The Death Card – Signs, Symbols and Candles Burning Bright

“Mortality is not kind, and do not let anyone tell you it is; if there is such a thing as wisdom, and I have serious doubts about its presence in my own life, it lies in the acceptance of the human condition and perhaps the knowledge that those who have passed on are still with us, out there in the mist, showing us the way, sometimes uttering a word of caution from the shadows, sometimes visiting us in our sleep, as bright as a candle burning in a basement with no windows.”

James Lee Burke – “Robicheaux”

I love that sentence, not just for the incredible poetry of Southern writing, but especially for the last part:  “as bright as a candle burning in a basement with no windows.”

If someone you loved intensely dies you know that feeling of being in a basement too well.  Suddenly they’re . . . gone. All of their magic, all of their thoughts, their words, their touches and glances, have disappeared forever.

No matter what your spiritual beliefs may be – and I personally believe very strongly in an afterlife – the physical body, the material presence of the person you loved is gone.

There is, I think, a natural reaching out which most of us do after a death.  Trying to somehow contact the other person, to imagine them and how they are. Are they confused and disoriented?  Are they blissful and satisfied? Are they finally out of the pain that they were in and experiencing peace? There’s just that burning need to touch them, to feel their spirit one more time.

Religious people will tell you that they’re in heaven having pancakes with Jesus and, by golly, they have REAL maple syrup in heaven, not Mrs. Butterworth’s.  Spiritual people will tell you that they’re on, “the other side,” and dancing on rainbows or cruising through the astral plane. Psychic mediums may be able to give you very detailed descriptions like, “She’s in the garden and she’s wearing a white lace dress and your dog Skipper who died twenty years ago is there with her.”

And it’s all very comforting and sweet, all of those well intentioned words and Hallmark cards, but what we really want is to be able to see our loved ones for ourselves.  Instead, it’s like we’re, “in a basement with no windows.” We can’t see up and we can’t see out. We can’t see them.

If you actually talk to people who are grieving a death you’ll find an amazing number of them HAVE felt or seen some sort of a contact from their loved ones.  Maybe a pair of earrings suddenly appear on a bedside table, or a long lost note from them falls out of a book, or the lights flicker on and off whenever the dead come to mind.  There are signs and signals from them and, yet, we can’t quite get through to them. No matter much we miss or desire that contact we just can’t touch them.

It feels, of course, like a great big Cosmic Door has been slammed shut.  We’re on one side and they’re on the other. We may hear a faint murmur of their voices but we can’t get past the door.

Oddly, though, Death can be the start of a journey that will take you to much greater heights than you could have ever imagined.  Getting through that goddamned door can become a Quest.

The Sioux tribes believe that people who are grieving over Death are closer to Spirit World than normal humans.  That the veil between the two worlds is thinner for them, that the Spirits hear them more clearly, and that their prayers have greater powers. Certainly deep grief feels that way.  It’s as if you exist in a world apart from ordinary life and you see and feel things that others who are aren’t grieving can’t see and feel.

In other words, people who are close to Death – either their own or a loved one – are existing in a Sacred Space.  There is no other time when we are more likely to ask the right questions and get the right answers than when we are in the presence of Death.

Death leaves clues and symbols for us that point to a higher, Spiritual realm. What we do with them is up to us.  We don’t have to understand them at first, we just need to acknowledge that they’re real.  Yes, those earrings DID appear out of nowhere. Yes, it IS odd that a note from my husband fell out of a book just as I was thinking of him.  Yes, the lights DO flicker on and off for no reason when I talk about my dead child.

And, yes, it’s entirely possible that our departed loved ones are still here, “as bright as a candle burning in a basement with no windows.”

The Judgement Card

 

judgement

An angel blows a horn and people rise joyfully from their coffins which appear to be floating on water.  An icy mountain range is in the background.

This card looks kind of creepy – probably because of the gray people jumping out of their coffins – but it’s not.  This card is about judgements of all kinds but especially about self-judgements.

When Judgement shows up in a reading it indicates that a very significant part of a person’s life is coming to an end.  Moreover, the questioner is in a place where he or she can sit back and examine how they behaved during that phase of their lives and whether or not they are satisfied with what they did.

I’ve seen this card come up frequently with home health care providers, for instance, after the loved one they were caring for had passed over.  They had devoted months or years of their lives to caring for another person and then it was time to reflect on the experience and evaluate what they had done.  You can apply the same thing to any important phase in a person’s life, whether it’s the end of a long career or children who are moving out of the house.The basic questions here are what did it all mean and how did I do?  When the card is upright it indicates that the questioner has done well and feels good about it. And there is also the obvious theme of being reborn in this card. I’ve finished that phase of my life, so what do I do next?

There is also, of course, the more mundane matter of legal judgements.  If you’ve been involved with some sort of a court case you can expect a positive outcome.

REVERSED:  The same scenario as with the upright card but when reversed it implies a negative judgement.  The questioner is feeling far from satisfied with his or her own behavior and wishes that she had done better.  Again, this can be applied to any life event that’s coming to an end, whether a relationship or a job.

Pending legal matters will not go well.

A Few More Thoughts About the Judgement Card:

“You’re judging me!”

“Don’t be so judgemental.”

“That’s a value judgement.”

Not to mention visions of crabby, constipated old men in black robes banging little wooden hammers on their desks.

There’s no question that the word, “judgement,” carries a lot of emotional baggage with it.  It, “feels,” like we’re talking about one person condemning another person, something most of us aren’t totally comfortable with.  Hell, I’ve known Buddhists who refused to serve on juries because they were so adamant about not judging another person’s karma.

As I said in my book, “Just the Tarot,” though, the Judgement card is really more about self-judgement.  It’s about taking a hard, dispassionate look at your life and deciding whether you did good or you fucked up.

And then moving on.

We’ve all known people who were in dysfunctional relationships where one person was doing all of the heavy lifting and the other person was letting him or her do it.  I knew one man who was married to a woman who had been brutally raped when she was younger. About five years into their relationship their sex life pretty much disappeared because she was having flashbacks to the rape.  He was a very sensitive, caring man who was deeply in love with her and so he went along with a sexless relationship until it started to make him crazy. He tried to talk to her about it and got nowhere. He suggested that she see a therapist and she refused.  He suggested that THEY see a therapist and she refused.

He finally ended up seeing a therapist himself and discovered that, sadly, a lot of marriage counseling is actually divorce counseling.  After two years of trying to make things work he filed for divorce and they went their separate ways. He still loved her but he realized he deserved a life partner who could love him back.

I mention that particular instance because it contains all of the elements of the Judgement card.  1 – Being confronted with a large problem in your life. 2 – Working hard to deal with it or solve it.  3 – Seeing very clearly that it involved a phase of your life which, for better or worse, is over and walking away from it.  4 – Making a Judgement about your own behavior and evaluating how you did before you move on to the next phase.

It happens all the time.  Women who live with abusers and try with all of their hearts to believe that the man will somehow change until there’s one too many beatings.  Home health providers who take care of parents with dementia until they’re emotionally and spiritually exhausted and just don’t have anything more to give.  People who endure terrible jobs with terrible bosses for years and finally have enough.

The self judgement is sometimes positive and sometimes negative.  Sometimes we can look at ourselves and say, “Yeah, I did really good and I did everything I could have.”  Sometimes we have to admit that there are things we wish we could have done better or wonder if we should have tried a different approach.  

In either case there is strong self-knowledge that it’s OVER.  That chapter of your life is closed out and you’re moving on to the next chapter, hopefully a wiser and more compassionate human being.

Time to be re-born.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

 

The Lovers Tarot Card

 

 

the-lovers

This is a card with multiple layers of meaning.  The obvious theme is the Garden of Eden and all that it implies but the name of the card is The Lovers and all that implies.  So the first layer of meaning involves new love:  fresh, pristine, innocent, glowing, lovely love. Quite simply, two people who are madly, head over heels, wonderfully in love.  Since it is situated in the Garden of Eden we can assume that this is probably a fairly new relationship and it has emerged like magic into the two people’s lives.

It can also indicate a strong sense of bonding with a coworker or an associate.  Not necessarily on a sexual level but on a deep, almost Soul level of understanding and appreciating each other.

And – back to the Garden – another layer of meaning in this card is about choice and the consequences of choosing.  We all know the somewhat insane biblical fable of the tyrannical, authoritarian god throwing an absolute hissy fit because Eve took a bite of an apple, throwing them out of the Garden, and cursing all of their offspring and heirs to lives of pain and suffering FOREVER.  Naturally, it was the uppity woman who did it and not the man. Just like a woman, right?

Well, despite the absolutely tweaky, weird, sexist fairy tale the underlying theme is about choosing and about knowledge.  On a relationship level, this can be about choosing the type of a relationship that you have. Will it be based on love and trust and belief in each other or will it be based on emotional addiction and lust?  On a workplace level, this may indicate that there are different options that are about to manifest in your career and you’ll need to consider them very carefully prior to making a commitment to one or the other.

REVERSED:  This can indicate a loss of innocence and/or the end of a relationship.  Perhaps, as you have gained more knowledge of each other, the beautiful, rosy glow of your new found love is starting to fade and you’re beginning to wonder why you ever got involved with that jerk in the first place.

This can also indicate the end of the honeymoon phase of the relationship and the time when you actually have to get down to making it work if you want it to last.  Remember, the two lovers were protected by the angel in the Garden, but he’s also the one that threw them out. That sense of divine protection in a new and beautiful relationship may be going away and you may be dismayed by the challenge of being together in the real world.

It may indicate that you made a really bad decision in some area of your life, whether romance, employment, or real estate, and now you have to figure out how to correct it.

A Few Random Thoughts About The Lovers:

Not long ago a friend of mine asked, “Haven’t you ever had a relationship with someone where you just KNEW that you could tell them anything and it would be alright?”

And my answer was, “No.”  I really didn’t think that telling your lover everything about yourself was either possible or desirable.  After all, we’ve all got some dark little pockets in our hearts and our pasts that are perhaps better left alone.

I’ve since discussed it with several people for whom I have great respect and they disagree with me and assure me that a relationship like that is very possible.  I have my doubts but wherever the truth may lie it brings up an interesting aspect of The Lovers, which is knowledge.

On the left hand side of the card you can see the fabled apple tree with our old friend the snake wrapped around its’ trunk.  And what is it that the snake is purported to have offered Eve beside a bite of a juicy Granny Smith apple? Knowledge. Or, perhaps, self-knowledge.

A serious relationship with another person is a journey of discovery.  You meet, you get to know each other, you like each other and feel attracted, a sexual relationship gets built in, and perhaps you move in together.

During that entire sequence there’s a sort of a rosy glow around the relationship.  It feels like magic and you’re happy and satisfied and you think it will be that way forever.  And then comes the reality of living with another human being every day and every night. The rosy glow can fade away very quickly.

It may be small, relatively petty things like him leaving his underwear on the floor or her blowing her nose and leaving the tissues on the bathroom counter.  Usually those issues can be resolved if you are really in love. Minor adjustments, right?

But there’s also a much deeper discovery of each other that takes place as life goes along.  Is he capable of staying steady and strong during a family emergency? Is she willing to compromise during a heated argument or does she just keep screaming and insisting that she’s right?  Does he recognize when she’s hurting and respond with love or is always all about him?

In other words . . . character.

When you love someone and live with them you come to know on a very deep level not just their strengths but also their flaws.  And sooner or later either the positives will outweigh the negatives or vice verse. Sooner or later you have to make that evaluation:  is this relationship worth it? Is this relationship nourishing me and helping me to grow as a human being or is it stunting me and turning me into someone I don’t like?

If the negatives outweigh the positives, hopefully you leave.  If the positives outweigh the negatives, hopefully you stay.

There is a third path you can take, of course, and that’s growth.  If both people are willing to look honestly at their own flaws and work hard to become better people then they truly become The Lovers on a much deeper level.  They really KNOW each other and the love still remains.

just

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON