It’s November, it’s been over a year, our world is in even more turmoil than ever.
Good time to talk about number 13 in the Major Arcana, no?
We celebrate/give a nod to Death in the beginnings of November (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) because that’s the time we can physically feel the veil thinning – between us and the “afterlife,” or the void, or however we envision it- and more pragmatically, between ourselves and the coldness of death in general, as the leaves die and the days are shorter; as the wind starts to bite with teeth and the mammals go to hide and sleep, and we shiver, bundled-up, wherever we are. Some of us can feel the presence of our ancestors and those we’ve lost- others of us feel more acutely the need for protection from danger- and in the world we find ourselves in now, many of us are called to acknowledge all of this, what with the threats of authoritarianism and climate change (brought on by those who presume to ride high horses, if I may.)(Look I know the analogy’s a stretch I’m just saying the Rider-Waite Death Card really seems to be fitting symbolism in these times.) (I mean just LOOK at him, sitting there all powerful and warlike.)
I would venture to say that with each passing year that we do damage to the earth we can feel a much more cosmic veil thinning around us- the veil between humanity and all that supports it evaporating with the greenhouse gases, as we face the icy void together.
But I digress! This is about the card, right?
Of course every reading is different, and each pull of the Death card as well, depending on the overall context of the reading, the querent’s current situation, and any number of other factors relating to that individual reading. However, the Death card is in the Major Arcana for a reason, and though it doesn’t always indicated a literal death, it does generally indicate some major shift or another, usually having to do with drastic change and transformation. It can be overwhelming to pull for the reader (who is now faced with a “wow this reading just got real” sensation) and/or the querent (whose general reaction, at least in my experience, isn’t ever super positive unless they also already know cards pretty well.) I guess my advice to the reader would be to be sure and reflect on the card in a way that respects its gravity; but take a breath, clear your head for a minute if it takes you aback, and definitely- never let the querent see you sweat! But do understand the card usually means something profound- usually to the tune of pointing out transformation or the need for it, that needs your attention. And for querents, remember: death isn’t inherently bad- it just is- and don’t get too bummed out or scared if you see this pop up, especially if it pops up a lot for you. It could well be the death card in your reading is telling you something you don’t want to hear. That’s different from it telling you something bad.
I’m not a death denier. I think that even if we go on to another world that’s basically identical to this one, we go through death first. It’s just another part of life, albeit one that can cause so much grief and heartache. But in order for the creatures of the planet to continue breathing, other creatures have to stop breathing- this is true for all kingdoms of earthly life, with few exceptions- not just animals, but plants as well, and other forms of life that we know about. I feel it would do some good for all folks to explore death, and the symbolism around it, and the fact that it happens and can’t really be avoided- and lord, the whole push against death, the (western, primarily white) urge to seek out some form of immortality- because the ways that we deal with death nowadays are pretty messed up and dysfunctional. We deny it until it’s at our door, and then since we spent so much energy avoiding it, we don’t know how to deal or cope with it when it starts knocking. Death is alive, and death is coming- pretty much for everyone who isn’t a tardigrade. And we all go thru small deaths all through life- the ends of relationships, the last curtains of productions, the last numbers after the encores. Graduations, promotions, big relocations- all of these seemingly qualitatively different concepts can be possibilities when the Death Card shows up. Death can mean so much, but we have to pay it attention.
So on that note I leave you with some music, the words of Pablo Neruda (from his poem, The Heights of Machu Picchu) sung by Los Jaivas, a kickass Chilean band that I’m pretty much obsessed with nowadays (and whose singer and drummer seen in this video have now moved on to other worlds as well.) Do have a lovely rest-of-your-evening.
La Poderosa Muerte
“Todos desfallecieron esperando su muerte
su corta muerte diaria
y su quebranto aciago
de cada día era
como una copa negra
que bebían temblando….”
(Speaking of Spanish-language content, I really really want to make this a bilingual blog if I’m going to do much more of it, or if I’m going to start posting more regularly. I guess I’m trying to find a way to streamline the translation process, but that endeavor might prove about as fruitful as avoiding death, lol. )