By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 22 July, 2015
Dear Spiritual Explorer: I received your Rider-Waite tarot deck and just love the fascinating pictures. As you had suggested some time back to pick one card daily, my first card was the death card. What happens now? Sarah P.,Lennox Hill, MA
Death Card from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck
Dear Sarah: Nothing. It already happened and you are still alive. From my own readings of the tarot, one of its least beneficial aspects is when it is used as a predictor of demise. In fact, nobody I have ever heard who is a reputable reader would never use the death card in that way. I would even go so far as to say that anybody who actually predicted yours or anybody’s death would be of a very minimal consciousness. In fact, if your reader has the chutzpah to advance that claim, my advice is to say thank you and leave the reading immediately. In order to predict death, as I have heard some holy people in India have that talent, one must be of an elevated consciousness and feel that the prediction is of benefit to the recipient.
Fear of the death card
Many people with very little understanding of tarot cards and particularly the death card, will initially say, “I’m afraid that I will get the death card.” When they voice that fear, I assume they believe the card to be a harbinger of dying in the physical form. No reputable person or reader would ever use the card in that fashion. One of my favorite readers in fact tells me that when she sees the card in a reading, she thinks of it as a card of release from something someone has been struggling with, or resolution of a long standing challenge. In those matters, the death card can be received positively. Another friend of mine told me that when she received the card in response to a question about her current relationship, she realized it was time to pack her bags and leave her husband. The card gave her the courage and confirmation to do so.
Polarity of the death card versus opposition
The interesting thing about the death card and other scary cards in the tarot is that they convey a polar way of looking at things rather than a black and white definition. What that means is that just as yin turns to yang eventually and yang to yin, the polarity thought behind dying is that it gently moves into its opposite at some point. This is different from seeing things in an oppositional kind of way, or as some would say, in black and white. In fact, the death card, particularly in the Rider-Waite deck shows Death riding a horse while spiritual figures are beseeching him for mercy. If one looks carefully towards the back of the picture, one will see a golden sun coming up over the horizon. Almost simultaneously with death, the possibility of new life and new beginnings arrive. This is a traditional eastern as opposed to a western way of viewing matters. There death does not indicate the abrupt and final ending of life, but perhaps an entrance into a new stage of life.
The death card significantly heralds transition
Another esteemed tarot reader tells me while we want to “make nice” with this card, it is important to understand that it is a significant and sometimes difficult card of transition. There are many cards in the tarot deck which speak of radical change. However, the death card is different in that there is usually some difficulty with letting go of one’s ego or lifestyle. The important thing is that it calls for faith in oneself to allow the death of a particular relationship or happening to occur. When one receives this card, it bespeaks of something that has actually been occurring for quite some time also and has required a great deal of consideration.
The death card reveals hope
Another tarot reader told me of an instance where somebody had received news of their imminent dying and wanted to consult the cards. This person had been doing the tarot for quite some time and was of a sufficient maturity to hear the truth as it was reflected by the cards. In this intense, the death card, together with some auxiliary cards, was not frightening to her, but actually enabled her to finally accept her death. The reading as my friend told me was a unique spiritual experience that elevated both the reader and her client.
Ability to receive the death card with equanimity
Another friend has told me that even though she sometimes thinks of removing the card when someone is facing a serious crisis in their lives, she resists that temptation. However, she is also sure to tell her clients that if they were to receive the death card, it has alway been her intention that the card would never real that someone is dying. Having done the cards for over 40 years, she tells me that the amazing thing is that anyone who has consulted with her with a serious illness has never received the death card. In act, she herself through one of her serious illnesses actually received the card. Strangely enough, she confided in me that it didn’t frighten her since she always and previously expressed her intention that the card would mean transformation as opposed to physically dying.
And who could actually receive the notice of their death without freaking? It was once said that Sri Yukteswar, noted guru of Yogananda, and revered master, received notice of his dying and trembled. When I asked my teacher whether that represented fear by a master who had told his students that there was nothing to fear in death, she replied to me that he was afraid for his students, not for his own eventual demise.His compassion for them was so great he feared how they might receive his dying.
People who claim no fear of dying or the death card
I have been present at many people’s dying. Some went gently into that good night; some fought it both courageously and fearfully. I only know that it is not for me to judge anyone’s particular path. I do believe that no one can truly say they are not afraid of dying until the possibility becomes real to them. I admit to a certain impatience for those who gleefully tell me they have no fear of death. But I also realize that we say and do many things to assuage our fears, and if it be by bold declaration of non-fear, I say, “Go with God.”
If you have a question about “the Death Card,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.
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