MAJOR ARCANA

Death Tarot Meanings

Ah, the dreaded Death card. It’s one of the most famous of the Tarot cards, used time and time again in media to denote a terrible tragedy on its way. In reality, it’s a card that brings rebirth and the ability to shed the old and create space for the new.

Death doesn’t mean physical death, it is a metaphorical death. The closure of a chapter or an ending of something you’ve been going through.

Often the Death card appears to us when there is a change afoot that we have no control over and so we are being asked to accept the circumstance and go with Death willingly. There is a transformation that happens within this change.

We’re taken from an old life and into a new one, we are changed permanently whether it be on a conscious or subconscious level.

Death Tarot Meanings New Beginnings
Death Tarot Meanings
Death Tarot Meanings Rebirth

Death Upright Meanings

In the upright position, Death represents the end of a cycle, usually a smaller cycle than that hinted at in The World. Sometimes it can represent the feeling of something suddenly ending or coming to a conclusion that we have little to no control over. The main upright meanings of Death are:

  • Endings

  • Change

  • Transformation

  • New direction

  • New beginnings

Death is the card of Scorpio, so it’s no surprise that with this card comes a lot of emotion that can be confusing or overwhelming. The key to tackling the Death card is to have humility. We are not exempt from the laws and ways of life and we only cause ourselves pain by dwelling in the things we have no power over.

Death Reversed Meanings

In the reversed position, Death highlights our reluctance and sometimes arrogance in thinking we are above the natural cycle of the world. It holds a lot of fear within it and is a signal for us to let go and allow what will be to be. Some of the main meanings of Death reversed are:

  • Resistance to change

  • Fear

  • Holding onto the past

  • Denial

The Death card is a very internal card, it’s not about what is happening to you, it’s all about how you react to it. An important thing to remember when this card appears is that it isn’t a bad omen, it’s simply a reminder to analyse our behaviours and see where we are holding onto things that have naturally come to an end.

Reading Death in a Tarot Spread

Something that is really helpful, especially when reading with the Rider Waite-Smith deck is the imagery. On the Rider Death card, there are four images of figures and each of them are reacting to death differently. It is these reactions that sum up the many ways we deal with the sudden closure of something we are emotionally invested in. We have the king that has let it defeat him completely, the woman that refuses to look, the bishop that tries to bargain with him and finally the child that observes Death passing with wonder and intrigue.

How we react to changes has a big effect on how we feel and how things play out. Our mindset and perspective is key to unlocking the mysteries of the Death card.

Death as An Invitation

Death is an invitation to go with the flow, allow things to move organically without interference. A key invitation that Death often offers to us, is the invitation to live and let live.

For Death, this invitation could be the following:

  • An invitation to accept the outcome of a situation, even if it wasn’t the one you were hoping for

  • An invitation to embrace the chance to start again or restart with a clean slate

  • An invitation to look at your own reaction to a difficult or sudden change in your life

  • An invitation to let go of something that is coming to a natural end

Death as Sage Advice

The Death card is one of the pivotal lessons in the major arcana, it is one of the first lessons we come to about the wildness of life and the cycle all humans are thrust upon. It is a very humbling card, as it makes us realise that no matter how powerful we feel, there will always be things that will march on no matter how hard we try and stop it.

Some advice Death may offer is:

  • When something comes to an end naturally, it was always meant to and it was never meant to be a permanent part of your story

  • We can cause ourselves more distress by entering a state of denial or resilience against the things we can’t control

  • At the end of every chapter, a new one takes its place

Death as a Lesson

Like I mentioned above, the Death card is a big lesson in humility and cycles. Death is a great teacher and it can often cause life-changing realisations. It’s by no means an easy lesson to learn and we will be faced with it time and time again throughout our lives and it will be different every single time.

Some lessons that Death may offer you are:

  • Learning when we have to step out of the way and let life run its course

  • To accept change and be able to adapt to what comes next

  • A lesson in transformation and how we can navigate it when we find ourselves in the middle of it

  • A lesson in letting go, especially when we have a strong emotional connection to it

Death as a Redirection

When it comes to redirections, Death is a very clear redirection. Death drags you forwards into the future kicking and screaming, or peacefully if you’ve learned the lesson around going with the flow. It shows up when we are too consumed with the past that we can’t live in the present or plan for the future.

As a redirection, Death could symbolise a need to:

  • Keep pushing forward so you can reach the closure at the end of this specific journey

  • See the ending as a new beginning

  • Find a different way forward, as the way you are currently travelling is a dead end

  • Let go of fear and trust the process

Death Tarot Meanings Thirteen

Death - Number 13

As we all know, the number 13 has a bad rep. However, 13’s unlucky label mostly comes from Christianity and The Last Supper. This is because there were a total of 13 people at the last supper, with Judas supposedly being the final one to be seated at the table.

We see other examples in things like Norse mythology and even historically in the arrest of the Knight’s Templar on Friday 13th October 1307. In some cultures however, 13 is a lucky number, so just like the Death card, it really depends on your worldview as to whether something is to be feared or embraced. 

Death Tarot Meanings Scorpio

Death - Scorpio

The Death card is associated with the astrological sign of Scorpio. As a Scorpio myself I feel like I can speak to the Death card a lot and I definitely feel an affinity with it’s properties when it pops up. 

Scorpios are often seen as tough, intimidating and brutally honest, but they are also very sensitive and emotional beings. The same is said for Death. Although many people fear change, often change comes when we need it most. Whether the change is agonising or cathartic is completely dependent on the individual and whether they fight the inevitable or accept it. 

 

Death Tarot Meanings Archetype

Death - Explorer

Peter Pan once said “To die will be an awfully big adventure” and that is what I think about every time I think of the Death Tarot card. Change is an adventure and we are explorers, just like Death, we take on the role of explorer as we pass into an unknown world. 

This archetype teaches us a lot about control, humility and acceptance. It is one of the first times we are really challenging all the beliefs and ideas we have built. We are being presented with this adventure and asked if we are ready to expand and transform, or fight to stay the same, stunting our growth. 

 

 

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