Returning to the discussion of the Death Card, let me remind you NOT to assume it brings BAD NEWS! Just because it is covered in spooky imagery and does bring an appropriately negative message – every coin has two sides for otherwise why would anyone want to toss, asking to get an answer from either side, “heads or tails? In the case of this card, one side suggests fearful things, darkness and negativity; the other surprisingly suggests things that are lightness, hopeful for change for the better and the positivity in a new dawn. Both equally imply an ENDING or a DEATH of something—and only rarely point to a person’s physical demise. I prefer using “TRANSITION” when speaking of the Death Card; while it means the same thing, it is less apt to elicit images of the worst possible kind. The artwork of most tarot Death Cards are dark and dramatic, to say the least, and push the mind off the edge and into a chasm of terrible conclusions, cause them to make irrational or invalid conclusions to their question or current situation. It is important to always remember any interpretation depends on the entire layout, because none of its cards are a stand-alone within the reading. Rather, each are like the supporting roles in a drama, which is based upon the variety of questions presented by the querent; the Death Card (in this example) would be like the starring role, but it is not operating as the stand-alone, but depends on its surrounding characters to present the appropriate interpretation for this reading. Only then can its “characterization” be presented, verified and reconciled, accordingly of the querent’s query about their situation/life. My analogy will hopefully clarify the importance of not taking the Death Card – or any of the Major Arcana; even any card of a Tarot Deck – for whatever impact it first presents and taken solely for its dramatic impression; thus, jumping to any conclusion, that is, UNLESS the reading is being done as a “SINGLE CARD DRAW” such as pulling a “card of the day or situation” as a brief and direct response to a question. There is more to interpreting the Tarot or Oracle cars and readers study and practice for years to perfect this skill. I was taught to read by throwing away (not literally) the instruction book that came with my deck and studying thru meditations and using my clairvoyance for gaining my own “gut” feelings for each card based on the “story the artist was imparting to me in their deck” – Then, after that, I would add the standardized suggestion for interpreting their deck by comparing my ideas to that instruction booklet—surprised to find how similar both were when compared side-by-side. I merely mention that to express that cards like the Death Card and other of the more dramatic Major Arcana are NOT singly interpretable by anyone who understands the depth and various aspects contained within their appearance, as well as all the conceptualized meanings that must be considered during any reading in which they might “fall”.
If you remember anything about the Death Card, remember this: Its deception is that of something to fear, elicit deep concern and oftentimes leap to the utter worse conclusion about what it just implied in a reading---That is only true for the first impression, but the truth is this: “there is nothing in the darkness that is not there in the light of day or nothing that a flashlight won’t reveal and thereby remove the reason to fear it. (That’s what my wise old grandmother used to tell this kid who was SO terrified of the dark, she sometimes could not sleep for fear doing so would mean she would be eaten or worse by whatever hid under the bed – true story. The Death Card may seem to be the dark harbinger of terrible things, death or disaster—but he is merely the messenger and whether we perceive his tidings as good or bad is up to us.
The design of the card, makes me think the artist intended to get attention to it—and pay heed to the meaning right NOW! I think that we can be shocked by or disregard the darkly dramatic design of this card, but understand it presents foremost a sense of urgency to attend to a situation or experience if life. It is usually because it has been left stagnating from inattentiveness or fear of what will occur if we try changing it—i.e. an unhealthy marriage, depression or a series of bad financial or business decisions, to name a few. The Death Card plainly states that further ignorance of the need to correct or change what has been bad and maybe getting worse – with no sign they are going to get better on their own – is at an OR ELSE point. People who become mired in a problem and continue in denial of the drastic aspects of it, almost always have either the Death Card or the Tower appear in their reading. Yes, both of those cards indicate the need to take intentional movement toward changing things, nurturing a new attitude toward the why and how of it and encourages immediate rearrangement of the details so it can be corrected or allowed to die off and begin again. There are so many things for which Death Card means to suggest as having reached their direst, chaotic level and it becomes the messenger of the status of the situation, but also intends to make the sharpest pointy that things are reading a critical level—sooner than later. This points to a possible physical ending (demise of the individual or a loved one) but never singly; rather with the appropriate card-actors in supporting roles alongside it. The variety of troublesome situations it may indicate as pending and in need of change, include: a serious health malady, cancer, marriage/divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, any many of physical abuses (child or adult), a suicidal tendency, drastic financial woes or bankruptcy, erroneous or illegal dealings in business, etc. or unhealthy lifestyle (personal or material). The key to dealing with such things presented by a tarot reading, especially as those of the Death Card, is realistically difficult, but one part of it is simple—taking the first step by deciding one wants to correct things and escape sinking into the quicksand that seems to be gradually pulling them in to some form of oblivion. Both legally and ethically, I cannot go beyond informing them what the tarot or oracle cards (particularly the Death Card) have shown them, but I do suggest that if they want to take the steps to change then they should seek professional or medical advice, immediately and accordingly. Rarely, do I get to know if the querent did anything toward correcting things or changing their fear-based thought processes. While I hope they will walk away from the reading, eagerly seeking some new beginning for their life and, at least, begin aiming for a brighter, more hopeful and positive NEW dawn—and sooner rather than later. Naturally, there perhaps equally as many readings where the querent refuses the message; even becoming belligerently resistant and occasionally crosses their arms as a barrier to their heart during the reading. While I can do my best to gently and calmly encourage them to “at least consider the message and/or suggestions” I cannot force them to heart a word I say; then I leave it up to their guides and Spirit to let the cards plant the seeds that will sprout at some later date and flower as inspiration—but, that can happen ONLY when they are READY to be willing for the message to take hold . . . and so it goes . . .
The KEY to the Death Card is simple: while it speaks to something that needs immediate consideration in life and throws a giant hint that one should stop procrastinating or pretending the situation does not exist, it urges the finding of one’s inner strength and refreshing self-esteem in a positive way, so the way becomes clear to deal with life’s many challenges and correct what needs correcting. This can be summed up simply … once the mind is set to it and the heart is ready and willing; then remind yourself to address the issue and then . . . “LET GO OF IT” “LET IT DIE or CHOOSE TO KILL IT OFF (figuratively, of course) . . . become thusly “FREE OF IT AND ITS INFLUENCE ON YOUR LIFE” . . . Lastly, continually remind yourself of your intentions until the change is occurring, as well as the darkness of it is going or gone. Indeed, that fearful stigma of the Death Card will then be erased as evident when one sees the light of the New ideas, concepts and personal plans becomes a NEW DAWN/BEGINNING for a NEW DAY . . . and a NEW YOU in so many unimaginable ways as symbolized in the STAR or SUN cards.
Now, we have established the Death Card as a messenger – NOT the automatic harbinger of BAD NEWS or DEATH. But, that it can just as often be one bringing GOOD NEWS or OFFERING for a HEALING – that is, if we avoid the temptation to stare aghast at the dramatic imagery or immediately presume the very worst is at hand. Better to consider that it indicates that life has reached a “crossroads” and choices are required, regarding the balancing between the positive and negative aspects of whatever the situation that is being presented in a reading. Simple? Well, maybe a little, but that requires that the impact of Death needs to be scrutinized from every angle—not just one sporting shock and awe, alone. Remembering to refer to the Death Card as one of “TRANSITION or TRANSMUTATION” rather than being just the epitome of DEATH in all its many forms; the ending of things that are outdated, used up and no longer have any validity to the querent and then leaving it at that. As a transition/transmutation, there is a suggestion that there is HOPE or healing to the situation rather than a slam-dunk drastic end, as if one just drove headlong into a wall and shattered their stubbornness beyond repair. While a querent may be embroiled in any of the situations previously listed (or a variation thereof), but if the interpretation of the Death Card were to simply validate the direness and/or suggest the querent must continue wallowing in the same depression or pain, there would be no point to having a reading. If the message of the Death Card merely showed the querent they were having negative problems and feelings of hopelessness, but it was left there; well there would be no point in having a reading, in the first place. Instead, the truth of the direness of a situation is evident, but the “other side of the Death Card-coin” is what is more important—essentially the interpretation should focus more on the latter aspect of the card, which give it more validation than anything else. Instead of leaving the dark and fearful side of the card-coin face up on the tabletop, wisdom flips it over, focusing then on the hope presented by its lighter/positive side and the reminder that the Death ends the problems and returns to center stage the probabilities for healing and hopefulness of any of the fear or darkness. That transitional aspect of the dramatic Death Card is just as importantly one of realizing that the darkness of the figure of Death can be imagined flipped over, changing its costuming from black to white robes and its horse from white to a shiny black steed. Think for a moment of that possibility . . . Would the “other side of this coin” be partially or totally reversed; the negativity of the situation, symbolized with black then become the positivity of the situation, costumed then in white robes? Might the skeleton flesh out, shifting to a more humanly warm attitude toward things? Might the horse turn black, but glisten as an onyx gem of positivity and protection? Would this reversal shift from a warning to a suggestion to heal the attitude of self-loathing, weakness or lousy self-esteem that could have caused the problem to strengthen its hold on the heart? Might he ride forth with saddlebags filled like a doctor’s bag, packed with all manner of healing instruments and measures—or would they be tossed alongside the road and the rider return to skulking in alignment with the darkness, fear and self-hate; as a quick lunch to devour what is left of the self-esteem and faith in one’s abilities, etc. Would he go galloping into the Dawn to meld happily into the sunrise or melt sullenly back toward the darkness?
I will next examine the Death Card’s complexity expanding its application based on other areas of life that may or may not be so obvious:
- PHYSICAL: Since the Death Card has been examined as it applies to many life-threatening situations, including the occasion it and its supporting cards suggest a potential for physical demise of someone. The other areas that related to the physical aspect of the card would be mundane or material situations that have the greater chance of causing harm or chaos in life: i.e., any life situation that has reached a critical point such as -- health or healing, abusive situations, negative marital problems or divorce, dubious partnerships, indulging in illegal activities, harmful actions toward the self or others, familial problems, real estate discrepancies, dangerous tasks, hobbies or employment, suicidal or self-abusive tendencies, dangerous excursions or a warning of troubled waters ahead and anything that may have the potential of bodily or physical harm. Certainly, the Death Card can relate to matters of finances, business endeavors or marital issues, but usually will show up when such matters have become bad or have the potential of the stress reaching dire/dangerous levels and there is a chance for real trouble that will require intervention or assistance by others, such as professionals in legal, health, financial or marital/family issues. There are usually other cards that indicate the area involved, which can be Wands for business or legalities, Cups for marital or family issues, Pentacles for financial or real estate/property things and Swords for mental, ideas, communication problems, as examples that support or define and enhance the mundane/physical aspects presented by the reading and especially the Death Card focusing on the issue or task, at hand. All-in-all, the Death Card may be interpreted as a warning and some people will declare they do NOT want to hear anything bad, refute there is a problem or demand avoidance of any touchy subject, others just sit in utter denial with arms crossed as a blockade against hearing what they would rather not face. That is fine, but I always remind them of the wisdom in listening to the Death Card’s warning, just because – being forewarned is forearmed.
- EMOTIONAL: Basic human emotions always emerge from deep within and rear semi-ugly heads at the advent of pain or trouble. Some people become emotional wrecks at the slightest hint of change to their normal world; others are barely scathed, at all. Of course, we all intend to be aspiring to greater things, learning or spiritual enlightenment/growth. We do so by attending to things of the Heart (Chakra or the Seat of Emotions). When life digs itself a deep rut and becomes disrupted by something out of the blue that threatens well-being of the heart-centered mundane world, they better not have become immune to the effects so much they cannot comprehend changing it. Trouble is like a mangy cur-dog, hounding your every move and constantly nipping at your heels with every step until you relent and stop to feed it or do its bedding—a vicious cycle or self-dug ditch (rut) in which one repeats the same mistakes and makes the same erroneous sort of decisions, unable to notice how they are acting as the needle on a broken record (an analogy for those “young” enough to remember when tiny metal needles fit into the arm of a record player, transferring music out of the minute grooves cut into large black vinyl disks (records). The Death Card can be like the uninvited house guest with the dirtiest, vilest habits, but we have no courage to kick them out because we convince ourselves that it would be bad manners or there we are obligated to them for some reason—all the while the situation gets worse by the day; and the Death Card continues to appear in readings until something changes and we get control of our emotions and realize we need to honor the self as much as others. Therefore, the Death Card can relate to things like changes to a life cycle, such as graduation, marriage, divorce, birth, age-related things like retirement, career change or about any life decision that requires consideration of the practicalities, but also the heart’s desire. Cyclical changes to a life can be welcomed eagerly or resentfully faced, but cannot be avoided for otherwise makes life a process of trudging through it methodically or stagnating in one place, convinced it’s the best for us and we are happy—that’s not to imply either are NOT okay as a life situation, but change is inevitable and should not come as a disagreeable figure of Death/ending to something, but a challenge that opens new doors and begins new cycles as the Death Card offers the new dawn—and so the term “transition” is befitting of the emotional aspects related to the appearance of this card; more than not. Because the Death Card is the major indicator of when a life cycle is undergoing completion as something pends replacement, there also may be a wave of soul growth accompanying the process. It is such times that may wash away old weaknesses, thoughts of denial or stubborn resistance, and fear – all of which obscure the truth of the changes and blurs the fact the heart (emotions) is the master of love, peace, compassion and self-assurance. Thus, I reiterate how the Death Card can bring a new comprehension of what is changing and why, as well awaken to the fact that CHANGE is NOT the ENEMY, but the MEANS of conquering darkness, fear and any emotional struggle. The full intention behind this card is in seeking the key to the door, which frees us from a place of fear or depression and opens it to a place of . . . INSPIRATION.
- ELEMENTAL: Earth is the basic element. Is that on which the Grim Reaper of the death card so nonchalantly trots. The practice of magic, earth represents the physical, material world, financial matters and then which we manifest in our daily lives; both necessary and the frivolous. Our chatters this realm with harshness of the hooves in the imagery. That powerful scythe indiscriminately harvests souls and or the material goods. Partially burned in the mud are figures representing the physical realm and indicate how all earthly endeavors must return to ashes/earth. Losing to the temptations of the world thus dismembers one from the higher realm of spirit; allowing only the seeking of the material world and its treasures rather than the truth and a soul’s true purpose. The Death Card emphasizes how all eventually face the elemental landscape in its darkest forms until they learn to shine a light onto the path toward higher goals. Thus, the Death Card reveals its lighter side and suggests that change will bring a better more positive cycle if we will or can accept it—or at least work toward owning it. Among the aspects of this section are the four elements as they are applicable to the Death Card and its demand for change, enlightenment and new awareness: EARTH—already discussed as it applies to the grounding of events of a life and the implication of the artwork that earthly matters can tear us apart, bury us under foot of issues that seem impossible to comprehend or change and swallow the soul into darkness and depression as a result of our ills, woes and frustrations. WATER—the figure of Death be the Ferryman taking departed souls across the River Styx, symbolic of water as emotions and the equalizer of all; the Cups of the Tarot as in the cup running over with love, hope, peace as the ideals for which all strive to have in their life and thus the highest form is unconditional love. This element is applicable to human strength and the truth is that the Death Card cannot take more than its due . . . or what we are willing to give. FIRE—this is the imagery of construction of the old, fiery energy required to kick things into forward gear if they are destroying mind, body or heart in some way; destroy by flames the old and outdated (figuratively) and presents ways what has been apparently laid waste, can then be rebuilt/renewed. A perfect example of how FIRE is the extreme healer is in a forest fire started by the strike of lightning from above (God-sent inspiration striking the mind) that turns a forest to ash—but, from those ashes, new sprouts follow with the next rain and demonstrate Nature’s ability to refresh, renew and flourish after the storm. The Death Card figure cannot render any worse destruction nor prevent the sunrise that shall reappear once its chaotic reign has completed the cycle. All elements have positive and negative aspects – the other side of each coin – and yet, remain always in a state of balance unless human ego interferes in some way, i.e., the danger lies in allowing ego to take the reins of Death’s horse.