Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences.
Have you ever been outside after the rain and walked along the earth just drinking in all of those luscious, earthy, green and rich scents? Perhaps there are new sprouts shooting up from the earth, vibrant and resilient. Surrounding these sprouts, and responsible for the delicious aromas around you, is decay. The old slowly curls in on itself and returns to the soil, nourishing new life in necessary ways. While the brown, barely recognizable plant material may look less impressive than it’s proud, green counterparts nothing would grow without it! So it is with the Death card.
If you are familiar with retro horror films, you may have encountered a scene where someone flips over the Death card and everyone in the room gasps and looks pitifully at the seeker. Most tarot advisors approach this card in a more progressive fashion. Yes, the Death card represents natural endings, but these endings are necessary in order to move forward.
While not all of us can embrace the concept of death and finality, presumably we will agree that desperate attempts to resuscitate something that is no longer meant to live is worse. Sometimes, we need to be strong and recognize that something is over whether we are ready or not. By all means, take the time to grieve. Whatever is moving out of your life is a loss, and skipping over the possible pain, disappointment, and mourning would be cheating yourself out of the delicate thread that stitches up your life story. It all matters–especially the really challenging chapters. It is important to acknowledge this loss, but it is also imperative that you move forward. Much like in the Konmari Method, take the time to thank this area of your life for all it has taught you and wish it well (then light a match).
In tarot, the Death card often means the death of the ego, and rarely refers to physical death. However, this card often comes with challenges so it may be helpful to examine how, culturally and religiously, death is acknowledged in a multitude of ways. This is a reminder that we get to decide how we want to approach loss! Westerners tend to sterilize the process and spend their life fearing death, but around the world, death is embraced and the focus is on celebrating the life of the loved one that has passed on. There are traditions of making beads from the ashes of their departed, creating beautiful altars to honor them, and often there will be parties that look a lot less somber than the funerals many of us have attended. There is no right way to acknowledge our loss, but it is helpful to consider that it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as we make it. Although the challenge around death is understandable, death just is.
On this note, I invite you to think about, and journal if you wish, some of the losses you have experienced. This may be the loss of a personal perspective, the loss of a familiar way of life, or anything that caused a blow to the ego. How was your life altered after this event? What sort of changes followed as a result–were some of them positive? What opportunities made themselves present after this loss? How about dedicating an art journal page to constructing a painting or collage of how you visualize your “ego?” Explore your connection with this concept and look for pain points. Through this discovery, you can begin healing another layer of your internal landscape.
“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
“The ego is the culmination of our preferences and dislikes. Our ego represents the firm edges of how we perceive ourselves. An ego death involves a merciless destruction of the autobiographical memory system that sustains a person’s collective of bodily and mental images. In order to provoke an ego death, one might choose to pare down their sense of self to a bare skeleton divested of all flesh and blood. It might even be useful to visualize a person’s own burial and then imagine a rebirth. A person who undergoes an ego death might experience a transformation in their life that duplicates a reincarnation.”
Until our paths cross again…