Big things are at work this week.
We’ve drawn three major arcana cards – The Wheel of Fortune, Death, and Strength.
When major arcana cards appea, they ask us to zoom out and look at our lives in the big picture. We’re not talking about everyday scrabbles and happenings. Instead, the themes are the big ones: who we are, what we value, and where we’re going.
In this case, it’s the whole darn spread, so we know there’s larger themes at play this week.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the central card already. Yes, Death, that old classic you usually see in movies. The scene goes something like this.
Interior: A dimly lit, dusty room. A skill sits on a pile of leather-bound books. Cobwebs hang from candelabras covered in melted wax. An old fortune-teller sits at a table. She is wearing lots and lots of scarves.
Fortune-Teller: Let’s see what the cards have in store for you.
Hero look around uncomfortably as the Crone shuffles. She lays out the cards and flips the first over: Death. Camera zooms into the hero’s horrified face.
Fortune-Teller: You have one day left to live…
Part of me loves the hammy pop-culture connotations of the Death card. Of course, we’re in legit Tarot world here, and Death is not meant literally. (Don’t worry, this reading is not forecasting our imminent demise, though the world does feels bleak and uncertain right now.)
It’s certainly an arresting image: a skeleton in armor atop a white horse riding towards three figures, with one already fallen underneath him. Very to the point.
And yet all is not what it seems. Tarot is a nuanced system. It offers us a holistic approach to life, one that does not skirt around the unpleasant bits. Rather, it embraces them as steps necessary in our journey towards personal development and spiritual growth.
There’s no denying the sadness, finality, and presence of death in our lives. And yet we experience death constantly as the ending of relationships, projects, phases of our lives, the changes of the seasons…the list goes on.
Look a little closer at the Death card and we see two interesting things. One, there’s a rising sun to the right, framed between two white towers. And two, one of the figures, who appears to be a Pope or member of the clergy, faces Death with his arms outstretched.
It’s in choosing how to face death that we determine its impact on our lives. And I’m not saying that it’s easy-peasy. We don’t go about wishing for death – we are living creatures, after all. It’s not in our nature. When it comes, the process isn’t easy, but if we run away from the inevitability, we often prolong our suffering.
Not to mention the richness, meaning, and depth the changes represented in the Death card bring us.
The reading for this week asks us to contend with our approach to the changes in our lives. How are we meeting the inevitable losses that come our way? What do we need to let go of and how can we honor its passing instead of fighting it?
The Wheel of Fortune tells us that the changes emerging this week are going to surprise us or already have. There’s an element of chance in play and we can’t do anything to stop it. It may be frustrating and painful, but it’s true.
I can’t help but think about the recent election when I see these cards, especially the feeling that the world has gone topsy-turvy. The Wheel of Fortune also reminds us that whatever is on top of the world must fall eventually, and then rise again. Perhaps this is the shift we are watching unfold right now, in which case Death is a somewhat reassuring card. To move forward, we must acknowledge this ending and make way for the second part of the cycle: rebirth.
We can look to the figure standing in Death’s path as a clue for what approach to take. He stands tall with his arms ahead of him. If we welcome the change that’s approaching, we can perhaps move through it with grace towards something brighter. After all, the man’s robes are the same color as the rising sun behind him.
The same theme shows up in our final card, Strength. It’s a beautiful depiction of what some call “soft control,” or the act of exerting one’s influence with gentle kindness instead of inflexible, blunt power. It tells us that if we approach the changes ahead of us with understanding, grace, and gentleness we will become more grounded, flexible, and strong. In a world full of bombastic fear-mongering we could certainly use more of this approach moving forward. All we have to do is face the changes represented in Death head-on, ready to grow into the next stage.