The Haindl Tarot

Pros: Amazing and unusual artwork; evocative descriptions
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 12/21/2000

Tarot cards are a set of cards used for divination, self-exploration, or other similar activities. The general idea is that you lay out the cards in a pattern, and relate the given interpretations of the cards to whatever quandry you have. It foretells the future according to some, or at least gives you a new way to look at your situation according to others.

Most tarot decks are divided into 22 major arcana cards (primarily representative of universal concepts such as Death, Love, and Judgment), and 56 minor arcana, separated into four suits. The standard suits are wands, cups, pentacles, and swords. These are sort of like playing cards, except that instead of having a “Jack” you typically have a “Page” and “Knight” or something similar.

The Haindl Tarot

The Haindl Tarot comes with the standard number of cards. The suits are Wands, Cups, Swords, and Stones. The court cards are Mothers, Fathers, Sons, and Daughters. Two of the major arcana are different than standard; #20 is renamed Aeon (from Judgment), and Temperance is now Alchemy. Despite the fact that this tarot only comes with one of those dinky little interpretation booklets, it’s my favorite tarot deck. (You can buy a separate full-sized book by Rachel Pollack, and a deck and book set is also available.)

The cards themselves are very unusual. The artwork is more nebulous and abstract than most cards, misty, forms fading into one another. The colors are more natural. The visions on most of these cards could be described as ghostly. The symbology of the cards is well-described in the booklet despite the brevity, and is described in far better words than in most. Some of the descriptions give me shivers, they’re so evocative. It’s hard not to be inspired by these descriptions, whether you use your tarot for fortune-telling, self-help, or inspiration (us, we use our decks to come up with roleplaying game plots):

The Sun is a labyrinth of spirals, the trees line up with an order never found in nature, and the rose appears as dream-like. We have not returned to the ordinary world, but have moved on to another level of myth. The sun shows an idea of nature, not nature itself.

The actual interpretations are relatively simplistic, mostly lists of related concepts. They delve well into the emotional and spiritual, however, making them much more interesting than more mundane decks like Rider-Waite. They do not, however, ignore the mundane, so they are still useful for day-to-day things. Only one card spread is given: the Hagall spread, a ten-card spread that is not simply a clone of the ever-popular Celtic Cross spread.

It would be difficult to find a more inspiring deck than this. If you find it with the full-sized book, snatch it up and don’t let it get away!

Small Details

Single keywords are present on the cards, which can help during a reading. Also, these cards draw from multiple mythic and religious traditions, including (on some cards) Hebrew letters and Viking runes. The court cards range from such figures such as Kali and Odin to Osiris and the White Buffalo Woman.

So, do I believe in the tarot as a divination device? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s hard to believe that a deck of cards can foretell the future, or tap into our ability to do so. I’m much more likely to buy the “it’ll make you see old problems in a new light” school of thought. On the other hand…who knows? I’m willing to keep an open mind.

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