Nov 12, 2015

Posted by in Divination, Occult Studies, Tarot | 0 Comments

What Does Tarot Say About the Number 13?

What Does Tarot Say About the Number 13?
Major Arcana XII - Death (Photo credit to Stephanie Pui-Mun Law)

Major Arcana XII – Death (Photo credit to Stephanie Pui-Mun Law)

For centuries we have heard of the legendary swan song. Adding a flair of drama, the tale has been told as the swan remains mute its entire life until the day it dies, where the swan then issues a painfully sweet song upon its final breath. Time and science has since proven that swans are not truly mute and only two variations of the species actually sing upon death, but only because of a tracheal loop that forces them to sound a call when they breathe. We see how poetic the legend has become through its retelling over the centuries.

Yesterday I shared my insights on the number 13 and its relation to death. Today’s topic consists of tarot’s understanding of the number 13. I’ll be using my Shadowscapes tarot deck, which is one of my favorite decks because of the deep symbolism paired with breathtaking art, but I’ll save that for another time.

The number 13 in the Major Arcana is death. But not a cliché card like we have all seen in movies. Death is represented by a phoenix engulfed in flames. In the companion book to Shadowscapes it mentions the mute swan as I did in my first paragraph. It goes further, however, to explain that as the phoenix is engulfed in its own flame, it relinquishes its life through a joyous song because the phoenix knows its successor will be born from its ashes. To the phoenix, death is not the end. The phoenix is making the way for the next in line, as the phoenix did before her own life and so on and so on. That link to its first ancestor brings the phoenix pleasure in knowing it will join her in death and also that the cycle will continue.

The beauty of this card is not only in its art, but it’s representation and meaning. As I had mentioned yesterday, death is not always taken literally. We must close the door behind us to open the door in front of us. What the closing door represents is up to you. What are you leaving behind in exchange for moving forward? The old must be burned away so the new can grow.

In addition to the phoenix on the card, we see three distinct plants: The iris, the deadly nightshade and the sumac. There’s a lot of myth behind each of these plants. For example, the iris represents the Goddess Iris in Egyptian myth. As Goddess of the Rainbow, Iris would descend on a rainbow to deliver messages from the Gods as well as carry women’s souls to the underworld. She is a protective caretaker of those transitioning in life.

Deadly nightshade is severely poisonous, but it’s also a beautiful flower. This is why it represents danger and deception along with death. We should take care that changes we make or changes to our circumstances are met with scrutiny and meditation. What may seem like a change for the better may actually be harmful to our progression in life. A new job that pays more than we were making will do us no good if we’re killing ourselves working long hours with no personal time for reflection and grounding.

Finally the sumac is known for its aggressive growth and that its fruit lasts through the winter into spring. This hardy plant lets nothing get in its way of growing and not even the chill of winter kills off its fruit. When you look up the meanings of different flowers, the sumac carries the phrase “I shall survive the change.”

You will, too.

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