During Holy Week, millions of Christians commemorate Christ's death on Good Friday, and celebrate his resurrection on Easter/Resurrection Sunday. From a mystical perspective, there is much wisdom and symbolism within the death and rebirth cycle. It is a cycle that no one escapes, and thus, touches us all.
In Astrological terms, the sign of Scorpio and the 8th House of the Zodiac are the domain of death and regeneration. In the Tarot, the Death card can be correlated with the death of Christ and the metaphorical “little deaths" we experience, while the Sun card can indicate the “dawn of a new day” when enlightenment, empowerment, rebirth and restored vitality warms us “back to life”. Also bearing a similarity to the death and resurrection of Christ is the legend of the Phoenix.
The scorpion is the traditional Sign of Scorpio. When a scorpion loses its tail, it regenerates a new stinger. In addition, a scorpion would be more likely to kill itself than allow another to do so. According to the book of John, the incited crowd was calling for the death of Christ, shouting "crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate responds to the crowd that he finds no fault with Jesus. Yet, the mob responds, "We have a law, and according to our law, he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." (John 19:7). Pilate responds to Jesus' silence by saying, "Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you, and power to release you?" (v. 10)
But Jesus replies, “You could have no power at all against me unless it had been given to you from above." (v.11) Jesus is echoing what he said in John 10:17-18 "... because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."
The myth of the Phoenix is strongly associated with the Sign of Scorpio, and the Phoenix is considered the symbol of highly evolved Scorpios. According to mythology, the Phoenix was the size of an eagle, with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage. Its life span was between 500-1000 years, and only one Phoenix lived in the world at any given time. The Phoenix would build a nest, sing a mournful dirge, and flap its wings until the nest is caught on fire.
Another legend has it that the Sun god Ra was so moved by the Phoenix' bewitching funeral song, that Ra stopped his chariot for a moment to listen. After listening to the song, Ra whipped his horses to continue, and sparks flew from the horse’s hooves, setting the nest on fire. After being consumed in flames, a new Phoenix arose from the ashes.
Some myths say the new Phoenix emerges from the body of the old one, embalms the "parent" in myrrh, encases them in an egg, then takes it to the Egyptian Sun temple. Interestingly, myrrh is a bitter, fragrant gum resin that's associated with suffering, and was one of the gifts offered to the Christ child by the Magi. Myrrh also symbolizes power, strength, vitality, and mysticism.
Just as the story of Christ details death and resurrection, so it is with the story of the Phoenix. Even the egg itself from the legend of the Phoenix represents new life. In fact, in the 1st century, some began associating the Phoenix with Christianity. The parallels are obvious with phrases like "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God", which are attributed to Jesus (John 3:3). Also, Jesus claimed to be the only Son of God, and there is only one Phoenix alive at any one time. In Hermetic traditions, the Phoenix was associated with alchemical transformation and transmutation. While Good Friday is a day of suffering and death, the 3-day process of spiritual alchemy transforms itself to resurrection and glorious rebirth, where all things become new.
In traditional Tarot, the 13th Major Arcana Card is Death. This card also represents transition, transformation, rebirth, and permanent change. The only thing that's guaranteed in life is change, and this is the hallmark of the Death card. The astrological correspondence to the Death card is Scorpio and the 8th House. This card is about required change.
If you don't change willingly, something will slam into your life that will force change. Jesus once said in Matthew 21:44 "The person who falls on this stone will be broken, and on whomever that stone falls, that person will be crushed."
I interpret that verse to mean that there is a way of wisdom and a way of woe.
In other words, if you know that a change needs made but you insist on stasis, you may end up "crushed" by the juggernaut of the Wheel (or the lightning bolt of the Tower) because of this resistance to Death/change. Buddhism says that resistance (along with craving) is the root of suffering. Granted, willing readjustment, adaptation and surrender causes pangs of their own, but you’ll end up being merely “broken” (instead of destroyed).
Let me explain it another way: if a person falls from the roof of a house with muscles rigid, he’d be more likely to get injured. However, if he relaxes or “rolls into” the fall, there’s a greater chance of escaping serious injury.
Thus, if you know you need to make changes (Death) and do not, the rock will fall on you, causing the process to be more devastating and difficult because it lacks the gradation that is a part of making conscious changes willingly.
A real life example would be domestic abuse. Yes, leaving the first time a partner hits you is difficult, especially if you lack economic independence or have children. But what will be the price if stay as the resident punching bag?
In Matthew 16:25, Jesus said, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." The dichotomy of the Death card is that if you seek to hold onto the familiar with an iron grip, the sweeping winds of change can be devastating. To surrender to All That Is, the Source, is to give up certainty. But in doing so, we gain life and fluidity. To attempt to stave off any change is to court losing the very things we clutch to so tightly.
Built into the Death card is the promise of new beginnings. There's a saying that when God shuts a door, he/she opens a window. Unfortunately, our resistance to change often prevents us from pursuing our bliss and taking risks in relationships, career, finances, etc. There is a hidden blessing when a Death experience touches our life. We can exchange ashes for beauty, much like the mythological Phoenix. But there cannot be a resurrection without a death. So often we want victory, blessings, growth, and profound spiritual experiences, but we don't want the death that may be necessary to make way for resurrection and rebirth!
If someone would have told me that the suffering and death of my husband to leukemia would be shortly followed by following my soulmate, having a precious son and being the happiest I’ve ever been, I would have punched them. In the midst of suffering, it’s often inconceivable that day follows night…but it does (if you surrender to What Is without persistent self-pity and feelings of victimization).
The Sun Card
In the Tarot, 19th Card of the Major Arcana is The Sun card. It represents a portal—an opening in your life. This card is associated with things that are related to the sun: illumination, vigor, healthy self-regard, enlightenment, empowerment, rebirth and newness. The "work" of The Sun card is to purify, cleanse, improve and illuminate—to burn off the “chaff” of painful thoughts and assumptions that cause our suffering.
Understandably, I see this card as representing the Resurrection of Christ, among other things (although some may argue for Judgement). Malachi 4:2 says "...the Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings." Many believe this portion of scripture to be prophetic, referring to Jesus. Sun/Son doesn't appear to be a coincidence, and this picture is once again reminiscent of the ascending, flaming Phoenix. Also, Jesus is often associated with Light, and called "The Light of the world".
In terms of consciousness, The Sun card represents a mind awakened from sleep (granted, it may be the Tower experience that bridges Death and The Sun). Too often, we sleepwalk through life, only to be rudely awakened by a death experience. The wide-eyed clarity that results from this awakening—think cold water in the face—is a ripe opportunity for the illumination of truth and light brought by The Sun card. However, you have to stand in the furnace long enough to get the chaff burned off; just glimpsing the Light (or getting a sunburn) does not enlightenment bring.
The Sun card is also associated with the astrological sign of Leo. When I think of Leo, the mighty lion, I'm reminded of the verse from the highly symbolic and mystical book of Revelation "But one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.'" (5:5) Jesus is often called the Lion of Judah. In The Chronicles of Narnia series by Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, the lion Aslan is an anthropomorphic nod to Jesus, because this animal, too, dies for a kingdom and is then resurrected.
The last prayer that Jesus prayed in Gethsemane was "...that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us." (John 17:21) As Christ was awaiting his imminent crucifixion and death, he was praying for the Oneness of all of humanity.
When I see the cross, I am reminded that the arms point in two directions: vertically, man being reconciled with God/The Source and to the Divine nature within, and horizontally, man reconciled with man, realizing that All is One, and none is separate (or truly alone). Perhaps one day we, as the corporate body of humanity, will die to the illusion of separateness and be reborn into the totality of Light, Love, Unity, and Life.
Past the darkness of confusion and the mist of despair that often surrounds us through a Death experience—especially as we stand on the precipice of the Unknown, debating whether to freefall or fight for our lives—this is the ultimate message of the death and resurrection of Christ: all-accepting Love, Oneness and Truth through the blazing, illuminating Sun.
The Phoenix Death card from the Shadowscapes Tarot. The Transition card from the Connolly Tarot. The skeletal Death card from the Alchemical Tarot Renewed. The Christ Sun card from the Tarot of the Saints.