My mother passed away on Sunday, 1 May 2011, the day before her 86th birthday. This grief reading is based on a spread from the Orphalese Tarot Zone, by Peter Singh. As always, I did the reading in the spirit of creative thinking, not divination. I used the Victorian Romantic Tarot from Magic Realist Press.
- Focus on your connection with the other
- Respect the connection
- Good times with this connection
- Say goodbye to the connection
- Cut the connection
1. Focus on your connection with that other
Trump XII, The Hanged Man
The connection has been suspended; although at 86 her death could not have been unexpected, I still feel “tripped up.”
I’m swinging between relief and sadness.
My world has been turned upside down.
Isolation, feeling alone, like the figure on the card.
Instead of continuing the journey, the journey has been (temporarily) suspended.
Turning inward, concentrating on an inner experience before continuing the outer journey.
Feeling both anger and release (the Tower reversed is often viewed as release). Relief that the worst has happened and it is now over.
A sudden illness and death. Both a sudden catastrophe, and a release.
The connection has been severed; the Tower has fallen, a storm has destroyed the ship. It has been a strange, sometimes disturbing, connection, well suited to both the Hanged Man (martyrdom) and The Tower (anger, destruction, release).
Survival—I can empathize with the two figures hanging from the ship’s mast. Although the ship has gone down, there are survivors (barely hanging on).
The ship’s mast makes me think of a cross, and thus of martyrdom. Being a martyr seems to have been my mother’s mission in life. She did not “play” the martyr, but suffered and endured a life full of fear and anxiety.According to Stephen Walter Sterling (Tarot awareness: Exploring the spiritual path), the reversed Tower can indicate problems with learning the lesson the event contains: "traumatized by events, difficulty in getting the underlying message," “the awakening is slower as the shock lingers,” and "not learning the lesson well." These are warnings that I will heed: there are lessons to be assimilated both from the relationship and about physical health.
The best times with my mother were when we could keep strong emotions—anger, frustration, pity—in check.
People around my mother had to be strong enough to carry her, to care for her. She was both dependent and resentful of her dependence. Like the woman taming the lions, we had to keep her pacified and happy to enjoy her company.
Like the lions, the old lady could purr like a pussycat, but you had to watch out for the claws of resentment.
This card seems eerily suited to saying goodbye to someone. The peaceful scene, the angelic figure, the suggestion of the angel having calmed the stormy waters, of blessing. There is a feeling of letting go, of restoring calm, of a soul being ferried to a better place. Death has brought peace in more than one sense, leaving memories of beauty (of a sentimental kind, which my mother was fond of). There has been anger and frustration, but after the storm (the Tower) comes peace. There has been a brief but upsetting illness, but now there is stillness.
The Page of Pentacles is the student in the world of the Tarot, both young and eager to learn. My mother was neither (the Page reversed). Her refusal to learn from experience or the advice of experts was a frustrating part of her being. Right up to the end she disregarded her doctor's advice and withheld crucial information from him. This I can now let go, it is over.
Pentacles concern the body, including health and illness. In Tarot for your self, Mary K Greer notes that the Page reversed could indicate neglecting your health. Neglect is perhaps an understatement for my mother’s refusal to tell the doctors what they needed to know. When asked why she withheld two crucially significant symptoms from the nursing staff at the old age home, she replied, “I tell the doctors nothing, because they don’t tell me anything.” On a previous occasion she declared, “I don’t tell them anything, because no one else tells them anything either.” Well, you get the picture.
Like the Page, she was Earth (Taurus), known for stubbornness, and a child. Her inability to learn from anything kept her a child, even when she grew old (the Page reversed).
On this card, Leanna Greenaway (Simply Tarot) notes, “Querent has bored, moody children with wasted talents near her.” Very descriptive! Because of her anxious nature, my mother seldom tried anything new, almost never expanded her horizons. I can now let go of the resulting worry, the anger and frustration, and remember every good quality she had.
The Page looks sad and alone, which I feel would be intensified in its reversed state. Much like a child who lost its mother.
Might the page actually be asleep? Maybe not, but on first seeing this card, I thought of how my mother used to sleep sitting in her favourite chair. Since I was a child I remember her sleeping in a chair, going to bed reluctantly. She must have had various reasons through the years—one would have been back pain, another that she struggled to breathe while lying down—but she refused to explain herself, and left her family both concerned and frustrated.
Her struggle to breathe while lying down played an important role in both her illness and her death. This is over; I can now let it go.
I'm not sure what to make of this position. The person cannot be replaced, but perhaps the emptiness could be filled?
The King of Cups is mature and loving, in touch with and in control of his emotions. I have always seen my father (who died in 1992) in this card. I would like to draw on the attitude and energy of this card.
Like the king on this card, I am surrounded by love and support, and the good things in life.
In an interesting variation on the usual meanings associated with the King of Cups, the creators of the Victorian Romantic Tarot saw this king as one who puts duty and responsibility before creativity and imagination.
“He is the mature person, usually a man, who has given up his earlier dreams of creativity and, more likely, his hopes of becoming an artist, musician or writer, in order to fulfil responsibilities to those around him, usually his immediate family.”
This duty has been discharged; maybe it is time to explore the more creative side of the King of Cups?
Whereas the first two cards—the Hanged Man and the Tower—suggest reversal and upheaval, the third and fourth cards suggest calm, peace, blessings, safety, and strength. The reversal suggested by the Hanged Man is echoed and intensified in the Tower, while the pacifying element of Strength is carried through to Temperance, where the figure suggests calming and blessing.
The four major arcana cards suggest the inevitability “force of nature” events that we cannot avoid or control, but simply respond to in the best way possible.
Reflection on the reflection
Dominant feelings are frustration and pity, and some relief, veering towards acceptance and understanding (which are two of the goals of reflection). Frustration and anger are emotions that I can work with, perhaps in subsequent Tarot reflections. Acceptance, understanding, and remembering the good things can follow only when the disturbing emotions have been dealt with.