It is not uncommon for those who consult astrologers and tarot readers to be suffering from depression in one form or another. Depression that could well have its root cause in one or more past lives.
But I want to start by considering the word "depression" and compare it with the original English word for this illness, "melancholy", "melancholia" – recorded in the 14th century (it was used by the poet Chaucer) and probably in use decades, if not centuries, before that. "Depression" means simple sadness (feeling blue: I'm a bit depressed today; grey skies always depress me). "Melancholia" on the other hand has always meant something like "the dark night of the soul", that black pit of despair from which there seems at the time to be no escaping. As William Styron put it in his book Darkness Visible.
“Melancholia” would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a bland tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness. It may be that the scientist generally held responsible for its currency in modern times, a Johns Hopkins Medical School faculty member justly venerated — the Swiss-born psychiatrist Adolf Meyer — had a tin ear for the finer rhythms of English and therefore was unaware of the semantic damage he had inflicted by offering “depression” as a descriptive noun for such a dreadful and raging disease. Nonetheless, for over seventy-five years the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing, by its very insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control. (William Styron)
Depression, as Styron says, is an insipid word. It just doesn't sound very serious. Melancholia does. So I will be using the term melancholia from now on for what is known as "clinical depression" in an attempt to make it sound truly serious.
Melancholia, then, is not something inevitable, our "karmic destiny", though it can be, and often is, the effect of a cause in a series of past lives. Remember life in the past was for 99% of the time and for 99% of the people, short and brutal.
Let's have a look at some of the cards that may indicate just such a cause of melancholia if they come up in a Past Life Spread:
Seeing everyone around you getting ill and dying, one by one (or all at once in a time of plague) can be the root cause of either hypochondria in this life or of a horror of doctors and hospitals. Cards which may indicate this are: the 4, 9 and 10 of Swords and the Trump card Death.
The same kind of cause, or a life surrounded by and exposed to violence and murder, can lead to a fear of impending death in the present life which make planning and decisions impossible. Cards which may indicate this are: the 5, 6 and 7 of Swords and the 9 of Wands.
Having suffered, and quite likely died, as result of food poisoning – or deliberate poisoning at someone's hand – can lead to such problems as paranoia and anorexia. Relevant cards are: the 4 of Cups and the 7 of Wands.
Fear of old age, of incapacity and loss of independence, is likely to be fuelled by just such an experience the previous life. Relevant cards may be: the Emperor and the Hermit.
Very telling is the fact that in one early version of the Hermit (from the medieval “Charles VI” or “Gringonneur” tarot cards) he is holding not a lamp but an hour-glass.
A great fear of change can be the direct result of a previous life in which there was no security, no stability, at all. Cards indicating this may be: the Wheel of Fortune, the 7 of Wands, the Moon and the Hanged Man.
Or there may be such a fear of poverty – the terrible poverty one experienced in a previous life – that one lives in self-imposed misery. The relevant card, of course, is: the 5 of Pentacles.
And this fear of poverty and death may well have been brought about by life in a world in which Might was Right. The court cards of the suit of Swords indicate such a previous life, but remember that the vast majority of us would have been been on the wrong end of the sword or mace or boot.
Such treatment can lead to paranoia in the present life. Relevant cards: the 7 and the Queen of Wands.
Excessive indulgence in tasty junk food (or, for the better-off, gourmet food) or alcoholic drinks can also be the result of starvation or a life of extreme poverty in a previous incarnation, a life in which one could only watch and envy. Cards which indicate these causes are: the 5 of Pentacles, the Devil, the 8 of Swords and the 9 of Cups.
It has also been suggested that alcoholism may come of living in a world where the water was undrinkable and only beer or wine were regarded as safe. I myself believe that and other escapist addictions are more likely to stem from feelings of guilt or inadequacy brought over from a previous life. Cards indicating this may be: the Hanged Man, the 5 and 7 of Cups, and Judgement.
And then there is "living in the past" which, of course, could imply the past in this life, but if it is very deep-rooted and overwhelming it may well refer to a happy past, a happy childhood it may be, in another life. The card here is: the 6 of Cups.
And finally (for this article) there is physical, literal, escapism – running away from it all, which is indicated by the 8 of Cups.
So there we have it: various forms of Melancholia which can – and often do – show up in Past Life (Karmic) Tarot Readings. However, the interpretation in any particular instance will naturally depend on the question posed by the querant, the spread being used, and the interaction between the card or cards mentioned in this article and the other cards that turn up in the spread.
James Munro is a specialist in esoteric religion and philosophy who practises what he preaches by giving Karmic Tarot and Past Life Astrology Readings both locally (where he lives now, in Athens, Greece) and online through his site, Karmic-Tarot.com