You can read an introduction to the light & shadow series and find links to its other installments >> here! If you aren’t yet familiar with my interpretation of the card you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
The Coffin is among those cards I suspect many people think are exclusively negative. And at first glance, this certainly seems to be the case.
At first glance the Coffin indeed suggests only negative and unproductive issues and goings-on. Losses are defined by the decidedly and painfully negative feelings that accompany the experience that something or someone we would like to be there isn’t anymore. The death of loved ones (and our own death) is not something we look forward to, is often something we fear a lot.
And it’s not just death we usually view as something negative: endings in general tend to make us feel uncomfortable since we’d often prefer things to continue as they are, while the end of something we are used to means that things will (have to) change.
So if in the context of a reading the Coffin represents the likely end of something we would like to continue, the card will at least seem negative – and if that which is likely to end is something that would have been productive to continue (e.g. a healthy, supportive friendship) then its end doesn’t just seem negative but is in fact unproductive at least at first.
And it is definitely unproductive and unhealthy to suppress or bury things out of fear or shame or because regressive norms force us to. So this card, one might be tempted to think, could never represent anything productive and positive. But that’s not true.
The Coffin can very well represent productive, positive, issues and goings-on if we consider that sometimes what makes us most unhappy, most unhealthy, is holding on to something which isn’t good for us. In such cases the Coffin represents the decidedly positive, productive, liberating ability to let go that subsequently enables us to move on to something new, to something healthier.
I wrote above that we tend to view endings in general as something negative because we we’d often prefer things to continue as they are and don’t like it when things (have to) change. So often, if the Coffin represents the end of something we would like to continue, the card will seem negative. But sometimes that which is likely to end is something that would have been unproductive to continue (e.g. a job which, while it was quite safe, never really inspired us). In such cases the ending of this situation, unpleasant as it might seem at first, might in the end lead to something really productive (e.g. a new job that inspires us, makes us much happier). And if the Coffin turns up in a reading context in which the querent is exceedingly fed up with a situation, doesn’t want the situation to continue, the card represents a dearly desired end!
Even the grief this card can represent could be read as something productive – even if it doesn’t feel that way. For the grieving process, if we don’t lose ourselves in it completely, is a natural and necessary process for eventually coming to terms with a loss. The Coffin can be saying, very affirmatively, that we should allow ourselves to grieve; that we needn’t pretend that everything is okay.