78 Tarot Cards: Death

“All things come to an end, and from that new beginnings arise.”

Death, as the inevitable consequence of living, is something that polite western societies do not talk about. There, death is something that happens to other people because they did something that undermined their right to live. Death, to the western thought, is a judgement and a punishment, because good people deserve to live forever, and bad people deserve to be forgotten.

Death, as a tarot card, is another waypoint in the Major Arcana’s tale of living. While it can represent the stark reality of its namesake in a divination, it can also represent the cessation of that which is detrimental to living, and the transformation of that which is no longer useful or available into that which can extend and embellish the present state of being.

A neutral card that does not require the Querent to have a moral stance on the matter, its presence forces the Querent to make such a judgement on the subject of their query. What are they willing to lose? What loss are they facing regardless of their answer? If given the chance, what are they willing to release so they can keep what the card is referring to? What if the matter has already been settled and the Querent’s attempt at bargaining is really the beginning expressions of grief. Much of the Death card’s unwelcome reputation grows from those unwilling to accept an unchangeable outcome as final.

That the Death card is in the middle of the accepted sequence of the Major Arcana is a symbol of the transformation that this card often heralds. It may signal the ending or “death” of one matter, but by doing so it signals the beginning or “birth” of another within the larger context of the Querent’s life. In the same way that a caterpillar must die for a butterfly to emerge, so too does the circumstance or way of life of the Querent cease so that they may continue working out their life in a different way.

In a one-card reading, the Death card answers “Stop” for queries about continuing and “Go” for queries about halting. It is not contrarian in nature, however. Rather it encourages the Querent to reconsider what they want to do and to be prepared to do something entirely different instead. In regard to timing, it says “No more”, “Not now”, and yet also “Immediately”. In regard to relationships, it speaks of solitude and isolation.

Well-dignified and/or upright, the action described by the Death card is swift and clean. (How the Querent responds to that action is up to them.) Ill-dignified and/or reversed, the ending of the matter is unnaturally or improperly extended. Here is the failing business owner that maxes out their credit cards to keep the shop going “a few more weeks” instead of selling off the assets to quickly pay off any debts. Here is the soured friendship that falls into toxic codependency because keeping up appearances is more important than personal health and independence. Here is the fruit that was kept on the tree for too long and either rotted in place or was half-eaten by animals, rendering the produce unsafe for human consumption.

If drawn as a descriptor of the Querent, it will be to the delight of the Querent if they are goth in nature and/or dress. Otherwise, most Querents will be horrified to find this card as their reflection. Such persons (goth or not) are quiet and reserved at the moment, giving themselves to great thought about what part of their life are they about to let go and what should be buried so they can continue. They may be grieving about a matter, openly or not. The appearance of this card should not be used as an excuse to deliberately cause anxiety in the Querent. It is not a declaration of some moral failing on their part nor is it the herald of a disaster about to befall them or their family. It is a call for the Querent to sit still and reflect on their life up to this point, and to not take anything for granted. It is a call for them to be good to themselves, if only for this very moment, because the time will come for them to move on into the rest of their life.

Next Card: XII – The Hanged Man – “To gain everything by letting go.”

Noxporium’s Tarot Card Masterpost: 78 Tarot Cards

Previous Card: XiV – Temperance – “Whatever you need to be, to be yourself.”

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