One of the most feared and misunderstood cards in the tarot deck is Death. People assume it is a predictor of a person’s death, or maybe even your death. What it actually means is much more nuanced and interesting, though. Death is about transformation, and about clearing out old habits and possessions and ideas to make room for what really matters. It’s like a Kon Mari for your soul! That’s why when I found out that 2020 is a Death year for me, I nodded my head in understanding and said, “Oh, that explains a LOT!”
I have been reading Mary K. Greer’s Who are You in the Tarot, and listening to the most recent season of the Root Lock Tarot podcast. They both talk about what are variously called birth cards, personality cards, soul cards, year cards, or beacon cards. The idea is that you distill down the digits of any date to a number that is less than 22 and interpret the aligned major arcana. You can read for your year of birth, the current year, today’s date or any significant date in your life.
For example, if your date of birth is September 3, 1970, you’d add 9 (September) plus 3 plus 1970, which is 1982. You’d then add the 1+9+8+2, which is 20. So your birth year card, variously also known as a personality or soul card, can be read as either 20, which aligns to Judgement, or further distilled down to 2+0=2, the High Priestess. Mary K. Greer goes in to all sorts of detail about constellations and hidden factor cards and all the tangential things you can look into for a really thorough analysis. If you’re interested, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Who are You in the Tarot – it’s quite the deep dive, and a bit of a mathematical mind trip when you look at the patterns in the major arcanas as the years progress.
Beyond your birth/soul/personality card, you can calculate the major arcana aligned to any calendar date or year. That’s how I came to realize that this is my Death year. My day and month of birth (August 1) plus 2020 adds up to 13, which aligns to Death in the major arcana. And what an incredibly transformative year this has been. I turned 50 years old last summer and decided I was going to embrace my crone years with enthusiasm; it’s been a time of choosing to follow my heart and stop trying to live up to external measures of conventional success. I’ve let go of many, many old habits and routines (hello pandemic!) but found so many new things, not least of which is this tarot project. It’s been a year of letting go of some things to make room for new and wonderful things that make me feel like a better version of myself. It has been a tough year, even aside from the pandemic, but I feel like the sacrifices and pauses of last year’s Hanged Man year have truly made my life richer.
I was also interested to see that my personality or birth year card is the Chariot. This makes sense when I think about how I am never still for very long, and no-one close to me would disagree with the fact that I have control issues. I do love the challenge of harnessing the competing forces in my life, but being pulled in opposite directions has been a lifelong challenge.
You can apply this to calendar years as well. 2020 is an Emperor year (2+0+2+0 = 4), all about authority, rules and structure. I see this in the pandemic and how governments have had to step in to basically shut down society to prevent the spread of the virus, and imposing unprecedented laws and rules to keep us safe, but also providing safety nets in the form of financial aid packages.
So from a basic math perspective, you’d assume that since last year was the Hanged Man year for me, and this is Death, then next year would be Temperance, right? Nope. 8+1+2021 = 2030; 2+0+3+0 = 5. Next year is a Hierophant year for me, which is actually really exciting because my whole goal with my tarot project was to teach tarot in workshops. And 2021 is also a Hierophant year (2+0+2+1=5). I can hardly wait to see what next year has in store now!
Have you calculated your birth or personality or year card? Did you find them insightful?