The Death Card ~ Number 13
As the Fool continues along their journey of the Major Arcana s/he encounters what many to believe the most frightening card of the deck : DEATH. Appropriately numbered at 13, the Death card is the great Unknown, the void, the inevitable turning of one cycle to another. The Tarot is often well known for this card and the fear it evokes in people who are receiving a reading. Although it may indicate an actual death of someone close to you, this is rare. More likely the Death card shows up to signify transformation, letting go, closing, an ending and moving from one phase into another.
Death is a wonderful mystery! It is the gateway to the unseen world of spirits, the afterlife, the grand cosmic adventure that stands, like Birth, as a portal between this world and the others. Shamans often face their own death in the initiatory process. Inanna, ancient Goddess of Sumeria and Queen of Heaven famously descended into the Underworld to meet her dark sister. There, ‘the eye of death was fixed upon her’ and she hung from a hook for three days until her rebirth, transforming her pain into power.
This myth is a symbolic story of the passing of the moon phases, from light to dark to light again; the cycle of life: from sex to birth to life to death to rebirth. Starhawk says “Death is the Matrix for Rebirth.” When I encountered my own journey of losing a baby daughter soon after birth this became my mantra for the passing days. I recall that long, lusterless Terrain of Grief, navigating insomnia and a heavy heart for a year and a day, leaving the ashes of my child in all the great waters of the world.
When Death arrives, there is no argument. Something is clearly ending…a transformation is upon us. Often this has been clear in our lives for some time and just as dead leaves simply fall to the ground, so does our own shedding of emotional issues, relationships, jobs, places we have lived. It is remarkable how many times we may shed in one single human life…and perhaps how many lives we may shed in our evolution of human consciousness.
Standing in the face of our own Death is a powerful process. When I was nineteen I had cancer and became imminently aware of the ‘mortality reality.’ This was an incredible Blesson! (Blessing ~ Lesson). Knowing that death would visit me in this life was a distinct and vivid reminder to not just listen but also follow my Heart’s Truth. Many choices I have made are in that wondrous way of leaping off the cliff and allowing the wings to appear.
Terence McKenna says it best:
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”
Death reminds us to honor our ancestors, those who have gone before us and whom we carry imprinted in our DNA and our blood as well as our skills, our gifts, our pain and trauma. Ancestral lineages often hold intensely painful pasts and we have an opportunity to honor, heal and release that baggage by clearing ancestral trauma, through cleansing and forgiveness rituals and respecting our ancestors.
This week, visit your local cemetery and sit on the ground, contemplating the bones beneath you. Offer a prayer of remembrance for your ancestral line and those who have put in the time of human life and all its joys and suffering. Contemplate your own death as a powerful way to remember that life is not so long after all and we can make choices of power, love and wisdom in every moment. If we were to die tomorrow, what might we say, do, choose differently today? If we knew we had a year to live, what would we seek out from our heart?
If you are interested in learning more you can buy my recorded online Tarot class for only $20 here: https://spirit.learnitlive.com/class/7142/Ceremonial-Tarot-Five-Week-Series
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