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.)
July 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
For example, one of the things I really like about it is the head-on way it depicts negative situations. The 5 of Swords is an excellent example of this with its violent scene of barbarians pillaging and burning and preying on the weak. Some might see it as too extreme for most everyday readings, but I like it because it cuts to the chase. The subject of the reading might not be as dramatic as the scene on the card but it certainly makes you confront the reality of the situation – whether that’s your boss abusing his position to advance his career or your own treatment of the new girl. It says, “Hey, the bottom line is, someone here’s being a real bully”.
And the 5 of Swords isn’t the only card to speak out in the deck. Another favourite of mine is the Devil, which shows a scene of such debauchery and depravity, the real Devil would be proud. 😉 There’s greed, lust, war, gluttony – probably all seven of the deadly sins if I could remember what they were. And everyone in the card has completely lost sight of themselves. Everyone, that is, except for the Devil, who is the only one in control. What an incredibly powerful and unapologetic image. It would certainly make you think twice if it came up in a reading.
Before you start running for the hills, let me say that these cards are in the minority. In fact, the Anna.K Tarot is a very well-balanced deck which covers the full spectrum of real life. So, alongside these cards and others like them – the Tower, and the 3, 4, 8, 10, and Knight of Swords (okay, let’s just say the Swords suit!) – there are wonderful paintings of joyful family celebrations, of warm summer days, and of growing old with the person you love. And then there are the cards in-between, that show the daily struggles, exchanges, hopes and dreams that we all experience. It’s a deck that feels very much like life itself: painful and joyful, beautiful and messy, cruel and yet mind-bogglingly tender.
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Anna.K Tarot copyright Anna Klaffinger