Deirdre of the Sorrows - 13 - Death


Once again we find different characters on this card. I think most of us associate this card not with physical death itself, but with the letting go of old habits or lifestyles. It can often indicate a key change in a person’s path whereby there is often no going back. Whether this is embraced or feared is down to the querant, and in this card we do see both aspects being portrayed.

Obviously the main character in the card. He appears to be wearing quite a threatening looking mask and is wielding his scythe in his right hand. There are three skulls across the breastplate area of his outfit. They could be actual skulls or they could illustrations. All of them seem to have the common theme of having some sort of damage to them, and in one case we see what could possibly be red horns projecting from splintered bone plates.
So what can we gleam from this mask? Does it make you a little frightened or uneasy? If so, why is this? Is it indicative that Death is an unknown quantity, but something that a lot of people have a deep-rooted fear of? Does it support the fact we are often afraid of something we cannot see, i.e. future change?
The raised scythe could indicate something is about to be cut through. Is there something you know you need to cut away in order to allow change to take place? Or is there something negative or detrimental you are holding onto, even though you know deep down it is halting progress? If the scythe is used, have no misunderstandings – whatever is in its way will be dealt with or dismissed, so prepare to move on. The Death character will not take time out to listen to the “Yes but” concerns or arguments. He has a job to do, and he will make sure he carries out that task. It is then down to each of us to decide how we then approach the subsequent changes that will have occurred following this action.

To the right of the card we see a man dressed in holy garb. He is standing some way away from Death, so it could indicate the change that is about to occur may not affect him directly. Is this why he is not looking at all afraid? Or does his teachings allow him to have a belief that something good can follow the action of this card? If this is the case, he will be prepared to accept any change and follow it with good grace. Alternatively, could he be there as a support to one of the other characters who may be the target of Death in this case? Will he be able to offer some spiritual guidance and understanding to make their period of transition that bit easier to experience?

This is the character who appears most afraid of Death’s presence. She is seen trying to run away, but that may be futile – she is on foot whereas Death is on horseback. Surely she must understand he will be able to keep up, therefore there is no real escape. If you associate with this woman, what is it you are trying to avoid and why? Is the fear a genuine one, or one borne out of lack of self-belief in being able to deal with change?
The woman is dressed in a plain dress with her arms and chest unclad. I believe this does support the fact she does feel vulnerable and exposed.

Oh how I do rue the fact we lose this sense of innocence as we age. Children go through phases for sure. On one hand they are afraid of the imaginary Bogeyman under the bed, or a character from Dr Who. Then, as they grow just a little older, it appears as if nothing fazes them at all. Our child is at that stage. He is looking intently at the horse carrying Death, and appears to be quite mesmerised. Why does he not fear Death in the same way we do as adults? Is it because he is not developed enough to fear anything? Or does he appreciate the mask being worn is simply just that – a mask and therefore not real?

The background shows a sun which is either setting or rising on the horizon. Either way this will definitely show change is at hand. If it is setting, you may need to accept something is ending. If it is rising, then something new is in the offering. We do not fear the change indicated by the turn of a new day. Maybe you need to view the change you are currently experiencing/about to experience in the same way. See the sun as projecting a bright and vibrant energy.

In ancient Greek burials and, indeed to this day, it was traditional to put coins on the eyelids or in the mouth of the deceased to 'pay the ferryman' (Charon) - the expression is still used today as indeed is the practise. Therefore when this card appears in a reading it could mean that there is a debt outstanding. This debt could be money as representing by the gold on the death mask of the figure on the horse and the silver ribbons on the woman's dress. Or it could be a favour which will never be returned or a spiritual debt which has to be paid as represented by the bishop.