Death is the fourteenth card in the Tarot Deck and represents Change.
It is given the number 13 because the very first card (The Fool) is given the number 0.
Death represents Change / Ending / Transition / Letting Go / Death / Elimination / Transformation
Let’s look at the picture below of Death. The picture is from the Rider Waite Tarot deck which was first published in 1909. It is a great deck for beginners because every card has a picture describing its meaning. Today the majority of Tarot decks are based on the Rider Waite deck. It is also a ‘deep’ deck because the creators of it put multi layered meanings inside it.
We see a skeleton dressed in dark armor sitting on a white horse. He holds a flag and surrounding the horses feet are four people (representing different relationships with death). Off in the distance is a sun rising / setting behind two pillars. A river with a boat is behind the horse and skeleton indicating flow, change and transition.
Death is a skeleton coming to collect the souls of the dead. He wears black Armour. Black is not actually a color and it absorbs all colors into it. Like the Black Holes in space, black swallows everything eventually just like death.
Facial Expression of Death
There is no expression because we see just the skull. It is a fact of life that death reduces us first to a skeleton and then dust. There is no ego once we die, therefore the skeleton has no facial expression.
Body Posture of Death
Death means business. He sits back straight on the white horse. He has a mission and he will complete it.
The horse represents purity and the fact that death purifies and makes way for the new.
Black Flag / White Rose
The white rose represents purity and life and is known as the Mystic Rose. It has 5 petals representing the elements of life – earth, air, fire, water and spirit.
People – King
The king is dead and it shows that death comes to all regardless of status, money and position.
People – Priest
The priest prayers for redemption. The priest wants to understand logically what is happening.
People – Youth
The Youth is in denial about the fact that death is here and looks away.
People – Child
The child is the only person who fully accepts death and even hands death some white flowers. The child trusts that if Death is here it is time to go. There is no fighting the fact.
The Two Towers remind us of the Moon card (which comes after the Death card). The Moon is the gateway between this world and the next. We come through a date (birth) and we leave through a gate (death).
Is the sun setting or rising? It can be either depending on how you see death. The sun sets and the dark comes or the sun illuminates life after death. Perhaps the sun reminds us that life continues though not perhaps as we expect it.
The path that death takes when it collects the souls and rides towards the towers. The path is the path of death that we all take.
River and Ship
The river represents the river of death leading us to the next stage. It also reminds us of the River Styx in Greek mythology that carried the souls over to the ‘other side’.
Gods / Goddesses
Death is ruled by all the Gods and Goddesses that rule over the realms of death or journey to the Underworld.
Female: Persophone, Inanna, Ereshkigal, Isis, Nephtys, Coatlicue, Mictecacihuati, Izanami, Hel, Freya, Proserpina
Male: Hades, Pluto, Hel, Shiva, Seth, Anubis, Osiris, Nergal, Donn, Mannanan, Odin, Thanatos, Aita
The number of Death is 13.
13 in western mythology and culture is considered unlucky especially if it falls on a Friday.
There are also 13 lunar months in a solar year and the moon has traditionally been seen as mysterious and dangerous.
The astrological sign that rules Death is Scorpio.
Scorpio rules the genitals, reproduction and the organs of elimination.
Scorpio is ruled by Mars so we can see the intensity behind this card.
Mars also rules The Tower cards which is about sudden change and has similar themes to the Death card.
The creators of the Rider Waite Tarot deck were members of the Golden Dawn, a group that had many teachings based on the mystical Kabbalah of the Jewish nation. When I say Kabbalah forget about monotheism, Judaism, God, and religion for a moment. Kabbalists are mystics in a sense. They believe God is neither male nor female and in fact has many aspects. Their systems are all about learning why we are here, the mystery of the universe and what the big plan is.
Inside the Rider Waite deck is a multitude of Kabbalistic meanings. I will briefly explain a few of the Kabbalistic meanings within The Emperor card. Believe me when I say you could learn for the rest of your life about Tarot and Kabbalah and still only scratch the surface. I’m keeping it superficial but easy to understand. I am also using on purpose the word Kabbalah rather than Cabala.
Death is represented by the letter Nun – נ – and represents fish. We can also see how it represents sperm. Sperm die as they join with the egg. They sacrifice themselves (reminds us of The Hanged Man) in order to create new life.
Death on The Tree of Life sits on the path between Tipheret (Beauty) and Netzach (Victory).
The name of Death is ‘Imaginative Intelligence’. Imagination is the link between the world of mind and matter. By Imaging Death we can let go of its hold on us.
KEYWORDS / KEY PHRASES
The great equalizer / Change / Transformation / Moving on / Passing Over / Death of the Old to make way for the New / Rebirth / Regeneration / Elimination / Initiation
Death can be physical or non physical. It can be physical death (though it is not as common) or psychological death to the old.
Death means a transition or change from one stage to another.
For example a woman giving birth to her first child may get the death card. What is dying is her virgin phase, making way for the Mother Archetype. Death can mean leaving a job, losing weight, moving house – but the change creates an internal shift and psychological change.
Death is not a simple change card. The ‘I’ who was overweight is no longer the same ‘I’ when they become slimmer. Death is leaving one way behind in order for the new to be born.
MESSAGE FROM DEATH
Death means you are in a change process.
It is unavoidable so what can you do about it?
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I feel I need to let go of something now?
What needs to pass away?
What do I need to grieve for?
What do I need to eliminate?
Is it time for a deep change or transformation?
What needs to give way to something new?
Allow yourself to focus on the fact that a new phase cannot happen until the old is let go of.
A tree sheds its leaves to rest and have energy to be reborn in Spring. The Elderly die to make way for the young being born.
When we fight death / change, we make our lives much much harder.
How can you embrace deep change today?
When I see a reversed card I simply see the energy blocked or inhibited in some way.
How would Death be inhibited?
Death is inhibited when we do not allow change to occur. When we do not allow ourselves to grieve for what was. When we get stuck in a process of letting go and not getting to the other side.
If you get Death reversed for yourself or someone else some questions to ask might be…
What am I fighting to keep alive?
What change am I feeling hard to experience?
Am I struggling with death?
Am I buried in grief?
Am I avoiding grief?
Do I have an inability to let go?
Do I need to say goodbye to something or someone?
Am I having a traumatic adjustment?
Am I frightened of Death?
If you get Death reversed you are not flowing with the change process. You are stuck and not moving forward. Sometimes we need to grieve to set ourselves free. Sometimes we need to stop grieving and get on with life.
An example of the failure to complete the Death process is Post Natal Depression.
I often call it Post Natal Trauma because often the woman did not have a good birth experience.
Interventions, stress and trauma occur and then the woman is suddenly a mother. She may not have received the full flow of healthy hormones to help her connect to her baby. If the mother is not fully supported afterwards she may slide into depression and PND is becoming more and more common. If PND occurs a death process needs to be acknowledged – the woman is no longer single, she is now a mother. She is no longer the mother to one child, she is now the mother to two children. She has no time for herself at the beginning and this may need to be grieved. She may not have had the birth she desired and she may need to grieve this.
Another place I see Death not being acknowledged is in miscarriage.
I myself had three of them before I had my first son. The remarks people made were deeply hurtful and I felt alone in my grieving process. People said, ‘Well at least you got pregnant, just try again’ or ‘But it was early, so its not a big deal?’.
Luckily I was able to journey the experience and acknowledge and ‘bury’ the babies.
Some women feel they cannot because a miscarriage is not recognized as a death, sometimes even by the partner.
TO SUM IT ALL UP…
The Death card says that today you must acknowledge deep change in your life.
It will be OK if you decide it will be OK.
Death invites you to embrace the death of the old to make way for the new.
If death never occurred life would become stagnant.
Death is part of life.
All photos are from www.pixabay.com unless otherwise stated and free to use for commercial use.
Death Card: By Pamela Coleman Smith – a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley (http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/) for the public domain, and retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot (see note on that page regarding source of images)., PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17299707