Death is more a card that indicates a kind of a metamorphosis, very much like the death of the caterpillar and the emergence of the butterfly from a cocoon. The emergence may be painful for the butterfly but it opens up a whole new world to her.
The Japanese goddess Ogetsu-hime or Ukemochi, is a Japanese Shinto goddess of such a transformation. She was revered in ancient Japan as a goddess of food, and sustenance. The deity Izanagi and the goddess Izanami, were credited with the creation of eight great Island of Japan.
The Japanese believe that Ukemochi was created by the parent deities Izanagi and Izanami. The sun goddess Amaterasu, was responsible for sending the goddess to earth, where she brought great joy. Ukemochi who was also known as Ogetsu-hime, was supposed to produce the food for the sun goddess. Amaterasu, send her brother the moon god known as Tsukiyomi to see, if Ukemochi was performing her duties with diligence. Ukemochi was indeed magical. She had so much abundance that food fell out of her mouth. When she face the mountains cooked fragrant rice fell out of her mouth. She could likewise just put out bowls of sea food by facing the sea, and game and other food while facing the mountains.
Tsukiyomi the Japanese Moon god, had visited the goddess Ukemochi who was pleased to see him. Wanting to serve up a banquet in his honour, the goddess got ready to prepare a spread. She was genial and set up a feast to make sure that Tsukiyomi, had a warm reception. Facing the land, she regurgitated some rice into a bowl. Looking out at sea, she coughed up seafood and some very scrumptious edible seaweed. Finally she turned to the land and spat up game of different varieties. Tsukiyomi, saw the amiable goddess set up the spread, but he did not understand her powers and was disgusted by seeing her vomit into the bowls. So great was his anger that he could not hold himself back and killed her.
Ukemochi had been productive in life and death was just a metamorphoses of her productivity, and as soon as she fell to the ground, her body set up to transforming itself. Even in death, she gave as much of herself as she could to the world. The ox and the horse arose from her head, her eyes transformed into silkworms, millet emerged from her head and out of her stomach arose rice. Her genitals transformed into wheat and beans. Therefore, the death of Ukemochi gave human beings all the food that keeps them alive. Therefore she went through another metamorphoses, in the form of the humans that she keeps alive. Rice in Japan, being the staple food, is the hall mark of nourishment. It also represents joy. Fish expresses abundance, wisdom and rebirth. In fact the Hebrew name of the death card is Nun, which means Fish and represents both transformation and motion. It is a common superstition in many Asian cultures to throw fish bones back in the sea so they can bring up out the rebirth thereby creating and abundance of fish in the sea. The seaweed likewise was a symbol for the joyousness it brought. The horse that Ukemochi’s body transformed to, was a symbol of endurance and of creativity. Beans, while they provide sustenance, have been very symbolic in ancient cultures as they also dispelled evil spirits. In Japan they kept one safe from spirits and in ancient Rome and Greece, splitting a bean helped to banish ghosts.
Amaterasu, was devastated to see what happened to Ukemochi. She was so upset with her brother Tsukiyomi that she has never spoken to him again. That is the reason the sun and the moon do not rise together.
Death is an ending just before a major transformation. The death of Ukemochi caused her to become more than she was, and expand to feed all humankind. Ukemochi transformation, ensured that she continues to exist. Sometimes Death can be hard, making one feel the loss of something that has run it’s course or has ended, but this too shall transform into a new beginning. We do have a lot of little endings through out our lives, and death does not necessarily need to be painful. The graduation that we so exuberantly celebrate is the death of school or university life, indicating we cannot return to that chapter which was closed again, even if we do go back to study. However the graduation is a celebration.
The only advise that the Death card carries, is go with the flow. Ukemochi had no control over Tsukiyomi, whoever the case may be, but she did go with the flow and transform proving nurturing to the world becoming greater than she was.
Kamal Bhogal Bhatia
Urban Soul Tarot
Urban Soul tarot, Singapore,