Associated Astrology: Scorpio, Pluto
Key words: Transformation, Grief, Loss, Renewal, Conclusion, Heartache, Redefinition, Fate, Powerlessness, Authenticity, Acceptance, Contraction, Ending
"Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die - and find that there is no death. - Eckhart Tolle
Welcome to the Death card. No panicking allowed! It is not an exaggeration that this is the most transformational card of the tarot deck. From the chrysalis to the butterfly, the struggle for release is a vital one. Little wonder this card holds such reverential status amongst tarot card enthusiasts and mystics alike.
The journey experienced during this process is nothing short of a complete rebirth of the self. It is only via embracing the power of loss and allowing the education of grief, can we re-emerge from our own ashes like the proverbial phoenix.
This is depicted in traditional tarot decks with a white rose growing from a desolate landscape or the sun rising behind a distant mountain. The Sun is a card of expansion and growth in tarot terms. It naturally follows in the wake of a contractional card such as Death.
Completing the metaphorical cycle of Death is to arrive from a personal underworld into the breaking dawn of a new you. We may look the same to the outside world, but we are rearranged on an almost subatomic level. Our energetic fingerprint is wholly different.
Connection with the deeper message of this card is to discard a clinical and predominantly Western notion of death. Death is not the end in tarot terms – not by a long stretch. It is an ending that spins multiple new beginnings into being.
In the interim we will experience a range of emotions. We may experience loss at a profound level. How we respond to this and work with it will define the length of time it takes us to complete our journey. We must not push the tide, despite our discomfort. The grieving that he heralds is for a version of us that is no longer in existence.
Even if we at first know Death as the loss of relationship, the loss of a loved one or the loss of our self-definition via a job or a lifestyle, we grieve ultimately for our former existence: our former self.
I have never known this card to prophesy death for the client. I’m not saying that would be impossible, especially if the client had a terminal condition they were aware of. However, if that doesn’t sound like you, please don’t take it as a cue to panic write your last will and testament.
The Death card rarely refers to a physical death, but it’s not unheard of. If it does, it often indicates we are coming to terms with the death of a loved one. Be aware, this card can show up a substantial time after losing someone, and indicates a re-engagement with our grieving process. In this case, Death is there to show us that we are integrating another element of our loss.
Death may be powerful but even he yields to the overarching mastery of Time. Grief can call on us at any stage. Each resurgence of sorrow re-negotiates a different direction and reworks our relationship with the situation that triggered it. In this way, our previous losses continue to educate and assist our growth years after the initial trauma. This is meant to aide us and to help us heal. Our loved ones never really leave us. To release the pain of their departure is the ultimate goal of this card.
Just remember, those that have already died exist beyond the veil. They know energy to be eternal and ever-changing in form. Even if you have no belief in life after death, non-existence is arguably a lot less strenuous than grief. It is essential to put no timescale on your process. All we can do is accept that the timing of this card is not flawed. Even if you see your feelings as inappropriate or inconvenient, dive in and feel them anyway.
When our process is in Death’s hands, it is completely out of ours. There is no getting around this. If we are wise this knowledge can offer us a sense of relief. Death takes the reigns and asks us for surrender. We may do so unequivocally. This will assist the speed of our progress and let die any sense of obligation to hide how we truly feel. It can help us shed outmoded practices, beliefs and viewpoints. Death can set us free.
Attempting to circumvent Death is not only impossible but will simply mean we spend longer in denial – an uncomfortable no man’s land of emotional vulnerability. Avoid this tactic at all costs as it can result in prolonged and torturous heartache.
Allow the ebb and flow of emotion. Offer no resistance to the reality of the situation. If we keep alive the hope that our transformation will ultimately enrich us, our recovery is absolutely assured. Then we dance with Death and all he has to share. We gain support and comfort from this most misunderstood of archetypes. So, cry if you need to. Shout if you need to. Rail against the unfairness of life if you need to. All these feelings are transient, just as all life is transient. Death brings us true awareness of this.
This lesson of impermanence is the lesson of our physical reality. To master it leads to seeing the value of the present, to appreciate and celebrate the joy of the moment, and to truly understand the wisdom of the phrase ‘this too shall pass’.
Those who overcome loss are truly capable of avoiding dramas. They are gifted with deep empathy and astute guidance. They know the healing power of expression and the value of channelling their energy into what truly matters to them. They know what happiness is worth.
The role of an archetypal reaper is to herald the end of the season. He cuts the crop for harvest. He prunes to promote new growth. Death oversees his process and those that master loss recognise that this is to be respected without fear. We cannot be intimidated by fear of losing. If we allow ourselves to be afraid of Death or of endings in general, we will miss out on so much life, and miss his underlying message completely.
When we emerge from his space, we do so with a redefined sense of self, a honed character, an inner strength and a depth of wisdom that is unobtainable without him.
To accomplish this, Death will strip our philosophies, shake our faith to the roots, sheave our ego in impersonal fashion and eventually, gift us with what it means to overcome impairment and to truly reinvent our life. This is a gift that we will carry with us forever. We will know what it takes to heal.
For those of you who are travelling through this process, take heart. You will not feel this way forever. You are experiencing the empty shadow of a full heart. You are experiencing via the underworld; how glorious the sunshine truly is. You are in the limbo required to redefine your direction.
You will feel the sun on your face again. Your heart will arise stronger and braver. You will know with every cell the truth in Shakespeare’s words ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ Pain will fade from memory and you will remember the good things without sorrow.
You are to be reborn anew, with greater authenticity to your true self. Shed the former self without regret or guilt. The flowers will emerge once more in multicoloured glory and life will turn its never-ending wheel towards the shining sun again.