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Tarot of Prague Café Club. Death... and Death!

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Tarot of Prague Café Club. Death... and Death!


One of the interesting features of the ToP is the two versions of Death; I remember discussions on AT a while ago comparing and contrasting the two and asking whether people left one out, and if so which one. Personally I leave both of them in - they haven't turned up in tandem yet, not sure what exactly I'd say if they did!
One Death is on horseback, kitted out in ghostly armour and carrying a black flag. His horse doesn't look real though, and is by no means a majestic steed, it's a wooden horse with a synthetic-looking mane (a nod as in the Ten of Wands perhaps to the long tradition of puppetry in Prague). Just beyond the grim rider are rocks with demonic faces carved into them, or appearing out of them and behind those again is a backdrop with the more traditional skeleton and his scythe and hourglass leaning against a wintry tree. A design of geometry and numbers seems to hint at the fixed allotted span of a life, and makes me think of the phrase 'when you're number's up you go'. This Death card has a rather knightly, legendary look to it, and feels a bit more removed from reality, like when Death in fairy stories comes to bad people, while the good live on happy ever after.
The other Death card is another kettle of fish altogether. This one makes me shudder. Death is a supine skeleton in the foreground with an odious grinning skull head. His relaxed pose makes me think of Roman emperors reclining on their couches and it looks as if he's lying back watching the pain of the humans massed in front of him, and enjoying it all a little too much. The distant background is the same as the backdrop on the first Death card, but it's pushed farther away by the huddle of figures that fills the middle distance of the card. Painted in murky shades their faces show a gamut of emotions ranging from puzzled to melancholy, perturbed and pleading. Many show outright distress. Skulls and corpses are mixed in among them so that it's hard, in some cases, to tell the living from the dead. It's clear that those who aren't ill or dead are suffering the the agony of bereavement. The book tells us that this card is in the tradition of baroque Memento Mori paintings, and it certainly is a graphic reminder of the inescapable influence of Death on human life.
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Death - where is thy sting?


It is interesting that no-one has responded to this post.

I don’t have the book to the Tarot of Prague and had forgotten there are two Death cards. Don’t recall ever having had one come up in a reading with this deck. Both Death cards in this deck are fairly grim but I agree with Bean Feasa that one is perhaps more horrific than the other.

I guess most representations of Death in Tarot reflect the Tarot’s mediaeval or renaissance roots but one day I’d like to see a Death card that does not seem so grim. Death is about transformation and eternal life. Apparently the Hebrew letter mem which is attributed to Death also means female, mastery, movement, transformation procreative power, multiplicity, eternal life through resurrection and death. (Irene Gad: Tarot and Individuation ) The symbol of mem can also mean water which flows through empty spaces – something which water seems to do anyway so there is nothing unusual about that.

The Tarot of Prague images of Death probably reflect the feelings, fears and values of the times – when Prague was being built over centuries of course, and now. One thing I am going to do when I have time is to look all over for positive depictions of Death. I am sure there must have been some at some stage in history or would it be completely out of the bounds of poetic licence to take some of the paintings of Genesis to represent Death as rebirth.? Perhaps I am displaying my ignorance of art.

Is this where we get to projective identification again ? Even looking at these images in the most positive light, they do reflect traditionally Christian perspectives about judgment. If one could see the Knight in one image passing through the ghoulish figures, protected by his armor and the poor old bereft skeleton thumbing his nose at his visions of absolute horror, they are still pretty grim cards. both images are set in the same space. The "separation" from life and loved ones aspect of death does not seem to be represented. It is a frustrating reflection of a particular set of values. RWS is similar, and in some ways one of these images reminds me of RWS.

It is interesting to look at these images and reflect on what Death means personally. For each of us this will be different. I had a car accident two years ago in which I could quite easily have been killed. It made me realize how prosaic and ordinary death can be. There were a few minutes in which I lost consciousness and then recovered. In those few minutes I could well have died if I had been thrown out of the vehicle onto the road. I had just gotten into a taxi on a wet night and had not put my seat belt on. I was knocked unconscious by my umbrella hitting me between the eyes causing me to rebound into the side panel and then bounce into the front seat! I remember a vague feeling of surprise when I came out of the unconsciousness and aware of the unearthly silence, and then the unbearable noise and shouts of distress. The rest of the story does not really matter but I have not forgotten how ordinary everything was. I felt no fear. Simply a peaceful feeling. Half a life time ago at 25 I had a minor stroke as a consequence of a serious migraine and I remember the same kind of peace and alertness to something different then. These and other experiences tend to make me feel that life’s own experiences can be worse than Death itself.

I wonder if future Christian deck creators might be inspired to represent Death in less grim a fashion and whether there is art which reflects this? Every deck based on Christian values that I have seen has Death represented quite grimly. Some of the non-Christian decks are not so far away from this either. One Pagan deck, Tarot of the Old Path, calls Death the Close and has a shrouded skeleton next to a new born babe. Ancestral Path, also a non-Christian deck has a child discovering an ancestor’s skull in a burial ground.

A fascinating two cards – and how interesting that the discussion died after the first post....... or the last post .
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Re: Tarot of Prague Café Club. Death... and Death!


Quote:
Originally posted by Bean Feasa
One of the interesting features of the ToP is the two versions of Death
One Death is on horseback, kitted out in ghostly armour and carrying a black flag. His horse doesn't look real though, and is by no means a majestic steed, it's a wooden horse with a synthetic-looking mane (a nod as in the Ten of Wands perhaps to the long tradition of puppetry in Prague). Just beyond the grim rider are rocks with demonic faces carved into them, or appearing out of them and behind those again is a backdrop with the more traditional skeleton and his scythe and hourglass leaning against a wintry tree. A design of geometry and numbers seems to hint at the fixed allotted span of a life, and makes me think of the phrase 'when you're number's up you go'. This Death card has a rather knightly, legendary look to it, and feels a bit more removed from reality, like when Death in fairy stories comes to bad people, while the good live on happy ever after
Incidentally, I chose to pick one card from this lovely deck today, and I got the above version of the Death card.

In the book this card is the much more jolly styled in slightly tongue-in-cheek gothic mode, with Death and his horse represented by wooden puppets lurching across a craggy landscape full of wooden figures.

Although I am usually taken back by this card at first I know that it bears a larger than life interpretation.

A new phase in life is about to be launched regardless of any inconvenience or resistance. Life just goes on. So, I guess it is time to move on with courage and zest.

You can view This card here.
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A quick addition for now. We spent a long time wondering which of the two Death cards to take out for the reprint. Alex preferred the card with the horse, I preferred the card based on St Mikulas (Nicholas) Church. One powerful association I have with those images is the fact that this was the only place in which there was a real memorial service for Mozart at the time of his death - Praguers tended to be very fond of Mozart, and this may have taken place partly underneath these incredible paintings. That adds a whole layer for me.

http://www.lennontask.com/FEvents/Mozart.html
(oddly the pages are also about Lennon, who of course is much loved here and commemorated famously in the "John Lennon" wall).
http://www.mozartproject.org/

Anyway, we put a post here and most people - in fact the large majority - preferred the "St Nicholas" image (edited to correct, sorry St Michael's church in Vienna was also in my thoughts - first place Mozart's "requiem" was performed). I think in a way it "tells it like it is" - that death is all around us and is a part of life, that some people fear it, but others don't. Oddly enough we've become much more reticent to see this in modern times - hundreds of years ago people seemed more able to acknowledge death and even to smile or laugh at it in some ways. Mozart himself said:"Death is not a terrible vision but a friend"

So, in the new reprint the "horseman" Death is replaced by a new "Prudence" card (something we have had in mind for a while). By the way - Alex is happy with the decision - and he has his own copies of the "horseman" card, which graphically he likes very much.
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Thank you for this explanation and for the very moving story of Mozart. I did not know of the association of the Requiem with September 11.

The location of the image in the cathedral which held the memorial to Mozart is also beautiful.

Lookiing at this image again the skeleton is almost looking with style and nonchalance at the ghostly figures above him, as if perhaps to say that the fears themselves may not be so terrible as imagined.

I think I may need to buy the book to the Tarot of Prague because I believe it gives details of the physical locations of each card which seem to essential to understanding.
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First of all, I want to mention that I really enjoyed reading Bean Feasa's initial post...I like the way you described both cards in such detail, and you captured the mood of each card so well. Normally, I do not read other posts before writing my own, because I do not want to be influenced by others, but in this case I did....I was really curious about how other people viewed the two Death cards.

I have the first edition Prague set, and I am glad I have it since the newer edition only has one Death card (although I may end up with both editions, so I can use the Prudence card). While I can appreciate both versions of Death, I would agree with the majority who chose the St. Nicholas version as their favorite. It just seems more "real" to me....seeing the haunted facial expressions of these people really affected me on a deeper level than the "Death Rider" version. BTW I only use the St. Nicholas card for my readings, the other one is left out with the title card. I can only imagine how a querent might react if they had two Death cards in their reading, LOL!!!

Luna
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Yay, I'm glad that Death got 'resurrected'!
Thanks Moongold, Feebie, baba and Luna
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I'm not sure that I should tell this story, but I will. My sister recently complained to me that a friend (a tarot beginner) did a reading for her with Tarot of Prague and that she (my sister) was not very happy with it. "I got BOTH Death cards" - she said!

I did feel quite bad - even though we both saw the funny side of it when I explained to her that only one should be chosen for use. Oh well - my fault for not being more clear to her about it. One forgets sometimes that many people are complete beginners and can't be expected to just know these things.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moongold
Both Death cards in this deck are fairly grim but I agree with Bean Feasa that one is perhaps more horrific than the other.

I guess most representations of Death in Tarot reflect the Tarot’s mediaeval or renaissance roots but one day I’d like to see a Death card that does not seem so grim. Death is about transformation and eternal life.
You know, I agree with you, but at the same time I think that you're right to say that in this period most depictions of Death were far from positive. However, at the same time they were also sometimes oddly humorous and accepting. The whole idea of Death walking among us all the time - whatever our station in life - is much more open in these older depictions in contrast to our current attitude - in which death is often a taboo subject.

The Chapel of Death from which the more baroque of these cards was taken is a very powerful place. I find it interesting - and somewhat significant - that many modern visitors seem to walk around St Nicholas without even noticing this chapel (which is LARGE). I wonder if they don't see it because they don't choose to?

It was a very deliberate choice to make our Death cards quite harsh and to the point, but also beautiful rather than ugly - there is beauty in the fundamental change that this card stands for, even when it's difficult.

For my own taste the "Rider" card is a little too comic or pantomime like (in a rather surreal sense) and that's why I was very much in favour of keeping the more baroque card, which I think says a lot more about Prague also. Prague does have a grim side - it's seen much death as well as much beauty - and we didn't want to disguise that. Having said that, the baroque card also has a weird and wicked kind of humour - the skeleton at the base of the card grins in delight as he wonders where to aim his arrow next. There is something almost blackly humorous in this - very typical of the time.

By the way - just an aside. I think we've only ever ONCE been asked to make a print of one of these cards - but perhaps that is hardly surprising?
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I like the idea to have two death card to choose from. But for his deck, I find it hard to choose one. Both have it's merit. But I view the death card as a shaking call. I wonder how we can softer this card.
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