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Death, from the 1911 Tarot deck by Pamela Colm...

Key XIII | Image via Wikipedia

In the middle of meditation on this weeks Tarot spread, contemplating Death, I received nine calls to ask for distance healing. A friend has been in an accident, her car is totaled, and tho she is OK, I think we’re all shaken.

My lesson seems to be to listen to my quiet voice. During my meditation I kept receiving an image of female, and feeling death. I didn’t want to pull other cards, for a minute I had to focus in on that image.

While I was meditating there was a faint buzzing. Below on the street was parked a truck, humming a long but the quiet voice kept saying “answer the phone.”

I didn’t hear my phone.

Dogs start barking. SHHH! Something outside the door.

OKAY OKAY! I’m getting out of meditation I’m going to the phone!

I must seem like a brat to the spirits, hard-headed, and hard of hearing. I did get the call. I did learn about the accident. I did spend the rest of my morning sending Reiki-Earth-Healing energy.

Anyway, that made me look critically at the cards. As is the usual I opened myself to the message, may it be revealed safely, clearly, and with ease…

Tarot Weekly

October 25th – 31st.

A few things to consider this week as we look at the cards. It is Samhain, a time of looking to the future, parting the veil, honoring our ancestors and guardian spirits. A time of endings, insights, communion, and bonds with our spirit allies, families and history.

A good read to go along with the weekly is the Temple Bell, Samhain 2010, Temple of Witchcraft. Among the many interesting things in this issue is an article, Honoring the Ancestors. Steve Kenson (Minister, Temple of Gemini) talks about spirits like the Hidden Company, our ancestors of Blood, and Kindred Spirits, or cultural ancestors.

You can download a copy of the Temple Bell, here.

As I said, this week’s card is Key XIII, Death. The theme is then surrounded by four cards, made up mostly of swords: Queen of Swords; Four of Swords (R); Knight of Swords (R); Page of Wands.

Animal Spirit: Raven.

Death | Old Hood

Fortunately for us there are no opposing or reinforcing cards for Key XIII this week. That leaves us with the Energy of Transition / Transformation / Initiation. One part dies, another awakens. This process is inevitable and so you can approach it with a sense of magick and spirit… or be tugged down the path kicking and screaming. Either way you enter the portal and make your way from one life to another.

And that’s the thing about death isn’t it? “This to shall pass” and  so we shall go through the gate. Do you approach it as an Initiate, or do you return to it like a child, as you came in, screaming and crying?

Though this isn’t an actual death, I believe in the message of dignity, mystery, and reverence.

The Raven

I summon up the animal spirit because, where there be death, there be ravens! The Raven personifies the powers of the underworld, the ability to take the passage into the mysteries and return from the darkest depths with new knowledge and power.

Symbol of protection, healing, and initiation, and often death itself usually with many negative, cultural, connotations.

Raven creates the world

“A raven story from the Puget Sound region describes the “Raven” as having originally lived in the land of spirits (literally bird land) that existed before the world of humans. One day the Raven became so bored with bird land that he flew away, carrying a stone in his beak. When the Raven became tired of carrying the stone and dropped it, the stone fell into the ocean and expanded until it formed the firmament on which humans now live.”


Minor Arcana

Queen of Swords, she faces the truth, logically, direct and the point, she asks us to be clear and to see.

Her mind is sharp, honed over many years, like a sword it cuts through the bullshit to reach the heart of the matter. The truth. Righted she is in power, with a keen and agile mind. She IS the power of the owl in this instance. Her power can take you directly to the heart of the truth.

What perception does she wield. Is this you and your penetrating mind, or a woman of authority in your life who is showing you the way to see through to the mysteries? She sits in the Northern Quarter of the spread, representing Earth.

Four of Swords (R), lies in unrest, placed in the Eastern Quarter of the spread, place of Fire. These four swords council rest, to take a moment and breathe. The power of fire should be kindled and used to review, like a torch, let the light be your guide into deeper parts of self, exploration, or inquiry into your journey at this time.

Investigate your drive, re-fuel, then get back to moving with focus and direction. Watch for isolation tendencies, you may need company / help along the way.

Knight of Swords (R), charges through in the South, place of air, where we would expect to find harmony in the element and card, reenforcing the message.

What are you so impassioned to change? What is the reason? Has passion carried away logic? Where is discernment? Alternatively, are you being a slug, so overtaken by the power of something (your idea of it) that you just don’t wish to take up the sword and carry forward because of the work it will entail?

Be on guard, review sources of information, check yourself. Carry on.

Page of Wands, In the Western Quarter stands the Page of Wands. There is inspiration in how you feel, or better yet, creative energy in inspiration via an emotional outlet or connection.

Feel for the juice! The Passion for life. A new approach, wonder, or someone who invites you to play, to lighten up, to have some fun.

Bringing it together and what do you get?


Here’s hoping you have a wonderful holiday! I’ll be out and about, dressed in bones. Be safe. Be merry. Get wild!

– –
Be well,

Scott K Smith

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Hi there Tuesday peoples. 🙂

This article caught my attention. It’s off the path of how I began the week with the Tarot but I find it, Death, fascinating. As life reminds me often, this is our mutual gateway, the place where we all will pass. It isn’t an attempt at morbidity but a opened armed embrace so that life can be seen clearly.

More than this, and with this article in particular, are the questions about where we go and who we will encounter when we do pass along to another form, life, or place.

Personally, and in these my middle years, my view has dramatically opened to see and feel the connections that we have with Otherness, the spirit world.

Consider it food for high thought.

Scott ~


Do the dead greet the dying?

If you find the concept of a dead loved one greeting you on your deathbed impossible or ridiculous, consider what I finally realized as a parent: You protect your children from household dangers. You hold their hands when they cross the street on their first day of school. You take care of them when they have the flu, and you see them through as many milestones as you can.

Now fast-forward 70 years after you, yourself, have passed away. What if there really is an afterlife and you receive a message that your son or daughter will be dying soon? If you were allowed to go to your child, wouldn’t you?

While death may look like a loss to the living, the last hours of a dying person may very well be filled with fullness rather than emptiness. Sometimes all we can do is embrace the unknown and unexplainable and make our loved ones feel good about their experiences.

via Do the dead greet the dying? –

I was reading through this coming months Transmutation News, thoughts on the Shaman’s Death. I am aware that the last few chapter reviews were about Death and Dying and I thought the newsletter, on the tail of these posts was an important connection to the last three articles in Awakening to Shamanism.

The following contains a few excerpts from Sandra Ingerman’s newsletter, Transmutation News.


Transmutation News August 2010

“When one embarks on a spiritual journey there is a process of dying to the ego – spirit sculpting us to be greater spiritual beings. And this journey of the shaman is filled with initiations that keep asking us to let go of our egos and a separate state of consciousness that can lead us to a unity consciousness and an experience of light that brings forth our clairvoyant, psychic and healing gifts.

As our ego is carved away at by our spirit, divine light can shine through. It is like a burning away of what keeps us separate from our spiritual state and what prevents our spirit from fully shining through us.

I have written about this many times in my books and also on the Transmutation News.

I think that the setting the intention of “the experiment” with the working in community groups brought me personally to a new stage of the shaman’s death.”


“We are all on a journey – and we are all at different phases of the path – that will ultimately lead to a whole new evolution of consciousness. I think we need to move away from the focus being on the process of individuation. Individuating I think has been necessary on many levels but it is time to grow away from being so self absorbed into a consciousness of unity.

But first a death must occur before we see the possibilities.

When I was in my late teens I experimented with taking LSD. One night some of my friends had taken LSD and we went to a Grateful Dead Concert. At the concert I was separated from some of my friends.

I went into a real place of “ego death” there was no “me” and there was no “other” we were all one. I was in a glorious state of being.

I wanted to tell my friend Robin something but I knew I could never find her amidst the crowd of people. So I thought to myself that if we are all one I can tell the person standing next to me the message and it would be the same as telling Robin.

And then I had the realization that if we were all one I only had to tell myself the message.

The shaman’s death in the true sense of the term is letting go of the ego that provides any containment of the spiritual energies coming through to heal and to transform.

The shaman’s death is dying to anything that keeps you from being in the present moment. And that means letting go of outcomes, desires, needs, wants.”

You can read the full newsletter, and subscribe, at Shamanic Visions.

– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith

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If you are just joining me in these posts you can catch up on the chapter-by-chapter book review of Awakening to the spirit world through these posts:

Experiential Work With Death & Dying | All Change Involves a Death

First the technical and then the personal. I put these two chapters together. As an after thought, I feel that I should have put all three chapters on Death together, but maybe the acceptance and understanding I have of the passage is a bit more “accepting” than others. I’m doing my best not to condense down the subject and breeze through it.

These two chapters contain a lot of personal experience, and sections about:

  • There are No Unfinished Conversations
  • Soul Stealing (about forgiveness)
    • Exercise: Creating Closure
  • Saying Goodbye
  • Recapitulation
  • Granting Permission to Die
  • All God’s Creatures Grieve
  • All Change involves Death
  • Dismemberment as an Initiatory Journey
    • A Journey for Dismemberment
    • Erasing Personal History

In and throughout the stories and exercises in these two chapters are guidelines for helping others to cope with Death. For the self, the parent, and those in need. The second chapter covers more initiatory processes and how we, encountering life or visionary happenings can potentially be transformative from a shamanic or mythological sense.

I think that the authors have done well in this.

As I said I have tried not to gloss over the subject, and not for any reason other than my personal experience in the last 4 or so years has been heavily washed with the passage of family, and a psychological erosion of a youth’s belief in physical immortality by the nature of life’s entropic (physical) journey.

We die. All of us. You will die. I have to say it because I need to remind myself that in time I will. It’s not a constant awareness, but it is there, hovering near, when I heal, hurt, wake, eat, and go about doing. It is something we can or cannot accept, true ,but eventually we end up there whether we accept it or not.

That’s why it is important to know it, say it, accept it. I’m not advocating running around depressed, or in fear, actually I find that by living in a process of accepting Death, there is liberation from a lot of psychological snags. Tho I do believe that my essential self (soul, what have you) may continue on is some form, and I believe that meditation and self-discovery help you to connect with that true being, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel some natural instinct to keep, continue, and create. I am not sitting around planning my funeral, bemoaning my fate, but I am also blessed with health, job, home, and love. I could be much “worse off” compared to many millions of people, and I count that as a blessing.

What does strike me is that many people do not accept this fate. It is a destination yet not a goal, it’s as if Death is a demise, or punishment. Tormented with sorrow, anguish, fear, anger, and so many other mind-traps that throughout history we have needed those who know Death near us when it too becomes our time for passage into that otherness, whatever it ultimately my be. And because it Death perceived is a punishment, we have states in our own country where you forced into dying, in accordance to the law.

Death has become reviled. It’s so terrible, it is the greatest punishment… Where did we go wrong in our understanding?

It’s thoughts like these that drive me to the point that (I think) Sandra & Hank are making: There needs to be a personal re-address of the dying process and Death. A look at first realistic and then metaphysical in the sense of our relationship to ourself and those that have/are passing, and then the greater relationship to the bigger circle of living that we are part of.

Spiritual systems abound, throughout our history from small tribes to the great ethnic groups of human kind, that express an after to what we are living now. There are many similarities in myth, legend, story, and personal experience that tell us we are part of something greater and into the greatness we go when we expire. It is fundamental to most of us (some people believe we live and die, and once dead nothing more) to prove a link at some point in our life with that other world in whatever shape that takes hold of us.

When my grandfather passed away I knew, almost to the minute, even though I was hundreds of miles away. I felt a presence. There was a whiff of Old Spice and a splash of motor oil. I was sitting at my office desk, the door was closed. His memory, smell, and spirit was there in the light before me. Saying goodbye.

At a much younger age when one of my dogs died, we lived apart at that point, I had a dream she was across a vast chasm from me. Kahlua, my dog, was on one peak and I on another. She was barking and wagging her tail at me. I called her name over and over.

The next day, my mother called to let me know she passed away.

When my boyfriend Sean took is own life, I woke to see a light in my room and someone standing in it, waving. I woke. Smiled and waved. I honestly thought it was a Guide. The next day I began to receive calls…

My great-aunt and her funeral. The spirits in our various houses. “Ghost stories”, near death experiences, encounters. We go somewhere. We become something else. We meet that greatness.

“There is nothing to fear”, as they say, “but fear itself” and when we release that fear we enter a new life. It is part of living to know this. A shamanic perspective is but one way in which we can find the Sacredness and Grace that is helpful to meet it, to complete the circle. We can aid that sacred moment through paths as described in these chapters: Conversation. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Understanding. Connecting. It is one of our task while living.

We can find it in our spirituality, yes, but ultimately we make these graces within ourself.

I hope that this finds you well.

– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith

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Can I tell you that I had a terrible time with this card? Well I did. The Tarot Journey is a journey through the energy of the cards and this time around I must have had some grave dust in my ears because I wasn’t getting the message. Fortunately, with the help of a friend I was able to understand the message.


Dying isn’t always about loosing one’s life. In the natural cycle death occurs every year in the seasons and every month in the turning of the moon. As a human being it is threaded into the death and rebirth cycle of of my life I live and die and am reborn in many ways.

Death is more than change. In fact I really can’t stand that blanket generalization. As if we should neuter this state of transition, by safely calling it “change”.

Death is inevitable, will happen to all things, and many times it is sudden. Death isn’t just change. It isn’t fluffy. It can be sacred, we can be part of a passage, we can help others through that final step on this side but rarely is it just a Hallmark “change”. We change our underwear, our jobs, our home or outlook. These are changes, they are not necessarily death in the mystical sense of the word.

In the Tarot of the Spirit Companion book, Pamela writes:

Death comes
beating drums
screaming out the low wail
of Fate and Doom
Time has Come!
too soon! too soon! I scream, be gone!
knowing full well, all the while
it is late night; has come the dark hour; no dawn-
but corpses strewn about the strand
rolling twixt sand and sea

stretches out her boney claw
brushing hand and boot
and touches soul
screaming all the while
Come Brethren! Beat the Drum!
Sister! Brother!
Pound the Nail!
Time! Time! Time! Time!
has come! Come! Come! Come!

Hear not the horses scream
but bleeding beating hooves with every crash upon  the shore
submerging to emerge again
throwing off the old forms
waves of inert stagnation
fatal moves
grasping for gestation, fetal moves,
another breath-

The icy transformation of Death comes to
casting off the empty shell of
dead and bootless


When death comes in a metaphoric sense to the uninitiated we are looking at loss from a sense of fear. This job, relationship, lifestyle or mode of being has ended, and like many fear related reactions we have this guttural, primal brain reaction of hold on, struggle, anger, deny and grieve… but this is our nature striving to hold onto basic, survival needs (responses, expectations, fears and desires). This is not the deeper, self.

Death to the initiate, the seeker, the traveler with purpose, is beauty in the grace of sacrifice, the honor and gratitude in remembrance. It is the open-eyed largesse of spirit, embracing birth. More, yes, more, it is the seeking of the mind that is conscious of the death/rebirth.

Who was I / Who am I / How do I relate, act, become in this world in which I am a new being?

Attuning to the cards I call upon the energy, I invite it under the auspices of my intentions, what is Death then to me, entered into my life?

I said I struggled with this card, this attunement, and I’m not kidding.

Suddenly it is as if some part of my self, some layer was confining me. The word I used to my friend, and the healer that helped guide me through part of the process Nancy Stenn, was “Caul”. Smartly, Nancy said:

“to the extent that the death card also encompasses rebirth, that part feels right…  so, your word choice even lends itself to a birthing process — like breaking out of the chrysalis.”

I had to think.

One of our little finned friends died, Marriah pretty goldfish went into the statue of the Reiki Buddha in her tank and passed. Abruptly. The next morning she was floating lifeless around at the bottom. ACK! What a reflection. I was strangely removed from any feeling about her death. Brandon said some words of passage, I said mine silently and we let Marriah go.

There was an incredible resistance in me to this death/rebirth thing. I felt as if I was in a chrysalis, or caul, and that I could not break through. I snapped at people, anger issues were eclipsing my day-to-day, I had some pretty negative thoughts and all the while I felt removed from it. I felt that it was me, but not me. Two separate beings. One saying hello, one saying goodbye.

I have a dream.

I am asked to go with a friend to a “crystal shop” but I tell them that I don’t want to go because I thought it was this ‘Guru place’ I had heard about and I really didn’t agree with the ideology. Friend says, ‘no it’s changed. I think it is more what you are looking for.’

We walk into an old house-turned-crystal center and there are these gigantic crystal and stone pieces that have been unearthed, cleaned up and placed around the room. My friend points me to a tall brown agate-like piece, deftly polished, and she says, “Listen. It is a Grandfather inside.” I speak to the stone.

At this point I see my friend/mother Maria in the corner and she is watching me as I walk around the perimeter of the room. She is not speaking but sitting, aware.

I turn and find a crevasse in the center. A huge dark maw of an opening in the floor, lined with sandstone, glitters of gold and other minerals riddling the walls that descend into utter darkness. This is where the stones have been unearthed, this is the source of these beautiful formations.

I crawl into the opening and begin to scale into the darkness, looking for more of these fantastic earthy treasures. The walls begin to fall away. As I grab and reach for a better hand hold, rethinking purchase on the walls the crumble and fall into darkness.

I hear no crash. It is as if the stones are falling into oblivion.

It is then that I try to climb out but I realize that my perch has become quite unstable. A rock falls away at the top to reveal a large spider. I think to myself, “spider? Really? this is a fear symbol?” In the dream I see the ridiculousness of the totem. I think, “I am the weaver” and I begin to grab onto something more stable, or want for something more secure as the walls continue to break away beneath my hands.

It seems I will fall into the blackness. Then…

Maria stops watching and walks over to the edge. She says, “I think you  need a hand kid.” and she pulls me up out of the pit by my shoulders. I am no longer in the crevasse, I am on stable ground again.

I wake.

For me, this type of quest is a mystical experience of discovery. I do not expect, I embrace. I move forward as best I can, meditate, sketch and compare what I experience to what I know and relate what I can when I do not, yet I still feel (at this point) that I am not getting the message. What is this death?

Nancy  points out, again.

“~ Maybe there are aspects that don’t need to heal, and the ‘death’ is putting them to rest without deeper understanding?  Maybe that’s why the universal “?” card follows the Death card…”

And you know what… I see it. I get it.

Death is final in the sense that it has happened and the rest is holding on, grabbing for purchase that is not there, that crumbles away beneath me. Sitting in that (dreamed) crevasse and trying to find purchase is holding onto the form that has fallen away.

The psychological part of me that passed has passed and so there is no hand hold, no grasp that could be made to secure myself. It -that “once was me” that walked and talked and did in a certain way, has entered the earth and the mysteries.

With that in mind, I knew that I had to move forward. I then turned the card on my altar, the next step on the Tarot Journey, and I receive (what I call) the Universal Card, what Pamela Eakins has named, The Mystery Card.

The River of Life moves strangely.
It is always moving.
Yet it never goes anywhere.
Where did it come from?
Where did it go?
It moves like an infinite snake
across the infinite landscape
of Time and Space.
I fling out my net,
and yet, I catch nothing.
The River dissolves in a Sea
where neither Time or Space exist.
I see then, that,
through all the shifting change,
I remain at Heart, my Self,
the Full Emptiness of the One life,
where You, Dear One, and I,
are Forever Entwined in Infinite Love.

This card, to me, embodies the creative tool. A pen. A brush. A sculpting hand. It asks, What will I create? What will I do? It says to me, What can be?

In the days that followed I backed away from the drama-of-death thing. I chided myself thinking that I of course would over-process something that I should have recognized as a time to let go.

When I let go. When I allowed my Universal Mind to bring me out of that dreamed gaping chasm into an earthy unknown, and focused on what could be, I found a deep curiosity in imagining the future as it could be.

This particular Tarot Journey is about many things but intently about taking what I know and do and making something of it. Stepping out with my creative and magickal self and forging a new way of being, bringing myself into the groove of doing with my authentic self, the journey is about becoming for the community in which I live.

The passage through this point of uncertainty is a release of something… what it is, does not matter because it is so old and outmoded, so lived to the fullest, the best that I can do is to honor its passage by letting it go. Holding on is an impossibility.

When I got that, when I realized this gift of insight, something broke free within me. My friend Joji, who I shared my dream with at the office said, “You know what you do when you get to that point in a dream, when you are afraid to let go and fall? You let go!”.

He’s right.

Sometimes Death is just letting go.

With love,

Scott K Smith

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