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Join Date: 26 Aug 2002
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The Maat Study Group: Death


Death, Full Moon Cycle of Taurus

We’re moving now into another lunar cycle, that of Taurus, the Bull. (Actually, we may be a little late, but we can catch up.) On the diagram in the introduction of the Maat Tarot book, this means moving from the outer circle of the weeks to the middle one of the months. And, before the cycle ends, we will move to the rim of the inmost circle for Halloween, or Hallows Eve.

Following the natural cycle, we are moving into a time of shorter days and longer nights as well as different weather. Over much of the northern hemisphere, waves of cold air descend from the pole. Fruits, vegetables and grain have mostly been harvested, and people await the season of frost to begin harvesting animals. So, it is a month appropriate to the Harvester (aka The Grim Reaper) and to the Cross Quarter day of Samhain, or Halloween which occurs half-way through it. (This day marks the death of the present year according to many pagan traditions.) Therefore, we find Death as the ruling card for this lunar month.

Certainly one of the most striking features of the Maat’s Death card is the color--not black predominately, but red—blood red. Arresting! Ambiguous! Present in quantity at both birth and death. In fact, ambiguity is the theme of this arcana.

The prominent figure in the scene is named “The Mourning Goddess,” but she bears the symbols of Cybele (the drum beating the tempo of life, the blood and water issuing from a vulva or perhaps a womb), so one might assume there is a relationship. Cybele is certainly a goddess of parts. On the one hand, she was Sanctissima, the most holy, and Alma, the nourishing one, and Augusta, great. During her feast day processions, the streets were covered with rose petals—like snow, one contemporary said. On the other hand, her worship included a fair amount of blood: her priests were known to castrate themselves as the supreme gesture of self-sacrifice. Her consort was Attis, represented by a pine tree, who was the first to undergo such mutilation, and he died from it. However, he arose reborn in three days by her power.

In front of Cybele stands a shield with a representation of Hathor, the ancient Egyptian cow goddess. Hathor was the primary mother goddess for thousands of years until Isis took her place. Although especially concerned with the dead, she was all good things: the scyamore fig, the vault of heaven, and the gate of easeful death. Her avatars (cows) nourished the living, and she, herself nourished the newly dead with her own milk. The moon died and was reborn between her horns.

The chamber in which the Mourning Goddess is seated deserves a few words. It is a partial depiction of a room (speculated to be a birthing room) in the ruins of a neolithic shrine. This settlement is called Catal Huyuk.

In addition to bull heads, one of the rooms of this shrine (the funerary room, I think) had breasts decorating its walls. These breasts were apparently venerated; archeologists found handprints on them. And, in each of these breasts the head of a scavanger was embedded--a vulture or a fox head.

In the clearest manner possible, this sculpture says, “the dead feed you.”

It’s something to think about. We are accustomed to thinking of death as a matter affecting only humans. But if we are to live, other things must die. In the harvest season, we might acknowledge this fact with reverence and gratitude.
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