No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.
Sir Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
The parade of Major Arcana cards continues through this season of power, profound change, and transformation. As we gather in the final harvests of 2019 (in the Northern Hemisphere), it is not that surprising that we are visited by what is probably the most recognized card in all of Tarot: Death.
In the famed Rider-Waite-Smith image, an 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 the dead are ferried 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.
This week, the Jewish New Year arrives (L’Shana Tovah, y’all!), which begins the High Holy Days of Awe. It is also the start of one of the most ancient and important Hindu celebrations of the year — the nine-day observance of Sharada Navaratri, which, in Eastern India, West Bengal, and Nepal begins with Mahalaya, the day where Shakta Hindus remember their loved ones who have died, and concludes with several days of giving thanks to the Goddess Durga, for Her defeat of evil. Jai Maa Durga, to all my Hindu friends!
And for many Earth-centered spiritual traditions, we, too, are feeling the approach of Samhain, the ancient Celtic New Year, and celebration of our beloved dead, which we celebrate on Oct. 31. It is no coincidence that this, too, is when Mexicans celebrate the Día de Muertos.
In addition, the fact that Pluto, which rules death, transformation, and the Underworld, ends its long (since April) retrograde this week makes for a fascinating accompaniment.
As my brilliant friend Elisabeth Grace notes:
Pluto turns direct at 2:37 AM ET, but we’ve been feeling the focus on matters of power and breakdown in areas of governments, corporations and resources for at least the past week — and will continue to feel that focus for several days. Seismic activity and other news from underground is another potential.
But there is no way I could not also mention that this is the week of the first Southeastern Tarot Conclave, in Boone, NC, and the Death card is exactly the topic that my esteemed colleague, Nina Lee Braden, will be covering.
She offers this tantalizing preview:
Through the prism of therapeutic tarot, attendees will examine and discover their deepest feelings and beliefs about the Death card and death itself—as well as how the tarot can sustain us through our own ‘seasons of death.’
Transformation is not optional.
(By the way, I believe there are still a couple of seats remaining, if you would like to join us. Click on the link above, or email Diane Wilkes for more information).
For, as each of us knows, Death is the one inevitability that weaves its thread through all of Life. Whether we think about it or not, we make our choices as to how we will color that thread every single day.
On an additional personal note, I have to mention that as I write this today, I am aware of several very close friends currently in active vigil for parents who are preparing for death at any moment.
For them, Death is the ever-present shadow in the corner of the room, the first thought when the phone rings at night, the last thought when it’s time to go home or grab a bite to eat.
It is my prayer that this week’s card will be received as a supportive gift from the loving heart of the Multiverse, which is always – always – the intention with which I pull it. I am here for you, my beloveds.
There is no doubt that there are other, profound transformations in store. This card, fueled by Pluto’s slow return toward progress, indicates there is big change waiting in the wings.
From the Brexit (in)decision and the chaotic state of the UK’s leadership; to who is in charge in Israel, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong; not to mention the seemingly endless immunity of the current resident of the White House, the multiple geopolitical dramas that have seemed stalemated are shifting.
Death is the wise hand that prunes back the stagnant, the invasive, the dross, and the obsolete which would undermine the health of that which we wish to see thrive and flourish. It is the scythe that harvests the grain to feed our families, and that will cull what is necessary to survive the fallow, hungry days of Winter.
It is the messenger that demands for us to get real. As if she was Death’s own spokesperson, Greta Thunberg’s words last week at the U.N. still ring out:
People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.
We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.
This week, especially after last week’s jolt from Justice, it would appear that stasis can no longer prevail. Indeed, across the board, it is clear that business as usual is no longer sustainable. Something has to give; the status quo will have to go.
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, as well as our global systems of governments, economies, and the environment.
Pause during this time 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.
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?
May all necessary leave-takings be completed in grace, and may the ripples of what is fine and noble flow without ceasing, ever onward.