Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
At this pivotal moment, the very last day of 2018, as we all prepare to usher in a new year, I was in deep trance and clarity when pulling my card of the week. Nevertheless, chills went up and down my spine as it fairly danced into my hand.
The Tarot guardian who shall tend our crossing this week is Death.
The image of Death from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is probably the most recognized card in all of Tarot.
The armored 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.
In the background, a boat sails upon a river, perhaps reminding us of the River Styx, upon which it ferries the dead to the Underworld.
There is either a sunrise or sunset (depending on your point of view about death), occurring between two guardian towers that are nearly identical to the ones that appear in The Moon.
Whether this is about losses large or small, it’s time to attend to things we’ve possibly been ignoring or procrastinating about.
Death Of What?
Death comes to us all. How we face it says everything about who we are and what our life has been about.
As I prepare to celebrate 47 years of Tarot service in 2019, I find myself less inclined to quickly call the Death card “change” or “rebirth” as I once, unfailingly, would.
This is not meant to frighten people, and yes, I still reassure my clients that that it rarely means physical dying, depending on other cards in the spread, or if I am using a deck that calls the thirteenth Major Arcana by some other name, like “Transformation.”
But it is my observation that quite often, Death means some kind of death. Death is, after all, the most decisive fact of life. And, as a Witch and a Pagan, I don’t sugar coat its meaning; after all, it is a natural, vital part of Mother Earth’s wisdom.
Something is going, and going for good.
We stand on the precipice of the new year, with the promises of Solstice still singing in our hearts, and fresh resolutions tucked into our pockets like a child’s shiny allowance, ready to be spent.
But there is also a profound parting in store. Something important is ending. Change is a certainty, like it or not.
And this card indicates there is a big transition waiting in the wings.
With political dramas raging from Australia to Britain to the U.S. and many in between, I would suggest that we are seeing another important ending in this bigger, ongoing ending of the era.
Death is our truth-teller and adviser; it is the shadow that makes a clear delineation for our perspective. It applies to us on a personal, private basis, and whether we are considering our global systems of governments, economies, and the environment.
Death is the messenger that urges us to get real.
Although rarely a very pleasant visitor, we can make Death our ‘advisor’ as the sorcerer Don Juan advised Carlos Castaneda. Knowing that each life is sacred, and every moment is precious can do wonders to help us focus our attention and priorities.
After the last two years of life-and-death cancer surgeries and treatments, and gazing into the abyss many times, I can promise you that this is true.
A Solar Eclipse While Mars Fires Up
Following a relatively quiet period in December, the astrology is ramping up this month, starting with some big drama this week. For starters, Mars is moving into its own War God sign of Aries today (Dec. 31), and Saturday’s New Moon features a big solar eclipse.
But there is even more. Our good friend, astrologer Lorna Bevan admonishes:
3 new cycles begin this week – Mars on the Aries Point World Axis; Mercury on the Great Attractor and Sun conjunct Saturn.
Expect the wounded male warrior archetype to reassert itself when faced with the inevitable outcomes of his actions.
The seismic window of Saturday’s solar eclipse is now active as is the potential for storms, high tides and solar flares.
This Solar eclipse is particularly potent as whatever arises between the December 22 Solstice Capricorn Full Moon and January 19 when both the Sun and Mercury will have been occulted and imprinted by both Saturn and Pluto delivers a foretaste of 2019’s concentrated, contractive pressure points in your own life.
Be especially vigilant between January 1st – January 9th. And remember, the ripples and fallout from solar eclipses continue for at least 6 months after the exact date…
…This is a karmic South Node New Moon Eclipse at 15° Capricorn bracketed by Saturn and Pluto square Eris and Haumea – disruptors and awakeners on a global scale – concentrated transpersonal energy that blows the winds of change across the area of your life symbolised by these degrees.
Hours later, unpredictable Uranus turns forward increasing the volatility. Think back to July 2000 and July 2001 for clues to which area of your life was upleveled.
An eclipse on the South Node brings situations that force you to release anything does not serve your highest expression – no choice.
Whatever feels old, negative, inflamed, toxic, repetitive, without purpose, head in the sand, fears, doubts, emotional drains: whatever was created in 3D distortion, instead of the higher vibration of high heart love, higher creations and peace, must go – Now.
The Tarot’s smiling skull of Death nods in agreement, gently taking our hands to lead us into this new territory of release and rebirth.
All things must pass, and irrevocable loss comes to us all, from small to profound. Such events teach us much about who we are, and the ultimate meaning of things.
To Be or Not To Be
Coping with the great, vast unknown that lies before each and every one of us is the ultimate challenge, isn’t it?
Even if we have not drawn that line anywhere else in our lives (I wish our “leaders” were paying better attention), this is where the buck stops.
It is here that our masks and pretenses are stripped away, for good or for ill. We are who we have made ourselves, year after year, thought by thought, deed by deed. And in the face of our mortality, what have we got?
As a passionate, life-long gardener, I know there are many plants who will not bloom at all, unless they are pruned back in their time of dormancy. So I often see Death in the Tarot as a directive that it’s time for us to clear the dead wood and pull the weeds.
In that act, we must choose what we wish to see flourish and what we consider to be life-draining.
Yes, Death promises new growth, but only if we do the hard pruning, letting go permanently of what has passed its prime or no longer thrives.
Death demands impeccable honesty. Without judicious removal, all life would be stunted and suffer. And if we shun this responsibility, we sow the seeds of The Tower.
Death comes to plants and animals every single day, and is interwoven in the cycles of life and the seasons.
Rather being a terrifying, twisted taboo, as it has become in our culture, Death can be our faithful teacher and Guide. Throughout our lives, it is the unflinching truth-teller, and the Dark Mother who cradles us at our ending.
Clearing and Liberating
As I discuss in the New Year’s Eve lore, this is a very magickal time for envisioning what you want to manifest in the coming year. And another practice, whether or not you already did so at Solstice, is to make a list of all that you wish to bid goodbye forever to, and burn it in a consecrated fire.
Once again, Death is here to help you see more clearly what to keep, and what to set free.
Pause during this liminal moment to consider what it is time to release forever. What chapter is closing? If you are wisely proactive, you get to make these choices, they are not done to you.
How might the reality of our own eventual death, or those we love, or the endings of matters that seem so important to us, help us to make wise choices about today?
What practical preparations do you need to make? Countless families have suffered and even imploded because a loved one failed to make clear their wishes in the case of their death.
If you could visit your descendants in the future (whether you actually have children or not), what would you say to them about the life you’re living now? What legacy will you leave to your beloveds and those who come after you? What stories do you want remembered?
What, in our lives, is coming to an end? In what ways is Death our liberator or teacher? With eyes and hearts wide open, what is it time to clear away, so that, unencumbered, we may move forward into the new year, and, indeed, a new era?
This week, say goodbye. What once was, is now gone.
Although ice and cold may have rendered our gardens and woods silent and bare, time is turning, and rebirth waits on the other side of this gateway.
Out with the old and in with the new. Cherish your one wild and precious life.
Happy New Year!