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Death/N in Tarot

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
From: nagasiva 
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:03:32 GMT

>>>           ...reposting some excerpts from
>>            tarot-l in which this discussion has
>>>           been raging for a good week now soon.

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

50030125 VII ...

[much omitted throughout]

re what a card means:
the issue becomes when something which is meaningless as regards the
ideal communication of cosmic mysteries for which the tarot may be
presumed to exist becomes widely-accepted, and whether it is 
therefore valuable to support such popular attributions of meaning.
if one has a very particular understanding of these mysteries, then
opposition to certain 'slants' on tarot (perhaps in particular the
Trumps) is understandable.


it's always tricky when someone says 'what X symbol (/symbol-complex) 
means'. the tricky part is that meaning may be located resident to
the symbols, they may be described as contextually-driven, or they
may be considered wholly interior to the reader. 


re when people advocate a 'correct' meaning to a card:
my impression is that their contention is based, when supportable,
on a selection of from what "correctness" proceeds as regards the
meaning of a tarot card. sometimes this pertains to some deck or
decks which they consider authoritative, sometimes they have an
interest in promoting a restriction to certain arcane norms which
might be eroded if popular or reader-based interpretations are
given "undue attention".
 

re tarot authorities:
...if one doesn't accept them ...  [e.g. Book T/Wirth/Levi/et al]
as central to an interpretation of cards as they pertain to a 
specific mystery-revealing function, then it doesn't matter how 
many sources contend that any specific card may mean any 
particular thing. it is more important what certain accepted 
authorities (inclusive of one's own insights) provide as 
explanation. 


arguably, certain early occult decks (Colman-Smith-Waite 
and Harris-Crowley) appear to focus rather exclusively on 
physical death [support in previous discussion with Joseph!
plus see below for analysis of Crowley.]


re Crowley's 'death is illusory' poetry:
for those who are strict materialists, the contentions of 
those whose observations of the natural world and its strict
termination of organismic form in extended, reproduced bodies
is a truth compromised by the 'death is illusion' rhetoric.
note that I'm merely providing a framework from within which
it may be possible to argue that "Death means death". :>
 

Crowley begins his exposition on Death (in my copy p 99) 
by providing its symbolic attributes (Nun, fish) and gives
some attendant meanings to these attributes themselves.
he goes on to identify this card as indicative of alchemical 
PUTREFACTION (in its "three essential types"). 

he explains the lowest, Scorpionic, thus: "The strain of the 
environment has become intolerable, and the attacked element 
willingly subjects itself to change." pp 99-100. this is
quite obviously related to physical discorporation.

the other two forms he relates to the Serpent and Eagle. the 
Serpent he associates with other cards in a process. he calls 
Atu XIII [Death] the "completion of the card called Lust, 
Atu XI" and says that "Atu XII [Hanged Man] represents the 
solution or dissolution which links them." (p 100). this has
obvious links in sexuality to orgasm and that with which he 
probably associated it (gnosis, derived from a process of 
enthusiasm/Lust-passion/HangedMan-dissolution/Death). 

the Eagle aspect of the zodiacal character of Death he
describes as "exaltation above solid matter. It was 
understood by the early chemists that, in certain
experiments, the purest (i.e. most tenuous) elements
present were given off as gas and vapor" (p 100).
here we may find notions of post-mortem spirit 
ascension suggested (the soul escaping as a kind of
gas or vapor at or just after the body functions cease).

he then says that "the card itself represents the dance of
death" and relates its symbolism to Saturn. he explains
this Saturnian connection by indicating that the Saturnian
is "the essential structure of existing things", "that
elemental nature of things which is not destoyed by the
ordinary changes which occur in the operations of Nature."
(p 100). it is this conclusion which may lead, in the
consideration of the Tarotic Trumps and outside any strict
symbolistic evaluation, to the conclusion that Death just
means death (because its use is specific, and because the
quality of transformation is what death CATALYZES among
living beings).

he notes that the Harris-Crowley (Thoth deck) Death skeleton
wears an Osirian crown and therefore obtains connection
with "the original secret male creative God" and some good
bit of his text can easily be interpreted as 'the power
and energy of transformation', though he would wish to
separate this from Christian notions of resurrection it
seems (mentioning the 'corruption of the Black Lodge). 
I leave most of that behind as peculiar to his theories.

[NOTE: from "The Book of Thoth -- A Short Essay on 
             the Tarot of the Egyptians, Being 
             The Equinox Volume III No. V" 
             published by Samuel Weiser, 1981; 
             pp 99, 100, and 212.]

critical expositors on the nature of Death might easily
object to the 'dissolution' (pun intended!) of the card's 
meaning when 'transformation' (especially in an overt sense) 
is somehow generalized to merely 'change'. as I point out 
elsewhere, strict change is given placement in such cards 
as the Harris-Crowley DISK-2, "Change", which is so often 
used to ornament published books and decks.

the over-riding issue, when considering such cards as the 
Colman-Smith-Waite Death, becomes the CONTEXTUAL SIGNIFICANCE 
OF THE TRUMP and how this may apply to an exposition of the 
overall meaning of Tarot, especially as regards its Trump 
Sequence.  

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:06:45 GMT

Orig-To: tarotl@yahoogroups.com

re when a symbol or symbol set meant one single thing:

it hasn't outside of strict categories in which these symbols
occurred. those who maintain that 'the Death card means X'
are talking about a very specific divinatory context (tarot)
and with respect to a subset of that which may have a composite
significance (the trumps). it typically is provided with some
kind of sequential evaluator (e.g. 13) and therefore obtains an 
even more specific context (within the series X, XI, XII, XIII, 
XIV, XV, for example, or any other selected subset therein).

from here it depends on the deck and one's notions of what
tarot is, where meaning resides, and how we should determine
the meaning of any particular card that will give ballast to
any assertion we may have about "what Death means". I can
very easily understand simple and restricted identifications
as regards Death here, based on my qualifiers in the above. 
it is for this reason that I have attempted to shore up 
support for what at first seems a tarotic myopia. :>

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:17:56 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

DEATH CARD

nagasiva re Skeletal rider on a horse (in response to Joseph):
>> this image is ...easily-recognized ....
>> [as a symbol] for death. the scythe is
>> your better vehicle for this counter-argument, 

this was my way of agreeing re harvest-implications
in the Marseilles. I hadn't thought there might be
some substance behind a contention that the Marseilles
is actually *the* tarot....

>> especially in its relation to grain-cutting. and yet
>> what is depicted in Smith-Waite and Harris-Crowley is
>> not the Harvest (despite Harris' use of the tool), but
>> instead termination, the end of an organism, as this
>> figure on the horse has for centuries. not only that,
>> modern writers have enlarged on this to some goodly
>> effect, such as Piers Anthony ("To Ride a Pale Horse",
>> if memory serves).
 

...grain is only shown in the Colman-Smith-Waite
as part of a downward-pointing pentadflower, from what I see.
my copy has what appears to be an expanse/plain interrupted
by a body of water, then an apparent ridge of cliffs, atop
which sit the twin towers of the Moon, the Sun between them
on the horizon.

there's a silhoette against the Sun which is difficult to
make out as much more than three peaks. there are flowers in
the hair of the children, and a few trees on the plain, maybe
a few bushes or trees in the foreground before the towers,
but no harvesting going on except for this dead human.

>>> in nature death implies resurrection, 
>> 
>> not when we're talking about human beings, or even
>> mammals and other ambulatory organisms generally.
>> death implies nothing of the sort. 
> 
> It depends on your belief system.

absolutely agreed.

>>> when it comes to the human condition we cant be 
>>> intellectually sure of our resurrection 
>> 
>> intellectually, only fools believe in resurrection,
> 
> Then you must feel that Waite is a fool.

Waite is no longer alive. I cannot assess his condition
at the time of his death. if he believed in resurrection
then that's his prerogative, and it requires a degree of
faith which I admire for its fervor. however, my caveat
was concerning intellect and faith. resurrection has by no 
means been demonstrated to the degree of certitude which
a healthy intellect would conclude from the evidence.
quite the contrary. human lives appear quite finite.

as regards the nature of the universe and the power of
the divine to effect any kind of resurrection (whether
that of the divine itself in human form as ascribed to
the fictional character of Jesus Christ, or some fantasy
promise to the faithful), I presume this must be based
on faith or be evidence of substandard intelligence.

my own observation is that the soul is fantasy based on
a projection of physical sensation and subjective ideation.
given the observed course of all mammals, it seems we are
only capable at present of reproductive immortality, in 
that we may reproduce and our genes may extend a generation.
even this is limited in its quality (our consciousnesses
will not, except under weird conditions, coincide) and, 
as far as I know, its extent (# of generations).
 
in any case my own interpretation is that the Smith-Waite
Death card satisfies my materialistic interest. it is only
the Judgement card I felt the need to cast aside. you see,
I was never attempting to make a case that Death MUST mean
only death by design (clearly you and others have shown
that there are post-mortem interests in the Trumps and even
in the descriptive commentaries of the occultist's cards).
I was merely pointing out that a death-only understanding
is certainly supportable based on the art of the Smith-Waite. :>

my own interests in creating my deck inspire me to weigh in
heavily on the side of its specific implementation as death
and nothing more. I consider PUTREFACTION a proper synonym
for this and the first verse of that section

        GENERAL CHARACTERS OF THE TRUMPS AS THEY APPEAR IN USE

to be a kind of warning and promise in The Book of Thoth:

                KNOW NAUGHT!
                ALL WAYS ARE LAWFUL TO INNOCENCE.
                PURE FOLLY IS THE KEY TO INITIATION.
                SILENCE BREAKS INTO RAPTURE.
                BE NEITHER MAN NOR WOMAN, BUT BOTH IN ONE.
                BE SILENT, BABE IN THE EGG OF BLUE, THAT THOU
                MAYEST GROW TO BEAR THE LANCE AND GRAAL!
                WANDER ALONE, AND SING! IN THE KING'S PALACE
                HIS DAUGHTER AWAITS THEE.

                pp 254-5 (all caps in text, lyric-balance *italics*!)

>> and the dogmatic religious without critical thought.
>> it is a Carrot which gets the religious Nose-Hooked
>> to Harness.
> 
> Then you must feel that RWS is bogus, a mere "carrot".

not the deck, just that card. ;> I even enjoy the Judgement
card's art, I like Colman-Smith's work so much. but it was
the first of the cards I ditched in favour of X-Liberty-Uranus.
the second was the Hierophant (name+art change for the New Aeon).
I tossed the Knights too. no competition for Morte. ;>
Joseph began asking about my preferences and I thought them 
relevant to the support of what is rationally-defensible. 

I don't think I could ever consider the Smith-Waite "bogus", 
no. it doesn't work for everyone, clearly. :> I adore Harris'
Aeon too. it is *superb*! much more to my liking than 
Judgement. I may even use it or something of it for Liberty.

>>> so we wrap our desire for it up in myth and make it 
>>> as imposing as possible.  
>> 
>> no we can't be absolutely certain of what it is like
>> to EXPERIENCE EXTINCTION and so we wrap it up in a
>> mysterious figure and make Him (Morte) responsible
>> for what we cannot dream that Nature (Mom!) intended:
>> that we should vanish without trace back into the
>> Cosmic Soup at our time.
> 
> Yes, some folks believe this, but others, including Waite, 
> did not.

quite likely, but the Smith-Waite Death card doesn't
forbid this interpretation and hardly denies it. this
seems less concerned with the Judgement which Waite
may well have believed was ahead and more with 
death as a part of the sequence of the Trumps 
(physical death, or direct exposure to it). 

do you know if it comes with some story of a king dying? 
there are a number in literature. should it be associated 
with some portion of the Solar Year and its death, in 
the same way that Cronus is said to die at solstice?
Scorpio is Oct-Nov, at best an all-saints Celto-renewal.

[NOTE: since this writing I've seen apocalyptic renderings
       of Death-on-Horseback which have fallen kings and
       popes and things; this element appears conventional
       and implicating of 'death to the great'.]
 
>>>> ...the Death card was given the letter Nun by occultists. 
> 
> Only by *some* occultists.  Others gave it to Mem.  Of course, 
> one can find any number of Hebrew letters in any of the Trumps 
> if one has a fertile imagination.
 
well said. I considered it myself a number of times but didn't
have the heart to relocate the rest of the Letters, choose 
another arrangement, or engage some odd sequence. ;>

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:37:29 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

nagasiva re Judgement being a bogus Carrot:
>> not the deck, just that card. ;> 
> 
> However, the major point made by the deck as a *whole* is l
> spiritual resurrection (Judgment Trump) and mystical union 
> of the soul with God (Universe Trump).  

wonderful. I applaud the effort and welcome its truth.
my impression was that Harris-Crowley added an imperative
dimension to these cards in their comparative expression.

> ...if one rejects the notions of spiritual resurrection 

oh I never said I rejected *spiritual* resurrection. I don't think
it is possible outside bodily integrity and within life, but I
do think spiritual resurrection is a quite real and important 
experience mystics enjoin and point toward, including Waite. ;>

> and mystical union of the soul with God, 

again, I have no objection to these ideas, though I would not
suggest that anyone understand them to apply to something
post-mortem. the latter's the Carrot I was talking about.

> one is rejecting the major point of RWS as envisioned by Waite.

no doubt. I reject the literal interpretation of ghosts rising
from the boxes, that's all. too many have understood it quite
literally and put off true living in favour of present slavery.
I don't require that others follow in my preferences, but when
discussion turns to these matters I enjoy advocating them. see
below for an explanation of my approach to occult tarot.

again from Pictorial Key to the Tarot:
># The veil or mask of life is perpetuated in change, transformation and
># passage from lower to higher, and this is more fitly represented in
># the rectified Tarot by one of the *apocalyptic* visions than by the
># crude notion of the reaping skeleton [emphasis added].

Crowley's poetic addition at the end of his Thoth text 
notwithstanding, his support of the Death=death formula 
in the commentary proper appears more rational [than 
what is quoted of Waite here] to me, and one based on 
traditional occult tarot symbolism.
 

re the stumbling initial tarotic authorities:
...I tend to think that original designs of
Tarot peculiar to early occultists not completely familiar with
the Mysteries will contain errors/noise/falsities but be 
presented in a manner valuable and worthy of study. universalism 
appeals to me also, but I find no compassion in attempting to 
sustain it, especially as it is so easy to deconstruct....
 

re tarot through time: 
...direct expressions on old themes (e.g. games) using 
new instruments (designs) may drag the consciousness of 
the Herd toward the Mysteries if sufficiently approximating 
their popular form (as in those reflecting the Marseilles,
but moreso those taking from it and expressing their own
vision of the Mysteries to subsequent generations). 

the issue becomes one of how much can the breakage from game
iconography to imply occult Mysteries be sustained and,
over time, how far can it be shifted to and centered on the
Mysteries, preferrably displacing the original designs 
completely and being used for ALL purposes (esp. by 
occultists). ;>


re the ghosts-emergent-from-boxes in Smith-Waite:
...why I eliminated the Smith-Waite card of 
this name during construction of my own. metaphor has gotten
away with the value of the imagery by being literalized
and dogmatically-believed without evidence by the masses.
this is yet another reason to firmly distinguish Death 
and Liberty [X/Uranus] from one another, not only as some
tarotic construction, but in an explication of philosophy
(I shall later expand on this when generating a Little
White Book for use with my deck :>). those which confuse 
these are manipulative deceptions or fallacious fantasies 
without basis, as I see them.

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:40:41 GMT

Orig-To: tarotl@yahoogroups.com (TarotL Yahoogroup)

re 'believing in the existence of a soul'

yes I'm more Buddhist than that. ;>

> ...an individual is more than the physical body, is a 
> complex of social relationships. 

my understanding of spirituality is that subjective
experiences don't extend beyond the organism, though
they may be associated with a body which generates
waves or a wake in social and other dimensions (which
I understand is the best definition of 'karma').


...it was only resurrection in a bodily
sense which I stated was the fiction taken on faith.
the spirit disintegrates when its apparatus that makes
it possible terminates its operation and disintegrates.
though magicians and mystics enjoy asserting that some
kind of survival may be established or earned through
technical or ethical activities, I'm not convinced.
the mistaken projection of the soul as a nonchanging
object extending beyond bodily death is an understandable
error in human cognition, but I find no evidence for it.

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:55:49 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

the Smith-Waite card at least implies in its symbolism that the
fallen individual is dead and that there are survivors. there
doesn't appear to be any indication beyond this, aside from
whatever the foreshadowing of the Moon/Sun might be. the focus
appears to be on the personification of Death and the mortality
of the fallen figure (again, social station seems implied).

that is, it is possible to take this card to mean that death in
a physical sense is a necessary part of any 'Journey' implied
by the Trump sequence. it is *equally* possible, based strictly
on the symbolism itself as I can rationalize it, that what is
being symbolized is a *tangental* experience of Death (and
hence death), and this may lead to subjective maturation in the
manner described by Buddhists about Gautama Buddha in encounter
with the Four Signs (sickness, old age, death, and monasticism;
which were what catalyzed Gautama's initial awakening to the Path).


re divinatory interpretations of 'change' or 'transition': 
...everyday praxis is not everyone's priority. some of us may
even feel a need to object to the standards of everyday praxis for
the benefit of human and other species and the enjoyment of our
limited, finite existences through opposition to what we have
learned are simplistic and mistaken ideologies, however attractive.


quoting JKarlin:
>> The card [Death] is always about death.  That's why it's called
>> Death, and not 'Bad Stuff---which might sometimes include death'
>
>> Death is always literal death.

I agree with this, though I'm still not sure what it says about
the relation of the Trump to the rest of the cards. after all,
as I have said before, this could be a direct OR an indirect
encounter with physical death (direct implying to me termination
and indirect possibly including quite transformative effects
upon those only tangentally-related otherwise -- as upon the
remaining figures in the Smith-Waite version of this Trump).
 

>> Death is death.  It has to be.  Or it doesn't mean anything.

this seems illogical and overstated.
 

my own objection rests less on the character of historic 
expression on the matter (though I find it intriguing that 
the Smith-Waite card at least may be rationally examined as 
*only* relating to this limited perspective), as compared 
to my own insight as to what I think is beneficial to all 
sensate beings that we presently maintain in relation to 
the Death tarot trump (physical mortality/cessation as a
corporate integrity, terminating subjective experience).

in the past, perhaps fantasies about ghosts and meat-puppets
and pie-in-the-sky dreams transcending evident experiences
may have been important to us as a species and/or others in order
to achieve some kind of goal, but now I think it is detrimental
to all concerned. I consider the doctrine to be harmful and
irresponsible to support, plus contradictory to my experience
and observation of myself and others through time.


again quoting JKarlin:
>> But selling death, or Death, as any funeral-home operator 
>> knows, is tricky business. That's why in the newage devolution 
>> of Tarot it had to be changed to 'Transition' and decoupled 
>> from that nasty dying business.

I tend to agree with the logic of this argument, even if I do
not always enjoy the way it is presented. death as a phenomenon
is something human beings would like to avoid, sweep under the
rug, or turn into something more palatable, no matter the context,
as I see it, and this manifests in the areas of both burial and
in terms of a consideration and interpretation of tarotic imagery.



...where does the meaning occur? without seeking
to identify the 'proper' interpretation for all, I would like 
to argue strongly for the benefit of presuming [Death is best
interpreted as physical death] as regards EITHER a direct or 
tangental encounter with physical death. [change and transition]
seems to me more a slippery-slope too many of the faithful have 
slid down into dangerous territory. 


effectively, one's sources and background will probably
inform any decision made about the meaning of any specific
symbol or symbolic complex....

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:05:16 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

...what do [the Smith-Waite's] symbols of the children, 
the fallen figure, the standing cleric, and the Moon-symbols and 
Sun mean ....?

previous nagasiva:
>> as I said, I adore the Smith-Waite card and think Waite's commentary
>> here mistaken, 

elaboration:

by virtue of a misunderstanding as to the nature of death, generally.
one might also make a case that the 'communication of Tarot Mystery
Death' is flawed in its association with John's Revelation, but I
will not enlarge on this here.

>> illogical, 

I don't follow the logic of how the card is an apocalyptic vision....
I'm not talking just about the reference to a horsed-Death, but
about the ENTIRETY OF THE SCENE DEPICTED.

>> and I would not be surprised to discover it as a deception 
>> on Waite's part.

in order to undergird his scripture, but without apparent 
connection otherwise. the nature of my speculation above
should not be mistaken for certitude. Waite explains this
change in Death's presentation from tarotic tradition thusly:

[Pictorial Key]
# The veil or mask of life is perpetuated in change, transformation and
# passage from lower to higher, 

and more importantly, that

# ...this is more fitly represented in the rectified Tarot by one 
# of the apocalyptic visions than by the crude notion of the 
# reaping skeleton.

this seems weird to me. the vegetative symbolism seems more in 
line with notions of transformation, though I can see that one 
might infer something cyclic and unending (the Play of the 
Seasons). as such, the Smith-Waite card brings in a Christian
symbolism which converses with tarotic tradition in a way
that may be criticized or opposed by virtue of not only one's
personal understanding of the Mysteries, but one's composite
understanding of the meaning of Death in the Trump Sequence.

if one doesn't agree with the prediction of John, for example,
or the cosmology entertained therein, then it may be easily
described as 'mistaken', along with any tarotic citations or
symbolic references thereto by an occult tarot fabricator.

what is shown in the Smith-Waite seems *only* the apparent
'sloughing of a body' without evident 'passage' contained within
this card. your argument might proceed to underscore the fact that
Waite intended the process to continue in the next cards, but then
I would respond that this is support for the notion that Death in
Smith-Waite ONLY means that sloughing, that curtailment of physical
form, transcended (in Waite's vision) at the point of physical 
death, albeit with the intent to imply a later (Judgement-based)
'passage from lower to higher' that is (NOTE) not contained in the
Waite-Smith Death card itself.

keeping my own preferences out of this for a moment (for I will
intend Death to be more a metaphor or proximate catalyst for some
life-changing interior transformation), Waite doesn't say which
of "the apocalyptic visions" he intends, and we may conjecture
that the horsed Death is transplanted from the Revelation of John
into Trump XIII for HIS purpose....


>> Tarot peculiar to early occultists not completely familiar 
>> with the Mysteries will contain errors/noise/falsities but 
>> be presented in a manner valuable and worthy of study. 
> 
> Oh, I think they knew plenty about the "Mysteries", although 
> this may depend on just how you define this expression.

they are implied by the Trumps to a great degree. even today
a goodly number are deluded into thinking that they are
somehow related to "universal archetypes" which, as far as
I am able to determine, have no basis in fact beyond some
unfortunate deceptions by psychologists (i.e. Jung and his
subsequent acolytes).
 
>> universalism appeals to me also, but I find no compassion 
>> in attempting to sustain it, especially as it is so easy 
>> to deconstruct.

elaboration:
 
differentials in culture deconstruct the fallacy of universalism.
this seems repeatedly demonstrable through time in the annals  
of anthropology and archaeology, from 'Solar-Phallic Men' to
'Moon-Gods'.

>> if sufficiently approximating 
>> their popular form (as in those reflecting the Marseilles,
>> but moreso those taking from it and expressing their own
>> vision of the Mysteries to subsequent generations). 

I'm describing a kind of 'ideal' wherein the Mysteries may
be communicated through symbolism only, direct language
unfortunately assuming an impediment to their understanding
(this is why I'm not following your inquiry and providing
a definition of the term for you :>). from this perspective,
a "matching" may be derivable over time and the changing of
the symbolism for the form of communication (in this case
playing cards; compare 'Enochian Chess' which uses the game
of Chaturanga or Four Seasons to attempt similar results)
may begin to more closely approximate the truth of those
Mysteries to any given people in any particular age.

moreover, the activities of occultists in this regard might
be considered from a holistic viewpoint as shifting the
popular attention, where the 'improved' game becomes well-
known, toward meditative (albeit in distraction from an
otherwise entertaining and enjoyable activity of gaming)
consideration of the profundity toward which the symbols point.
 
>> the issue becomes one of how much can the breakage from game
>> iconography to imply occult Mysteries be sustained and,
>> over time, how far can it be shifted to and centered on the
>> Mysteries, preferrably displacing the original designs 
>> completely and being used for ALL purposes (esp. by 
>> occultists). ;>

perhaps this is more meaningful provided the above elaboration.
 
> And just what does "Mysteries" mean?  It is such a vague 
> word unless defined by the user.

its vagueness, in the context of my missives to this forum, 
is completely intentional, I assure you. ;>

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:10:06 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

nagasiva:
>> as I said, I adore the Smith-Waite card and think Waite's 
>> commentary here mistaken,

elaboration:
 
I hope I've made this more clear in my previous post. I didn't
mean he was mistaken about his deck, but about the nature of
Death and, perhaps, the implications of the symbolism of the
art rendered by Pamela Colman-Smith (because of the attendant
figures and additional material contained in the card which,
as far as I know, doesn't appear in Revelation. 

with the addition of his elaboration on Death below, I hope 
to show that the mere initial lines in Waite's explanation of 
the Death trump are insufficient to justify his intent to 
present an apocalyptic vision as compared to the presentation
of a symbol of ordinary, physical death. I look forward to
your refutation and demonstration to the contrary if you have
an interest, since Christian symbolism is not something with
which my tastes agree and I may be overlooking something. 
 
>> illogical, and I would not be surprised to discover
>> it as a deception on Waite's part.
> 
> So now Waite is a liar....

that is a distortion of my assertion, unfortunately. it is
rather well-known that he had a blatantly Christian agenda,
through which he saw the world and reflected his insights.
in the presentation of "the rectified Tarot", therefore, he
apparently took pains to distinguish the Hanged Man (XII)
from Death (XIII) by virtue of the nature of the death
depicted. your quotation of the initial portion of the
description in The Pictorial Key struck me as illogical
and misguided in relation to the obvious physical death
therein depicted. if one reads further on in the text of
his commentary, one encounters the following:

# There should be no need to point out that the suggestion
# of death which I have made in connection with the previous
# card [XII] is, of course, to be understood mystically, but
# *this is not the case in the present instance* [XIII]. 
# The natural transit of man to the next stage of his being
# either is or may be one form of his progress, but the
# exotic and almost unknown entrance, while still in this
# life, into the state of mystical death is a change in the
# form of consciousness and the passage into a state to
# which ordinary death is neither the path nor gate. The
# existing occult explanations of the 13th card are, on
# the whole, better than usual, rebirth, creation,
# destination, renewal, and the rest.
#
# "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot", A.E.Waite, University;
#  1959; pp 120-3. [*nagasiva's emphasis*].

the end of card XII includes the following text by Waite:

# He who can understand that the story of his higher
# nature is imbedded in this symbolism [of the Hanged
# Man] will receive intimations concerning a great
# awakening that is possible, and will know that after
# the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious
# Mystery of Resurrection.
#
# Waite, Ibid., p. 119.

and when taken together it indicates to me that the 
SYMBOLISM of the Death card is completely one of 
physical death (of the figure on the ground which
Waite *does not even mention*, only implying it when
describing what he calls "the whole world of ascent
in the spirit" which lies behind "the reaping skeleton".

why does Waite seek to distinguish "the suggestion of
death" he has made in the previous card (mystical) with 
the present (XIII/Death) card, unless the intention
behind the symbolism is one of physical death? one must
go further into the Trumps to encounter anything beyond
this physical death symbolism, and this is what Waite 
intends by implying the later Trumps by virtue of symbol
(Moon/Sun) and explanation ("Mystery of Resurrection"
obviously related to what he calls "The Last Judgement"
and "resurrection of the natural body", the body which
is depicted as dying in Trump XIII).

arguably, if there is no death of the natural body, 
whatever this body may symbolize to the faithful in
metaphor, then there can be no resurrection of that
body in Trump XX, Judgement.

> In reality, Waite was especially honest.  

typically, agreed. there are incidents in which he
refers to himself in third person without mention of
the fact that he is the reference (when speaking of
"Grand Orient"), and his exposition takes liberties,
at times, with the contextual explanation of the past
by covering them within his "veil" of knowledge 
(recasting them within his perspective, as when he
talks about his "rectified Tarot"). these minor
examples, combined with his intentional omission 
of grimoiric elements in "The Book of Black Magic
and Pacts" indicate that he had his moments. ;>
 

I've made the case that the presupposition that he
intended the Smith-Waite card XIII to be an apocalyptic
vision (rather than a mere introduction of Christian-
related elements for the purpose of illustration of
the Mystery of Death generally) is without basis.

Waite distinguishes "mystical death" from what he calls
(and what is depicted in card XIII) as "ordinary death".

he supplements this with mention that the symbolism 
of MYSTICAL death may be interpreted as an interior
transformation (one which some expositors Hermetic have
interpreted as 'the death of the ego'), and in this he
may be trying obliquely to imply that the Mystery of
Death may contain the alternate route, but we must
wait (no pun intended! :>) for later cards to be given
the substance for this "whole world of ascent in the
spirit" which he seeks to imply in the background.

Waite's admission that "the state of mystical death is 
a change in the form of consciousness and the passage 
into a state to which ordinary death is neither the path 
nor gate" seems to supply a reason why The Hanged Man
and Death are different symbols, and, arguably, his
vagueness here (at least to my read, corrections and
arguments to the contrary here are definitely welcome)
allows one to infer that the mystical death depicted in
Trump XII is not the same kind of Initiator as what
appears in Trump XIII in definitely ordinary death 
in which 'the natural body' is deceased due to the 
activities of a Revelation-Morte.

as such, it may or may not be the Initiation Process
that contains the ordinary death he describes, and
his reference to "the existing occult explanations of 
the 13th card" seem to me somewhat contrdictory to 
his explication that XIII and XII differ in the type
of deaths symbolized.
 
nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:16:46 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

>> ...energy(matter) is neither created nor [destroyed]. It is 
>> transformed. So what we term as death really isn't an ending 
>> it is a transition.... 

objectively quite true. as I understand it, however, this 
fails to describe the real finite duration of experience made
possible by the organism so transformed as it decomposes.


subjectively, from what I can determine, life ends at death.
life has no meaning post-mortem, excepting some fantasy which
people construct to give hope to those without it otherwise.

with the development of technology and the onset of societal
wisdom (in applied planned parenthood, reduction of the 
numbers of human beings, and the optimizing of pleasure 
combined with supporting the ecosystem), such fictional
continuation will no longer be necessary to give motivation
to continue support of societal authorities.
 

the attachment to persons is a longstanding human condition.
its extent applies at *least* internally (emotionally), and
is often given extensive expression through art. that 'drama'
is a very real internal, subjective experience, which arguably
it is fruitless to attempt to evade (because it can lead to
detachment and callousness, if not personal dysfunction, due
to the repression and denial of death as a reality).
 

> Death to the body is death.  The Christian scheme asserts 
> that there are two bodies....

this is also my understanding. it is something which my own
experience contradicts directly, and I consider the second
body (usually 'soul' or 'spirit', but which I prefer to refer
to as a GHOST) to be fantasy without ontological basis.

studies have been conducted intending to measure the mass
or weight of the departing soul, and yet this has not
yielded what I would consider convincing evidence in support 
of the metaphysics. some religious of other types (notably 
some but not all Buddhists) have taken the approach of 
DENYING the reality and/or duration of said soul (in the 
language of the tradition the 'atman') as part of the 
fundamental instruction of their founder(s) (i.e. in the
doctrine of 'Anatman', 'No Soul).

Christian scripture (apparently 1Corinthians):
># ...It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  
># There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."

this is to what Waite refers, obviously, in his commentary.

># ........at (50) Now this I say, brethern, that flesh and 
># blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth 
># corruption inherit incorruption.  behold I show you a 
># mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be 
># changed...In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at
># the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the 
># dead shall be raised incorruptible, an we shall be changed.  

> judgment is, in the Christian Scheme the "transition" 
> the culmination of the promise of "change".  But this day
> of judgment is beyond death.....death is death even in 
> this scheme.  

this is the fulcrum of my point (in support of JK's 
contention), yes. thank you for making it more clear.
  
> Even in the Christian scheme there is a denomination 
> of "flesh" even a heavenly" type flesh which is in the 
> nature of the idea of "soul"....Death is the zero 
> between life and "change" upon judgment. Resurrection 
> as understood by the Catholic doctrine occurs after death.

precisely. one might, in a consideration of occult tarot
authors and artists, ascribe to them heretical or even
post-Catholic interpretations. surely Waite could be seen
as advocating an internal correllate to the physical death,
though his text appears to me, in an explication of the 
Death trump, somewhat confusing. I'm hoping that someone
will defend him properly.

Bob O'Neill brings up a few heresies which originate before 
modern times, for example. he writes of "major doctrines
of the Pre-Renaissance Heretical movements in western
Europe" in his examination of tarotic history. to wit:

     1. _Concepts which anticipated the spirit of the Renaissance_
        Salvation is an individualistic process. Once the adept
        achieved "perfection" he is free from any law, civil,
        or ecclesiastical. He is in direct communication with
        God through mystical union and needs no other guidance.
        
        Human Dignity and Freedom: Man raises himself through his
        own efforts. He can even raise himself to the level of
        the Divine. Because it is his own effort, [compare Buddha]
        there is no need for formal assistance from outside through
        clergy, sacraments or hierarchy.        

     2. _Concepts derived from the second to fourth century Syncretism_  
        Mystical ascent requires asceticism, poverty, celibacy. All
        these ideas are derived from Gnosticism and the Desert Fathers.

        Mysticism was fundamentally Dionysian in character: unknowing,

        Neoplatonism predominated as the philosophy of the heretics:
        Existence is organized into hierarchies.

        Gnosticism: dualism derived directly from Middle Eastern
        Manichaeanism.

     3. _Fundamentally Mystical Character of the Heresies_
        Union with God was possible in the present life and 
        represented the highest achievement of human existence.

        The mystical prophesies of Joachim of Flora were held in
        high regard.

        The mystical experience involved a direct realization
        of the union of opposites.

        Man passed through the stages fo mystical development
        in the present life. Hell, purgatory, last judgment
        and resurrection were a part of this life, not experienced
        after death.
        ----------------------------------------------------------
        "Tarot Symbolism", Robert V. O'Neill, Fairway Press,
         1986; p 198. [thanks, Bob!]
        ====================================================== 

and Waite's explication of his Death may be taken to hint at
some of these heresies, though I'm not sure that Waite would
have wanted to be associated with heresy generally.

re the termination of the body at physical death:  
my preference is in seeing the truth of SUBJECTIVITY 
as regards this, whether literal death (as the Smith-Waite
card directly symbolizes) or metaphorical death, as a 
transmutation of one's interior condition by virtue either 
of exposure to the death so represented (friends, family 
dying, etc.), or in a manner somehow mappable TO the 
symbols presented (e.g. some Hermetics describe the 
requirement of 'the death of the ego' which may apply).

nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:22:22 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

nagasiva: 
> > the Smith-Waite card at least implies in its symbolism that the
> > fallen individual is dead and that there are survivors. there
> > doesn't appear to be any indication beyond this, aside from
> > whatever the foreshadowing of the Moon/Sun might be. the focus
> > appears to be on the personification of Death and the mortality
> > of the fallen figure (again, social station seems implied).
 
> Is Death solely about the individual?

good question! you're also asking a question about the Trumps 
in general here. does the Trump Sequence pertain solely to 
an individual's process or 'journey', symbolized by cards?

you begin to ask, to me, a similar question as James Revak
asked me when he inquired as to the nature of Mysteries.
I'll talk about the cards, but would like to say that I 
am also saying something *obliquely* about the Mysteries.

tarot cards are complexes of meaning comparable to formulae 
which may be applied across a spectrum of uses, from what 
is called the "archetypal" and interior to an individual or 
culture, to the manifested form of a diverse set of phenomena 
that extends as far as the meaning of the card itself and 
the imagery or words integrated to the card.

therefore the question of whether any Trump is solely about
'the individual' seems to imply the person for whom the
cards are said to be spread (often 'the Querent'). inasmuch
as Death arises in a reading, my impression is that it need
not imply that the individual is to die soon, but does pertain
*to* the Querent and their relation, internally or externally,
to the phenomenon of death as depicted by skeletal agents.
in this sense it is indeed only 'about the person', though
the death itself may be manifested in another, or even quite
conceptually.

I'm not sure the question is explicit enough to answer more
clearly or concisely. it might be helpful to select a deck
(I'd mentioned Smith-Waite), indicate the context of the 
card's appearance in a layout, or specify that you're talking
about 'the meaning of the Trump Sequence' within a particular
deck as a whole.

[and]

> Many people seem quite terrified that Death could have 
> anything to do with death.

I think 'terrified' is too strong a characterization. more
like 'concerned that the card Death might be taken for
something more limited in meaning or more expansive in
meaning than it ought be'. the fact that death is in all 
of our futures probably complicates matters, and horrific
or gruesome imagery on an esoteric or divinitory object
pumps up the voltage even moreso. add to this an intensely
religious character to the deck we are considering, and 
we're all set for some serious disagreement!
 

re Smith-Waite and Death: 
>> and when taken together it indicates to me that the 
>> SYMBOLISM of the Death card is completely one of 
>> physical death---
> 
> And his divinatory meanings, the main ones, seem to support 
> that view as well.

that is my impression, though it is clear he has something
in mind as attendant to or subsequent to death which he is
concerned is also communicated to his reader. this is where
I begin to attempt to bolster the argument of those who say
'Death doesn't just mean death!' by pointing out that to
each and every one of us physical death may mean something
quite different, depending on one's relation to life, 
one's cosmological axioms, etc. 

'physical death' is not understood the same way by, say,
an atheist-materialist, as compared with someone who 
believes in souls and trans-mortem experiences. it tends
to accompany a transition of experiential context (because
the ontology of death is a movement of the resident spirit
from its encasement in flesh to some other relation to the
real world, free-floating, or within a spiritual dimension
wholly instead of trapped inside the meatpuppet).
 

most aren't claiming ["Death means only transition."], 
they just don't want to see the notion of transition and 
transformation EXCLUDED from the card's meaning because 
they want to believe that death as a phenomenon includes 
transitional movement. it is quite understandable why 
people would want to believe this, and it is doubly 
understandable for them to attempt to get their notions 
of physical death represented. the ambiguous result 
depicted in Smith-Waite is, I maintain, beauteous and 
useful for a diversity of interests (including mine!).

however, one may easily argue that Death only pertains to
the physical, and that any transition must be occurring
OUTSIDE THE BOUNDS OF THIS CARD. we don't see the ghost
of the dead human in the Smith-Waite ascending like a mist
into a new dimension, for example; cf. "Ghost" with Patrick
Swayzee and Whoopi Goldberg for clear exposition on this
very popular idea which forms the basis of Spiritualism).

it is for this reason that I like the Death in Smith-Waite,
and think it is superior to many other decks' Deaths on
account of its ambiguity. if Waite wants to pin it down
in his commentary (he seems to waffle), then that may be
because of his own attachment to his cosmology, and it's 
in some measure surprising that he didn't ask Pamela 
Colman-Smith to *insert* a ghost there if he wanted to 
convey something more than physical death.

 
>> why does Waite seek to distinguish "the suggestion of
>> death" he has made in the previous card (mystical) with 
>> the present (XIII/Death) card, unless the intention
>> behind the symbolism is one of physical death? 
> 
> Correct, there would be no reason, no need to do this 
> unless he was saying Death, at least in part, is really 
> about being dead--- physically.

I'm not sure about this, though it is certainly supportable.
I tend to think that the cards are more complex than this,
and that Death may also be understood as PROXIMITY to death,
such that any sort of movement or journey implied by the
obviously nonordinary experiences or symbolisms of the cards
subsequent (note Death followed by the Devil, just like in
many of the paintings Bob O'Neill has catalogued on his
wonderful site depict!) to it in the Trump Sequence is left
out and therefore may imply encounter with the dying/dead.

nagasiva 

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Tarot
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:31:44 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

I don't think the introduction of the horsed-Morte is enough
to depend on an apocalyptic interpretation of the rest of
the card, given that it is too strongly resonant with the
tarotic imagery in later trumps. instead, I say we should 
ignore the original context of the Pale Rider for the nonce,
and come to some conclusions about what it means to 'go to 
the Moon/Sun cards' thru the series of the cards in a 
journey or process-sequence.


Waite... only talks about the apocalyptic *character* of 
the horsed-Morte (because he wishes the reader to infer that 
the cosmology he intends to convey is one of trans-mortem 
symbolism, as it develops in trump XX, Judgement, which you
have pointed out more than once -- it's *his* deck).
 

>> ...the vegetative symbolism seems more in 
>> line with notions of transformation, though I can see that one 
>> might infer something cyclic and unending (the Play of the 
>> Seasons). 
> 
> Well, speaking of vegegation, he and Smith placed a big, 
> fat white rose on Death's banner.

in a pentad-point-down configuration! according to common
symbolism this should imply the VICTORY OF THE MATERIAL
OVER THE SPIRITUAL in a vegetative (rather than mammalian)
sense. i.e. typically this is the Rose of Satan, not the
Rose of Waite's Christianity. its internal pine cone does
speak of fertility and rebirth in a vegetative sense, but
this is just a FLAG which Morte carries, nothing more (I
rather doubt that the Death in John's Revelation had such
a flag). as such, it just implies that this is the result 
and could mean that we'll become wormfood. ;>

I won't argue that Waite would have interpreted it this
way, I'm just talking about how the symbolism in the 
Smith-Waite Death comes across to me using conventional
interpretations of symbolism. the implication of John's
Revelation is a hook for Waite to get people thinking
of Christian cosmology and eschatology, but we aren't
shown here something specifically Christian of which I
am aware.

 
>> what is shown in the Smith-Waite seems *only* the apparent
>> 'sloughing of a body' without evident 'passage' contained within
>> this card. your argument might proceed to underscore the fact that
>> Waite intended the process to continue in the next cards, but then
>> I would respond that this is support for the notion that Death in
>> Smith-Waite ONLY means that sloughing, that curtailment of physical
>> form, transcended (in Waite's vision) at the point of physical 
>> death, albeit with the intent to imply a later (Judgement-based)
>> 'passage from lower to higher' that is (NOTE) not contained in the
>> Waite-Smith Death card itself.
 
...some kind of movement beyond this card
is implied -- *by the background Moon-symbolism and Sun* primarily
Waite indicates this explicitly in his commentary in PKT. ... the 
transplant of the [skeletal] figure from Revelation scripture also 
implies movement in a sense, but with the addition of the flag and 
the ambiguity of the scene, we are no longer able to use John's 
Revelation to interpret the figure as it stands. 

this says nothing about to whom the death is happening. [P.] was
asking the question about to whom does Death relate (he asked 
if it was 'only about the individual'). outside the context of
the Waite-Smith deck, the card could be indicative of a complete
termination of a single human, with the viewer going on to the
future cards, having encountered Death as did the Buddha, and
proceeded, THE INDIVIDUAL WITNESS TRANSFORMED, on the Path.

I agree that a strong argument may be made that at least Waite
was interested in making room for and advocating the movement
of the spirit beyond the body in his deck, but HE DOESN'T GIVE
SYMBOLIC EXPRESSION TO IT IN THE DEATH CARD. that seems to be
relegated strictly to trump XX, Judgement, where we see various
ghosts coming up from coffins/graves.

>> keeping my own preferences out of this for a moment (for I will
>> intend Death to be more a metaphor or proximate catalyst for some
>> life-changing interior transformation), Waite doesn't say which
>> of "the apocalyptic visions" he intends, and we may conjecture
>> that the horsed Death is transplanted from the Revelation of John
>> into Trump XIII for HIS purpose. 
> 
> Probably.

in which case I don't think it is supportable to integrate the
cosmology of the apocalypse per se as a necessary backdrop for
an interpretation of this card ('Death' presented in his manner

is too common to require this), only as a context from which
the horsed-Morte was extracted.
 
...I cannot ascertain...  that the whole is depicted in [sources
like John's Revelation in Christian scripture] (it is reflective 
upon the tarotic process, one of the few cards in the Smith-Waite 
trump sequence which reflects upon the trump sequence at other 
places -- other examples???).
 
nagasiva

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick.chaos,alt.pagan.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick
Subject: Re: Death/N in Fnord!
References: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotl/
From: nagasiva 
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 07:28:03 GMT

Orig-To: TarotL@yahoogroups.com

rebirth is XXI Judgement/Aeon/Liberty from what I can tell.
I'm not convinced it need be interpreted as anything trans-mortem,
but like others have said, tarotic creators seem to have intended
at least the suggestion of some kind of post-mortem experience
(e.g. Apocalyptic).
 
> ...physical death is just one level of what happens to an 
> individual....

it is the only one of which I am sure I'm aware. the others
seem faith-based to me. :>

> ...the effect that his/her death will have on the left overs 
> (family, business and so on) ....

that's a wake I'd agree is quite real, but not the deceased per se.
it is for this reason I wondered whether the intent of the Trump
might be said to be 'A Brush With Death' instead of Death, for example.

> which is not something that can be disregarded 
> since it has a meaning for the person who is to die.

the Smith-Waite card Death does have what could be the Bereaved.
it makes sense (as do Harris' eddies imply) that death has a wake.
karma has its own inertia which it takes entropy and diversity
a finite period to erode. even emperors have finite endurance.


at root (whether intending to be metaphorical or not), Smith-Waite
depicts a plainly fictional character OR a scene posed for our 
benefit. presuming it the former, we may infer from the presentation
that what we are seeing is an illusion or an allusion, or perhaps a
left-over from a game folded into a Scorpionic emphasis of morbidity.

[a] single word ["death" on a piece of paper, substituded for the
tarot card] would be just as mysterious, just as illusory.
being light, knowledge of the darkness may be completely out
of our grasp. if the series includes some arcane secret which
would be short-circuited or lost through an abandonment of the
primary significance of the card (physical death), then we are
next to establish whose death is at issue. is it some mysterious
king on the card, some general humans depicted chopped up?

I think there is a Trump Context which ascertains the identity 
of the dead or possibly dying. compare the Buddha's exposure 
to Death as one of the imperative signs leading to the Path 

-- does the Trump imply an initiation, or an alchemical process 
such as putrefaction? there are good reasons to think so and
that, as part of some cosmic image-set, putrefaction would be 
a very helpful focus of meditation for individuals and societies.
 
the initiation rites of some occult societies include the 
ritual symbolism of the death of the candidate. the Golden Dawn 
apparently placed great emphasis on Osiris as the initiator
of the order's members (taking the quasi-masonic position of
the Master of the Temple of the East, a well-known Guardian
and Guide for the Dead, assuming the primary leadership role).

all that said...

the way I'd prefer to look at any particular Trump in my deck
would be as a composite of 5 cards in a network of influences,
a complex of cards (5 being suggested by the Five Principle). 

in which case Death would be surrounded by

       Balance /  Passion /    DEATH     / Art         / Foe 
         Libra /    Luna  /    SCORPIO   / Sagittarius / Capricorn 

these cards in my deck whose traditional names/attributes are:

        Justice / Hanged Man / DEATH   / Temperance      / Devil
          Libra /    Water   / SCORPIO / Sagittarius     / Capricorn

inferring that Art and Foe are Works or Adventures after 
the encounters or developments in the prior two Trumps.

are there counter-arguments wrt tradition? rationale?

my preference in looking at the Trumps this way is on account 
of the importance of the number *5* in the deck's entirety 

           Five Principle            Trumps  Fool
                5 x ((2 x 5) + 5) + (5 x 5) + 1
                      A - 10  Court

               ELEMENTS  YIN-YANG  TAO
                (5 x 5) x (2 x 2) + 1

I'm a big fan of the apple, the pentagon, and the yin-yang.
after all, the Five Principle (Law of Fives) is well-known
as a magico-/mystico-religious favourite!

fnord!

        =================
        The Law of Fives
        =================

        The Principia Discordia has this to say about the number five:
        
                The Law of Fives states simply that:

                        All things happen in fives, or are divisible by 
                        or are multiples of five, or are
                        somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to five.

        The Law of Fives is never wrong.
        ------------------------------------------------------
        "Principia Discordia", 'The Law of Fives' Section.
        ======================================================

nagasiva

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religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.

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OTHER ESOTERIC AND OCCULT SITES OF INTEREST

Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races