‘The Tarot card of Death is also one of Life. There is new growth here.’
Even I was wary today about tweeting no. 13, the 'Death' card in Tarot. Early packs of Tarot did not name the Death card, and this old superstition can still affect us, I found. The image of the Grim Reaper with skeleton and scythe has its own power to subdue, make us feel apprehensive. However – in the Tarot layout I use all the twenty-two trumps are involved, so Death must appear. Decay and ending are a part of life, and if you look at the Tarot image, there are signs of new life - hands and feet and sometimes even a head or two poking up through the ground, along with sprigs of grass.
Here's Temperance - and I just love her red socks! It's from an early Italian pack, in fact the first known Tarot pack of all, called Visconti-Sforza as it has been assembled from a few incomplete but corresponding packs of the mid-15th century.
‘Temperance - a beautiful, soothing card. Creating the right kind of flow is everything.’
15 The Devil
Today’s Tarot cards are The Devil and The Tower Struck by Lightning. I must admit, they seem rather gloomy when singled out like this, but in the whole set of twenty-two Tarot trumps, they take their place readily, and can just as easily be seen as constructive influences.
‘The Devil may bind us, but can also be defeated by laughter.' Without anything to bind, tether us (the Devil) we might drift; without having to pay the price for what we choose, real harm could be done. The Devil is part of the karmic checks and balances that operate in our lives. And folklore tells us he can be defeated with a merry song, a joke, or cheerful defiance! ‘ The False Knight on the Road’ recounts a meeting between a young boy going home alone and meeting up with a threatening figure, the devil in disguise as a knight. He comes off best by outwitting the devil in a series of riddle questions and answers. I had fun choosing a YouTube version which gives a mix of dancing rhythm but dramatic intensity, and came up with this one in broad Scots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7O05efjLaA
16 The Tower
‘The Tower can be an escape from prison, a welcome shock.’
The Tarot card of the Tower Struck by Lightning can signify as much a release from imprisonment as a shock or destruction. In many cases, it’s likely to be both.
While researching the history of this card I became fascinated by accounts of real-life towers that were indeed struck by lightning. Seems that it used to happen a great deal, to church towers and noblemen’s towers (as in San Gimignano for instance). If you visit the parish church of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, there’s a whole poem commemorating such a strike back in 1638. Here’s a quote from it:
"On the Lord’s day at afternoon, when people were addrest
To their devotion in this church while singing here they were
A Psalm distrusting nothing of the danger then so near
A crack of lightning suddenly, with thunder hail and fire
Fell on the church and tower here and ran into the choir;
A sulferous smell came with it, and the tower strangely rent,
The stones abroad into the air, with violence were sent.
Some broken small as dust or sand, some whole as they came out
From of the building and here lay, in places round about."