Upright: Endings, beginnings, change, transformation, transition
Reversed: Resistance to change, unable to move on
The Death card shows Death himself riding on a white horse, holding a black and white flag. Death is portrayed as a skeleton as the skeletal bones are the part of the body that survives death. The armour he is wearing indicates that he is invincible and unconquerable. Indeed, no-one has yet triumphed over death. The horse that Death rides is white, the colour of purity. Death is therefore the ultimate purifier. All things are reborn fresh, new and pure. Notice even the bishop paying homage to him. All sectors of the human race are represented here – men, women and children – showing that Death does not discern between age, race or gender.
The banner that Death carries has a black background, indicating an absence of light. The white rose, on the other hand, indicates beauty, purification and immortality. In the background of the card, there is a rising sun, a sign of immortality. The sun appears to ‘die’ each night but is reborn fresh and new every morning. The two pillars are guarding the gateway to the sun, symbolising the knowledge needed to gain immortality. The boat on the water in the background is the ferry that transports the souls across the River Styx. The background is a neutral grey, again showing Death’s impartiality.
Death is ruled by Scorpio (the sign of ‘sex, death and taxes’) and the number is 13, sacred to the Goddess as there are thirteen moons in a year.
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The Death card is probably the most feared and misunderstood of all the cards in the Tarot deck. Just the mention of the card’s name has people shaking in their boots! In general, people tend to take the meaning of this card far too literally and fear that the indication is for the death of either themselves or others. Relax! The card of Death can be one of the most fruitful and positive cards in the deck.
Death is symbolic of the ending of a major phase or aspect of your life that may bring about the beginning of something far more valuable and important. You must close one door in order to open another. You need to put the past behind you and part ways, ready to embrace new opportunities and possibilities. It may be difficult to let go of the past at times but you will soon see how important it is so that you can bring renewal and transformation into your life. If you resist these necessary endings, you may experience pain, both emotionally and physically but if you exercise your creative imagination and visualise a new possibility, you allow more constructive patterns to emerge.
Similarly, Death indicates a time of significant transformation, change and transition. You need to profoundly transform yourself and clear away any of the old in order to bring in the new. Any change at this time should be welcomed as a positive, cleansing, transformative force in your life. The death and clearing away of limiting factors can open the door to a wider, more satisfying experience of life.
The Death card contains elements of a sudden and unexpected change. You may feel as though you are caught in the path of sweeping change and cannot escape its effects. Though the immediate thought is toward the negative, an end need not mean failure. The loss could be a series of unexpected surprises that bring an end to a period of turmoil or problems. You feel you can no longer go along with the status quo and want things to change radically. Many changes are going to take place to enable a new direction to emerge.
Finally, Death is an indication that you need to learn to let go of unhealthy attachments in your life to pave the way to a fuller, more fulfilled life of deeper meaning and significance. Death teaches you to let go of outworn and outgrown ways of life and move forward. This is a perfect card to use to break a bad habit or pattern of behaviour. This is a time of eliminating excess and cutting out what is not necessary in your life. This may be a good time to purge old belongings, memories and ‘baggage’ that is getting in your way.
Death is a card of transformation and new life, and typically shows a need to start completely over by letting go of the past. Death reversed typically reflects that you are on the verge of major change but for some reason, you are resisting making that change. You may be reluctant to let go of the past or you may not know how to make the change you need. You are still carrying harmful aspects from the past that may interfere with the opportunity you have for a new beginning. You are refusing to accept change and you are resisting any element of change that may arise in your life. As a result, life has stagnated and you are feeling ‘stuck’ in limbo.
Assess the way in which you are approaching change. You may find that you are in fact halting the very change that will be to your benefit. You may fear the new but rest assured the time is right to accept the new. What is important, too, is that you address and resolve whatever issues are blocking your acceptance of change as soon as you can so that you are then free to start your new journey. Pursuing your new journey now, without having resolved the past, may actually lead to unintended outcomes, so best you deal with what is preventing you from changing first.