Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Death" Isn't Just a New Beginning

I've read several times recently (and it comes up quite a lot) that Death is nothing to be scared of, it simply means a new beginning, and isn't that wonderful?

I think this happens because of the over-vilification of Death in the past, especially on television shows or in the movies, where the card was played up as a symbol of impending doom, and usually physical death. There are many readers that want to make the card more friendly by now playing up the "new chapter" of life that is a natural result of big change, but I think that mindset, while understandable, robs the work that Death does, detracts from the importance of its process in our lives.

Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Deck
U.S. Games

Because Death is a process. It's not called the "New Beginning" card because before something new (regardless of how wonderful it is) can begin, something else has to end. And with endings comes mourning, struggle, fear, and loss. And those are challenging emotions to experience, but there is great catharsis in allowing that grief to unfold. Anyone who has experienced the energy of the Death card understands that there is far more to it than a nice new start (even though if we have any awareness of what that new phase might be, it may serve as a nice focal point for us while we're in the trenches). It's work! It's sad, and it hurts, and at the same time there is a touching beauty to it because it's a sacred aspect of the experience of being alive, and of growth.

Thoth Tarot - A. Crowley, F. Harris
U.S. Games

I hope that all readers honor that sacred space if Death should appear in a reading. Rather than rushing to the "happy ending," place value on the journey involved.  It's true that having to convey difficult messages is a skill readers must work on (and one that takes time to develop) and sometimes it's easier to play up the sunny part - the new start - but it's really an art worth honing so that the full and powerful message that Death symbolizes isn't lost in translation.

World Spirit Tarot - L. O'Leary, J. Godino
Llewellyn Publishing

I read a wonderful quote today that quite honestly made me cry, and it's the truest definition of the Death card (and some many recognize the Tower here as well) that I've ever read, and I want to share it with you:

Whatever can be threatened, whatever can be shaken, whatever you fear cannot stand, is destined to crash. Do not go down with the ship. Let that which is destined to become the past slip away. Believe that the real you is that which beckons from the future. If it is a sadder you, it will be a wiser one. And dawn will follow the darkness sooner or later. Rebirth can never come without death.” 
― Robert M. Price


  1. I love the quote. I understand where you are coming from. No one said it would be easy. Anything worth while isn't easy.

  2. Great post Olivia and so true! Grief after death is something you cannot run away from. The whole journey has to be made; there are no shortcuts but in the end there will be a new dawn.
    Thanks for taking away the sugarcoating of the Death card :)