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TAROTXBOUDOIR 1: The Death Card

I’ve had a deep connection with the tarot for a long time. I remember coming across my first deck when I was 19 or 20 and feeling drawn to it, but at the time I felt like it was something quirky and fun and different to do for myself and my friends. I didn’t bother looking into the history of the tarot or how tarot was used in spirituality. It was a weird quirk I liked to be able to say I could do.

Not a good look, I know.

11 years later, here I am. I have owned 15 tarot decks, more or less, since I discovered tarot and all but 1 of them I’ve given away to other readers. I’ve lost count of the number of oracle decks I’ve picked up and given away (RIP, that one gorgeous Alice in Wonderland oracle deck I never even used.)

I’m a lot like a crow, okay? I like to collect pretty, shiny things and then give them away to people who seem cool.
Right now I’m working with the Antique Anatomy tarot deck. So far, out of all the decks I’ve ever worked with, this is the one that’s resonated with me the most. It’s creepy, pretty, and weird. All things I like to consider myself to be as well.

But as I’ve gone from a faux tarot reader for funsies to someone who incorporates the cards into my daily routine, I’ve noticed that the card meanings kind of… shift to me depending on what deck I’m using. I think it’s normal for each reader to interpret the cards differently, and the cards change depending on the context that they’re read in. I also think that each deck kind of shifts the meaning as well.

Each deck has its own imagery, ranging from traditional to completely new-age, from intricate to simplistic. Every deck reads a little bit different.

Because of that, and because of my deep love of body empowerment photography and boudoir, I’ve decided to kickstart a passion project I’m affectionately calling TarotxBoudoir. In this project, I’m going to have a different model to represent each of the different cards in the major arcana.

It’s going to be a long process, there’s a lot of cards to do and we’re in the middle of a pandemic where it just isn’t responsible to be going from person to person taking photographs right now. But I’m so, so excited to announce that I’ve started and finished my first card already, thanks to some help from pretty amazing friends.

This was one of my favorite pictures of Maddison. Both of us were laughing when I snapped this picture, it’s the only one I managed to get where my hands weren’t shaking horribly.

Demystifying the Death Card

It’s fitting, and by accident, that the Death card is the first card I’ve been able to complete in the series. The Death card, like boudoir photography actually, is misunderstood.

And, like, I get it. Who wants to ask their deck “hey, tarot pal, what should I look forward to today?” and pull a card that literally screams “D E A T H” at them? It’s always a bit of a shock, but I promise it’s not what you think.

The Death card does not warn against actual physical death. Any tarot reader who tries to predict the outcome of a life or death situation is not a tarot reader I want to associate with.

Instead, what the Death card tries to tell you is that you’re about to undergo some serious change. Something big is coming, and it’s going to change you profoundly.

And here’s why it’s so scary: not because means there’s physical death on your doorstep, but because a cycle of your life is coming to an end. It’s going to be intense. Hell, it’s probably going to be dramatic. You’re not going to be able to predict in what way you’re going to change, but it’s coming.

But the cool part about cycles ending is that it implies that there’s a beginning as well. And you’re about to face a new beginning.

The Death card shows up at number 13 on The Fool’s Journey through the tarot, right after the hanged man. The Hanged man is the pause that comes before the change, the calm before the storm. Right after the Death card comes Temperance, where we balance out and move forward.

Listen, I know this isn’t boudoir or tarot related , but look at Maddi’s cat!!!!!

The Death Card Reversed

When the Death card comes in reverse, you’re probably on the edge of some kind of change but you’re resisting it real hard. The reversed Death card asks us to figure out why we’re holding back from this dramatic change.

It’s time to release what no longer serves you.

We went a little more serious this time.

What’s This Got to Do With Boudoir?

Right, so, why do I feel even remotely qualified to talk about this and what does it have to do with the work I’m doing as a boudoir photographer and body empowerment coach?

Every single day we’re faced with the belief that our bodies aren’t good enough. There is no end to the barrage of doubt that advertisement throws at us about our bodies, the very vessels that carry us through this fool’s journey that we’re all on.
I created this interpretation of the Death card as a reminder that it’s time to change that.

The All Bodies Death Card

This piece has my gorgeous friend Maddison front and center, smiling. It poses an important question: when this is all over, how do you want the world to be different?

I’m writing this in early December of 2020, the year of ye olde plague. I’d be willing to bet good money that everyone reading this is feeling like they’re starting to crack a bit. If you haven’t had a good, stimulating outlet of some kind, you’re probably feeling restless and uneasy and on the edge of… something. Just something. Nothing concrete, nothing you can put your finger on, but it feels like you’re waiting for something.

I’m hoping we can all use this time to decide if we want to use this pause as a rest and go back to the way things were before with no change, or if we want to use it as our Death card. Do we want to pick up from the beginning of the cycle and start over, or do we want to find balance and change the way we were doing things, make life more sustainable, more livable, for everyone?

It’s my goal that this take on the Death card inspires a spark for change, no matter how scary it is, or how sticky it can be. It’s a sign that it’s time to release the shit that doesn’t sit with us anymore, an invitation to envision (and work for!) the change we want to see in the future.

I’ve included the photos from my shoot with Maddison and resources I found on the invaluable unsplash.com. I was inspired to turn my tarotxboudoir project into a digital collage project by the incredible Teri Hofford. Seriously, if you’re a photographer of any kind and are in the mood to shake up your work, her education is worth every penny.

I brought my own cards to the session, but Maddi had these Modern Witch’s Tarot by Lisa Sterle, they were so diverse and beautifully colored I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use them, and I think they really influenced my finished product as well!

The Wrap Up

So, what did you think? Do you agree with my take on the Death card or do you think it’s as spooky as our gut tells us it is?
I’m going to be doing a post like this with each card I finish as I finish them. I’ll be posting them on Instagram and my blog!

If you want to follow along, make sure to follow my Instagram for updates! If you want to schedule a boudoir shoot with me, fill out my contact form today!

About the Author

Hey! I’m Becca. I’m a boudoir photographer operating outside of the Pittsburgh area who specializes in highlighting marginalized bodies. Boudoir is for everybody.

Published December 4, 2020

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