When I despair, I remember that all through history, the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always.
— Mahatma Gandhi
I gazed at the cards this morning, asking for guidance and truth to share with you this first full week of the New Year. As always, I followed my usual practice of releasing my expectations and wishes, quieting my own hopes, fears, and desires, and making my intention simply to receive clearly the information that we need.
And so Death comes calling. Ah.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, we have perhaps the most recognized image in all of Tarot. The skeleton is carrying the flag of the Black Death (also interpreted as the White Rose of the Golden Dawn, or as the symbol of the Rosicrucians). The king is struck down. The priest faces death, praying for mercy; the young maiden is partially turned away; and the child, completely innocent, faces the grim rider, offering a simple bouquet of flowers.
Death comes to us all; how we face it says everything about who we are, what our life has been about.
As the years of my practice go on, I find myself less inclined to quickly call Death “change” or “transformation” as I once, unfailingly, would. No, I don’t want to frighten anyone, or create a self-fulfilling prophecy. And yes, I still reassure my clients that that it doesn’t necessarily mean physical dying, especially if I am using a deck that calls the thirteenth Major Arcana by some other name, like “Transformation.”
© Osho Zen Tarot
Also, the interpretation of this card in a reading, of course, is a bit different, because the other cards around it will give much more context and clarity that our weekly single-card draw does not.
But it is my observation that quite often, Death means some kind of death. Death is, after all, the ultimate fact of life. And, as a Witch and a Pagan, I don’t sugar coat its meaning; nor distort the fact that it is a natural, vital part of Mama Gaia’s wisdom.
So as it stands alone today, as a message for us in the week ahead, I would suggest that we face it straight up: as Death.
How do you feel about death? How do you deal with it? In many traditions, meditating upon, or even attempting to experience through trance and ritual, one’s own death is a vital pathway to wisdom. And it seems to me that the refusal to comprehend and understand our finite time in this incarnation is colossal folly.
In what ways is Death our liberator or teacher? What, in our lives, is dying now? What is it time to release forever? How might the reality of our own eventual death, or those we love, or the things we care about, help us to make wise choices about what time remains?
Although rarely a very pleasant occurrence, we can make Death our ‘advisor’ as the sorcerer Don Juan advised Carlos Castaneda. Whether it applies to us on a personal, private basis, or whether we are considering our global systems of governments, economies, and the environment, Death is the messenger that tells us to get real. Knowing that each life is sacred, and every moment is precious can do wonders to help us focus our attention and priorities.
This week, say goodbye. Something big is ending.