Sunday, 11 September 2011

a deeper look at death

It's appropriate that Death is the first card I ever wrote about on this blog. Endings make up 50% of the meat on the bones of this card - beginnings are the other 50%. In the last Death post I approached the wonderful way this card warns us not to succumb to rigidity and denial. Letting go is part of the overall process of living and digging our heels in at the crossroads isn't going to help anyone, least of all ourselves. Once the card's most basic premise has been understood it's often natural for it to generate a lot of questions and opportunities for thought. This is why it's one of the best cards for visualisation work. You never quite know where it's going to lead you but it'll always be somewhere useful and beautiful.

Take the Death card from your working deck and pay special attention to its image and symbols. What feelings does it immediately conjure up? Is it supposed to be frightening and foreboding or does the image lend itself to a more soothing, spiritual interpretation? If you have several decks it might be worth looking at the differences between them and deciding which one you prefer. Do you think Death should be a frightening card to behold because change is a disruptive force? Do you remember what your very first impressions of the card were before you learned its accepted meaning? Despite everything you know about this card, does it still give you a fright when it turns up in a reading for yourself?

There are all these forms of death that change our lives and cause mutation in us as people. The card can hone in on specific instances of death but can also remind us to appreciate all the ways in which we've experienced death and how those times have eventually enriched us. It's also well worth looking at how you've been taught to deal with death in all its guises. For example, when did you first go to a funeral? How did you feel and what did you notice about the behaviour of the other mourners? Did your family take a spiritual approach to death? Was your childhood stable overall and was change difficult to process for that reason? In what ways did your parents help or hinder you when it came to accepting endings? What is your view on reincarnation?

Death often stands out alone as a card with a singular meaning but I found it was useful to think about other cards that share its message or feed into it somehow. The Chariot is a good example, since it's all about journeys, evolution and movement. The Emperor works wonderfully with Death's warning about being rigid and refusing to accept change. Even The Sun, a card which many readers feel has a wholly positive meaning, links perfectly with Death in the most literal of ways - the sun dies away from our lives for half of each day but always returns in a mutually beneficial cycle.

Finally, try writing a list of tips and opinions for readers regarding Death's presence in a spread, based on your experiences. Why is it important for readers to develop a positive relationship with this card? How does a totally negative interpretation of Death affect the querent? What are some good positive messages and pieces of advice that Death can offer in a reading? Aspecting practice is a useful technique here. Try placing Death in the middle of a three card reading to represent the present situation. How does its message change when adding two random cards to represent past and future? Doing this several times can help you to appreciate the card's versatility and also dispel the problem I always used to have of feeling that Death is too abstract to offer practical guidance.