Reflections on Death

Today was another one of those days when my conventional ten-card morning spread yielded ambiguous results. This time, the cause was an overabundance of court cards—two queens, two princes, and two princesses. Court cards are always tricky since we can never be entirely sure if they stand for actual people, or for archetypes, or for the qualities of these cards that exist within our psyches. Conventionally, a reading of a spread with a lot of court cards infers activity involving numbers of people—”Society, meetings of many persons,” as Paul Foster Case defines it. Seeking a bit of clarification, I reshuffled the deck, and turned up the top card:


Upon reflection, I thought that this suggested, perhaps, that I should think of people who I have known (the “society” of the court cards) who have “passed on” from this plane of consciousness when I realized the lack of any “father” cards in my ten-card spread. (Sometimes things unseen signify more than the things we do see—not a bad idea to bear in mind during a reading.) There were two each of “mothers” and “sons” and “daughters,” but no Kings! (The other cards were Strength, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Five of Pentacles and Seven of Swords, so no strong “kingly” archetypes there, either; if anything, quite the opposite,.)

Suddenly, with the “dead king” of the Death card staring me straight in the face, I thought at once of my real-life “dead king”—my very own father, who passed over six years ago next month. We weren’t particularly close, the two of us. We argued frequently, and we perceived the world through completely different lenses. I thought he was a temperamental prima donna who could suck all of the oxygen out of a room; he likely thought me an unrealistic dreamer who would never succeed at anything—and maybe he was more right than I’d like to acknowledge! One thing that I did admire about the man—perhaps the only meaningful thing, in retrospect—was the way he chose to “check out.” As with many people in old age, his body basically gave out on him as he entered into his 80s—he had cardiovascular problems, pulmonary disorder, Parkinson’s, failing eyesight, and the last few years of his life were increasingly unhappy for him. One day, he checked himself into the hospital, asked to be taken off his prescription drugs, administered morphine and be allowed to die. Ten days later, he was gone, quietly and without drama.

I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on this episode, and hope that when my time comes that I will be as able to confront the reality of life’s physical finality in the calm and stoic manner my father did, since there is nothing to be done to prevent it—and in reality, all the more reason to welcome it since the end of one day heralds the dawn of another, just as the sun sets and rises on the Death card’s distant horizon.

But what about the court cards in my spread? Well, my father was a music teacher by profession—he surrounded himself with groups of people, and particularly young people (princes and princesses) for a living. His favorite job, I recall him once telling me, was directing a children’s choir at a neighborhood elementary school, which he did for several years even though it paid him next to nothing. Perhaps this example would be a good one for all of us to follow, and to bear in mind in our dealings with people—to make a “joyful noise” with others, and to be willing to share our talents freely for the benefit of all. Yes, we deserve to be paid for an honest day’s work—but sometimes, giving can be its own reward.

Dante DiMatteo

One thought on “Reflections on Death

  1. Even though I am not into Tarot, your thoughts on death are good. Death is the passage way from one plane of existence to another. The best preparation for bodily death is to live a loving, constructive life.


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