The arrival of the new moon stamps the moonth with an initiating energy that shifts and develops through a cycle of growth, fullness, and descent. Each moonth I look to the Tarot’s astrological correspondences for the new moon to find 3 cards (a Major, a numbered Minor, and a court/people card) to guide musings on soul tending as well as creation of a moonthly reading. The reading can be done any time, but ideally between the new and full moons. Revisit the cards you pull periodically up until the next lunation to gain new insight as the light changes. This new moon arrived over the night of October 27th to 28th (exact at 11:38pm ET on the 27th) . The full moon arrives November 12th.
This moonth we are invited to walk the path of Death and gain its wisdom lessons.
Death may be the most infamous and unwelcome card in the Tarot pack. To keep clients from jumping to the most dire conclusions, Modern Tarot readers quickly say the card doesn’t mean physical death and highlight positive aspects of transformation. But there are times when Death does bring physical death and significant physical losses, and we have to cope with its consequences. Especially in this week that brings Halloween, Samhain, All Saints and Souls Days, and Día de los Muertos, sitting with the great transitions of Death in our lives can be fertile for tending our souls.
From my own pathwalking with Death, I offer some insights into how to meet its presence:
We don’t have a choice about Death’s place in our life, but we do have a choice in the relationship that we make with Death. So much of the language of Death is filled with the metaphor of battle, but when we make Death our enemy, we will fail. We will never conquer Death. But we can learn from its dark transitions.
The forest can show us how to learn from these dark transitions. Even at the height of summer’s growth, the forest floor is filled with fallen trees feeding insects with their rot, growing fungus and fern, supporting a profusion of the next generation of beings. And in fall everything comes down. The leaves surrender to earth and become the next layer of soil. The seeds are down, too, seeking a place to plant themselves in the dark and prepare for next season’s emergence. An old forest is so alive with Death. And old forest teaches us that Life and Death are intertwined. A walk in the forest then can give us a glimpse of Death’s mystery because we can sense its existence within the Life we know.
While we are unwise to make Death our enemy, we can’t make Death our friend. We can be informal with our friends. They are known to us. But while we live, Death will always exist beyond the boundaries of our bodies and the limits of our words. We meet the fullness of Death until we cross the threshold between Life and Death. But knowing that we will make that crossing, we can practice how we might meet Death. We can prepare a proper greeting to the Mighty One. We can imagine a relationship where Death’s response to our greeting is a welcome into eternity.
Passage and Practice
The passage of this moonth through the Five of Cups/Water acknowledges the pain of Death in our lives and the reality of grief. The iconic Rider Waite Smith image shows a despairing figure facing 3 spilled cups. The weight of emotions are palpable in the dark cloak and bent necks. The figure has lost a beloved to death, is facing their own mortality, or has experienced a major loss. When this happens, grief’s sorrow has its own momentum that can not be denied. If not allowed to flow, pent up grief can damage body and soul.
Behind the figure, two full cups remain unseen. Many interpretations of this card set up a dichotomous choice: the figure must grieve or the figure find a way to turn to the full cups behind. But there is an integrative way to look at the image. Even as we honor the fullness of pain, we can cultivate an awareness of what supports us. We can remember who has our back: friends, family, the ancestors, the Divine, the Beloved Dead themselves.
Practice can support us through this time and to find the integrative way, including these (that could be done individually or combined):
- Create time and space for being with your grief and out of the daily demands. This could be a designated time (from 15 minutes to a retreat of days or a week) where you are responsibility free and unplugged from devices where you let yourself be with your feelings. Knowing that there is an endpoint can be supportive of entering into the difficulty of the emotions. Remember that in times of acute or new grief, feelings will not always stay within their boundaries. So be gentle with yourself when there is a grief irruption beyond your control.
- When you are spending time with your grief, have supportive images behind you (a Tarot or oracle card depicting a Divine figure, a picture of your spiritual teacher, photos of the ancestors and beloved dead are some examples). Know that they have your back.
- Fill a bowl with water to represent your grief feelings. You could cry into the bowl. You could imagine all the difficult emotions pouring out of you and into the bowl’s water. When you are done filling the bowl with your grief, take it outside and pour it on to the Earth. As you do, remember how the Earth is a great transformer and acceptor of all things. Trust the Earth will transform your grief into new life.
- Commune with your ancestors through meditation, creating an altar, or learning about the traditions they might have practiced.
- Set out a Chalice of Remembrance. This is a beautiful ritual described by Caitlín Matthews in The Celtic Spirit. At a holiday meal or special time personally, all present drink from a liquid-filled glass and than place it with some liquid left before a picture of the one who has died. All then speak to the beloved departed. The remaining liquid is left overnight with a candle burning and then poured on the earth the next morning. “ In this way, the anniversary is marked, the mourning shared, and the circle of love reunited,” writes Caitlín.
An encounter with Death changes us. When we truly walk this path, we will be broken open and then learn how to give of ourselves from this broken open place. Here we become Elders and serve like Kings in the realm of Water.
In the Haindl Tarot, the King of Cups/Water shows the Norse God Odin hanging from a tree after sacrificing an eye to bring back the Runes, an alphabet for practical and spiritual messages.
Writing about the Haindl’s Odin, Tarot teacher Rachel Pollack describes how Odin’s upside down position signifies a returning to and honoring of the Earth. She continues:
In returning to the Earth, he shows humanity finding its way back to harmony with the natural world. … The World Tree, in Scandanavian Yggdrasil, does not only hold the physical planet, called Middle Earth in Scandanavian cosmology. It holds the nine worlds, reaching from Asgard, home of the Gods, to Helheim, the world of the dead. The “ecology” of [the Odin image] recognizes that as spiritual beings we live in all these worlds, not just the middle, but also Above and Below.
In this threshold time, I hope that you will feel the flow between the worlds, between the living and the dead, between grief and solace to gain a gift of wisdom from Life and Death all mixed together.
Reading of the Month
These questions are offered for reflection and to spark practice throughout the moonth. Pulling Tarot and oracle cards in connection to these questions is appropriate, but not absolutely necessary. You might carry a question with you on a walk for example and observe what is happening in the natural world as a way to find insight into the answer to the question.
DEATH: How is Death showing itself in my life?
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: What to do / how to be to acknowledge the transformative power of Death in my life?
GIFT: What gift can I bring into the world out this encounter with Death?
I offer this as an e-reading in my collaborative intitituve format for $23. Because I am going on retreat this week to spend time with my beloved dead and ancestors, I don’t have any open slots until after November 6th. If you would like to get in line for a reading then, sign up with Pay Pal or email me about sending a check. When I receive notification, I’ll be in touch to let you know about when to expect to receive your reading by email.
The work of cultivating truth isn’t completed just at the time of the new moon. When the full moon comes on November 12th, the Hierophant will have an encounter with Death. People on my list receive more timely new moon missives and often full moon inspirations for ritual as well. Sign up if you’d like to receive those.