Flying Hearts Tarot by the Flying Hearts Company (Pepé Test, Elisabeth Rammacher, Gayaka Backheuer and Vera Wetjen)
Review by Morwenna
Nadja Morasch                                

When I first encountered this deck, I had just started collecting tarot decks and wanted my decks to be as different and exotic as possible. Probably for that reason the Flying Hearts Tarot immediately caught my eye!

This deck from the late Eighties was inspired by rebellion; at least, this is what the accompanying paperback book says. In a world full of pollution and lethal diseases, the authors, a circle of seven people with a therapeutic, artistic, or musical background, try to bring back enlightenment through the power of playing.

Wanting to rid the game of tarot from tradition and dogma, they first transformed the Major Arcana into the following (I have tried to translate the original German names for the cards; the exact expressions are added in parenthesis):

Tradition: Rebellion:

0 The Fool 00 Lucky Fool (Narr im Glück)

1 The Magician 1 The Player (Der Spieler)

2 The High Priestess 2 Intuition (Intuition)

3 The Empress 3 Joy (Freude)

4 The Emperor 4 The Dandy (Der Lebemann)

5 The Hierophant 5 The Spiritual Master (Der spirituelle Meister)

6 The Lovers 6 The Lovers (Die Liebenden)

7 The Chariot 7 The Spirit of Rebellion (Der Geist der Rebellion)

8 The Force 8 Samba (Samba)

9 The Hermit 9 Being Alone (Allein-Sein)

10 Wheel of Fortune 10 Spur of the moment (Die Laune des Augenblicks)

11 Justice 11 Equanimity (Gleichmut)

12 The Hanged Man 12 Devotion (Hingabe)

13 Death 13 Letting Go (Loslassen)

14 Temperance 14 Self-Contemplation (Selbstbesinnung)

15 The Devil 15 Pan (Pan)

16 The Tower 16 The last Heartquake (Das letzte Herzbeben)

17 The Star 17 Uranus – Cosmic Laughter (Uranus – Kosmisches Gelächter)

18 The Moon 18 Neptune – Compassion (Neptun – Mitgefühl)

19 The Sun 19 Pluto – Rebirth (Pluto – Wiedergeburt)

20 Judgement 20 Freedom (Freiheit)

21 The World 21 In the World, yet not of this World (In der Welt, doch nicht von dieser Welt)

While some of the new names come pretty close to the traditional meanings, I feel others are too far-fetched (e.g. 8 Samba) or even a misinterpretation – "Letting go" is not the right expression for an ending or a change as radical or final as the traditional card implies. Also, if the cards were not numbered, it would be almost impossible to match them to their meanings.

The Minor Arcana are composed of four elemental suits – air, fire, water and earth. I think water equals cups, earth, pentacles, air, batons and fire, swords, but I'm not really sure – the Ace of Air reads "Neverending Story", which fits the rebirth aspect of the Ace of Batons nicely, but what do you make of Earth Four – "Tiramisu"?

Another novelty is the change of the court cards to so-called "Masters", described as "credit cards of our inner bank" – whatever that is supposed to mean! The explanation (a poem again) describes the court card – reader relationship as one similar to master and student and that we can learn from them. Why this should be more true for the court cards then for the others is not clarified. All of the master cards are titled "fountain" and numbered from one to sixteen. I could not figure out the correspondences to the traditional court cards, but you are invited to have a look at Master Seven : Fountain of Breath and Master Eight : Fountain of "Zest, Zip, Zap, Zing" and make your guess.

The artwork of the deck is a collage technique using everything from classical paintings to furniture catalogue clippings. Some feature just one prominent figure, others are almost crowded. Some are bright, some are dull. The imagery is dreamlike and meditative and reminds me a little of the Osho Zen Tarot, maybe because of the similar spiritual background; influences of Buddhism and Eastern philosophy are noticeable throughout the book. The backs show a drawing of a flying heart between two columns and are not reversible. The cards are quite large – about twice the size of a normal deck, but since the cards are of a sturdy material and well laminated, the shuffling is no problem.

As for the book, most of it is comprised of poetry, the quality of which is at least questionable, and contains a strange sense of humour, probably to emphasize the playful aspect of the deck. I must confess I can't really relate to statements like

"Bathing,
whether in cards, ocean,
tub, swimming pool, the sea,
just refreshes, cleanses and renews.
The old pond,
a frog jumps in –
plopp!"

Most of this seems forced and preposterous to me. Maybe it is because there were too many people involved in the creation of this deck or maybe they tried to stuff too much into one project. The book's second part, however, is where the true value of this deck is hidden. There is a poem and a meditation exercise for all 78 cards. While I still find the poems rather ridiculous, the exercises are original and often prove helpful when meditating with the cards. There are some real gems in there, probably due to the therapeutic background of the authoring team.

I would recommend this deck to anyone who is already familiar with meditation techniques, because for that purpose it delivers excellent results and the artwork is impressive. For art deck and novelty collectors it might also be of interest. However, I never managed to get any useful divination results with this deck.

See more cards from The Flying Hearts Tarot here.

The deck is out of print; occasionally you can come across a copy at www.zvab.com

Flying Hearts Tarot - "Lachend das Leben spielen" (Playing Life laughing)
Flying Hearts Company
Bauer, Freiburg im Breisgau 1988
ISBN #: 3-7626-0360-X

Images © 1988 Flying Hearts Company
Review © 2002 Morwenna Morasch
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes

Morwenna Nadja Morasch's first encounter with the tarot took place 20 years ago, when she bought Ferguson's Tarot of the Witches in a novelty store out of curiosity. She was immediately hooked and presently owns a collection of about 60 decks. Morwenna has taken classes with two excellent German teachers, Pekny and Banzhaf, and also studies astrology. Spiritually, she follow a Witch's path with a close relationship to the Faerie folk, and is presently contracted to write a book linking faerie magic with the Tarot, to be published in Spring, 2003. View Morwenna's private homepage here.