The End: Death
When first time querent get their cards read, one of the biggest concerns they voice out is that they don't want to see the Death card popping up in their spreads. This is why, as part of my spiel to tarot newbies, I explain that Death doesn't really mean Death… and what they perceive as a generally bad, ominous thing can actually be positive. That said, I'm sure a lot of tarot readers out there take the fortune telling route and really do get intuitive hits about literal death… But just so there's no confusion, here's my take on Major Arcana card #13.
The Death card, in some ways, is like the Wheel of Fortune in that it talks about cycles (cue: The Lion King's Circle of Life). Every beginning comes with an ending. Too often, we focus on the loss, sadness and grief that comes with Death… all of which are valid, of course. We have to remember though that, ironically enough, life doesn't stop at death. It goes on. I like how this is reflected in the Spirit Speak's Death card—it focuses on something springing forth from release.
Maybe people fear the Death card because at one point in everyone's lives, we've experienced it. From small scale deaths (having to give up chocolate!) to big losses that impact us deeply (breakups, a pet passing away, etc.), everyone's been in touch with the experience of loss in one way or another. The card acknowledges the pain that comes with this familiar feeling of grief, but reminds us that silver linings do exist.
Pretty Standard Stuff About the Death card: (Check out the Pagan Otherworlds and Dreaming Way Tarot depictions pictured above.)
- The Grim Reaper (or the woman who represents him, as in the Dreaming Way) holds a scythe which is a universal symbol for hacking things out of the ground, putting an end to life. This tool enables us to access our crops—you end their relationship with the earth, but at the same time, put food on the table.
- In the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, we see the woman buried deep in the ground, which most likely represents the "death" the card refers to. You see, however, her fist springing out of the ground holding a flower, which can stand for the life and beauty that comes after or because of death.
- The expression on the Dreaming Way reaper's face encapsulates all the grief that comes with death. I like how the binding that comes with her dress's corset can symbolize how stifling and overwhelming this feeling of sadness can become.
But what about cards that go off the beaten path? (See the Nicoletta Ceccoli and Black Lilly Tarot cards above.)
- The Ceccoli tarot showcases Snow White, who's just taken a bite off the poisonous apple and is surrounded by seven grieving dwarves. We know how the fairy tale goes—she isn't really dead and all is not lost. We have her reawakening to look forward to.
- The Black Lilly Tarot's Death card presents a woman soaked in blood, whose stance is powerful, and confident. Maybe life or certain circumstances have attempted to bring her down and even murder her, but she's come out of it strong-willed and self-assured.
I like how the Death card poses endless possibilities for us because it's something we can pretty easily connect to. Here are some prompts to help you dig into what Death means to you.
- What loss has been particularly difficult for you? Can you point one to three ways in which the pain of this "death" has done you a service?
- What new things are you experiencing in your life that wouldn't have happened without something dying?
- Which "deaths" have been worthwhile in your life, and which ones do you feel are still unsubstantiated?
I'm looking forward to next week because Temperance, the next Major Arcana card, is one of my persona favorites. I hope this week's exposition has helped you out in some ways… see you in seven days, tarot folks! :)