One of the reasons I started to blog is to share information and reviews of some of the decks that I have (it’s an ever-increasing list, and I now use the word “collector” to give some justifiable meaning for this accumulation).
While not my first deck, the Haindl Tarot by German painter Hermann Haindl is certainly my “personal” deck. It is one that I had an instant connection with, one that I love and if I were to pick just one deck above all others, this would be it. It is not one that I would recommend to beginners, however, for two reasons. First, it does not use pictorial scenes for the Minor Arcana which is simple pips with various backgrounds, and one needs to be fairly conversant with numerology, and particular the applications of numerological meanings within each elemental suit. Secondly – and this I find more important – is the use of titles in each Minor Arcana card.
For example, the 8 of Cups has the title “Disappointment”. I remember a friend once picking this card up for a question about a love relationship – and seeing the sadness on her face. And while tarot readings are about honesty, and I know there is a whole spectrum of meaning behind the 8 of Cups, one needs a healthy dose of objectivity when using such a deck, as it is far too easy for the querent to allow words like “Disappointment” or “Uselessness” to bring in emotional bias (and vice versa with cards that have “Victory” or “Happiness” as their title).
The above aside, the Haindl Tarot is an incredibly beautiful deck, one that showcases imagery from different cultural mythologies and has a deeply humanistic and environmental focus. It is a deck highly suitable for meditative work and for introspective insights, for those times when I ask questions that have a more philosophical bent rather that the day-to-day worldly concerns. The deck also has two books written by Rachel Pollack, one for the Minor Arcana and one for the Major Arcana – I have found these to be very helpful in terms of giving additional information on the symbology and background for the cards.
“The Haindl Tarot certainly contains a great deal of information. Most importantly, however, it opens our minds. It leads us to see the world in a new way (or perhaps a very old way), as a vessel filled with spiritual power and truth. Many people in recent decades have sought this understanding. Through its powerful images, and because we use the Tarot rather than just look at it, the Haindl Tarot helps them experience this understanding.” Rachel Pollack
The Majors have Hebrew letters, astrological glyphs and the Runic alphabet inscribed on them, while the Minors have the I-Ching, so there is certainly a wealth of information to discover as you learn it. The Court Cards are drawn from different cultural mythological figures: India for the suit of Wands, Europe for the suit of Cups, Egypt for the suit of Swords, and Native American for the suit of Stones (Pentacles). He also removed the European ruling class titles (King, Queen etc), so that the King is renamed Father, the Queen is renamed Mother, the Knight becomes Daughter and the Page becomes Son. This gives the Court Cards a more original portrayal, as well as giving the deck a unique humanistic feel.
Shown above, from left to right are: The Empress, The Emperor, Strength, Death, 4 of Stones (titled The Power of the Earth) and the image on the back of the cards. Some people have said they find the back imagery (the eye) a little too intense, personally this only adds another layer of depth to the whole deck and has never discouraged me from using it. I particularly love the way these cards feel when I shuffle them – for me the tactile, tangible experience of what a deck feels like is very important, and I do not find plastic laminated cards appealing – too slippery and difficult to cut. After 3 years of shuffling this deck, the cards are still in very good condition despite their not so glossy cardstock.
“Though Hermann Haindl worked to a large extent unconsciously – not planning the symbolism so much as allowing it to emerge in the painting – the pictures present a complex yet, at the same time, unified vision… we can describe the central theme of the Haindl Tarot as the renewal of the Earth – not just the material resources but the spiritual Earth.”
Rachel Pollack: The Haindl Tarot – The Major Arcana (2002)