as he did, if he comes to us as a teacher in our reading; we may need his lessons. Odin teaches us to take ourselves and our quests seriously.”

Which reminded me of Captain Scott, who is one of my heroes and who famously perished in Antarctica after failing to be the first to reach the South Pole. (Actually, reaching the pole was never the point of his expedition but he needed to throw that in to secure funding for his real task: exploring and recording the area’s natural history to expand knowledge of the world’s species.) Anyway…Scott and everyone in his party knew the risks, but they were driven by a desire greater than the desire to live a long, safe life. The ad placed by Scott to recruit members for the expedition read:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful…..”

The Father of Cups, unlike the Son (Parsifal), has the benefit of hindsight. He knows how much he has needed to sacrifice and what it got him. I get the feeling that – even if he hadn’t won his wife’s heart – Uncle Odin still wouldn’t regret losing his eye.

Emperor Daddy

February 28, 2009 § Leave a comment


Haindl’s Emperor stands in front of an ancient oak. He is naked, and his body resembles the tree in many ways. He is strong and muscular like the oak and his skin is almost camouflage against the tree’s rough bark. It is as if he has emerged from the tree – as though he is the tree or they are each other.

The oak must be hundreds of years old with such a wide trunk. I can just make out the shapes of younger, greener trees beyond but this tree is the ancient; it has stood the test of time. The landscape has changed around it and people have lived and died, but the tree is solid, reliable, always there. 

The oak is dependable even in its various guises. In Spring, it sprouts green leaves and over Summer its leaves thicken until Autumn when they turn brown and fall, scattered with acorns. In Winter, the oak waits with bare branches; then early in the year, the cycle begins again – constant, unwavering.

In most other decks, I like to see the Emperor as hard, distant, dictatorial. He commands armies and maintains the status quo. Not so the Haindl Emperor who is warm, protective, and strong. The Haindl Emperor is the Daddy Emperor – not the father, but the one in whose strong arms you fall asleep after a long day, nuzzled in his familiar smell.

I’ve been apart from my Haindl for a while. After working my way through six new decks in the last three months, and finding nothing but dead ends, I’ve returned to the calm, beautiful images of the Haindl. The Emperor was the first card I drew; it was the perfect card to welcome me home.

The Fool – From Zero to Hero

November 19, 2008 § 2 Comments


In most tarot decks, the Fool is numbered zero. In the Reader’s Handbook, Rachel Pollack writes:

“Of all the symbolism in the Fool card, the most important is the number 0. Zero means nothing or no thing – no fixed category or rigid belief, no rule, no preconception, no boundaries and no role. We write zero as an egg shape, to signify that all things come from it. The Hindus wrote zero as a point, the nothingness out of which all things emerge into reality. Zero, the Fool, means the perfect beginning of any phase or activity, the moment when everything is possible.”

If you multiply any number by zero, the number is unchanged. The same goes for if you add or subtract any number from zero. Zero has zero effect. So is zero – and therefore the Fool – merely passive? Is he just an observer of life, a blank slate, a sponge?

Perhaps. The Fool is too young and too inexperienced to be discerning – to judge before acting. His reaction to anything he encounters is both raw and unchecked. Perhaps this is why the expression on the face of Haindl’s Fool is so difficult to read. Is it sadness, wonder, joy? Or is it just an expression of observation? The world is full of beauty and cruelty and the Fool experiences both with the same detached curiosity. Later, he will learn to tell good from bad but for now, as the Fool, he merely bears witness. He soaks up everything he sees and stores it for future use.

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