Having left the tree from where he hung, the Fool moves carefully through a fallow field, head still clearing from visions. The air is cold and wintry, the trees bare. He knows he has started on his spiritual journey in earnest, but feels strangely empty and profoundly sad, as if he has lost something.
Before him he sees, rising with the sun, a skeleton in black armor mounted on a white horse. He recognizes it as Death. As it stops before him, he humbly asks, “Have I died?” And the Skeleton answers, “Yes, in a way. You sacrificed your old world, your old self. Both are gone, dead.”
The Fool cannot keep from weeping. “Forgive me,” he says, embarrassed by his tears.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Death replies. “Mourning is natural and you must deal with your loss before you can accept anything new. Keep in mind, however, that old leaves must wither and fly away from a tree’s branches, leaving them bare, before new green leaves can appear.”
As Death rides away, the Fool sees the truth in those words. He, too, feels like a skeleton, all that he was stripped away. This, he understands, is how all great transformations start, by removing everything down to bare bone or soil so that something new has room to grow.