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Death Teaches Us to Detach from All that does not Honor the Heart

Law 13 (Death/Scorpio/Water): When you let go of old habits and attachments that no longer support your emotional needs,  you allow your heart to be honored.

The Death card in Tarot rarely refers to an actual death but rather refers to the death of some aspect of your life or yourself, i.e. a relationship, a career, a belief system, or behaviour.  When you look at a sampling of individuals throughout the past few generations and calculate when their Death card(s) turn up (in the manner of Mary K. Greer in her Tarot for Yourself  Workbook), you discover that the meaning of the Death card has changed over time.

For my relatives who were born in the early 1900s and have passed on, the Death card only came up once in their lifetimes and within a five year range of their actual death.  For generations since WWII, the Death card comes up more than once throughout a lifetime.  Those of you born before WWII, please don’t take my point as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Your will to live , evolve, and honor your heart can take you beyond the patterns set out at your birth.  So in our collective evolutionary cycle, Death has become more aptly symbolic of the transformative experiences that help us shed old skins, patterns, beliefs and ways of being that no longer serve our hearts or purpose for being alive.

Death Card, Gendron Tarot

Death Card, Gendron Tarot

If you become stuck in your ways, don’t let go of the past, and resist moving on, you will bring about an ending unconsciously, subversively even.  You may even summon a force of destruction or self-annihilation.  This could just be a psychological shift or at best a spiritual transition point.

Though most may perceive death as something you have no control over, the Tarot version of Death reminds us that how you experience the inevitable act of letting go or detachment is completely up to you. Detachment does not mean that you are emotionally cold; it just means that you trust that what you need at heart will always be present regardless of what form it comes. If you tenaciously hang onto something , somebody or even conceptions about yourself, the letting go can be quite painful and prolonged. However, if you surrender to the inevitable death and truth you know in your heart, you can flow into a new form more easily.  You may even be pleasantly surprised at how much more wonderful the new form of being is. One door closes and another one opens, as they say. When you let go of a rigid idea of what physical form you believe you desire (i.e. tall, gorgeous, and rich) and instead focus on what inner qualities you value in what you desire (i.e. a respectful, loving, and caring companion with whom to share life experiences), then you can release whatever does not emotionally support you and truly be open to allowing what you need to be present in your life.

Our dreams can reveal much about what deeper transformations we may be experiencing.  When I was 13 years old I had a vivid nightmare that I’ll never forget. I was walking away from an evening party with two of my girlfriends down a dimly lit path when this woman from the party, all dressed in flowing white with flaming red hair in a sophisticated bouffant hair-do stepped out of nowhere and began whispering in a foreboding way, “The smell, the smell..” Suddenly, as it happens in dreams, the friends vanished, and I was on my own running down the path trying to escape this woman following me. Up ahead I saw a wooden sign on which my name was written in fancy script with a colorful hand-painted daisy border. I ran towards the sign and then beyond where I found myself descending into a dark stairwell. To my horror, the woman with the flaming hair was already at the foot of the stairs waiting for me. She started clawing at my legs with her long red fingernails, causing them to bleed onto her white gown, still chanting, “The smell, the smell!” At that moment of complete terror, I awoke with my heart beating a mile a minute.

Next morning, I sought the wisdom of my mother, Genevieve, who being well versed in dream interpretation, helped me to decipher its deeper meaning. Clearly, she explained that the dream was about my right of passage from my childhood to womanhood with the passing of my menses later that week. As soon as I was enlightened about the meaning, I no longer was frightened by the dark imagery of the dream. My teenage experience of puberty is clearly one way to conceive of transformational death in simple terms.

Though a death experience appears frightening at first, it can really just be a transformative passage or birth into a new way of being. The scary part is when you are in the dark tunnel between the death of the old and the birth of the new. In that disorientating space and time, you need to trust that your heart will open up to more love and fulfillment than ever experienced before.

November 20, 2009  2 Comments
Categories: Astrology, Intuitive Arts, Tarot | Tags: ,


1 Genevieve { 11.20.09 at 12:45 pm }

Wow! This is just so timely for me as I leave my office in 10 minutes to attend the death vigil of a long-time client and friend who is about to leave her body. Her family is all around her now and she is surrounded by love. In the final moment it all boils down to love. May she go lightly from this plane to the next without fear and with only the light of love showing her the way.

2 Danielle { 11.20.09 at 3:37 pm }

Yes, I agree. My husband poignantly commented, in response to the recent loss of his mother, that as much as her death gave him pain, it gave him more love.

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