I would like to preclude that it is not my intention to devalue the emotional heartache of the loss of a loved one. In this article it is my hope to share an understanding in the terms of Tarot what is ‘a living Death’, and why this writer would interpret it as natural change, or transition. The same theories and explanations could indeed be translated and applied to a death of life, as I will attempt to share. If you, dear reader, find this applicable to any aspect of your life or death (yes, I went there) than I thank you for reading with all my heart.
Universal truths; we live, we die. We call ourselves living creatures but are we not just as much dying creatures? We focus on life as if it were alone and not completely perfectly paired with its counterpart; death. We KNOW that we will die, it is one thing we can be ABSOLUTELY sure of and yet not only do we forsake this *God* given knowledge, we abhor it. We do this because we do not know what comes after. We can theorize, hypothesize, even believe with every single atom of our earthly bodies, but we can not know what happens after we die. After the act of death comes the unknown. Here is the kicker though, when we do die and when we are dead then we will have knowledge of the unknown. To put this into one of my favorite quotes (and if you don’t know where this is from, well I fear you’ve missed something great) “I open at the close”. As a matter of fact in one of my most favorite Tarot decks of all time (Tarot of the Old Path) card number 13 ‘Death’ is titled ‘The Close’. It is when we shut (close) one door that we can fully be in another room.
The thirteenth card of the Major arcana of a deck of Tarot cards can be a source of stress for many people. I have had people refuse to be read, not because they truly are not interested in the insight Tarot might have to offer them, but simply because they do not want to be told they are going to die (which is infuriating as a Tarot reader, see above paragraph). It is one of the first cards I look to when choosing to purchase a new deck as it helps to determine what purpose the deck might serve. If I encounter a deck that has a bright, colorful Death card where a grim reaper is either not the main focus (example above) or completely absent, I know that it has less chance of scaring of a potential client if it comes up in their first reading ever. I also know that one that is bright but still maintains a semblance of a reaper can be used for less squeamish clients. If I come across a very ominous Death card that speaks to me, I generally keep that deck for personal use. Even before I have met a client I am already concerned with their well being and attempting to do whatever I can to alleviate as much stress as is possible. However this coddling is not met with respect or understanding and in writing this perhaps an eye or two may be opened. I often hear (although not in the nice words I’m about to paraphrase with) ‘how can Tarot be good if it can tell someone they can die’. Tarot is a representation of our life’s experience so it would be untrue and incomplete without the most basic truth. ‘Well I’m just afraid’. Yet when I ask what it is that they fear, hoping to walk someone slowly into a knowledge, they cannot sat. So why do you fear it?
To answer this we have to look straight at fear for what it is, was, and should be. Fear is a primal instinct, it can be seen as a reaction to the unknown, in a time where the unknown could kill you. Mother animals feeding their offspring in the woods hear a noise. How do they know to protect their young, either by getting them to safety or fighting a potential UNKNOWN predator? Fear instructs them to do so. Fear is a part of our natural instincts to survive, if something is unknown to us then we as creatures infer that it is a predator and that makes us the prey. A key point we fail to use is distinction; for example death (in my opinion) is not the exact same thing that a predator would do to its prey. A predator would kill: extinguish, end, the prey for reason of food for self survival. Death is a transition from known to unknown.
This is a key that we utilize to recognize, to differentiate, what is a real threat vs. a perceived one. In the age that we currently live in there is an ever expansive vastness of things to know, and with this ‘knowledge’ there is an equally abundant amount of things we do not know. We have kept out primal instincts, the ones that meant to keep us alive, and have felt fear every time we recognize something we do not know. This does not mean that we are prey and that everything unknown to us is out to eat us alive, but that is how we feel…isn’t it? We have taken fear from its rightful, useful, place as an instinct and elevated it to emotion status where it truly is not of any use to us. Our idea of ‘fear’ as emotions, of any emotion, is linked to our knowledge and concepts of self. So it becomes difficult to embrace our lives because ‘fear’ holds us back. It is not an easy task to put ‘fear’ back into its box, but it is far better than the stagnating freeze that seems to grasp our lives and it is where it belongs.
What conquers the emotion we call ‘fear’ is understanding, but first we have to differentiate the primal fear from the emotional one. When you want something but ‘fear’ it, be honest with yourself; is it going to kill you? Not will it hurt, or is it really worth it, or I am unsure of what to do; those are (good) questions you can ask later. First ask if it WILL KILL YOU? By answering this simple question you are, indeed, facing death, You did not know, you came to a point, an end, a close, a (GASP) death of not knowing, and you now know (what was once) unknown. It is a temporary death, a living death, a fearless death. You have changed from who you were before you asked, you have gone through a transition and can now being the journey of understanding.
Death is an end, a close, a change from one thing to another, a transition. In a reading it can be relevant to everything, when put into context, because EVERYTHING changes. Death (as well as birth/life) is all around us, all the time; our brains when learning make new synaptic connections, our skin cells fall off, we feel different from moment to moment. When it comes to having your cards read, if ever you considered it; please remove your primal fear. I swear to you, at least on my watch, that a card stock picture, with or without the grim reaper, is not going to kill you. I would love to guarantee that it never alludes to a death of life, but given that we are all dying it is bound to happen under the right circumstances; like if you are terminal and come asking for comfort, or if you have lost a loved one. In a daily reading it is way more likely that the card of Death if referring to ‘a living death’ the kind that happens all around you.
If you have followed me this far, thank you! I’d would like to share a personal experience as an example of how ‘a living death’ has affected me in real life, and how I have come to understand it. It might make it easier to imagine that I encountered the card of death in the beginning of this tale. As while the actual tarot card of death was not present, the concept of Death, as I interpret it with Tarot, is. For me, all cards in the Tarot are; symbols, place holders, representations of real life events, circumstances, or (more often when I read for myself) actions that are happening within the psyche.
When I was in elementary school my grandparents passed. I cannot say I if I was mourning, I was at an age where the ego was still the base for my primary existence, what I can say is I found that the act of death applied to me. I would die, I would die soon, I knew this truth. It did not scare me because it was fact, possibly the first real fact my conscious brain had accepted, it did however affect me in innumerable ways. My concept of soon was a few years, meaning in elementary school I doubted I would live to see middle school and positive I would not live to see high school. In my mind I had convinced myself of this, held it as mutually factual as death itself, and yet I did not fear. I did however feel more, emote more, learn more, express more, make the ‘right’ choices, listen to my parents, care for others as best as I could, forgive more, apologize sooner, love deeper. I am not saying I was perfect, after all I was a kid but I can attribute all of those positive actions directly to the concept of death.
I made it though middle school and I entered high school. I did well in classes and studies because I enjoyed it, but I did not adjust well, after all wasn’t I supposed to be dead? My sister went to a psychic and was told (and told me) that I would die in a red 2 door sports car. Now had I had been someone else I might have passed this off as malarkey, but being who I am and knowing what I knew I accepted it as a highly likely possibility. Nearly everyone of my friends that drove, had their own vehicles, had: you guessed it, red (okay well one was pink) 2 door sports cars.
So as sophomore year came around I became depressed, and severely confused. Depressed because I would not speak to anyone about this. I did not believe or trust that anyone around me (family, friends, counselors, pastors) could fathom my the concept of death as something to be naturally accepted, and not superimpose upon me that I wanted to die. These are different. As more time passed I became more and more confused as to why I was living, it was not until now that I began to fear. I feared I was wrong, I feared that death would not come for me. This idea was foreign, corrupt, wrong and I struggled hard to keep my head in reality as it spun out of control. I had what I would term a psychotic break during this year, I spent a week in bed, practically catatonic, in pain that steamed from my core. I began to have anxiety attacks. I had not prepared to live, I had prepared to die. I had never considered a future with me in it. While others were planning their academics in order to get into college and into the career of their choosing, I was awaiting the end. I had only retained information that interested me, or I felt was worth taking (if I got to take anything) in death, not what might be important to a life. While others had figured out who were their friends and where their place was by means of realizing what hurt and what felt right, I had just let go of most emotions, especially ones that hurt, because they were not needed where I was going.
The next two years I struggled to catch up with ‘the living’. I became overwhelmed with attempting to handle life. I got a job. I attempted to cram everything that might be important in later life into my brain all at once. I missed what was actually going on around me. I held a long term relationship for most of high school and did not really understand what that meant. I tried to figure out what the next step was. I did not have a supporting adult I felt I could run too. I was no longer was on the same level as my peers, they were ready or they didn’t care. I asked questions. I was too late. After high school ended, I was lost. I watched everyone I’d know go one of two ways, away to college or headed to nowhere, neither of which did I feel I could go. I worked and my plan was to work until I figured it out. The place I was working at shut down and only gave us 2 weeks notice. I ran. I ran to Florida with a friend, who’s family I felt close too. Who I hoped would teach me how to get into college and do something with my life. I ended up caring for people, in one way or another, mostly without compensation. People seemed to see that I cared for others lives more than I cared about my own, and since this was true I allowed it to consume me. Changes were hard because I would only change when the pain of my existence became too much.
Finally after about a year I was given a sign that called me home (more on that in another article). I went home and returned to my previous long term relationship, like nothing had ever happened. While riding in the passenger seat of his, you guessed it, red 2 door sports car, he told me what I was to be to him. For the first time in my life someone had told me in one quick passing sentence what I had allowed my life to mean. I felt different. I had allowed myself to simply be whatever any once else required of me, and in not distinguishing myself from the purposed I was serving for others I had in essence not truly existed as myself. I had also let this ability be utilized by persons who would take from we what they needed, without ever giving anything positive back into me. I had ended up surrounded by people who did not reflect my inner; love, joy, hope, loyalty, ideals, etc. to no fault of their own, for just as I was unaware until that moment, I am sure (most) were just as unaware.
Years later I looked back at this moment and thought a part of me died that day; the part that accepted all negative reflections even if they were not my own. I can also see that it was a day of transformation; that it is my choice to reflect that which is inside me. It was also a day understanding; that there would always be times that I will reflect things that appear to be outside of me, but that I could grasp their true meaning within. I experienced awareness of myself, not just as someone who would die one day, not as a projection, but someone who could change who could die and be born at the same time. I could do anything. This was a moment of death for me, and by the believing that the moment would happen, within a red 2 door sports car, I was not able to ignore the signs when it happened.
My point in this telling this story is two-fold. One is to share the kind of person I have always been, but more-so to show that sometimes when death comes along it means something totally different than what we automatically assume it means. I knew in elementary school death was change, was unknown, but I did not understand that it was not always an ultimate finality. As well as to share that death is not something you need to fear, or to cling too, because it happens to us all.
I believe we learn a self truth when we can see how one concept of nature can be reflected from a macro to a micro, and vice verse, and then applied to our experience. For me this means: death (weather living of final body) brings new knowledge, there is life after (and because of) death. We just cannot know it until we are there. So when you find yourself accosted by a fear, face it, it probably isn’t going to kill you. In fact you might just encounter Death, and like it.