Monday, June 6, 2011


The End…or is it?

Seeing the Death card in Tarot immediately starts a controversy. Horrific images of death and dying come to mind. In certain older Tarot decks, the Grim Reaper swipes away at people with a scythe, and some cards even employ the Biblical image of death riding a pale horse. (Rev. 6:7) Scary “doom and gloom” topics may come up in conversation during a reading when you get this card. But this is just the obvious. What is the underlying meaning?

Let’s do the doom and gloom part first and get that over with in order to come to grips with the veracity of dying. “Black Death” a plague of infected fleas killed nearly half of Europe’s population (also in China and the Middle East) in the 1400’s. But that wasn’t the end of the world. The artist, Guyot Marchant’s wood engravings of the Danse Macabre done in 1485 may have been some influence for the card’s imagery. This subject was also painted in several European Cathedrals—St. Anna’s in Fussen, Germany, for example. It was painted anonymously after the plague in 1590. In it, all social classes were portrayed dancing with the Grim Reaper.

Contemplate this: over 60 million people were killed in World War II in the 1940’s. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed at least 1 million people then, and in the aftermath. The “Nazi death cults” (a term used by Susan Griffin, author of Woman in Nature and Made from This Earth) murdered somewhere from 11 million to 17 million people in their ghastly death camps and in the fields. The implications of the atrocities of the 20th century are horrendous and, this doesn’t include the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the Iraq War. That’s the worst sense of meaning in the Death card, not to mention the deaths every year from various diseases and starvation around the world.

Now that we are sufficiently overwhelmed and depressed, let’s look at the end of the world predictions for 2012. The late Jose Arguelles popularized the enigma of “The End” indicated by the “long count” of the Mayan Calendar in his book, The Maya Factor (Bear & Company, 1987). This date is debatable because it’s impossible to assert the actual starting date of the long count. Anthony Aveni, in an article in Archaeology Magazine (Nov/Dec 2009) says that the Mayans made no predictions, although the Dresden Codex contains a painting of a flood. He states that, “When the Maya odometer turns over, after 13 baktuns (5,125.37 years), the world begins anew.” (p.33) It marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new one that will be starting over again. In plowing through a lot of imaginative babble, I found that Arguelles did believe a new era would follow: “For it is through the open portals of the heart that the future returns in all of its radiance.”

Ah, that’s the key to the Death card. It signifies getting rid of the old in order to begin again, perhaps on another level. It doesn’t necessarily mean a literal death. We know there is nothing permanent about our lives. (At least that’s what Buddhists believe.) Instead, this card means it’s a time for renewal and a chance to make a complete break, to totally change the direction you are going. The positive aspect of this is to stop resisting change and to let go of old habits and convenient ruts; to change your perspective on life, and to evaluate what has gone wrong and what has been right, and begin again with new verve and intention.

The Death card in Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness represents celestial travelers going through a portal into the unknown. It’s the end of the old and the start of the new. The oval flying forms might represent for some—your soul, or spirit—moving on to another level of Cosmic Consciousness.

This brings up the concept of immortality. There are some who claim we are living in “The End Times,” and that certain people will be saved while others won’t. When you look at the history of the peoples of the world, including all past wars, earthquakes and volcanoes, some people have always been living on the edge of the end times. Think about this: If we are part of the infinite Mind of the Universe, then there is no death.