Tarot’s Death Card & the Season of Scorpio

Posted by – October 29, 2019
Categories: Guest Post Metaphysics & Unexplained Phenomena

The sun entered Scorpio this year on October 23rd and will stay there until November 22nd. Like the rays of light peeking over the twin pillars in the tarot Death card, the season of Scorpio is when those of the underworld and otherworld can peek through the veil into the realm of the living. Altogether, these are the days of the tarot Death card, a card that allegorizes Life as much as it does Death.

Key 13: Death (Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot)
Key 13: Death (Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot)

As Israel Regardie noted, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn interpreted the 22 cards of the Major Arcana in tarot through the Kabbalistic attributions of the Sepher Yetzirah. Under that framework, Key 13: Death corresponded to the Hebrew letter “nun” (נ), one of the twelve Simple Letters, which are assigned to the twelve astrological zodiac signs. The eighth Simple Letter corresponded with the eighth zodiac sign, Scorpio, the sign of the Death card.

The Death card in tarot is provocative. You do not get the card in a reading and not react. Scorpio is the sign of death and transformation, of cessation and cycle. Yet Scorpio is also the sign of sex and sexuality, which creates life. Regardie noted that the Scorpio influence over the Death card manifests Apep, the Egyptian Lord of Chaos.

In the wake of the white steed’s path, the king is dead, his crown and scepter trampled on. It is the bishop in gold, the same yellow gold of the sun, who reconciles Life with Death through Spirit. The Death card appears in a tarot reading to convey a message from beyond, utilizing the gate between worlds that Scorpio leaves open. Spirit only goes out of its way to contact us when there is a purpose to be served. That is the hope and renewal of life that shines through in the Death card: the call from Spirit toward a higher purpose. And yet through that same gate, the Lord of Chaos comes. To accept the first, you must accept the other. Chaos triggers fear and uncertainty, which is why the passage from death to life, from cessation to new beginning is a daunting one. The call to action of the Death card is the awakening of the shaman.

Halloween, which happens to fall within the season of Scorpio, is a time when those among us most full of life—our children—wander the neighborhood as ghosts and supernatural creatures, a playful reminder of the thinning veil between the realms of the living and the undead. It is the time of Samhain, a holiday celebrated in many pagan traditions, when requiems and services for the dead are held. And yet it is also a celebration of a New Year. Samhain is winter setting in, and it is also about life.

The Hanged Man, Death, and Temperance in the Rider-Waite-Smith
The Hanged Man, Death, and Temperance in the Rider-Waite-Smith

At October’s end, ancestral Celtic pagans would slaughter the cattle and sheep deemed too weak to survive through the winter, and their meats were preserved to feed the families. The slaughtered animals were honored with ceremony, and death was venerated for its role in preserving life. That is the story of the Death card. Key 12 in tarot, preceding Death, is The Hanged Man, the card of sacrifice, but a sacrifice that yields to a higher purpose. In the Death card, cessation gives way to transformation, which allows your passage from the lower to the higher, to ascend to that higher purpose Spirit has called upon you to serve. That is when and why the Death card appears in your reading. Note how the theme of life streaming from lower to higher recurs in the next card of the Major Arcana, Key 14: Temperance.

The Tarot de Marseille by Yoav Ben-Dov Based on the Nicholas Conver, 1760 Tarots
The Tarot de Marseille by Yoav Ben-Dov, based on the Nicholas Conver, 1760 Tarots

By some historic accounts, Samhain was named for the Lord of Death, Samana, or the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper was the leader among ghosts. Samhain and this time of the year when a seasonal chill sets in is the time for introspection and family. Likewise, when the Death card appears in your tarot reading, the message is about preserving life as much as it is about the end of a passing milestone. The Death card, like Samhain, is about introspection, and the card’s elemental association to Water is about home and hearth, the emotional plane that Water governs.

The Death card is a rebuttal to existentialist thought. The grim reaper coming for you lets you know that you are not as self-determining as you believed. There are essences in this universe that you do not get to define. Those who the tarot Death card speaks to are the psychics, intuitives, mediums, shamans, and healers of our world. They are the living ones called by the dead to serve a higher purpose. Their spiritual paths are not self-determined, but compelled.

This season of Scorpio, observe what you might not have been observant of before—that light rising up between the pillars. See the spirits peeking through the veil. It is an optimal time for tarot divination. Honor family, both living and dead, and be open to communion with them. If you are receptive to the rising light, yielding and yet fearless in the face of Chaos, then that direction you need most will come.

 

Bibliography

Tags: Benebell Wen Tarot & Divination

About the Author

Benebell Wen is a practitioner of various metaphysical arts. She studies tarot, feng shui, the I Ching, numerology, and both Chinese and Hellenisic astrology. Wen is the author of Holistic Tarot and The Tao of Craft. When not lecturing, teaching, or writing on metaphysics, Wen practices law in California and New York. She is of Taiwanese descent and currently lives in Northern California with her husband, James, and their beloved cat.