An Interview with Katalin Csikos, Creator of HazelMoon’s Hawaiian Tarot
I am a person of many loves and passions, among them the tarot and the Hawaiian islands. These loves are shared by artist Katalin Csikos. Also like me, Katalin has roots in Hungary. Katalin has expressed her passion for Hawaii—its history, land, people, and traditional spirituality—through her creation of HazelMoon’s Hawaiian Tarot. I conducted this interview with her in 2011.
Katalin, can you tell us a little about yourself, about the journey that brought you from Hungary to Hawaii?
I was born and raised in Hungary, near Lake Balaton, which always reminded me of Hawaii since the age of 4, which is very odd since I could not have been there yet. Not in this life that is. As I would sit by the lake side, watching the sunsets, I had always thought of the other side of this planet, where the sun is rising at that very same moment. Even at such a young age, I explained this to my parents and that one day, I would be living in Hawai’i.
I became a self taught artist, drawing and painting before I learned the alphabet. Shape and colour seemed to be more important than words to me at that time. Words, I would use later in stories and poems. As my interest in art continued alongside of my infatuation with Hawai’i, the two melded together and only furthered my desire to live there. After some time traveling and living in various places, the journey finally deposited me where I longed to be. It took a long time to prove I was right at such a young age but here such beauty with colour and shape in nature and elements is a living palate to take inspiration from. I am home now.
What inspired you to create HazelMoon’s Hawaiian Tarot?
My inspiration was brother “IZ” Israel Kamakawivo’ole, considered by many globally to be one of the top Hawaiian musicians, especially singers, in history. I had a dream in which I saw him sitting on the beach. He looked at me but said nothing while his eyes told all I needed to know. I was living in Hawai’i when he passed and I remember feeling great sorrow at the loss of such a wonderful musician and person. His songs still give me ‘chicken skin’ (goosebumps) and I feel the great love he held in his heart for the Hawaiian land and people. This compassion pushed me to try to ingrain this love he projected through my art upon a medium that would connect people and assist them with guidance in their lives. Reproducing the age old divination tool, the tarot, with motifs and inspiration from Hawai’i seemed more than appropriate since I myself have been favored by directional support through readings. It is also a comfortable match since early in the kingdoms unified history, the royal line of Kamehameha was itself enamored with European culture so this seems to be my natural response in return.
Is there something in particular that you would like people to know about your beautiful cards?
I am just an artist who follows her inspirations and visions so I have no focused sales point to highlight. I created each card with an unfiltered compassion and desire in my heart from the love for Hawai’i that continues to wander through my spirit each day. It has been and is a grand and beautiful feeling when an artist is able to share their creations with others all over the world. Even more so for me when, as I suspect in some cases, it has been of value outside of an object of art and really provides assistance for people.
What was your process? How long did it take to create these cards?
I created and painted the cards after I moved back to the mainland due to a restlessness that would not find itself at peace. It seems my spirit was still very adventurous and would have its way beyond any reason. The winter was extremely cold in the area where I now found myself and I was listening to brother “IZ” since his voice has always warmed my heart and brought my previous time in Hawai’i back into my mind’s eye.
After many years and at this winter time, I had the same dream with his calm and wise visage speaking to me. The next day I started to paint some Hawaiian landscapes in miniature from my memories. I was so inspired by this work I continued to paint with an almost possessed passion I have rarely experienced before. This body of work comprised most of the whole set and only empowered me further to complete my, until then, unknown task.
It was a time that I needed direction with what to do with my life. I felt lost and without a purpose. The process for painting each card seemed orchestrated by my memory and longing for peace so I trusted in this. I would envision an outline on the paint board and that would be the direction or instigation for the particular card the finished work would be. I applied my hands labor to the natural feeling that was being asked of me. Those are the pictures you see on the cards today.
The painting work for the cards was basically completed in a little less than a year but the additional work the project took to produce a complete set, that would be available for the public’s interest, would be another six. I was a simple artist, who thought painting would be the basic skill necessary for the project. How mistaken I was and I suspect this is why so many creative people never peruse a wonderful idea to fruition. A major publishing company who handles material of this sort internationally was interested in my work, but their requirements sounded “too hard” for me, so I put the project on hold for years and almost forgot about it, until my husband pushed me into completing the work with the goal of self publishing it and finally offering it to the community at large. At that point I contacted Artful Dragon Press, and they were pleased to be working with me and take over in the professional printing aspects and provide their services as such. I had to learn the digital world of Photoshop and so much more to make my work into something they could run through their presses. Many times I felt like I would need to abandon the project but at some point, you can never go home again. Thank you Mr. Wolfe.
I finally realized that having assistance would require funding so we decided to take that proverbial leap of faith and invest the retirement fund into the fray. My husband said our retirement would be unhappy if I quit now and never saw the little dream grow up and live on in others lives. I was beyond nervous and yet most excited at the same time to keep pushing forward like this. Those 5000 units of this first print run took so much space in my mind, heart and our house that we made a joke about it. We do not live in a house but a warehouse! We are attempting to learn yet another skill in the long journey of this saga and that is the sales and marketing facet. I am proud to say that they are now available, on my personal website, Amazon Market Place, New Leaf Distributing, Barnes and Noble, as well as some local gift and book stores here in Hawai’i and even as far abroad as Japan, Australia, United Kingdom and the mainland of the U.S.. I would like to know that they are within easy availability for anyone who may wish to find them useful. If guidance can be found in this work, it is a journey I am pleased to have made, and the destination is still further on.
One of the things that struck me when I first saw this deck was the beauty of the floral imagery—clearly, you love flowers. Can you tell us a little about this?
You are correct to mention that my use of landscapes and flowers is predominant within the deck of cards. And again, you are also correct in noticing my joy and love of flowers. The emotional affect such array of colours and variety of shape and form; all designed and presented through the hand of nature is beyond my words to describe. I have been told that the love of this land and surrounding waters are very important for Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) and even so to the people living here in these islands. I too grew up watching my mother tending to her beautiful gardens. She has always been able to produce a beautiful garden whenever she has the space to do so. I continually tease her by referring to her as “The Garden Witch.”
At present time, we are residing on a three acre parcel of land that the owners have built into a lovely garden with lots of colorful and blooming flowers that surrounds us. We have fondly titled it ‘Ka Hale O Ka Māla Huna’ or The House of the Secret Garden.
Among the ways that HazelMoon’s Hawaiian Tarot differs from a standard tarot deck is that, instead of a suit of pentacles or coins, there is a suit of lava stones. Can you explain this adaptation?
As an artist I have always tried to reinterpret my surroundings and produce images for others that are of that vision. I believe Socrates made a profound statement that the human mind, considering the imagination, does not have the ability to create truly new ideas. That all the thoughts or fabrications from our mind are actually a recombination of material we have already stored into our memory. No face in your dream is unknown to you, only many facets amalgamated from the faces of people you have already seen. So as artists or creative thinkers, we all have to be conscious at creating to bring about work that is as original as can be interpreted by the present time and evolution of the people we are presenting the work to.
With my vision of the cards and their imagery, I tried to use some elements that we can find here on the islands as substitutes of the traditional suits. So, I found that lava stones could be a good substitute for the suit of coins, especially the water-rounded ones found in stream beds or certain shorelines. I also like the thought that lava stones are made up with the elements from the Earth similar as metals and ores and in fact we find some lava that has trace matter of metal in them.
As is with pre-monotheistic religions, elements of the Earth and nature therein contained, are very sacred, valued and well preserved in the classical culture of Hawai’i. It is also worth mentioning that a coin represents many aspects in societies that are not beneficial, such as a system of monetary control and ultimately a form of slavery. We see what it has done to the U.S. and the poor working class that has become stripped of their power to direct those who construct their society and it is truly a sadness on this Earth. That is why I felt it better to use another symbol instead. As for the pentacle, some of us know better but many are still influenced by the ignorance of times best forgotten to the ages. Too many times the pentacle has been mistaken for a pentagram and all sorts of nonsense springs from the under fertile minds of those who have been cajoled into a mob mentality. Every little step into the light of new days dawning is preferred to an archaic back slide into deranged demagoguery.
Which is your own favorite image or card?
I am fond of the whole set, of course, but I do have two favorites. “The Lovers” and “Death” seem to both have a deep connection to life, oddly enough, that at least in the case of death, it may be a little obtuse for people. I think that these two cards are very important in general to the tarot as well as major factors in peoples outlook for their lives. We all need love on some level and hope to find ourselves with such a feeling. The other feeling we all possess in our mind is the knowledge that we are physically finite and will need to come to terms one way or another with death. The great revelator will take his turn with everyone one day. We have to use our time wisely. Those two cards remind me that we have to learn and enjoy what we have today, if we fail to ignore the joy, the simple happiness, then we can easy loose those pleasures quickly and they might never come back.
I think that in today’s stressful life-styles most of us forget what is important. Most people in this consumer-driven society keep running after money and what we are told it will do for us and in the meanwhile we are forgetting the connections with families, friends and even with total strangers that unseen to us, will be an importance on some level. Some of us only realize this when it’s too late and nothing then can bring back what has been already lost.
Instead of the Devil, HazelMoon’s Hawaiian Tarot features The Evil—can you explain this adaptation?
In my mind it is too much an unreality, The Devil as a real entity is beyond reasonable but evil, unfortunately exists and is alive and well in almost every direction you look in today’s world. The shadows in the corner of your vision are secret places where the darkness is impenetrable to our ego and its tender little lies. For the Kanaka Maoli, evil is present everywhere that Malahini (new arrivals) are intentionally disturbing, poisoning, and killing off the spirit of the a’ina (land) that has supported their illustrious cultural history. This is evil because it is a continual process here that is perpetuated by greed. It is even more upsetting when the original land is scrapped free of its mana (spiritual power) and then replaced with a corporate plastic version of classical cultural life for tourism.
What inspired you to connect Pearl Harbor with the Five of Lava Stones?
I was born on December 7th (not in 1941) and all my life I had trouble finding my way, my direction, my place and peace of mind. The Five of Lave Stones exactly mirrors my life and it shows to me more shadows than reflections of light and indicates the cards aspects of struggle. When one entity struggles to posses more of a commodity, another struggles with less of that same commodity. Mankind has always seemed in a struggle against itself, each other and even the Earth. Always fighting to possess more of one item or another.
One day I woke up and went to Kalapana, to my favorite black sand beach. I was meditating and watching the oceans power, as I wondered, why money is so important? What can money give to us that we cannot give to each other and why has such a useless object such as a small piece of paper that has no writing surface left on it be really worth? Struggle and possession kept a dance of confusion in my mind. The feelings became strong and the sadness produced was overshadowing the beauty surrounding me.
This same feeling poured into me when I visited the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Why so many names connected to so many parents’ sons and daughters were on that wall? Because of man’s struggle to posses. How that need was a catalyst to force a turn in the events of time that made such a moment dreadfully powerful. The infamy will be the greed and avarice that lay behind the Orwellian mechanizations that came to that day. That loss and suffering due to the struggle held me to hope the cards adaptation would be a proper allegory.
I was happy to see Father Damien’s appearance in the Six of Swords—could you discuss this a little?
Thank you for mentioning Saint (Father) Damien. He was a great man who sacrificed so much when he was alive and then the final Earthly act of sacrifice, all for people whose suffering was due to a disease everyone else feared beyond most, leprosy, which now we call Hansen’s Disease.
I always wanted to visit Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai. Luckily it happened before I completed my Tarot cards. It was the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been to. Yet at the same time, the most painful place for me. I had expected my heart and mind to be overwhelmed by sadness for the history is so abysmal and I am sure those thoughts were why I had tears come to me. What I was not expecting was how wonderfully simple and peaceful it was. I have been devouring books written by patients ever since and have been forever blessed to have had the joy of a visit. Even flying above the Kalaupapa peninsula, it felt like everyone’s heart beat stopped for a moment aboard that tiny airplane. The morning sun rays radiated seemingly from within the world’s highest sea cliffs and looking down we saw the most isolated place, where so many people had been exiled for the rest of their lives. I am in no way a traditionally religious person but if you forgive me, it was almost an epiphany to behold and a great love again was awoken in my heart and mind.
Walking on the very same path that the patients with and without hope had trodden was something that I cannot describe. A moment in time to travel amongst the work and words of Father Damien gave me more belief in mankind’s ability to turn from this dark course we are on than anything else since. It was a spiritual enlightenment, it was respectful in emotional weight and it was so quiet and peaceful in a way I cannot explain that again I feel joyous just to recollect the visit there. When we were leaving the peninsula, I was looking down once again to the deep, green valley and saw the tiny white church Father Damien built with his own hands and while it looked like a lonely, shiny peal in the shadows of the mountains, I also thought how those great green arms had held it safe and loved for so long. Father Damien was an extraordinary human being, how can I not include him in this homage to Hawai’i through my interpretation with tarot? My husband has asked me to mention another man whom he has come to love and respect from that visit. Brother Joseph Dutton. I might add that many others where important to this history of hope, but Father Damien is beyond a doubt the shining example of the gift of love and sacrifice.
For me, the Queen of Swords card evoked the power of Pele—was that your original intent?
Yes, that was my true intention. The goddess who devours the land also creates more. Both creator and destroyer, she who throws molten fountains of fire into the air also governs the great flows of lava. Pele was a goddess of fire, lighting, dance, volcanoes and violence. She was also lonely, and heart-broken. In my painting she is still remembering her lost love. Carving a heart into the molten lava with her power and soul she mourns this loss. It evokes a similarity that sprang to mind concerning the steely strength of a queen and one of swords. Love and power come to be estranged to one another and tends to produce a melancholy that gone untended will bring a rage against the dying. We die each day love strays from our hearts.
Katalin, what are your plans for the future? Any future projects?
I do have other future projects lining up and in various stages of development, but I am always cautious not to influence a work before it has become stable and true. I can pique some interest by mentioning it is a subject of memory and loss of love. A documentary work that brings connection to life in form and the feelings left behind. Bear in mind all things in time and I am still very much at work with this project.
Aloha and mahalo for taking your time to talk with me. It has been a pleasure to share with you and your readers.
If people would like to get in touch with you, what is the best way to contact you?
From my website there is a link to contact me so please visit: www.myhawaiiantarot.com
People can also find the cards represented on Facebook as well as me personally on Facebook. There is also a video presentation of the deck on YouTube
Thank you Katalin!