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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Musings on the Death Card

Quite a lot has been written about the Death card in Tarot. If you put "Death" in the search field here at Tarot Notes, you will see several posts that relate to that topic.

Today I am writing about Death because of a 1-card reading I recently did for a client. The reading was requested through the _Free Tarot Network_ sponsored by the American Tarot Association. The client knew in advance that just one card would be drawn to answer her question.

The client's question was about what the future might hold for her concerning personal relationships. Rather than try to talk her into changing the question to something more realistic, I simply reminded her that the Tarot cannot predict the future with any certainty and that no one should rely on a reading to make important decisions. I noted that readings through the Free Tarot Network should be for entertainment purposes only.

Spirit led me to use the Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) You can read my review of this deck HERE and an interview with this deck HERE.

Those of you who are familiar with this deck know that it is "designed to access the child-like energy in each one of us to help stimulate, enhance, and inspire joy in our own lives" (from the LWB). In other words, it's an upbeat deck, for sure.

While shuffling the cards, I meditated on the question, asking that only enlightened insight come through for the client from the Highest Source, to help her better understand her Self and her Life experiences.

And who should appear in response to my query but DEATH:

Joie de Vivre Tarot (U.S. Games)

Now, I will grant you that this is one of the most adorable renditions of Death you are likely to see in the Tarot. It is whimsical, lovely, and sweet. A character named Metamorphosis rides through the air on a bat named Destiny. But guess what? It's DEATH. We're looking at a skeleton here. I stared at the card, wondering how on earth I was going to interpret it for the client without sending her into a depression or panic.

At the beginning of the reading, I took great care to explain my view of the Death card, as follows:
The Death card is probably the most feared and misunderstood of all the cards in the tarot deck. It is extremely important to remember that the Death card is first and foremost a card of transformation and transition, the experience of passing from a lower state into a higher state. It suggests that some phase or aspect of your life is ending – or needs to end – in order to bring about something more valuable and important. It commonly indicates the death of one aspect of our identity – and a move from one life to another. It is likely to point to a phase that may be difficult to pass through, but that may also result in a real change for the better.
I then proceeded to tell her that I felt she would have an opportunity at some point in the future to leave behind a stage or phase of her life and enter a new stage where personal relationships are concerned. I added that the transformation and change represented by the Death card would be brought about by her own actions, decisions, thoughts, and attitude -- but I felt that the card suggested energy -- perhaps at a very high level -- supporting a significant change or transition with respect to personal relationships.

Even after going to all this effort, I could still imagine the client replying to the reading with something like, "Oh my god, how horrible. How could you do this to me? I'm terrified about what this means! I cannot stop weeping!"

But I felt I had done my best to share my sincere, honest, thoughtful interpretation -- to encourage as well as inform, to stress that nothing is written in stone and that she was not at the mercy of "fate." I don't believe in "sugar coating" my interpretations, but at the same time, I do not want a client's negative reaction to a card to obscure the positive potential that may reside in that card. I do think it is important to "cushion" what may appear to be bad news when doing a reading -- especially an email reading, where facial expressions and tone of voice cannot offer reassurance. I think it is important that we show the client that we care, that we are not simply shoving information at them in an impersonal, detached manner.

Many times, people who request free readings through the ATA do not provide feedback for my readings, even though I ask that they do so. I knew that I might never hear from this client again, and would always wonder how the reading "hit" her. To my relief, I received a reply a couple of days after I sent the reading.

The client revealed that she has been giving serious thought to ending an important relationship. She told me that the Death card did not scare her, but instead confirmed that a significant ending could come if she had the courage to follow her heart. She described my reading as "very accurate" and "appropriate."

I share this story on Tarot Notes in hopes that some of my blog readers will benefit from hearing how a card managed to touch and resonate with a client in a positive way, in spite of the reader's uncertainty and misgivings. Early in my Tarot studies, I remember reading somewhere that many times what the cards tell us, we already intuitively know but the symbolism and the wisdom of the cards bring the insight home to us. That is exactly what happened in this case.


  1. I think that you gave her a very considerate and yet truthful interpretation and am pleased to see that she too agreed that you did. I often look at all the death cards and think something is coming to its natural end - in this card though, there appears to be no resistance but rather the skeleton is more than ready to move into the next phase. Love this deck it may be sweet and up beat but it gives good readings.

    1. Thank you, Helen. You make an excellent point: The skeleton does appear to be ready and willing to leave behind the "old" and embrace the "new."


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~ Zanna