The Tarot Death card is probably one of the most infamously feared cards in the major arcana (the Devil card is a close second), and because of its infamy I have decided to give it its very own post. I admit that I am a bit of an oddity and Death has never been one of my fears and therefore has never been an issue and so I am a bit perplexed by all the drama that is evoked concerning the subject. It is quite frankly, one of those unchangeable aspects in life. We are born, we have this glorious journey with all its ebb and flow and then we die. I do not see death as being final; an ending.
I prefer to look at it as Transforming. We transformed into this realm and we will transform into another one. We never truly die, our soul is eternal…we simply change into something other than what we were before. It makes sense that back in the day whoever decided that Death would be an apt representation of that constant cycle of Transformation personified it onto cardstock. So, lets take a closer look at this card.
I am sure that you have heard that old adage of, “in order to create, you must first destroy, ” I must admit that as a child I heard this often from my great-grandparents and I was always a bit mystified by their words. I had been raised that you should never destroy anything, useful or not, because someone may benefit from it (and it is wasteful; waste not, want not…another great-grandparent favorite). It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized what those words actually meant, I had mistakenly attributed them to physical, material items and not limiting beliefs, values, etc.,. Transitions, transformations, birth-death-rebirth, an ending followed by a new beginning this is what the Death card represents.
In this instance or point in your journey you (the Fool) are Death and it makes sense that this card should follow directly after the Hanged Man. You have been fighting against something (inner struggle) and have hit the proverbial brick wall, no matter what you try you can’t move forward. The Hanged Man has you step back from the situation and reflect (accept and surrender to it (temporarily)), Death takes it to the next level. Death wants you to assess what you reflected upon and then make the decision to pick yourself up, let go of what no longer is serving you and re-create or transform yourself into something new. A bit like a New Year resolution…A New Year, A new YOU!
This usually happens after a traumatic or life altering experience such as a divorce, diagnosis of a chronic illness (Fibromyalgia, Crohns, etc.) or an illness that has a stigma attached to it (Mental, Cancer, Auto-Immune, Autism, etc.), sudden injury, loss of a career or any other life-and death event that makes you question your life. You are simply being asked to let go of what is no longer working in your life. Sometimes this card heralds a complete overhaul of you and your life; a re-invention, re-imagining. The downside to this card is stagnation due to your unwillingness to let go of what is holding you back (you cant accept that you need to move on).
For me the life-and-death event was my Bipolar diagnosis. It left me questioning everything about myself and where I fit into society, the world, my family, my purpose here on planet Earth. I wasn’t able to work and felt as though I was no longer a productive member of society, Most of my family and some of my friends used this diagnosis as validation for treating me horribly (I after all just needed some tough love to snap out of it). Others treated me as an invalid or mentally incompetent. I was questioning why I had surrounded myself with such unsupportive people my entire life (there were a few wonderful exceptions). I was even questioning reality. My life was completely upended and I needed to make a hefty amount of changes.
Keywords: Transformations, Transitions, Necessary Endings, New Beginnings, Sudden Change, Creation through Destruction, Cleansing, Revelation, Renewal, Rebirth, Reinvention, Release, Freedom, Letting Go!
Questions to ask: “What/Who in my life am I holding onto that I should release?” “what old beliefs (concerning myself, my life, or how I view my place in the world/society) are no longer serving me in a healthy and productive way?” “Why am I holding onto these outdated beliefs/values/habits/patterns of functioning or people?” “What is the worst thing that could happen if I let them go?” “what is the best thing that could happen if I let them go?” “Who am I?” “Who do I want to be?” What do I want to convey to others?” “what do I need to change?” What do I need to accept (unchangeable)?” “If I look back to other major life altering events in my life, can I see how my life changed for the better?” “if not, did I fully release the issue or am I still holding out that it will get better (ex returns, illness/injury will miraculously disappear, old job is re-offered)?”
What to remember about the Death card: All Change is good (even if you don’t recognize right away). Change might be painful but you will make it through the process with a well-earned sense of freedom. Embrace the Change happening in your life, letting go of what/who no longer serves you is forward movement. You are Transforming not Ending. You are letting go of mental and emotional baggage, possibly unhealthy relationships, old habits and negative thoughts/beliefs/values.
Photo: Cycle of Life and Death. Monkey eating eggs from a Ravens Nest #7/30; Shimla, India. Taken by Pamela with Nikon DSLR 5300, Zoom Lens Used.