Full Moon in Sagittarius: Death
I was lucky enough to view the super-bright, nearly-full moon from a rooftop in Taipei- I spent the last ten days in Taiwan traveling and visiting my brother, and it was amazing!! I flew home last night, the night of the Sagittarius full moon. As I settle back into my life, I’m feeling this moon’s fiery vibe, its call for us to expand and stretch.
We talk a lot about expansion, and newness, don’t we? Especially in spiritually-inclined circles, there is so much emphasis on the new phase, the fresh start, the next chapter. What we talk less about is the loss of the old phase. Even if we’ve totally outgrown something, it can still be bittersweet— or downright painful— to realize it’s behind us.
Death is a really fascinating card. Of course, when I pull it in a reading, I’m always quick to tell the querant that it does not mean literal death. We all know that Tarot is a symbolic language, right? Great. However, I also hear people quickly jump to say that this card isn’t about death at all, but is rather transformation! And while I believe this is true, still, the card isn’t called Transformation. It’s called Death. It signifies the end of something, a loss, a farewell. Maybe the loss is necessary. Maybe it’s welcome and even wonderful. But it’s still a loss.
We humans, we cling to what’s familiar. We get into patterns and do things just because they’re habitual. We’re creatures of comfort; we stick with what we know, for the most part. Death is that phase where the familiar is no longer an option. For whatever reason, we’re getting plucked out of our comfort zone and plunged into the deep end. Death is the end of a chapter, a door we must walk through. So, yes, it’s transformation, but it’s also a goodbye.
What are you saying goodbye to, during this full moon? Is there something that’s been on its way out— a job, a relationship, a habit, an identity— and are you ready to finally give it its send-off? Goodbyes can be beautiful and sad at the same time. I’m thinking of the end of LOTR Return of the King— Frodo has to go off to that otherworldly Elf Death place (definitely not what it’s actually called). It’s a really happy ending to the trilogy, but Frodo also knows he can’t stay where he was. It doesn’t fit anymore; he has a heaviness he didn’t carry before. Still, it’s a gorgeous scene, and a gorgeous journey over the water. There can be sorrow, and beauty, and rightness, all tied together.
Maybe it’s time to write a goodbye letter, to whatever it is in your life that’s ending, or that’s recently ended. Write a thank-you to that phase in your life, and to the lessons you learned, and how it served you. If you wish, once you’re done you can burn the letter and release the energy out into the air. That way you’re actively participating in and working with the loss, rather than just letting it happen to you.
While I’m not a fan of sugar-coating the Death card, it is also true that after a loss can come great freedom and expansion. You had to leave the old city you lived in, in order to find your next home in a new place. You had to quit the job you’d outgrown, so you could find the next challenge. So yes, a loss brings a brand-new beginning, and that’s exciting. But the Death card reminds us that mourning that loss must also take place— we can’t skip right to the fun, new-beginnings part. I mean, you can, but it’ll probably catch up to you eventually. Also, I feel we owe the phases of our lives the honor and respect of acknowledging them and thanking them as we leave.
Everything is dying even as it’s living. In our death-phobic culture, that may sound morbid, but I truly don’t mean it as such. It’s simply a fact, an integral part of our life/death/life cycle, of the way of the world. Engaging with this, rather than denying it, brings a heightened importance to our days and moments on this earth, in this consciousness.
On that note— I highly recommend the work of mortician and author Caitlin Doughty, who writes about death and its place in culture. In particular, check out From Here to Eternity, in which Doughty travels around the world and views different cultures’ death and mourning practices. Even though the Death card may not be talking about literal death, still, the different mourning practices that Doughty observes show us that there are many ways to grieve, and that grieving and loss are a normal part of all humans’ experiences, in whatever form it shows up.
Things are ending and beginning all the time. Phases of life, relationships, journeys, and whole lives are ending and beginning, always. We are constantly in flux. The Death card simply reminds us of this.
Another great practice for this full moon is a gratitude practice. We can list things we’re grateful for, especially things that have come and gone. When we actively thank the phases that have ended, it shows us that these were worth it, despite their eventual loss. Make a list of five things you’re grateful for, that you no longer have. Make a list of five great experiences you’re grateful for, even though they’re over. Make a list of three relationships you’re grateful you had, even though you aren’t in them anymore. This practice can remind us that loss is natural and even good— in this way we can engage with the Death card instead of running from it.
That doesn’t mean this card can’t be sad. It really can be. If sadness comes up during this practice or this moon cycle, see if you can just let it move through you. Let it come without fixing it or turning it away. By doing so, we process the movement of the life phases, and the natural emotions that accompany them.
All is in motion.