In the cornfield,
when she called me
Moths surround me.
Thought they’d drown me.
Joanna Newsom, “Cosmia” (Ys, 2006)
A figure rises above a golden cornfield. She has floating flame-like red hair and her body in cloaked in water. Dark red rose petals fall behind her. She holds up a hand to frame a moth that flies near her head. In her other hand she raises a large scythe over her shoulder. The scythe’s shape is reflected in a pink waning crescent moon on the other side of her body. Below her, three ears of corn stand out – one wrapped in leaves, one golden, and the other black.
Where III. ‘81 tills and plants, XIII comes to harvest. Made of water and fire, Cosmia rises into the air, shedding rose petals as she tears away from the Earth. At the bottom of the picture, one ear of corn is hidden in leaves, another is golden and ripe, and a third is blackened and rotting on its stalk. This last represents a slow decline, as opposed to the swift end offered by the crescent blade.
Many tarot decks superstitiously leave XIII nameless, displaying only a terrifying figure with a scythe, who is presumably too awful to call down. Others are quick to lighten the meaning of XIII to metaphorical rather than literal death, something like transformation. The song “Cosmia” presents a very real confrontation with Death, which should not be diminished. However, the softer interpretation is available here in the form of the moth, whose caterpillar-self completely disintegrates in the coffin-life cocoon, to emerge later with wings.
Death, mortality, loss, illness, grief, mourning, severing, harvest, transformation, comfort to the grieving.