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Friday, 19 September 2014

Don't pay the ferryman

Death - Daniloff Tarot 
I like this Death card from Daniloff Tarot. There's none of your uplifting 'transformation' messages here. This is full on DEATH. As in the end. No more life. Time's up. Something's come to a definite end. There is no more. Finito. Adios, muchachos. Popes, kings, mums with babes in arms. All toast. BUT...there's a boat in the background. Wonder where that goes?

Can you name the 5 rivers of Hades? These are the rivers that separate our world from the underworld:

Acheron - the river of woe

Cocytus - the river of lamentation

Lethe - the river of forgetfulness

Phlegethon - the river of fire

Styx - the river of hate; the river that the dead had to pass over to reach the underworld

All these rivers are said to converge in the middle of Hades in a kind of marsh also sometimes known as Styx. Hades was regarded as a misty and shadowlike abode of the dead. Not heaven, not hell. Just a shadow world. It could be that the boat is going there.

Or maybe it's going over another river, which takes its importance from the Bible in folk, gospel and spiritual music and poetry -- Jordan River, which symbolises the boundary between earthly life and the Promised Land. If so, the card focuses more on the spectre of Death, with the peace to follow only hinted at by the presence of the boat.

Or it could be another figurative boat ride, to 'the other shore' of enlightenment. We see this in the Heart Sutra, where 'prajnaparamita'  is sometimes translated as 'insight that brings us to the Other Shore', such as in Thich Nhat Hanh's translation.

So the card is not all bad news. There is cause for hope -- but not before the bitter taste of finality, in one form or another.


  1. Great Card and interesting post! Thanks for the information.
    When I think of the 'river' I think of life and the Life/Death/ Life Cycle flows like the 'river'.

    1. Yes, rivers are very useful and resonant symbols. :)