Nothing scares the novice questioner like turning over this card. There’s a skeleton, holding a large scythe, mowing down everything in his path, and you are next. Isn’t that what the old Gypsy lady tells the dear young thing in the movies? But unless the querent dies of a heart attack upon hearing these words, the Death card does not always mean your number (13?) is up. Sure, if you are approaching your 100th birthday or you (or the someone you are inquiring about) is very sick, this card might be telling you to prepare for the final journey. But it can also signal changes or transitions of a less final but equally traumatic sort.
This card is about endings, but it is also about beginnings. All things must die or end so that new things can be born. Winter must come before spring can arrive. Shiva dances the dance of creation but also of destruction. Reincarnation says we die only to live again….and again….Death strips us “to the bare bones”, we are transformed from living flesh to dry bones- and we have no choice in the matter. That’s the scary part about Death, and about what this card signifies- involuntary, traumatic, catastrophic change. Loss of a job, of income and security, becoming homeless, being stripped of all precious and irreplaceable people, or beliefs about ourselves or others, or in Life itself. Loss of Hope.
But this card is also about perspective. These apparent losses or destructions, when viewed from a higher perspective, or from the position of seeing the whole instead of the limited view, are necessary transformations that allow new growth, rebirth and creation to occur. It’s a sacrifice that one makes unwillingly but one that leads to resurrection and life. It’s a challenge, to view what appears to be “bad” (as in bad luck!) in it’s proper context of necessary.
For meditation on today’s card, I challenge you to live with Death for a day. Get your Death card out of your chosen deck, and carry it around with you. Pretend today is Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and put reminders of death all around you, your home, your workplace. Now, we’ve all heard of living as if this were your last day on Earth, but really make this specific. How would you treat your spouse, parent or child if today was your last day with them? How would you survive if tomorrow you lost your job, your income, your health? Deep, conscious meditation on death, loss and endings can lead to voluntary changes that are creative, life-affirming and positive. Many Death cards also show a rising sun in the background- Open the door to Death and walk towards the Light.