It is interesting that no-one has responded to this post.
I don’t have the book to the Tarot of Prague and had forgotten there are two Death cards. Don’t recall ever having had one come up in a reading with this deck. Both Death cards in this deck are fairly grim but I agree with Bean Feasa that one is perhaps more horrific than the other.
I guess most representations of Death in Tarot reflect the Tarot’s mediaeval or renaissance roots but one day I’d like to see a Death card that does not seem so grim. Death is about transformation and eternal life. Apparently the Hebrew letter mem
which is attributed to Death also means female, mastery, movement, transformation procreative power, multiplicity, eternal life through resurrection and death. (Irene Gad: Tarot and Individuation
) The symbol of mem
can also mean water which flows through empty spaces – something which water seems to do anyway so there is nothing unusual about that.
The Tarot of Prague images of Death probably reflect the feelings, fears and values of the times – when Prague was being built over centuries of course, and now. One thing I am going to do when I have time is to look all over for positive depictions of Death. I am sure there must have been some at some stage in history or would it be completely out of the bounds of poetic licence to take some of the paintings of Genesis to represent Death as rebirth.? Perhaps I am displaying my ignorance of art.
Is this where we get to projective identification again
? Even looking at these images in the most positive light, they do reflect traditionally Christian perspectives about judgment. If one could see the Knight in one image passing through the ghoulish figures, protected by his armor and the poor old bereft skeleton thumbing his nose at his visions of absolute horror, they are still pretty grim cards. both images are set in the same space. The "separation" from life and loved ones aspect of death does not seem to be represented. It is a frustrating reflection of a particular set of values. RWS is similar, and in some ways one of these images reminds me of RWS.
It is interesting to look at these images and reflect on what Death means personally. For each of us this will be different. I had a car accident two years ago in which I could quite easily have been killed. It made me realize how prosaic and ordinary death can be. There were a few minutes in which I lost consciousness and then recovered. In those few minutes I could well have died if I had been thrown out of the vehicle onto the road. I had just gotten into a taxi on a wet night and had not put my seat belt on. I was knocked unconscious by my umbrella hitting me between the eyes causing me to rebound into the side panel and then bounce into the front seat! I remember a vague feeling of surprise when I came out of the unconsciousness and aware of the unearthly silence, and then the unbearable noise and shouts of distress. The rest of the story does not really matter but I have not forgotten how ordinary
everything was. I felt no fear. Simply a peaceful feeling. Half a life time ago at 25 I had a minor stroke as a consequence of a serious migraine and I remember the same kind of peace and alertness to something different then. These and other experiences tend to make me feel that life’s own experiences can be worse than Death itself.
I wonder if future Christian
deck creators might be inspired to represent Death in less grim a fashion and whether there is art which reflects this? Every deck based on Christian values that I have seen has Death represented quite grimly. Some of the non-Christian decks are not so far away from this either. One Pagan deck, Tarot of the Old Path, calls Death the Close
and has a shrouded skeleton next to a new born babe. Ancestral Path, also a non-Christian deck has a child discovering an ancestor’s skull in a burial ground.
A fascinating two cards – and how interesting that the discussion died
after the first post....... or the last post