5. Ioho

Grace, death, letting go, endings, rest, the beauty of decay

Tree: Yew (Taxus spp.)

Letter: Y

Image from Wikipedia

Ioho symbolizes the acceptance of enduring realities and legacies of the past. If you draw Ioho, look for the end of a phase or cycle. Ioho suggests you are handling or will handle the matter at hand with dignity and grace.

Modern culture has spent a great deal of time running away from the ideas of death and decay as natural, welcome processes. As a result, we have a society obsessed with launching our species into space for fear of extinction, a medical industry bent on extending life long after it has ceased to have any quality, and a fixation on youth that motivates the middle aged to undergo brutal, grisly procedures in order to look twenty. When we frame aging (not just of human beings) in a sensible way, we understand that getting old isn’t so terrible. People age and die. Technologies change. Weeks become years. Eras fade away. Letting go is for the best.

Ioho is about accepting limits gracefully. We cannot control much of what is around us or what happens to us in life, but we can control a great deal of how we perceive it and what we decide to do about it.

Though this Ogham has profound similarities to the Death card of the Tarot, like that card, 99.9 percent of the time it is not to be taken literally. Drawing Ioho does not mean you or someone in your circle is fated for immediate death. Instead, it signifies the necessary end and inevitability of all things decaying and dying. More often than not, the death process is much slower than we impatient humans are able to bear. Look for a lesson that comes from the acceptance of endings rather than literal death.

Questions when you draw Ioho:
-Reflect back to three times in your life when you had to let something or someone go and it was devastating. What did you learn?
-Reflect back to three times you should of let something or someone go and you didn’t, but the situation ended anyway. What was the result?
-In what ways does our culture fear the death process? What are the symptoms of the fear of death? What is the root of that fear?

Ioho ill-dignified excess: Poisonous nostalgia:
Glorifying the past can be as toxic as dismissing it. Either way is a refusal to learn from one’s mistakes. The past can be seductive. Living there, whether the purpose is to beat yourself up for past mistakes or to romanticize an era that most likely isn’t as great as you think it was, is a way of avoiding necessary work on yourself. Nobody can force the present to be the past. Consider the old trope of the bereaved parent who preserves the room of their dead child exactly as they left it: their weird, superstitious actions that do nothing to preserve what was actually good about the past or the actual child themselves. The old man who affects exaggerated old-fashioned mannerisms, smoking, a bad toupee, and a full leisure suit with bell-bottom pants does not bring back the disco era in which he felt happiest. He only builds a flimsy bulwark against the modern era instead of making necessary adaptations in the long learning process of life. Hiding from the world in a comfortable, familiar shell can make you brittle.

Ioho ill-dignified dearth: Refusal to rest:
SLOW DOWN. Running away from the need to slow down is pure self-destruct mode. Learn how to rest before Nature takes the choice out of your hands. Overwork and frenetic activity need to be balanced out with relaxation and reconnection with your quieter inner self. You desperately have a need to be alone with your own thoughts to sort out what needs to be done. Don’t feel guilty about cancelling appointments and not fulfilling every obligation you agreed to when you thought you’d have more energy. Take a break.


“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” -Tecumseh

“The purpose of a vacation is to have the time to rest. But many of us, even when we go on vacation, don’t know how to rest. We may even come back more tired than before we left.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” -William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice)