Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation. ― Alan Cohen
I'm back, loves. And pulled a doozy for this week's Tarot of the Week. When I think of scared and sacred, I envision Death immediately. Ironically, last newsletter (which was a few weeks back now) covered the dark cards of the Tarot. When I say Dark, I mean the ones with the dark backgrounds that inspire fear in the best of us. Death is certainly one of the most iconic images in Tarot. I often have people remark, "I hope I don't get the Death card." And I often retort, "I hope you do!"
Death's symbology fascinates me to no end, so forgive me for going into details. The image of Death personified, or the Grim Reaper, as a skeleton with black robe and scythe has persisted for centuries. Death in the Rider Waite Tarot is a mounted, armored Death carrying a flag rather than a scythe. Death rides through the battlefield carrying his pennan, so to speak, a white Heraldic rose on a black field. I rather think of this as Death's Coat of Arms, so to speak. He is noble, honored, announcing his arrival. I don't know if you know that flags are flown at half-mast to make room for the Flag of Death above it. And perhaps this is the Flag of Death.
The scene is grisly, of course. Death mounted on his steed, while the Hierophant pleads to be spared, but Death spares no man. The Pope and the pauper both die. So we see people of all ages, classes, genders on this card. The Emperor lies dead, his crown off to the side, the Empress on her knees listing to one side, the child between them. There is a flowing river behind them. Life goes on, the boat floating on the surface seems to say. In the background of the XIII Death card, you see the two Towers from the Moon, and the Sun rises between them.
Death in the Rider-Waite imagery is not about physical death. Not usually, though I have pulled it in regards to physical Death when someone is in mourning, or fearing their own mortality. Remember that Tarot readers, like all psychics and intuitives, learn their own unique symbolic language to interpret the cards for their clients. And Death for me is far from physical death.
The key to the Death card is Transformation. We put to death our old ideas, our limiting beliefs, who we thought we once were. We allow relationships to die, or the dreams we once had. The implication with the Death card, like the Tower, is that there is a change that feels like suffering. Divorce, job loss, break-ups, losing one's faith/religion of origin. These are the kinds of crisis of faith that we face around the Death card. And yet, the story does not end at Death. Death is but a beginning in this card.
In the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling writes, "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." This is the energy of the Death card. This card is about rebirth, transformative experiences, liberation. We often get this after a long period of change and disruption. These changes the Seeker is undergoing are permanent and major. And they are always for the better. Death does not come for someone who is still clinging to old ideas. He comes for those who are ready to abandon all that is not serving the Highest Good. With this card, comes the implicit demand to accept the changes. Here is the rub in this card--humans often resist change, or find it difficult and suffering. And so we must accept. As they say, accept it now, or accept it later, but with the later, there is a whole lot of suffering in the resistance. As life dismantles, it is important for the Seeker to understand that this is the Highest Good. We adapt, adjust, move on.
Of course, the reversed position of this card is one about resisting change and growth. It is about stagnation and the inability to accept life on life's terms. It is a card of blockage in the Reversed position, and I often think of it as a crown chakra blockage because it is about resisting your soul path.
Let me know what you think of this card and any of the writing on this blog.