Card #13

Make Friends with Death

 

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How many times has a tarot card reader had to explain the Death card to a frightened querent?

Don’t worry! The Death card doesn’t mean death – it means change and transformation.” No doubt more than one of us has received a skeptical look as we try to assuage the fears of our client upon seeing this ominous card.

This is a much easier explanation if your deck featured a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis on the Death card, as I imagine some deck out there does (surely there is a butterfly-themed tarot deck out there). But in most decks, a skeletal being almost always represents Death. Also present is a sickle, reminiscent of the grim reaper. Traditional Rider Waite decks often portray this figure on horseback with dead and dying people left in its wake.

The Thoth deck is wrought with imagery and symbolism. In Crowley’s Death card, he portrays the figure busy at work with the sickle, slashing it back and forth, creating bubbles in its wake. A variety of figures in various stages of life are shown in the watery images. It also features a snake, a symbol of resurrection and reincarnation, and a scorpion that reminds us that this card is associated with the astrological sign Scorpio.

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The Death card is the sign that the butterfly needs to emerge from its chrysalis, and that it’s time for the snake to shed its skin. Like these creatures, we humans also metaphorically need to shed from time to time. On our path we must grow and change into the people we are meant to be.

We are fluid beings and every experience leaves us changed. And yet we all know of someone, perhaps ourselves even, who sometimes allows themselves to get stuck for too long. While some of us love change, others detest it.

I love change, and I applaud the Death card (hence the title). Recently the Death card worked its way through my life as I found the strength to work my way out of my own comfortable chrysalis. I spent much time hiding in the “broom closet” as most of my family members are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was raised to believe that anything to do with the occult or spiritualism was simply communication with the Devil. I was terrified of what my family would think of me when they found out that not only was I not a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, but I was a practicing tarot reader and part-time Pagan!

Sadly, my last living grandmother passed away very suddenly this May. I never wanted to disappoint her, because she was so loving, gentle, and innocent. She was deeply afraid of the occult and I didn’t want to break her heart with my fascination with the topic. With her passing, I found the courage to be more transparent about who I am as a person. A new time had begun in my life and it, ironically, started with death.

The coming out was just the first part of my transformation, as this year has given me several personal challenges that are causing me to reconsider who I am as a person and how I want to live my life. At 36, I’m beginning to realize the importance of living for ourselves, and not to simply conform to what society expects of us.

Thank you, Death, for helping me to grow and change into the person I was born to become. I look forward to the next visit, dear friend.

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10 thoughts on “Card #13

  1. I applaud your emergence from the Chrysalis! The death card in the Wizards Tarot depicts a boy transforming into a moth. It may well be titled transformation, I can’t remember.
    I think a lot of us will have remained closet readers and closet pagan types to help elderly relatives in particular, have a sense of ease regarding our paths. I don’t think that’s a bad thing particularly, more an act of love, but yes, the time does come when we need to ease those wings out of their confinement and fly free x

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    1. Yes, it is an act of love to spare people we care about grief. In fact I’d go back in the closet if it meant having more time with my grandma. However, since that isn’t possible, I see now that it the ultimate act of self-love to be able to come out and be ourselves. There is no substitute for an authentic life.

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  2. I love the personal relation of death as a movement through your life, helping you to become who you truly are. I am sorry for the loss of your family member, I am however glad for the wisdom that you have gained through it all!

    Beautiful post.

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  3. I’m so glad that you have found the freedom to break out of the chrysalis and into the light! An authentic life is a life well lives, and how wonderful that the death card could bring your the inspiration to step onto your path more fully!

    The Death card from the Thoth deck has always been a favourite of mine – I love the swirling, cyclical energy of the card. I have always wondered about his headgear, though – do you have any insight into death’s chapeau on this card?

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  4. I find it intriguing the positivity we can discover in the visitation and aftermath of death’s presence and touch in our lives. There’s a fine line between respect for our elders and freeing ourselves from traditional constructs to embrace who we truly are and the path we each have a right to choose for ourselves. I’d like to think that your gram would’ve come to accept your choices — but I have firsthand experience that such isn’t likely to have been the case.
    May you walk your chosen path with courage, with her memory to drive you forward.

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