Death – Keywords
Spiritual transformation, letting go, change
Inability to progress, resisting change, dependency
Death Tarot Card Description
Newcomers to Tarot shiver when the death tarot card appears in a tarot reading. This major arcana card is often misunderstood alongside its eerie counterparts The Tower and The Moon tarot card. Often, beginners of Tarot believe this tarot card signifies the literal death of the tarot reader or a loved one.
If you find this grim reaper-like figure riding through your cards, don’t worry that a funeral is in your future. Instead, prepare yourself for a significant change on the foggy horizon.
The traditional Rider Waite deck shows a skeletal knight riding into town on a white horse. Death carries a black flag across the land, his stead trampling over our brave Fool who has become a successful merchant or ruler. The Fool’s wife and child grieve as he lays lifeless on the battlefield. The bishop holds his hands out, pleading to Death to spare his life, but Death cares not. The message is clear; Death outweighs all those earthly concerns.
This tarot card often reminds me of a verse from Revelations:
When we consider that Hell on Earth followed Death, it makes sense why it is one of the most feared cards. However, this card has long outgrown Biblical implications.
Despite this, it’s worth noting the historical and cultural influences that created the death card as we know it. Tarot imagery evolved during the Black Death and 100 Years War that plagued Europe. Both violent conflicts and the spread of disease wiped out millions of people. The people of the time understood forced endings and appreciated the calm created by the end of a battle.
That’s what the death tarot card meaning is: an end. A major phase of your life will close whether you are ready or not, so embrace change or be dragged underneath its carriage.
Although the card does not always represent physical death, it can signify a death of sorts. We each die several small deaths throughout our lives. Sometimes, these deaths are identifiable events: divorce, graduation, career change, and moving households.
Oftentimes, these deaths are too abstract to pinpoint. The loss of innocence. A new love. The first time you noticed your parents were truly getting older. The moment you finally felt known by another. These are all deaths of a kind because a person’s life is forever altered.
When the death card appears, know you will not be the same person you were before. No amount of bargaining, anger, or sadness will change the outcome. It may not be an actual death you have to face, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel like you’re dying.
The upright death card can be a reminder to embrace life. Without death, life as we know it would be impossible; death is needed to begin the cycle of renewal.
Notice how the sun sets beyond the two towers in the background. Is it a sunset, or is it a sunrise? The answer: both. Ends mean new beginnings.
Usually, in the Rider Waite death card, we see green shoots re-emerging after the current crop has been raised to the ground. Themes of renewal are found in other decks as well. In the Antique Anatomy tarot deck, pink and violet flowers grow around the scythe and skulls of the death card. There is a bittersweet beauty in endings that the death tarot card portrays.
The death card is about taking time to regroup. Take a breath and give the next generation of crops and children a chance to grow and prosper. If you don’t let yourself pause and reflect now, the Hanged Man may barge into your next tarot reading.
The presence of the clergy can indicate that you have the support of your higher power and your family whom you have caused so much grief. Healing will take time, but hope is written into the landscape if you surrender to the process.
It may be time to think about rehab or hitting up a meeting again.
One thing is for sure: when the death card lands in your reading, change is coming swiftly, and there is nothing you can do to stop its inexorable march.
The death card comes to remind you to get back to basics and take a step back from the politics that cause never-ending wars.
It’s time to work on yourself. Clarify your old beliefs and make a plan for a brighter future.
Death Tarot Card Meanings
Death Tarot Card Feelings
The death card is one of the gloomiest images in the tarot deck, and it evokes feelings of loss, grief, hopelessness, and resistance. In Western culture, we are so detached from death that we believe we can avoid it. When we hear the hoofbeats of the white horse, some will turn and run, but all will be caught in the end.
For those that shake Death’s bony hand, the powerful message he brings will be easier to receive. Swallow your horror and recognize the new possibilities his black flag brings.
Few would describe the death card as comforting, but you can find peace in its presence when you embrace change and release the negative patterns of your past. Instead of replaying the terrors of Revelations in your mind, look upon this card with the serenity of Dickinson:
Death awaits us all. If we are unable or unwilling to stop repeating negative patterns, he will slow the world down for us.
Change is unavoidable, whether you’re a young woman or an old crone. Put on your petticoat and step into the carriage.
Death Tarot Card – Love Meaning
In a love tarot reading, the death tarot card meanings can be both positive and negative. If you have unhealthy attachments in the form of flings or situationships, the death card shows a severance between you and the toxic booty call. You may be ghosted out of the blue, or the other person may enter another relationship. With any luck, you’ll cut the cord yourself.
If you’ve been single for a while, the death tarot card meaning says sayonara to the bachelor’s life and welcomes a new relationship. This person could be your soulmate, or they could be the catalyst for spiritual healing. Trust that the change is good, even if it isn’t forever.
If you’re asking the tarot cards about your current relationship, an unexpected change will affect your love life. If the relationship no longer serves you, the romance may die out. It could also mean that you will be separated from your lover, physically or emotionally.
On the other hand, the death card may represent the transformation of the relationship. Perhaps you move in together or get married. However, keep in mind that the change death brings is often unexpected, so moving in together may be on the heels of an eviction, or the marriage as a result of a pregnancy. As with all major arcana cards, pull a follow up card for more insight into the answer you’re receiving.
Death Tarot Card – Money Meaning
Loss is an integral part of the Death card. Death upright constitutes a downfall in your financial situation. You may be fired from your current job, lose a scholarship, or find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
The other cards in your tarot spread will clarify how your current circumstances will change. For example, Death followed by the Ace of Pentacles could mean you leave your job to start your own business – you would see a temporary loss of income as you moved in a new direction.
Death can be received in a positive way if you’re specific in your questioning. Our relationship with money and the way we perceive wealth affects our finances more than we realize. If you’re someone who was taught money is scarce and never within your grasp, the death card can mean moving away from that mindset, moving forward on a new path of wealth. One door closes, but another opens.
Death Tarot Card – Health Meaning
In a health reading, the death card may make you feel worse, but don’t start picking out headstones just yet. For someone battling an illness, this is one of the most positive cards to appear. Death can mean recovery, an end to illness and pain. A new beginning for your body.
This card can often indicate the end of addiction. A bad habit, whether it be drugs, poor eating, or self-injury, will no longer control your life. Death upright means personal transformation is underway. You will kill old patterns that no longer serve you.
Health is holistic, but you can use a tarot spread to determine what area of health the cards are referring to. Depending on the circumstances, the death tarot card could mean your back pain resolves or that you see a reprieve in your depression.
Death Tarot Card – Timing Meaning
In many ways, this is the card of autumn, of things shutting down for a season. It is a time of putting the garden to bed. Settle down to enjoy the stores of winter while you and the land rest for a season.
Winter is a time of rest and reflection. We sleep more because the nights are longer. We gather family close and appreciate them with gifts and food. Winter lets us process the endings of autumn so we may dream of better days and the things we will plant in the spring.
The death card says to bring it down a notch and get off the treadmill. Rich or poor, we all run out of beautiful summer days eventually. So take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and the people in your life who love you. Acknowledge that there is a higher power in the mix who has offered you great blessings and relaxation.
Spring will come again, but it will never be like the Spring before it, or the one before that. Like clockwork, it will return to you again, and it will be different not because it has changed, but because you have.
Death Card Yes/No Meaning
The death card is not a strict “yes” or “no,” card. While some tarot readers feel it means “no” because of its outward darkness, it really depends on the questions being asked.
Consider how the concept of change plays into your questioning. If you were to ask, “Will I begin a new relationship?” the death card answers “yes.” Yes, there will be a change.
On the other hand, if you asked, “am I going to stay in this career?” and the death card appeared, it would mean “no.” No, your job will not stay the same.
As part of the major arcana, the death card will always have a strong answer. Any “no” is a hard no – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Death Reversed Meaning
Are you stuck? The reversed death tarot card meaning indicates yes. Unlike death upright, death reversed means change is not forthcoming, even though it is badly needed. When death reversed shows up in your tarot reading, it’s time to consider what areas of your life need work.
The reversed death card can indicate a grudge or impasse, the refusal to let go. Like Poe, you curl up in your beloved’s crypt every night, unable to admit that she’s not really there. In this way, reversed death is bleaker than death upright. Change is painful, but hovering in the space between life and death is far worse.
Get on your white horse and ride into the sunset. Ignore anyone who bemoans the process. You need this.
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