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The Magical Tarot – Death

September 7, 2013

All Change

by Madeline Montalban

Those who expect pictorial depictions of the Tarot trumps to be uniform, or even to narrate the same story, can be led woefully astray when studying the arcana behind No. 13, commonly called Death. Because of the title of this card, illustrators of the past have, naturally, associated it with human dissolution.

This is one of the trumps that has had its message garbled through this error, in which the notorious Black Tarot has played a part.

scan0001Few people know about the Black Tarot, which is all to the good. It saves a lot of unnecessary explanation. At first glance, the pack (now fortunately rare) is terrifying, as the artist took the gloomiest possible view of the nature of each trump, and illustrated it from that angle.

The two illustrations to this article are actually one card in the Black Tarot, with the skeleton bearing a raven standing on the eclipsed Sun of Life, and the unnecessary added horror of the charnel pit below.

But the curious thing about the Black Tarot is that it was, originally, devised from an entirely helpful point of view. It was intended to teach the serious student to consider first the exoteric meaning – death, or the passing of a person, and then to dismiss it. Almost as if the compiler had said: “This will be the first thing that occurs to you, so get it over with by considering and accepting it as one facet of the jewel of truth. Then dismiss it, and find the true, arcane meaning behind the card.”

So let us do just that, for the arcana of Trump No. 13 is the arcana of any great change. Everything in life, whether animate or inanimate, must have a beginning and an end. Between that “birth” and “death” are many other great changes, or No. 13s. This is what the arcana of the thirteenth Trump tries to teach.

The chair in which you are sitting to read this began, first, as a seed (birth), which grew into a tree (development), was cut down (death), was fashioned into shape by a craftsman in wood (the great change), and transformed into a piece of furniture which still has life, since it occupies time and space. Even wood lives on after such a transformation.

We ourselves undergo these changes and transformations all through life. We began as seeds, developed, matured, and in time will be cut down and transformed into another kind of life.

The message of No. 13 is “All things change and pass, but they do not die. They are only transformed.”

Some people are afraid of the change called death, because it is fear of the unknown. Others are far more afraid of life, for then they fear what is known or, rather, what they think they know, which is a different thing.

We all fear trouble and ordeals, because they mark the passing of what is familiar in life. Yet, viewed some time after they have happened, one thing emerges clearly.

Whatever did happen was to teach us something. In most cases, the changes, or “little deaths”, that were forced upon us often led to a fuller life, or better understanding, afterwards.

Everybody must know trouble and loss, just as they must know happiness and achievement, and those factors are inextricably linked together.

The Eclipsed Sun denotes the end of one set of circumstances just before another is about to begin. It is in this new beginning that we find the arcana of No. 13. The trump’s message is that changes in all things must happen, but these need not necessarily be harmful changes.

We can only die once in each life. Until that time comes, No. 13’s influence on us can only bring about changes.

A girl-child must turn into a woman before she can fulfil her natural functions. So, at a given point, childhood is over (death of a condition) and transformation (into womanhood) occurs.

That is why No. 13 in a spread often refers to an adolescent at the turning-point. Equally so, it can refer to a middle-aged person on the threshold of old age. It depicts a natural change; also one which is inevitable.

The mystic accepts the inevitability of change, for it is part of life, and also of the thing called luck. Nothing in life is static.

We all go through cycles of little deaths and little births as the pattern of life evolves. We gain, in some way, from each one of them; we develop after each experience.

Which is why, viewed rationally, the two main complaints of human-kind seem contradictory.

Many people complain of life’s boredom. “Nothing ever happens to me,” is their complaint.

This, in itself, is nonsense. What they mean is that nothing of interest seems to happen to them, often because their circumstances make life too easy. Interesting things and people are encountered when, or after, troubles come our way. After the “eclipse” of one set of circumstances, the Sun of Life is born again.

Others complain: “It’s just one thing after another. I never seem to get any peace.” Again, a sweeping, and not entirely true, statement. These are the people to whom experiences come rapidly, but who often fail to profit by them.

The person who has been shielded from the knocks and hardships of life never learns self-reliance. Because of that lack, other qualities within them cannot develop.

The person to whom recurring misfortunes happen should ask himself what it is he has to learn, for these changes, or “little deaths”, do not occur without reason. They are intended to be part of our development.

This is the message of No. 13. That changes are necessary.
[Prediction, September 1963]

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