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The Maat Study Group: Death

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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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There is a lot of red in the card. It's not really a color that I associate with death, except for violent death.

Personnally, I find that death is sanitized and related with the hospital. It is no longer as a few generation ago.
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Red associations


Yes, we ordinarily associate red with passion or violence. In any case, it's a color that certainly draws the eye--especially blood-red. I expect we're hardwired to notice that color: that alone is a good reason to use it.

I probably should point out that the birthing chamber in the shine at Catal Huyuk was painted red or the walls were, at least. I believe that the floor was also red, but in addition it was burnished, perhaps by fire.

So, several considerations apparently determined the color scheme for the Maat Death arcana. One was certainly archeological accuracy.

Beyond that, I confess to speculation. That shade of red is very close to the color of blood. Traditionally, folk associated blood with life. Blood contained in a body signifies life and health, but blood outside the body signifies a person in real trouble. And a lot of blood--especially on walls and floors--tells a tale of death.

So paradoxically the color of life can indicate death. And vice-versa, obviously, if Death's color is that of blood.

The theme of this lunar cycle is, according to Julie Cuccia-Watts, immortality. A question to consider: does the use of red rather than black for Death advance her theme?
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Faces in the veil


One thing I haven’t mentioned (I was waiting to see if someone wanted to bring it up) was the emergence of faces from the red wall behind the mourning goddess. Two are obviously infants, but there are other, older faces behind them. The same type of figures appear on the next card, Judgment, so it might be interesting to see if and how they change.

Not every pagan believes in reincarnation, but many do. And for those who do, Death is an event in a cycle. The mourning goddess beating the drum of life is a very apt symbol, IMO.
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Death and its trophies.

Death (Shaman) is sitting at table - stone, dolmen room and beating to her drum. With sounds of this drum she is CALLING ON souls of people (humans behind her shoulders) they could see, watch at fruits, products of her conduct, of her hunting. (Bulls heads look like war or hunting trophies on her wall).
Taurus - a land mark. All that came out of the land should return to the earth, to rot, to feed the roots of new plants.

There are two coloured lines on the drum - white and red. If old person dead Shaman shows White flag, if young person dead Shaman shows Red flag. It means that there are all equal, mortal in the face of the Death - young and old. She does not choose (we see faces old and young people).

Death, like any other grief, unites people, helps to change their attitudes to life, to change their life. If a man dies close to us, the money, fame and other benefits go to the last place and we begin to think about the spiritual, that may not forgiven .. Life takes on new meaning and new value.

There is sacrificial stone at Death feet. There is picture of human on it, made in the form of bulls head. And there is bulls head in right side of the card with human picture inside. There is transformation that refers us to old Shamanic rite of "sacrifice bull".
Due to this rite, the bull was the victim of sacrifice, he was hanged on "tree of life", and this victim could seek hostile spirit as compensation for the human, which he intended to devour. Shaman said that the bull is a ransom for «breathing» of ill human. It was a natural variant of the exchange - the body of the bull for the human soul.

There is a bulb, cup between rite bull head and sacrificial stone. I am not sure but it looks like karmic cup which is should be empty or to be filled. It is like channel through with blood of killed animal should flow ill human. Life at the cost of death.

So that in real life we should bury themselves in the animal instincts in order to elevate themselves spiritually.

At the same time Shamans with drum beating not only send dead people to upper or lower worlds but ask spirits for souls of unborn children. With each beat of drum old soul fly to upper world and new soul come instead of it on the earth. Shamans were responsible for life-death transformation which was to establish the natural balance of the earth.

Dolmens also served in old time like a place of all family events. People came to them in days of funerals and weddings to share their joy and sorrow with dead. May be this Death Goddess is calling on souls of dead ancestors (faces behind her shoulders) they could accept new dead soul to their ranks or celebrate the birth of the new soul.
They see rite while new animal was killed, sacrificed in order their spiritual genus chain will never be broken.

This room is red. All rites were around the fire. Red colour is the colour of fire, it is ife-asserting able to defeat death.
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Death card, Maat tarot IDS


Card/Number: Death/8

Card picture: attached

First Impression: This card represents death as a cycle, with no true beginning or end. The focus is not necessarily on death and bones, but rather on the emphasis of life and regeneration.

Card Description: The primary color of the card is a blood red. A priestess sits to the left, holding and beating a drum that is painted with an image of a uterus with white and red ochre flowing from it. She is journeying to the otherworld, the land of regeneration and the spirits she sees float above the drum. There are urns and bowls on the floor, bull's heads are mounted on the wall.

Masculine/Feminine/Neutral: Feminine

Colors: red, white and black

Senses: you can smell the incense in the air, burning throughout the room. You can hear the steady beat of the drum, as it matches your heartbeat. The warmth and humidity of the air rest on your skin.

Symbols: drum, uterus, red/white ochre, urns, bull's heads, spirits and the journeying priestess

Story (Intuitive): I am wrapped in a sanguine cloth tied around my chest. My measured cord is cinched around my waist, holding my shaman's pouch. My stave is in my right hand, the feathers and bones clinking softly. My yew wand is in my left hand, runes burning brightly along it's length. My neck is encircled with a bone and bead necklace, black and white, with the mother's rune resting above it. My head is covered in a black, red and white shawl, veiling my vision. My body is anointed with the oil of the dead. My lapland drum made of reindeer hide, painted with pictures of life/death, sits beside me. The scent of incense- frankincense, myrrh, mugwort and kyphi, fills the room. I sit, and beat my drum, matching the rhythm of my heartbeat. It starts out loud and fast, then begins to slow and soften, until it fades away into nothing. I am ready. I pass through.

I open my eyes and am now in the land of eternal autumn. Beside me stands my patron goddess. She quietly asks me, "What do you seek?". "To know death." is my response. She turns to face me now, that beautiful/horrible visage that I have grown to love. "You are already dead, my child. That IS the mystery. All that has been brought to you is what you wished for your afterlife. You simply sit within the continuum of your own death.". My mind tries to grapple with the weight of this mystery and fails. Why is it not easier, why not have more? "Is that what you truly want?" my heart asks. I close my eyes, turn off my mind and open my heart- and there find the truth. I see the continuum of my regeneration, my northern blood, my spiritual growth, the warrior in progress. Wisdom and understanding flood through my being. I AM dead, we are all in Death, we have been- from the moment of our birth/re-birth. We know Death, but hide from the truth- it is so overwhelming. But it is also freeing and now, I know. I can now sit with my ancestors, the bones of my past self, and gain wisdom and insight to all that I am, all that IS. I open my eyes, back in the temple. The full moon, the Blood Moon of October, is hidden by clouds- yet I feel it's presence through my window, my own woman's-flow moving with it's cycle. The weight of the journey lingers, mixed with the red wine that I had shared with the goddess earlier. I go outside, to sit in the presence of all, with my wolf-dog beside me, her eyes soft and knowing. I know now why I had to journey to understand Death. The temple, though open to us all, is only known by those who enter. Enter your temple, learn and feel Death, and in doing so, you will truly know Life.

Astrologic: full moon in Taurus, full moon cycle during Halloween, planetary ruler: Pluto

Element: Earth

Keywords: immortality, transformation, death

Meanings: promise of renewal, transformation, transmutation

Quote: "I have."
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WOW! That was awesome! I was right there with you!
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Thanks Julie- I always appreciate your feedback. This was one HECK of a powerful card!
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Death card


It's been a while since I painted this card (2004). Time marches on. I remember thinking that I simply wanted to illustrate the idea of sound and silence, life as sound and death as silence. I remembered witnessing a man die of a massive heart attack when I was in my early twenties and as I viewed his death it was as if death took over his body he wore the face of death as his heart exploded. When it was over there was nothing anyone could have done...the silence afterward filled the entire space for the rest of the day.
I chose the red to signify the blood of life and the promise of life and rebirth thru the female. The bull's heads were discovered to be symbols of a full womb. The drummer showing the cycle of silence and sound of fertility and infertility. The Full moon cycle of Taurus representing that full womb with the key phrase/"I have".
After the cards were all done the book was written and life moved on the Death painting had another story to tell.
I met a woman at Samhain the year the deck came out, I brought my large 3'x4' oil painting to the ritual as a backdrop for friends who were playing music for the celebration. The woman saw this painting and was shocked the baby in the painting looked just like the son she lost on Samhain 24 years previous. I didn't hear the story until months later when friends bought that painting for her and she came to pick it up. Since then this same woman has become quite a close friend. The paintings come thru but their messages have deeper meanings than my conscious mind can fathom. Over time the messages trickle in with deeper meanings. Some too personal to mention here. I am awed by the universe and vow to continue to serve the higher purpose of opening doors for myself and others.
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