Death – Change – Transformation – Transition – Endings - Removal - Elimination
Black amour & White Horse = balance off opposities, life & death. Yin and Yang.
Feather = The feather on the helmet is lifeless, limp. As in contrast to The Fool and The Sun which are full of life and energy. This is symbolic of Death, lifeless and ending.
Sun = The sun in the background is either rising or setting. It is ambiguous to allude to the concept of transitions, in-between stages, endings and beginnings.
River and Boat = Passages and transition from one side to the other. often symbolic of death from the physical into the other side (Underworld).
Meaning & Message
Death speaks more about metaphorical and symbolic Death rather than actual physical death and dying. However it is a possible subject which it can represent in a reading. Do not fear this card if it comes up in a reading.
The main meaning in Death is endings. It is a card which represents endings of all sorts. From the loss of a relationship, the ending of a job or even the ending of project, the ending of stage of life. Anything which ends and comes to a completion.
Second, the idea of transitions which comes as a result from endings. Something ends and we transition into something new. When we end something we allow something new to enter. As a relationship ends a new one may start and take it’s place. There are many life cycles we go through, transitioning from childhood to adolescence with the start of puberty. The from adolescence into adulthood, on to old age then finally death. The birth of a child is also a transition and death of the parents life as individuals responsibility for themselves, now being responsible for another life. The Ego dies a little, now it is not just about you but about your child.
Thirdly, removal and elimination. Death signals a need to clean house. Remove what no longer serves you, old notions and ideas which are out dated. Replace it with up to date and useful ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Remove what is physically useless like junk in the house.
Shadow Aspect – Ill-dignified
Fearing change, fearing loss of control and stability. Wanting to keep everything the same, never changing. This causes stagnation and thus blockages and energetic backups in your life. With regard to actual Death you may be in denial, unable to express your sadness, unable to mourn or accept the loss.
In the Aces of the Tarot cards there appears a hand coming forth from the clouds. What is this hand? Why it is the hand of God in the act of creation. Example, the picture below is from 1493 and is titled “First Day of Creation”. On the top left corner we see a hand coming forth from a cloud. This is the hand of God, creating the World. Compared tom the Ace of Wands or any other Ace card. This symbolizes the creative powers of the Ace, they are a source of beginning, divine power putting something into motion. A gift from above, a seed that is planted.
Here is a quick introduction to some of the meanings of the Major Arcana.
The Fool (0) – The Fool represents pure spirit, unassociated with the material. He represents beginnings, optimism, innocence, and a child like care free attitude.
The Magician (I) – The Magician the first true card in the Major Arcana, since The Fool represented zero. He is the first action, the first cause that sets things into motion. He represents action, confidence, skill and talent. He is a source for manifestation, he is someone who creates and builds.
The High Priestess (II) – The counter balance to The Magician is The High Priestess. She is passive while he is active. She stands still while he is in motion. She is the unconscious, while he was the conscious (ego). The High Priestess is associated with intuition, the unconscious mind, psychic forces, quietness, observation and recording. She holds occult and esoteric knowledge.
The Empress (III) – The Empress embodies the great earth goddesses of many cultures; she is a source of creative creations, birth (of all sorts of things), and abundances in many aspects in life. The Empress is the authority or power over the vegetation cycle she represents fertility and growth. She has a motherly nature to herself, offering support and nurturing others.
The Emperor (IV) - The counter part to The Empress is The Emperor, the father figure. He represents authority of any kind, your actual father, the police, the military, and the government anything that has power over you. The Emperor represents stability, order and organization.
The Hierophant (V) - While The Emperor was the earthly authority The Hierophant is the spiritual authority. He holds within him exoteric (outer) knowledge and order. He is opposite The High Priestess who holds esoteric (inner) knowledge. The Hierophant deals with rules, dogma, the established order and way of things. He represents groups, societies and organizations of all sorts, any body of people who unite together and calm a common identity amongst each other.
The Lovers (VI) - The Lovers focuses on the individual who must determine their own values outside of the society or group they are in which The Hierophant represents. The Lovers represent choices between desires. Issues about unions and relationships.
The Chariot (VII) - The Chariot represents movement, taking action, being determined in your goals. He embodies pure will power, the conquering of desires and oppositions, which we encountered in The Lovers.
Strength (VIII) - Strength can represent psychical strength but mostly symbolizes inner strengths like patience, courage and compassion. The Chariot conquered through force, Strength conquers with gentleness. Strength is not always about who has the biggest stick, it who has the stronger inner foundations.
The Hermit (IX) - The Hermit represents withdrawal, solitude and introspection. He is a deeper thinking; he is very wise and full of insights. He acts as a guide or teacher to others. He looks within himself for answers through thoughtful contemplation. He is seeking meaning and purpose to something, be it his life or just a dilemma. He rejects the outside world, the material and develops his inner world, his spirituality.
The Wheel of Fortune (X) - The Wheel of Fortune represents Fortuna, fate and fortune. It is a force beyond our control and power to understand. This is why it comes right after The Hermit; it is beyond our human contemplation and thinking. It is random and blind to whom it effects. It represents cycles of change, up and down, highs and lows. One moment you are the King and the next you are peasant. The Wheel of Fortune indicates a changing point.
Justice (XI) - Justice represents an opposite aspect to the Wheel of Fortune. While the Wheel was random in it’s dealing Justice is not, it deals out reward or punishment because you deserver it from past actions. Justice is linked with the concept of Karma of this reason. Justice represents responsibility, understanding cause and effect and being truthful and honest. Justice can represent legal matters.
The Hanged Man (XII) – The Hanged Man represents a time out, life suspended and in waiting. It represents needing to let go of the need to act and do something and simply go with the flow of things. Let a higher power take care of it right now. It is not time for you to act. Sacrifice is an important concept in this card, mostly self-sacrifice for another, giving something up to gain something greater.
Death (XIII) - Do not fear the Death card, it is actually good card in many ways. For one it does not represent actual bodily death, it represents a metaphorical death. Death represents change through the ending of something. It symbolizes removal of what is no longer useful to us and holds us back. It is a transition card, between on stage to another.
Temperance (XIV) - Temperance means moderation, this card embodies all things relating to moderation. It is the golden mean according to Aristotle and the middle way, which is taught in Buddhism. Temperance represents balance, harmony, cooperation, and synthesis between two opposites.
The Devil (XV) - The Devil does not represent nor is it associated with the Devil in Christian theology, it take the name Devil to express certain qualities. The Devil is associated with attachments, bondage, addiction, materialism, lust and ignorance.
The Tower (XVI) - The Tower is a card of destruction and sudden unexpected change. The kind of destruction it brings can either be positive or negative. Not all destruction is bad. The Tower follows after The Devil, which represented ignorance; The Tower destroys this and brings a ground shaking revelation. The Tower represents that old ideas, false beliefs, which we invested ourselves, that are now revealed are false, weak or disserving. This can be a painful experience because it changes all that we believed in.
The Star (XVII) - The Star represents healing. She is naked to express her vulnerability and exposure, which was experienced in The Tower. It is a time to heal and recover from past wounds. The Star symbolizes hope and faith. There is a time now for peace and a moments rest. The Star indicates things are getting better from now on.
The Moon (XVIII) - The Moon is a mysterious card; The moon represents illusions, dreams, imagination and how these things can play with our perceptions. The Moon indicates that not all is known, only parts are revealed and the rest is filled in my your mind to get a complete picture. The Moon indicates outside influences or forces at work. The Moon can be a great source for creativity. The Moon can be irrational and instinctual.
The Sun (XIX) - The Sun is the opposite and counterbalance to The Moon. The Moon was irrational while The Sun is rational. The Sun’s light is warm and safe it provides vital life energy. It symbolizes happiness and success.
Judgment (XX) - Judgment represents a renewal, becoming reenergized and feeling brought back to life. It indicates that a change is at hand, one that is profound and with purpose. It shows that you are being called to something. It can also represent a decision (judgment), which needs to be made. You are awakened to some new knowledge or some new insights, an epiphany.
The World (XXI) - The last card in the Major Arcana, The World signals completion, closure, endings, success, reaching your goals, feeling satisfied, fulfilled and accomplished. On the same token The World also symbolizes a new start or new cycles is going to start because you have reached the end of the current cycle.
Langauges allow us to express ourselves. I love to learn new languages, even if it just a few words, especially the bad ones! Tarot is a language, not a verbal one like English but a pictorial language which uses symbols to express meanings. The cards themselves have titles as with the Major Arcana. However when we translate these titles into other languages we might at times come to new understandings to the cards. Some may be new or they may just reinforce the cards already present meaning.
A while ago I made a video on YouTube where I presented the Greek titles of the Major Arcana. When I came to the Judgment card I was intrigued by the Greek word for Judgment which is the same word for another word. You, see in Greek (and other languages) one word can have many meanings, depending on its context. In this case the word “Judgment” in Greek is κρίση (krísi). κρίση also is a word which is also used for “crisis”. Judgement and Crisis are both the same word in Greek. This made me wonder why this was the case.
The other day when I was looking at the cover of a Greek newspaper there was an article from the BBC on what The ancient Greeks would do with the Greek economic crisis. Again I saw the word κρίση and remembered it also means Judgment. I asked my uncle, why did κρίση both mean Judgement and Crisis. He told me that it is in the time of crisis that judgment(s) need to be made. They go together. This is a perfect example of how language expresses different ideas and views through the use of the words.
We can take this and then apply it to the Judgement card and would easily call it “The Crisis” card. But what does crisis mean? We normally see crisis as a bad thing, something bad is happening, things are going crazy. That would be the case as with a political view on the word, it representing an unstable situation. However the underlining meaning of the word is that crisis is a crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point. Psychologically, crisis is a traumatic or stressful change in a person’s life. In a drama, crisis is a point at which a conflict reaches a peak before being resolved.
Taking this let us apply it to the Judgment in Tarot. I can see a connection between the concepts of crisis with the cards meaning of “hearing the call”, or “answering a call”. In many of the depicts of Judgment we have an angel blaring a horn as the dead awaken, hearing the horn. This often means that you are being called to do something, something more important or of great meaning. Judgment also indicates changes, coming to a crossroads in your life. This experience is not always a pleasant one. Much like how I described the word crisis in psychological terms as being a traumatic or stressful change, Judgment can manifest as a stressful event, a stressful choice or change. Judgment is the point where conflict reaches its peak before being resolved. The resolution of the conflict is then depicted with The World which shows completion and accomplishment.
As we have seen, language can be a powerful tool for how we view the meanings of the cards.
Gasp! Death, The Devil, The Tower…. OMG The 9 of Swords and gosh the 10 of Swords! What horror are the so called “bad cards” of the tarot. Normally these cards make some readers uneasy and the clients on the other side of the table a little on edge. Who wouldn’t? These cards are bold, in your face, they represent the things in life we rather avoid and not deal with. Death, change, addictions, anxiety, worry, downfall and all sorts of nasties. However it is these “bad” cards which are more easy to understand and relate to at least for myself.
In my opinion people experience more pain than pleasure in life. We are always seeking happiness and pleasure because we are in a state of pain or at the least discomfort. The Buddha said life is “dukkha” which often translates as “suffering”. However “dukkha” can mean many things and suffering is just one possible meaning. But at the core life is challenging, it is in flux, going up and down. It is the times of pain and trauma I feel which have the largest impact on us. A silly example would be Batman, Bruce Wayne would never have become Batman if his parents would never killed. So it is the tough cards in the tarot which seem to be more real to me, easier to connect with and understand. Take the 9 of Swords, this is the anxiety/stress card. The Anxiety Disorders Association of American says that “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).”
Women are twice as likely to be affected from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and Post traumatic Stress Disorder. So seeing a woman in the 9 of Swords makes a lot of sense. If you look at the troubling swords (6,8,9) there are woman in them which may signify a anxiety issue or another psychological problem. So as I said 40 million adults are affected, children are also affected by anxiety, “About 13 out of every 100 children and adolescents ages 9 to 17 experiencing some kind of anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.”
Because of the high levels of anxiety that people experience it makes the 9 of Swords so relatable. It is so easy to understand that card and feel the pain of the woman in the card.
Backtracking a little into the Major Arcana, Death is a card which I like because like I said it is clear, death means something is ending. Done over and finished. Death is a name that everyone understands because it is the ultimate fate of us all [shudder] and for that reason we connect to the concept so very easy. Everyone comes into contact with death sooner or later. I came into contact early with death with grandparents and my own father. I understand what death was at a early age (about 6 or 7). Over 150,000 people die every day.
The Devil well this is a card many people think they know based off the title but they will be wrong, this card has nothing to do with the Biblical devil. When I look at this card I see bondage and attachments such as addictions (of many kinds). You can look at the Devil as drug and alcohol abuse. There are countless people who are addicted to drugs both legal and illegal. There are adults alcoholics and in teenagers there is binge drinking. Addictions come in other fashions like material attachments to shopping (like myself) or attachment to someone in a bad relationship. So again we see here that the concepts of The Devil are almost universal to everyone and easy to understand and relate to.
The Tower is yet another so called “bad” card which is so easy to relate to. This is the card which signals that things are going to fall apart. Things will change and not as you expect. Things are sudden out of the blue that rock your world and pull the rug out from under your feet. We all experienced this. Our current economic crisis would be a perfect example of The Tower. People purchased homes with mortgages that really could not afford which lead to large scale forecloses. To get an idea how large of a problem this is you can compare the foreclosure rates of 2000 which was 470,000 to 2011 which was 3,920,418.
The 5 of Pentacles can come in here as well and related to this to. We can look at natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina which killed At least 1,836 people and the total property damage was estimated at $81 billion. On the small scale we can relate to the Tower when we get a flat tier, the roof starts leaking, the boiler breaks and your computer hard drive crashes. Sudden out of the blue problems which just ruin things. We all experience things like that.
In the end what I want to stress is that life is filled with many experiences, good and bad. As tarot readers we need to be realistic and live on earth where shit happens. Pain is real, my pain your pain your client’s pain. It is alive and real. We cannot have our heads in the clouds and makes all the cards chocolate covered bunnies. We need to understand the realities people go through, the drama, pain, suffering and valid it. If we ignore it exist will not make it simply go away and it does not help the client. As tarot readers we however can redirect the energy of the client into a path that can solve the issue and bring change. I would also like to say that yes, the cards have many interpretations and they don’t always go to such extremes like the ones I pointed out, I am just making a point.
What is Tarot is much like asking what is meaning of life. Everyone has an opinion but no one is really correct. It is open to endless hours of debate, theory, philosophy and the like. We could talk about it’s historical history or talk about its mythos. We can speak of its countless connections to spiritual attributions in astrology, numerology, Kabbalah, alchemy, hermetism and magick. Things things however are not what tarot is. It is justa few parts of the whole picture. Tarot is much more than the sum of it’s parts.
If you asked “what is tarot?” my simple response would be, Tarot is a divinatory system of 78 cards. These 78 cards hold within the wide rainbow of human experiences and expressions via archetypes and symbols. They are used however you like, with the endless list of possibilities, the tarot is open to your imagination. Tarot is not made of magick, but the experience of tarot is. Everything else is commentary.
The 7 of Cups
- Imagination, fantasy and illusions
Things are detached from reality, you are not seeing things objectively but via a subjective emotional view. You escape reality and enter a alternate world.
- Opportunities and choices
You are faced with many choices, paths to take, options and opportunities which you have difficulty deciding over.
- Wishful thinking
You are not looking at the facts of the matter but rather wishing and hoping for the best.
Giving into your fantasy and living a lie. Illusions become delusions. Giving into temptations. Possible drug abuse as a means to escaping reality.
Messages of the 7 of Cups
Look at things realistically when deciding and making choices. Don’t let your imagination run wild with “what if”. Come down from the clouds and see things for what they really are.
Use your imagination and visions as a means to create what it is you desire.
Be careful of becoming lazy and indulging in pleasurable pastimes as that will hinder your development.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a great collaborative work called Tarot Turn started by Marcus Katz (Tarot Professionals & Tarot-Town.com). Tarot Turn is a comprehensive book on tarot reversals. Those who are a part of the project were given a tarot card which you need to pair with the remaining 77 cards of the deck and form an interoperation. I was given the 2 of Cups Reversed (and someone else was given the 2 of Cups upright) paired with all reversed cards. The project was amazing to do and a good exercise in reversals. With reversals on my mind I wanted to write this blog on reversed cards and share the popular views and my three main ways to read a reversed card.
Oh reversed tarot cards! This is one subject that can get tarot readers all fired up. Should we use reversals? Whats the point of them? Are they useful? If I don’t use them am I less of a reader as someone who does use them? There are two schools of thought when it comes to reversed cards.
This camp believes reversed cards are useful and should be used or that it would be good for readers to use them. The normal idea is that reversed cards add another layer of meaning and another level of experience with the cards. Reversed cards can indicate something that needs special attention. Something that should jump up and go “HEY LOOK! I AM REVERSED, SOMETHING IS UP. GO FIGURE IT OUT!!” As Mary K Greer explains in her book “Tarot Reversals” a reversed tarot card is a “red flag”. This side of the argument would say the reversed cards are act as the missing pieces to the puzzle. Reversed cards give more info and details to the reading that an upright card might not be able to express or represent in the same way. Ok this seems all good, what about the other side?
This camp believes that reversed card are not necessary. All possible meanings positive or negative can be expressed by an combination of upright cards. It is also believed that reversed cards just add more meanings to remember. Let’s say you can remember 3 things about each card. With 78 cards in the deck that would be 234 meanings for upright cards only. Adding reversals gives a total of 468 meanings. This argument concludes that adding reversals only adds more to remember and is an overload of information to remember. Readers who read with upright cards only have there own system of indicating trouble spots that a reversed card does. Instead of reversed cards, a card when near a card that is elementally incompatible will make the card ill-dignified. I currently do not look at the elements (at least no consciously lol) when determining when a card is ill-dignified. I look at the image of the card. For example, The Sun will override all negative cards. So The Sun next to the 9 of Swords would signal that the “Light will shine through the sorrow and grief”.
Does it make you a better reader?
Personally I do not think using reversals makes you a “better reader”. What makes a good reader is not in the position of a card but how the reader uses what is laid out to the fullist extent. This can be done with or without reversals. It comes down to personal preference and what you feel is right for you. If you are going to use reversals you are going to need to determine how you will read a reversed card.
How to read a reversal
There as many ways to read a reversals as you have fingers on your hand. In my book “Tarot: Unlocking The Arcana” I list 8 ways to look at a reversed card which I feel are useful. However in this blog I will share with you the 3 ways that I personally connect with and use in my understanding of reversals (if and when I use them) and for ill-dignified cards. I use all three of these methods as possible expressions and I need to figure out which is being expressed when I see a card is ill-dignified or reversed.
THREE WAYS TO READ A REVERSAL
1) Opposite – This would be opposite of the upright meaning. This would make “negative” cards lean towards a “positive” meaning and the same vice versa. Example: 9 of Swords. Would go from worry and grief into healing.
2) Extreme – This would take the energy of the card and show it’s most extreme level. Example: 4 of Pentacles. Would go from material protection and saving into hording and greed.
3) Blocked/Weak – This would take the energy of the card and make it blocked/hard to obtain. The normal upright meaning still applies but at a lower influence. Example: 8 of Pentacles. You work hard but are having trouble focusing and details are overlooked.
Where do you stand?
Now that all the information and opinions have been provided where do you stand? Which do you choose? Reversed or Upright? The answer is not the simple and you can always bounce around between using and not using reversals. I have bounced back and forth between using reversals and not using them. Currently I have not been using reversals (for a long time now). However I can always use them if I wanted to. I like to keep thing simple and use only upright cards. I recommend that you play around with reversals, see if you like using them. Figure out which method of expression fits you best and go with it. If you don’t want to use them that totally fine.
The progression of enlightenment, is the process in which the soul journeys through life seeking enlightenment by increasing the level of it’s consciousness. This process is reflected in the tarot from The Tower all the way to The World.
Before we begin we need to take a step back and look at The Devil. The Devil card is the card before the progression of enlightenment. The Devil is reflective of ignorance, which is the opposite of enlightenment. The card is dark, the background is black, the two figures are changes to a devil creature. This card is a card of addictions, being chained to something, we are ignorant of the influences at work here.The Devil is the lowest and darkest level of consciousness in all the cards. It is where Ego rules over us.
After The Devil the cards reflect an increasing level of consciousness. The main symbol which reflects this increasing of consciousness is the increasing of light in the cards. The Devil was pure darkness. And each following card light is increased little by little.
The Tower is the first card in the PoE, the striking of lightning is the spark that brings attention to our ignorance. In The Tower two figures are following from a tower being stuck my lightning. This represents the first flash of awareness. It is hard to realize that our ignorance and ego have clouded our thinking.It is an abrupt change and shift in energy that we see the results as destructive. However we are physically fine, it is our ego with is being destroyed.
The Star comes after The Tower and here the light of the stars shine down on a naked woman. The experience of The Tower has shaken us deeply that we have become “naked” or exposed. The stars brings us light to see in the night. They are faint but they allow us to know where we are and how to travel. Stars where used my sailors to travel safely. The Star is about guidance and guiding our direction. Our consciousness has moved from egocentric to having an awareness of a higher power/guiding force to life.
The Moon follows at The Star and here the light of the Moon is brighter than the stars. Darkness fades more and light is having a stronger impact. The Moon does not create its own light but reflects the light of the Sun. For whatever The Sun represents The Moon reflects the opposite. Here we see the influence of the sub-conscious, our intuition, creative expressions and our dreams. The Moon lights up the night but there is still darkness and you still cannot see things clearly and logically. Fear still comes up, your mind plays games with you. Here our consciousness focuses on our intuition and feelings. Subjective experiences. Connection to our dreams is important.
The Sun follows The Moon and here the light over comes the dark. The light of The Sun banishes darkness (ignorance/ego) and we see things clearly and logically. The Sun symbolizes enlightenment, however not at the highest level. The Sun is at a human level of intellectual enlightenment. Our consciousness here is focused on facts, and objective knowledge. However this is not enough, the soul needs spirtual enlightenment.
Judgment represents the soul’s awakening to a spiritual truth and spirtual enlightenment. The source of light here is the Angel Gabriel, which shows that the source of light is of divine origins. The souls purpose and path becomes known here in Judgment. However still here Judgment is not the highest level of consciousness. Judgment represents a personal revelation and thus personal enlightenment to ones purpose and calling. The Level of consciousness here is focused on personal revelation and understanding your purpose, becoming enlightened to a truth about yourself not known before. It is here your consciousness finds its spiritual identify.
The World follows Judgment and it is here at the end of the Major Arcana we see the highest level of consciousness. Here in The World we become truly connected with the divine. The World represents the Anima Mundi, the World Soul. In Kabbalah, the physical world we live in is called the 1%, while the realm of God (The Light) is the 99%. The 99% represents true reality, it is the source of everlasting fulfillment, joy, wisdom and perfection. Our level of consciousness has transcend the physical world and we have joined our consciousness with the consciousness of God/Divine/The Light.