The Dead Tree

Its withered, twisted branches droop, some still pointing skyward in a jagged defiance, others trailing on the ground, barely supported by the broken, shattered stump. Lichen grows where leaves once flourished, and beetles scurry across the wood which once supported birdsong and berries.

This tree is dead. But what led this majestic oak to end up like this? Was it poisoned, or neglected? Or did it simply serve out its time on this earth, before reaching the end of its life cycle as all things must?

The Dead Tree symbolizes both neglect and the end of a cycle. Sometimes, things end because we did not pay attention to them or give them the time and love they needed. Sometimes, however, things end through no fault of our own, but simply because it is time for them to end. It’s not always easy to discern the difference; often we mourn the loss of the Tree, but only once it’s too late to save it.

When the Dead Tree card shows up in a reading, an ending has occurred or is about to occur. However, whatever the cause of the ending, the Dead Tree always reminds us that every ending is necessarily also a beginning. Even as the Tree dies, new life colonizes the old wood. Beetles and fungi help it to decompose, providing nutrients in the soil which sustain new life all around. Nothing truly dies, but it does transform.

Not all endings are sad, of course. The Dead Tree can also symbolize a positive ending, such as the completion of a successful project, or the end of a life chapter which leads to a happy new one. Nevertheless, there is always pain of sorts in the end of a cycle, even where that pain may be bittersweet, sentimental or nostalgic. The Dead Tree encourages us to embrace all endings as a natural part of life.

When you draw the Dead Tree card, ask yourself the following questions: what has ended or is about to end in your life? How do you feel about that? Did you cause the ending, deliberately or inadvertently, or is it beyond your control? How does this color the way you look at the new beginning which lies ahead? Can you understand why this cycle had to end?

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