Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Death β€” Little Czech Oracle Deck

Illustrator: Ivy HΓΌttnerovΓ©


I don’t want to know anything about anything today. I shuffled the deck and said, “Tell me something funny.” I promptly drew the Death card and was relieved I hadn’t asked any of the questions that had flitted through my head. The little booklet that comes with this 32-card deck is all in Czech, so I get to practice my skills at oracle reading.


This card has many traditional symbolsβ€” skeleton, scythe, cross, barren tree, black ribbonβ€” which, especially when taken together, have come to symbolize death in western culture. To me they symbolize the very hollow aspects of death: death as viewed by the bereaved. The image of death seems lonely, like a dog howling at the moon.Β  Dogs howl for communication. They howl at other dogs or lack of other dogsβ€” and at sirensβ€” which are sort-of like dogs. On nights without a moon, dogs are more likely to be sleeping; on nights with a moon, dogs are more likely to stay up all night talking on the phone: howling. Their voices travel better in the relative silence of night. They can hear a dog howling five blocks away instead of only two blocks away. More dogs on the dog phone means more howling. Of course, anyone with a dog yard knows dogs howl at any time, for no particular reason at all.


If dogs had their freedom, they’d all get together for midnight romps on moonlit nights, cruising for chicks, chickens, and general trouble. I think this death card is the newly dead, baying for her compatriot dead souls, ready to rush off and join the dead armyβ€” or perhaps the dead knitting group.


How is death funny? Death catches us unawares, like the punchline to a good joke. Death like shitting: everybody does it; few people like to talk about it in good company. The difference is, we only die once, and no one ever reports back to say, “Oh, that was such a good death. I feel so much better now.” Maybe we need more death jokes.


*Β Β Β  *Β Β Β  *


I wanted to play with the deck more, so I said, “Tell me a story in five cards,” and drew the followingΒ sequence: Letter, Illness, Hope, Thief, Misery. The sixth card would have been death. A letter tells of illness. We hope for the best, but disease is a thief that steals dreams and happiness and leaves misery in its wake.



Leave a Reply