The Tarot “Death Card” Isn’t A Bad Thing
Death comes to us all, not because it is stalking us from behind, but rather because it is a part of life and as such it is constantly with us. For centuries professional card readers have incorporated this fact into their everyday lives, and have correctly interpreted the meaning of the Death card.
For those who are in fear of having this card revealed when a reading is performed, take note that the cards tell a story, and since death is part of everyone’s story, it is only natural that this card be a part of what the collective consciousness of the world is telling us.
At number 13 in the Major Arcana, the Death card is part of a story created long ago by a society that revealed the path of life in visual form. And although it frightens many who see it, whether a depiction of an individual pierced by swords or otherwise maimed, it is merely a reminder that death itself is the process of transformation. And the "death" implied is not necessarily a physical death, but often a shedding of old ways and the beginnings of new adventures.
The Death Card And The Major Arcana
The gypsies introduced the entire 78 card deck to Europeans many centuries ago, and these people were mistakenly identified as having roots in Egypt, hence the name given to them. A plausible explanation for their involvement with the cards is that they came across a number of decks while traveling in southern Europe, the cards themselves being from two different sources.
Certain members of gypsy tribes interpreted a deeper meaning into the depictions they saw, and the result was an invaluable tool for divination. Over seven centuries ago the Death card was already being interpreted as a foreseeing of change, either in the future or the past, and depending on the other cards revealed during a sitting, it could mean that an upheaval was about to occur, the subject was unable to let go of the past, or was perhaps on the brink of discovery.
Everybody is fascinated by the prospect that their future might be revealed to them, even if the cards indicate only vague possibilities. And death is something that all individuals wonder about, as it is often thought of as the very end.
But the Death card is not usually a sign that mortality is out to get us. Rather, it points to changes in the human experience; as a person grows, parts of him or her "die" and a new phase of the life process begins.
Ancient civilizations had a way of making the obvious seem profound, and the normal become extraordinary. Just as the Greeks were able to focus sound waves by constructing curved amphitheaters – the loudest voice usually got elected to office – many societies relied on numerology to get the attention of their audience. Much like a hypnotist will create an unbalanced situation to make their subject more vulnerable and open to subconscious revelations, the tarot cards have their own obscure number patterns that work on the mind of the reader as well as the client.
The Death card at number 13 is exactly ten cards up from the Empress, for example. The Empress symbolizes birth, a transition from a past life to the present. It should be noted that these practices were put into place not to confuse or trick the subject, but rather to create an agreeable inner atmosphere for the reader or fortune teller. In other words, the numerology patterns of the Major Arcana are a tool the reader uses to become focused on the task at hand, where the belief in the axiomatic system of mathematics is the most important part of the process.
The history behind the death card is an interesting one…
The Death card is a part of a story told about a young man – known as the Fool – and his journey through life. However the life journey is not just about being born, growing up, traveling the world, seeing the sights and finally dying. It is the story of life in its most complete context. The transformation of one particle into another can be seen merely by looking at a plant growing in soil. And when that plant "dies" we see a transformation, one that involves chemical changes, reconstruction and rebirth.
The Death card can mean change in a number of ways, for example a graduation from high school, the changing of a career, or the passing of a loved one many years earlier. Depending on when this card is turned, it can symbolize puberty, menopause or even the realization that science and religion are indeed interconnected. Very rarely does the card indicate a physical death, but may in certain circumstances reveal the continued bereavement of an individual who has suffered the loss of a loved one and has not fully recovered or gotten on with his or her life.
You have to believe.
Consider a fire walker that performs in front of a live audience. He or she has no special ointment on the feet, the fire is absolutely real – and very hot – and yet he or she suffers no burns. Now some would argue that there is a sort of micro layer protection, while others would suppose that the skin is fake. But any real fire walker knows the true reason for success. He or she absolutely believed that the feet were in contact with something cool and soothing.
The result is that a fact is created from a powerful belief system. Tarot card readers use this same principle. Having studied the cards in great detail, they are in a mental state of perfect belief and comfort that the cards will reveal the facts about the life of their subject. Considering how often the projection turns out to be correct, there is no popular scientific proof that this is anything but genuine. Why else would theoretical physicists have such an interest in card readings?
So Why Death?
We are already experiencing death, as the number 13 card reveals. We have been experiencing "death" from the moment we were taking our first breath, indeed long before that. The Death card reminds us that life doesn’t really have a beginning or end, and that Father Time exists as not so much a shadow that follows us, but rather is part of our body and mind.
Every metamorphosis we undergo, from the growing of our bodies to adulthood, the memories we keep and those we seem to toss away, the changes in what we deem important and what is considered useless, all are kept with us whether we notice it or not. And the Death card tells this part of our life story, often pointing to a bifurcation or important support pin that is holding us together.
There is no need to be frightened of the Death card.
It serves its purpose as a reminder that change is inevitable. The continuing maturation process, letting go of childhood, discarding painful memories and other personal changes are the story behind this card. Consulting a professional card reader that truly believes in the meaning of the Major Arcana can enlighten us on where we are going, what we are doing wrong and how best to correct it. It is the triggering of the subject’s own belief system and focusing it on what can be accomplished that is the true miracle of the cards.