The Angel of Death, by Evelyn de Morgan.
The Death card has in recent years been distanced from death as a physical event by the Tarot profession. The motivation has largely been so as not to frighten or disempower anyone. The Death card has been repackaged with an emphasis upon its power and value as Transition or Transformation.
There is much to be said in favour of this change of emphasis. Life is full of change and flux. Circumstances change, die, evolve. Winter comes. Sometimes a situation is over-ripe for change, and the appearance of the Death card will identify this as a good time to let go and move on, which is helpful to know if decisions are called for. I often draw it in a guise that the querent finds entirely welcome.
But Death is inescapable. It walks amongst us in Life, and is the agent of much of our greatest grief and fear. It is not our enemy, except as the thief of desires unfulfilled. Nature wants Death. It has engineered it for Life In The Grand Scheme.
But it’s the ultimate gateway to the unknown, perhaps to the extinguishing of our uniqueness, our personality? I think our consciousness survives the moment of bodily death at least for a few days. Where it goes afterwards is not for anyone to know for sure.
In my own experience, the Death card is actually not the sole predictor of human physical death in the Tarot. I tend to see instead multiple and repeated combinations including the Fool Reversed, Tower, Judgement dignified or reversed, 4 Swords, 6 Swords, Ace Swords Reversed, Strength, Star Reversed and the Sun reversed.
But I have seen the Death card in readings where the card has done exactly what it says on the tin, detecting a recent death, or presaging one. Tackling or avoiding these discussions when the cards raise them requires careful judgement. Readers must do no harm, and can get it wrong. Humility is the corollary of respect.
But the Death card can be a friendly angel. One afternoon two summers ago I drew this card, and it appeared to be referring to somebody in a state of childhood (The 6 of Cups)
I immediately got up to go and check on the hamster. I associate the suit of Cups not only with childhood, children, nostagia, happy times, but with animals, who live so pignantly in the moment, asking little.
The hamster had recently had a fall. She did not fall far, she tumbled down the back of the sofa on to a cushion. Her landing was soft and Il Matrimonio laughed because it looked comical but something about the way she picked herself up worried me.
Bam-Bam the Bold, Beautiful and occasionally Bad (a toe nipper in her youth) had been ill two days after this fall, and we had thought she was on her way out. Tears in our eyes, hankies at the ready, spritzing the air with Rescue Remedy we took turns to hold her for more than three hours.
Then ANTICLIMAX. All at once the small personage decided she was better, and scrambled off. She was bright as a button next day, trying to climb the wine rack (that’s my girl) and chomping my Gombrich’s History of Art on the lowest book shelf (in hardback)
We were delighted of course, but puzzled. She was my tenth hamster and I’d never seen such a recovery from prostration. The little things don’t ‘do’ illness.
So now, drawing the Death card ten days after this event, an awful thought struck me. I headed upstairs as fast as I could go to the Hamster Palace and found her in great distress, stumbling about. She tried to evade my hand and knowing she was sexist, as animals often are, I knew she would prefer my husband’s smell, I mean, scent, and went to fetch his pyjama top to use for getting hold of her.
I held her cuddled upright in this for two hours while she rested, unmoving. Later that evening she was sufficiently recovered to eat a small square of brown toast with acacia honey (good for rodents with diarrhea) I offered her cooled chamomile tea, which she first refused at first but later took a real shine to. I had read this would calm her and possibly offer pain relief.
Speaking with the vet on the telephone. I wondered if Bam-Bam might have had a hernia of her diaphragm. If she did, then when it popped out that would explain her struggling to breathe. When it popped back into its rightful position, it would explain why she recovered and why holding her almost vertically against my body produced recovery, gravity doing its work. The vet thought a hernia highly likely after the fall. But he had nothing to offer that would not involve distress for an animal so small. And at 18 months, she was at a classic age for hamster health problems.
The third attack will be her last, I told my husband. (The 3 of Swords)
She left us two weeks later. The Angel of Death took her away in a kindly fashion with nothing of Swords in the manner of it. I was deeply grateful to the Tarot for the forewarning that sent me to her when she was in distress. Even animals who are solitary by nature, will learn to look for company and when she went, she was not alone.
Bam-Bam The Bold is buried under the pink rose in the back garden with her predecessor, the curtain climbing, mighty-for-her-size but ever sweet-tempered Coco the Courageous. There are Dog roses. I say, let there be Ham Roses or any kind of animal roses we want. Only animals? Well, so are we. It’s all Life, and what would a heaven be without them, anyway?
I’ll still swat a mosquito though, as soon as look at it, and think komodo dragons are entirely disgusting, from which I deduce I am not ready for Enlightenment.
Until next time 🙂