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Samhain ritual for solitary practice

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Understanding The "Death" Tarot Card




Memories of Bonfire Nigh

Understanding The "Death" Tarot Card

Perhaps there is no card that evokes more dread and misunderstanding amongst clients than Death. The skeletal figure of the grim reaper riding roughshod and impersonally over rich and poor, young and old alike is naturally associated with thoughts of death, suffering and mortality. It can bring on an involuntary shudder. People who are unfamiliar with the Tarot cards will often assume that either they, or someone they know is going to die when they see this ominous card! After all, doesn’t it clearly say “Death” right on it?

As a reader, it is my responsibility to explain the cards to my client in a way that is faithful and realistic, yet, at the same time positive. I have no doubt whatsoever that this can be done, because when I begin a reading my intention is always to help the client (rather than to shock or horrify in some misguided attempt to make myself seem powerful). Interpreting ‘Death’ and explaining its meaning tests a reader’s ability to connect with the client. To calm natural fears and help readers to better explain the true relevance of this card, I offer these observations.

If you really wish to teach your clients about the Death card, you must first be sure that you thoroughly understand it yourself. Secondly, this card, more than any other requires you to be able to effectively communicate with your clients. They are relying on you to allay their fears and remind them that "Death" is symbolic rather than literal.

I like to address this card immediately when it appears, before I start the reading, because it has been my experience that a client can become fixated upon this card from the first moment they set eyes on it. The first thing I explain is that the pictures on the cards are symbolic and shouldn’t be taken too literally. Though ‘Death’ is a very powerful card, it usually has nothing to do with actual, physical death. Though it can sometimes be a warning, there is no reason to automatically assume that a person's time on Earth is running out. It is more likely that a major change is ahead for somebody, because the Death card represents change; the end of something, and the beginning of something else. The "something" that ends can be a journey, a way of life, a relationship, a habit etc. - not necessarily the physical body. As physical death is part of a cycle, followed by rebirth and new life, so the Death card in the Tarot tells us that whatever is ending will be followed by something new.

Card number 13, Death, is the logical next step for the Hanged Man (card number 12), who must shed his past limiting beliefs, relationships, habits, etc. His old self, his old way of life, is over. This can be quite upsetting - but the rising sun (shown on many decks) offers hope for a new beginning, a new chance for a different way of life. The white rose is a symbol of rebirth. The lesson here is not to get stuck in the ending, but to see it as part of a necessary cycle leading to a new start. Note that there is no card in the Tarot deck that is specifically labelled “Birth”. Thus the Death card, which contains the mysteries of death and cycles of life, is also a Birth card. This is the often overlooked meaning in the Death card: rebirth. Without death, there can be no life. When you think about it in this way, Death isn’t nearly so scary.

The Death card is very important because it indicates that the client is about to experience a significant change. The process of ending and beginning should be presented as an opportunity for your clients, though they should also be warned that as endings or changes force them out of their comfort zones, they can expect to feel a mixture of emotions. It is a natural process, yet we may feel that unprepared and reluctant to let go of a particular situation. Old familiar principles, ways of life and personal ideals may already have passed their sell by date. I always try to encourage my clients to see that phases come and go in their lives, and to embrace the coming change. It may mean a personal rebirth, quitting a job, divorce, menopause, disillusionment with a religion, the end of a friendship, moving house or a change in the occupants. All of these present opportunities to embrace new adventures in life. The person has completed one part of life and is moving on to another one.

The Death card tells us that it is time to make changes - to let go of the old ideals, concepts, and beliefs that prevent spiritual and emotional growth. It is both the death of the old self, and the threshold of a new phase, freed from the limitations of the past.

Sometimes we already know that changes are needed, yet we resist them. Change is always easier, if we do not resist. When we fight or run from change, it will hound us and we will be caught and trapped by the very things we wanted to avoid. Resistance begets persistence - the more we resist, the more we are bound. The death card helps us to liberate ourselves from past fetters and strengthen our confidence for the future. One of our greatest challenges is to know when to let go. When we do so, it may be necessary to mourn and grieve before we can be open to new things. We can use the promise of the Death card to help us through loss or sorrow so that we do not dwell on it excessively. Do not dread this card - see it as an invitation to address the issues at hand and change what needs to be changed.

Sometimes, Death can mean actual physical death. As sure as we are born into this world each one of us will undergo the death of the body when we leave it. But physical death is not the end! This card teaches us not to be afraid of death. We can't escape death, but we can learn not to fear it. And remember that the card may not be referring to the client - it could be someone who is known to them - especially if there are elderly or sick associates. Death also appears when someone who is taking life for granted or frittering it away, needs to be reminded that the clock is ticking.

If you meditate on the Death card you may see how it reveals a higher truth. It is during times of difficulty and change that we experience the greatest miracles, healing, insights and growth. In the process of spiritual purification we undergo symbolic death, which allows us to move forward and gain deep understanding of a greater love and a higher force.

Helping a client to understand the Death card is not always easy, but it is often necessary. I hope this article has provided some helpful suggestions to better enable you to deal with this challenge in a competent and inspiring fashion. Don’t be too quick to jump in and interpret the cards literally but consider the context of the whole spread. Death is the threshold a new beginning. So don’t panic and tell the person to go write their will when this card appears in a spread!

Sylvia Richards October 2009

© Copyright 2009 Sylvia Richards www.yourspiritualhaven.comAll rights reserved.

About the Author: Sylvia Richards is a well known natural psychic who can provide you with a psychic reading using Tarot cards by email. To know more about Sylvia and how to book an email reading, please visit www.yourspiritualhaven.com/fortuneteller

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