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Death/N in Tarot

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
From: nagasiva 
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003 23:29:03 GMT

50030124 om
VIIth year of service to Satan

Joseph :
> You have not been reading alt.tarot too thoroughly

correct! it gets filtered along with some other groups.

>about 1 year ago 

eek! you've got a long memory! ;>

> there was a long boring thread wherein it was maintained 
> by "certain people" that Death, the XIIIth Trump of the 
> Tarot, 

right there it tells you something about them. the numbers
varied through the years, so locking Death to 13 (I would
and have retained this connection myself, lovingly) 
distills one's chosen predecessors in implication.

> means physical death, mortality and nothing else.  

that is what Zolar says it means, but he's somewhat brief.

Crowley doesn't expand too much beyond this, but emphasizes
the truth of the position you've restated. even Colman-Smith
according to Waite gives a rather stark metaphor for physical
death (of the figure on the ground). there is little more
that can be made of the card in this deck other than some
details which seem to support the assertion yet further:

	* the Towers of the Moon + Sunset(/Sunrise?)
	  in the background

this yields promise of the 'future conditions' implied in
later cards. it is possible that this actually means that
the journey to them requires death or that death prevents
the achievement of the goal of those cards, and must be
faced prior to their achievement.

	* the figure on the ground appears to be a monarch,
          and possibly a king

as such it may imply that social station does not assist
one in escaping the long scythe of death.

	* the ecclesiastical fellow before Morte appears
	  to be the Hierophant, complete with hints of a
          key (one of those in the card of the same name?)
	  or a crozier

the Guide or Hierophant interprets the mysteries to the
penitent and in some measure shields them from the true
brutality of the cosmic scheme.

	* the flag, to which you seem to be alluding, in
	  which appear vegetative symbols of fertility,
	  or growth or sexuality in a point-down pentacle

signifying the victory of the physical over the spirit 
(again, physical death) as has been argued before you.

I see nothing here which requires an interepretation of
anything beyond physical death and its repercussions.

> That any attempt to use it as a symbol for "Change" 

arguably futile. those viewing physical death as 
extinction will be harder to sway toward this opinion.

> was mis-informed at the best,

I agree with this. it is misinformed at best.

> the result of ignorance and a new age accretion of
> fluff bunny sensibility 

generally true, from what I can tell.

> unable to consider the evil, wicked, mean & nasty 
> aspects of life, at the worst, 

I'd switch this biased speech to 

	stark, final, sometimes cruel & extinguishing 
	aspects of death.

and I don't think this is the worst. the worst is
soft-peddling what frightens most human beings, 
which is what fluffy occultists do in order to
prevent the weight of the moral world from falling
upon their shoulders in association with the deep
mysteries alien to the Herd. who can blame them?

> this along with a severe criticism of the
> intelligence of any one who would even consider
> that it could mean travel 

always a sign of the bias of the espouser that it
includes severe personal criticism. irrelevant
for the purposes of this examination of Death.

'travel'? by variant traditions, no doubt. that is
more alike some LeNormand construct than occult tarot,
especially since we're talking about the Trumps. there
is death depicted in some of the Smith-Waite Minor Cards
also, if memory serves. Swords are sometimes bloody.

> or be a card of chaos of the material plane, 

Tower/War in the Trumps.

> as opposed to the tower, being representative of 
> internal chaos, 

that's interesting, I've never heard that distinction
before. thanks.

> and the wheel being chaos that only seems to be 
> (but is not) chaos.

Ezekiel's Wheel wasn't the Star of Kaos near as I can
tell, but the Cosmic Wheel, perfect and sacred.

> can even engage in a semantic quibble where 
> "Death" is a word for change, die daily and all that.

conventionally 'death' means a termination of a bodily
organism which once was alive. though I have seen the
arguments for 'transmutation' or 'flux', I find that
adding atop Morte depletes His initiatory power. 

make Him "Change" and suddenly there is a ridiculous 
support for transmortem experiences (which I feel are 
detrimental to the occultist). it may be that this
same line of thought informed those arguing as you
have outlined, I can't be sure.

> Seems to me that "those people" who are
> adamant about the death card meaning cessation of
> life are also adamant about not using the tarot
> for divination, considering it a false concept, if
> not an out right fraud, 

very sensible and logical, consistent within its
line of argument. there's a card 'Change' in Crowley's
Thoth of which I'm aware: the 2 of Disks. what need is
there for another Change card?

> if however one accepts the concept as valid, 

what makes a concept valid or invalid? is divination
just a prognostication? as presented by its originators,
most seem to distance themselves from fortune-telling.
does the Italian cardgame-cum-occult-tool have discernable
purpose and meaning beyond what anyone might make of it?
arguably it does, and hard-line tarotsters know this.

> one has to have a way of explaining the frequency of 
> the XIIIth trumps appearance....

it is difficult for to believe that these hardliners,
having maintained that Death is physical death and no
more, describe nothing more of the context of the card
in the Trumps, its import to the mysteries implied or
indicated by the rest of those Worthies. one must only
account for XIII's frequency if one sees it in one's
readings. Morte is an ever-present reality, whether 
en potentia or in actual point of fact. 

are you suggesting that those arguing within this thread
opined that XIII's appearance in a reading indicated 
that the Querent would shortly die? I doubt this. 
that's slipping into the fortune-telling mode again.

> ...most readers will agree that it figures prominently 
> im many peoples readings a lot of the time.  The card
> representing physical chaos seems to fit this
> need.

as I said, I don't know why the ever-present quality
of mortality and His realization need be rationalized
away as 'physical chaos'. Morte is Morte. beautiful
and horrific. the card does not indicate that EVERYONE
is dying right now. there are some who fall and some
who remain standing. Death's arm is variable in length.

> ...those few times i have seen death in the cards....

the argument arrayed against you is that what you see
in the tarot layout you use may vary considerably,
but that Death is not other than Death regardless of
your vision or fantasies. :>

> the one case where it was a distinct possibility 
> due to the persons depression and desire to kill 
> themselves the Tower was the prominent card, along 
> with the wheel and the devil and assorted swords.

this sounds more like fortune-telling than tarot, 
tho. the two are valuably distinguished, as I see it,
though doing so crudely and with viciousness is quite
unnecessary except with YAMs. :>

>>> ...more transformative experience of yes death but
>>> also dramatic and traumatic events that spur us to
>>> further growth and understanding or cause us to
>>> retreat from the world in denial of it.
>> lovely. I wouldn't exclude death from this.
> I thought you were promoting the "physical plane" 
> theory of existence, that which can not be perceived 
> by the senses does not exist, is mere myth and fantasy, 

maybe this level of interpretation also accompanied the
understanding of the hard-liner tarotsters. :> I don't
know why, for example, trans-sensory physicality must
be relegated to myth and fantasy. examine metaphysics
and astrophysics and soon we meet up with all manner of
physical insensibles.

if you thereafter ask me how can I acknowledge anything
called 'metaphysics' and affirm the reality only of the
physical plane, I would reiterate that I actually
described the physical as composed of several different
dimensions (including the objective and the subjective).
this requires no exclusion of the real either from that
which is directly perceived as thoughts or emotions, or
as cannot be perceived due to the limitations of our
apparatus and technological extensions.
> if this is the case....

as you can now see, I do not maintain what you present.

> how could the cessation of life and the decomposing of 
> the physical body spur what has ceased to exist to 
> further growth?

I don't really understand this question. I'm not sure
that Death is intended to be seen as playing this role.
as a Terminator, Death stops us in our tracks. will it
be you today, or tomorrow? what matter the manner as it
limits our experience and expression?

>>> for the [JK] to take this ridged stance....
>> I didn't see JK take the one against which you seem
>> to be arguing. his stance appears moreso to be against
>> simplistic interpretation of traditional Keys by those
>> who should have done their homework (journalists).

> ...the tarot "IS" simplistic, "written" in pictures so 
> that even the most uneducated of peons could have some 
> idea of what is being represented.

where Death is portrayed upon a pale horse, overseeing
the demise of a socially-escalated individual I don't
see what is so complex about it. Death is Death. :>

> A juggler is certainly a different image than a "Magus" 
> or a "Magician", a lady pope more familiar than a female 
> "high priestess" even the hanged man and the wheel would 
> have different meanings to a people who could be legally
> killed for stealing food or for a mere whim of the ruling
> class of the time.  I maintain that the symbols have only 
> become the province of scholars because of their age, 

the symbols form a complex which has a distinct age younger
than many of the individual symbols itself. approaching 
the Tarot from this perspective is a rational attitude and 
quite defensible. scholars sometimes have no clue, but they
are more likely to have one based on the extent of their
survey and reflective scrutiny with respect to the cards.

> and who tend because of their profession to see a 
> necessity in complicating an otherwise simple, straight 
> forward symbolic representation of common, every day, 
> run of the mill, etc.  etc.  concepts.  

and that's not what you're doing by supporting those who
introduce more than just physical death into Key XIII?

> Its a professional hazard of the professional scholar, 
> if things were accepted as simple and unnecessary of 
> overly elaborate elucidation they would be out of a job.

my impression is that the complaint was the unnecessary
COMPLICATION of interpreting XIII as more than death in
a very conventional sense. you seem to be arguing toward
an undermining of your own argument here, though I may be

>>> ...i suppose its only a matter of time till he insists
>>> that once the wheat is reaped it is dead and can not
>>> be reborn even if seed is saved and replanted and the
>>> generous cycle of nature proceeds....
>> why didn't Colman-Smith put wheat on the Death card then?
>> there's a king on the ground dead and some other standing
>> figures, plus an armoured Morte riding a white horse. I
>> gather she got the design from the Marseilles but haven't
>> yet verified this.
>    Death as a symbol can be expressed by the pine
> cone (or any seed and its process of birth, growth
> and death)

no idea what you mean here. most of my reliable sources have
pine cones as fertility, creation, even immortality as they
extend into trees.

> just as easily as an elaborate skeletal creature in 
> armour riding a white horse, 

no way. this image is too easily-recognized to compare
against a pine cone or seed for death. the scythe is
your better vehicle for this counter-argument, 
especially in its relation to grain-cutting. and yet
what is depicted in Smith-Waite and Harris-Crowley is
not the Harvest (despite Harris' use of the tool), but
instead termination, the end of an organism, as this
figure on the horse has for centuries. not only that,
modern writers have enlarged on this to some goodly
effect, such as Piers Anthony ("To Ride a Pale Horse",
if memory serves).

> in nature death implies resurrection, 

not when we're talking about human beings, or even
mammals and other ambulatory organisms generally.
death implies nothing of the sort. instead it is
only some *other*, introduced symbolism, which is
used to counter the termination and brutal end that
death of an organism implies (and that fictional).

> when it comes to the human condition we cant be 
> intellectually sure of our resurrection 

intellectually, only fools believe in resurrection,
and the dogmatic religious without critical thought.
it is a Carrot which gets the religious Nose-Hooked
to Harness.

> so we wrap our desire for it up in myth and make it 
> as imposing as possible.  

no we can't be absolutely certain of what it is like
to EXPERIENCE EXTINCTION and so we wrap it up in a
mysterious figure and make Him (Morte) responsible
for what we cannot dream that Nature (Mom!) intended:
that we should vanish without trace back into the
Cosmic Soup at our time.

> That the card you refer to is in armour suggest to me
> the life or death prerogative of the mediaeval ruling 
> class more than it does anything about the process 
> itself, 

it simply suggests to me that Death my be Jousted
(i.e. wrestled with, exemplied in stories by games
of skill enjoined with Morte, like Chess). one might
compare Morte with the Devil in this way, though the
knightly-motif seems in Key XIII to indicate ability
to effect our demise (the inescapability of Death 
absent Harryhausen Special Effects -- them skeletal
warriors never wear armor, note :>).

> the Marseilles deck is a simple skeleton "reaping" 
> various body parts, "planted" in the ground....

thanks. this is not occult tarot, but Tarocci. 
that occultists significantly shifted the Death card
to other standards additionally supports the argument
against you as regards any implication of resurrection.
instead I suggest to you that Resurrection is reserved
in whatever its meaning, for the 'Judgement' card, and
that only 'in spirit' (whatever this may mean).

continuing re Marseilles:
> this to me implies a pre or non christian belief in 
> the organic resurrection of the human after death 
> without recourse to particular xtian beliefs 
> regarding it, or what is necessary to achieve 
> resurrection, 

at most it is a comparison of humans and vegetation.
only the gods have the power to return from death.
I'd agree that it might be implied by the use of the
scythe, but as it isn't an occult tarot, my preference
would be to place less emphasis upon its symbolism in
comparison to occultist decks.

> if it happens its an organic process independent 
> of belief about it.

butchering of humans and planting them in the ground
is no organic process except as regards the actual
processes of entropy and disintegration/consumption
which the body encounters post-mortem.

>> it always bugged me that the sigil for Scorpio was so
>> alike to an English 'M' and the Death card was given
>> the letter Nun by occultists. but Virgo's sigil is
>> also M-ish, so I couldn't really complain. its nearness
>> to the Mem of its Romanized presentation sounded like a
>> bad note in a harmonic, however. I didn't resolve that
>> in my own deck, leaving it with N as presented by the
>> Ancients.
>    "Your own deck"? are images available for viewing? 

under construction. I laid out a blueprint for 
it recently in this forum ("Tarosymbolismatrix
Tetraktypisceseferoticus"). given the novelty of
these terms I doubt searching at Googlegroups or
Luckymojo will allow you to miss them (else email
me and I'll send you a copy).

> do you have an opinion on ram dass' book "seed"?

I've never read that book (I enjoyed "Grist For the
Mill", however :>).

does it have something to do with death or Morte?


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