We need to talk about Death.
There is only one certainty in life, and it is not taxes, it is physical death.
We will all lose loved ones, friends, or colleagues to death.
At some point you too will die, as will everyone we read tarot for.
So if you are going to read Tarot- for yourself, for others, or professionally I argue at some point "physical death" will crop up.
This was proved to me in a professional reading. Peoples eyes are always drawn first to the "difficult cards" and there was the Death card nice and prominent, time and time again. As always I gently comment "of course death doesn't mean physical death, it represents a change, moving on, letting go"
My client equally gently pointed out she was aware she was dying. The card did mean death, her physical death. She specifically wanted to focus on preparing for her death.
This has happened several times now, in different ways, where the death card has clearly represented either the clients death, or the death of a loved one. most often an older relative who is being cared for full time by the client.
What's reassuring for me is seeing physical death in a Tarot reading has never been shocking, or even surprising to the client. Perhaps there is a safety catch in reading for physical death that the cards show what the client is ready to acknowledge.
I admit the first time a client pointed out the death card was their death I had a moment of thinking "oh crap". Talking about death is not something our society prepares us for. If I am shaken, shocked, or have my own deep shadow issues about death then how can I openly and calmly help a client prepare for death- their own or a loved one?
As yet I have never put a timing on a death, I have given a suggestion of whether it is soon or there is still a long time left.
Neither have I answered the classic "when am I going to die?" question -posed by a fully healthy client looking for an interesting question.
But death has crept into many readings now, and to not cover it with a client is to miss out something that may be extremely helpful.
To avoid talking about death is to let down clients (or friends) who need real support and understanding.
I can only share my ideas, but if you read Tarot here are my thoughts about how to handle physical death in a reading;
Make sure you have a good understanding about what death means to you. It helps to have your own thoughts in order. If you have clear thoughts it is much easier to have clear boundaries.
If you have grief issues, and physical death crops up, I think it is always best to be honest. If you get teary explain why. If you simply can't handle discussing death at that point it is kinder to explain this and recommend a peer who can give the advice needed.
Be respectful of other peoples belief systems. I believe in re-incarnation. But when I talk about re-incarnation I always pause and say "or whatever fits your belief system". I am not there to preach or convert.
Consider your own ethical code for how you will deal with physical death in a Tarot reading. My code is continually updating as my experience grows, at the moment it is; "I will wait for the client to identify the death card as physical death and then read for and support as the client needs. I will only offer general timings for death. I will only read for death of the client or a very close loved one. I am looking at support and guidance of the process, not prediction of when or how. "
So, as I said in the title. I think it's really important that as tarot readers we talk about death. Because sooner or later it will crop up and our clients (or friends if we are reading for them) deserve a reader has considered this big, and unavoidable, part of life.
(Tarot image from the Mary El tarot)