Weekly Forecast: What's in the Cards for this Week?

written by E. Tempesta

Death Reversed, photo credit E. Tempesta

Death Reversed, photo credit E. Tempesta

Whoops, no one likes to see this card. And whoops again, WHY IS IT UPSIDE DOWN? Well, my friend, this card has come to tell us to open our hearts to what we fear. Open our eyes. Name it. Let it in.

I’ll be the first person to say that it can feel nearly impossible to let in what scares us. It can really feel like we’re going to die. Whether it’s letting go of something that’s been in our lives for so long, or taking a step out into the unknown, that kind of change is hard. And the more important it is, the harder it can feel. That’s the message of the death card: the more afraid you are of whatever you need to do, the more necessary it is that you do it.

Let’s take this card in steps. First, Death itself. The card is dominated by its triumphant figure: a skeleton clad in black armor, sitting astride a red-eyed white horse. A king has already fallen before Death’s black banner; a bishop pleads for mercy; a child looks curiously at the spectacle; a kneeling woman looks away.

No one is spared. But notice: not everyone meets Death in the same way. Maybe the king raged and fought; either way, his crown and scepter have fallen. The Bishop will meet the same fate, however much he pleads: his miter and his golden robes will soon be nothing but rags.  

The woman’s face—look at it! I find the woman the most fascinating. Simply dressed, kneeling humbly, she seems to be trying to look at the child—her child?—without having to see Death at all. An acrobatic feat (and one we’ve surely all tried), it’s nearly impossible. But with her neck twisted and her eyes cast just so, the woman is managing it.

And then there’s the child: looking full-faced at the oncoming horse and rider, holding a toy or flower or food, unafraid. This child is the happiest person on this card, because they don’t fear the approaching figure. To the child, Death on a white horse doesn’t mean loss of power, riches, or loved ones.

So, what does it mean? What would we see, how would we feel, if we could look at the oncoming changes without expectation? The horse is beautiful. The banner—what’s with that white rose? The first card in the deck, The Fool, also carries a white rose. The Fool’s rose is a delight, almost a toy, just another beautiful thing in a beautiful world.

The Fool, photo credit E. Tempesta

The Fool, photo credit E. Tempesta

To the adults in this image, Death’s white rose might be the white rose of the House of York, the fallen English royal family. It might represent the fact that all earthly things come to an end, even dynasties. It might represent their whole world turned upside down.

But to the child, who is innocent and unknowing like the Fool, maybe this is just a white rose, a delightful flower, but even bigger than the Fool’s rose. Wow, what luck!! And in fact, behind the looming horse and rider, we see a river, hills, trees, cliffs, and atop those, the sun through two towers. Rising or setting? We can’t know. It’s going in one direction or another. But this isn’t a card of either/or – it’s a card of both/and. Whether that sun is coming up or going down doesn’t actually matter, because it’s both. The end of one day is the beginning of another.

And that’s what this card is here to say. It’s reversed because we aren’t hearing the message that we are getting from other parts of our lives: the end of one day is the beginning of another. We are like the adults on this card, eyes fixed on our loss. But the card asks us to be like the child, and like the Fool, open to the delight of change and the new. As we get older we feel loss so deep in our bodies that it can be unbearable. We see a big change approaching, ready to take away our kings and turn our world upside down, and we plead with it to stop, or we look away.

But I am here, holding this card, to tell you: that thing you’re afraid of is going to be the thing that saves you. The change you’re trying not to think of as you read my words is the change that will free you.

I won’t pretend that I’m not scared, too. I worry every day that the world around me is going to keep getting harder and more hateful. I used to love to read the news and talk about politics; but I don’t anymore, because I get panic attacks. This card is as much a pep talk for me, as for you. We don’t know what will happen once we accept what we fear into our lives. But this card promises that it will happen. It will be painful and scary and it will also be delightful and new and fresh: both/and.