Sunday, 14 October 2012


As Halloween approaches, I tend to find my thoughts about Tarot slotting neatly into the themes it offers up. Death and fear are the two major players. As a Pagan who follows the Wheel of the Year, this time also marks the old new year, Samhain, when it is said that the veil between the spirit world and the world of the living is at its thinnest. Some use this festival to remember and honour those who have passed on. Others consider death in more metaphorical ways. Whatever the approach, rebirth, loss, destruction and the life cycle are themes for consideration and Tarot can help us to identify what these concepts mean to us and how they help us in the struggle to navigate our way through life.

I hold firmly to the belief that without death, life would be meaningless. If we had all the time in the world with no threat of extinction, we wouldn't feel the urgency to embrace and indulge in life's experiences. Without a time limit, the significance of any single act becomes null and void on the basis that we could always do it next week or next year or the year after that. Love wouldn't be injected with as much passion and intensity, since we could always rely on having more time to enjoy it. The fact that we are each a limited edition and that the vessels that enable us to have the human experience will one day rot in the ground is what gives us the spark that makes our consciousness such a blessing. The ability to appreciate just how precious and sacred the life span really is means that we want to grasp it before we're gone. Tarot gives us many messages which pertain to the importance of death - both literal and figurative. The idea I have conveyed here is one of the strongest. No single Tarot card sums up the magnitude of death as the key event which places a value on life, but the deck as a whole is a representation of everything we have the power to relish, experience and endure before our time is up. Whatever our personal beliefs are on what happens in 'the great beyond', we have only one shot in this form as the particular individual we are in the here and now. Tarot, as a illustration of the human experience, punctuates this idea beautifully. It demands that we reach out for what we want, appreciate what we have and be present and awake so that this mess of wonder and trauma does not pass us by unnoticed.

Tarot is a tool which encourages us to view life as a road trip. Take photographs, write postcards, buy souvenirs and deal with bumps in the road as well as you can. Pack light, make mistakes, take risks, get lost, get found.. There is an end point to this epic journey and the end point is death. This means that there's a limit to what we can achieve and grab onto. So, we have to make some choices. Since time is short, what are the things we can do without? What is weighing us down and when should we finally leave it at the side of the road? Who do we want on board? Which passengers are making the trip more enjoyable and who's finally outstayed their welcome? What's the next stop on the map? Where do we really want to explore? Our inevitable demise means we sometimes feel the strong desire to stop floating aimlessly and to start making some serious decisions. After all, no one is going to step into this role for you. You are the central character in your very own movie. No matter how much of an overused cliché that old chestnut is, it's true.

Not only does Tarot offer us a symbol of the importance and immediacy of our lives, it also reminds us that many 'little deaths' occur throughout our time here - the kind that don't involve the literal extinction of life but which require bereavement and trigger huge sorrow. These deaths can seem insurmountable and unbelievable, they need to be worked through and accepted and they change the course of the lives we're living as they shape us and our perceptions irreversibly. Tarot offers many messages of comfort and guidance to help us address the break-ups, breakdowns and unforeseen changes that carve out the pathways we find ourselves on and the crossroads at which we stop to make our choices. Some cards speak to us of the careful considerations we must make or the sacrifices we should accept in the short-term in order to obtain the long-term goal. Some represent the kind of deaths we have to adapt to and learn from - such as the ending of a friendship, the unexpected loss of a great job or the failure of a marriage. There are certain Tarot cards which focus on the inner shifts that take place, sometimes without any instigation from us at all, which can leave us feeling scared, alienated or unable to relate to ourselves, but which eventually enrich us and allow us to grow. Tarot is a celebration. It holds fast to the maxim that the only thing that is certain is change. It offers us the seed of truth which lies at the bottom of every hole we may crawl down to escape it. It's always there, beneath the surface, looking for a way to finally reach us.

Celebrate death this Halloween. Which deaths have you emerged from, reborn?