making friends with destruction

This post originally appeared on my Patreon

To acknowledge your ability to create, you must also acknowledge your capacity to destroy.

This is one of the super intense message/lessons I’ve received this week. It’s disconcerting, but it’s also super coherent with one of my deep understandings around the necessity of death within the life cycle, both literally and metaphorically.

Borderless Waite-Smith // Brady Tarot

Borderless Waite-Smith // Brady Tarot

In the tarot, two cards are most intimately linked with the idea of “destruction”: Death and the Tower. One of the ways to distinguish these cards is that one feels more “natural,” more neutral, while the other can feel like a smiting, a disciplinarian take-down. Both of these takes presumes that the Death or Tower moment is coming from outside; as such, we are but playthings in the hands of the Divine/Chaos, bending more or less obediently to a Force or Will that is greater and more powerful than our own.

The Tower card from the SheWolfe deck points to this externalized perspective pretty explicitly, renaming the Tower to “Will of Mars”:

SheWolfe Tarot

SheWolfe Tarot

Even if we use the beautiful softening that takes a given event from something that happens “TO” you to something that happens “FOR” you, we’re still in a place of only ever being on the receiving end. Something/someone else is the action-taker, whilst we’re more or less placid receivers bumbling along the road laid out before us.

This works if you ascribe exclusively to fate and discard any variant of freewill. But if your worldview includes a belief in freewill, agency, ability to choose, etc., defaulting to “this is happening to and/or for me” is an evasion of an opportunity to properly engage with whatever level of choice-making you deem possible. If you believe that individual efforts participate in generating particular outcomes, you are also an action-taker. You’re a creator, too.

And if you’re a creator, you’re also a destroyer. The more you let yourself dig into the implications of being a destroyer, the more effectively & compassionately you can wield both destruction andcreation.

Taking this back to tarot, this understanding means that you are, in some way, an agent of Death and the Tower, both literally and metaphorically. It means that YOU have WITHIN YOU the capacity to wreak Tower moments on the world and to bring Death to circumstances that need it. 

Fortunately, death and destruction don’t have to manifest as war scenes.

Borderless Waite-Smith // Serpentfire

Borderless Waite-Smith // Serpentfire

Consider the Eight of Pentacles from the RWS, for example. It depicts a craftsperson diligently working away at creating hand-engraved pentacles, perhaps as altar tiles, wall hangings, or other such semi-useful, semi-decorative objects. As this person works, they are literally destroying the original integrity of the object they’re engraving. The material they’re working with likely didn’t start out as perfectly round discs, either. Someone, either the craftsperson or someone else along the supply chain, transformed some other material into the uniform disc now being decimated by the craftperson’s hammer and chisel. That original material had its original state destroyed, too, all on the way to becoming an artisanal object.

As the craftsperson creates, the craftsperson destroys. As the craftsperson destroys, they also create.

This is true when we’re working beyond the “material” realm, too. When we engage with magick, it’s imperative that we understand that there is real power available to us; our power for creating is also a power to destroy. This is what makes magick scary. This is what makes it a valid threat to entrenched systems. This is why the figure of the witch is consistently seen as oppositional to oppressive hierarchies. 

This is also how the insidiousness of the helplessness/victim narrative, the “power is bad” narrative, and the “I only create light/goodness” narrative are such effective tools of disempowerment. If you believe that death, destruction, and the like are only ever badrather than necessary components of creation within this plane of existence, you’ll do a poor job of participating in creating, whether your desired creation is a painting or a new social structure that allows for more widespread flourishing & happiness. 

Becoming friends with the concept of destruction -- and the large and small ways in which you are already a destroyer -- will increase your capacity to create what you actually wish to see in the world.

Pagan Otherworlds Tarot

Pagan Otherworlds Tarot

Consider that after the Tower comes the Star: after destruction comes a bright constancy. Death comes before Temperance: shedding comes before realchemizing, recreating. Notice how in most depictions, both the Star and Temperance are pouring -- pouring out nourishment, Spirit, reconnective magick.


As we work towards creating what we wish to see in the world, we must also encounter the nightmare of losing our ability to pretend we can’t have an impact, that our actions don’t matter. To be fully aware of our ability to influence the world around us is to be aware of both the positive and negative ways that that influence can manifest. 

In other words: it’s on us to be responsible.

Decks featured:
Borderless Rider Waite Smith Centennial Edition
Brady Tarot (1st ed almost sold out!)
SheWolfe Tarot
Serpentfire Tarot
Pagan Otherworlds Tarot