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Death - Tarot Card Meaning

Updated: May 8

The Death card is a Major Arcana card in the Tarot deck. It is not a harbinger of death, but rather dramatic change. It is a reminder that often things need to come to an end in order for new things to begin. This can be painful, but the pain will transform you as a person and make you more prepared for what is to come.

Death Major Arcana Tarot Card - Various Examples

Upright Tarot Card Meanings - In Brief

In the upright position, the Death card suggests that you are on the cusp of a major change, and it may be one you do not expect or welcome. But it pushes you to embrace this change as it will help you grow as a person. While you may feel like you are losing things that matter to you, remember, you often have to let go of things to make room for new blessings.

Reversed Tarot Card Meanings - In Brief

In the reversed position, the Death card suggests that you are actively fighting against meaningful change and that this is hurting you. It asks you to examine why you are so scared of making changes that, deep inside, you understand are essential. Perhaps you need to realize how much you have changed on the inside recently to see what you need to change in your external world.

Number - 13

The Death card is associated with the number 13, which is considered by many to be unlucky. But the number is not inherently bad news, but it is a harbinger of Karmic debt, which can be positive or negative. The number 13 is also a sign of dramatic change.

Element - Water

The Death card is linked with the emotional element of water. This is a complex connection because while death is just and takes everyone without emotion, no one is left emotionally untouched by the hand of death.

Planet – Pluto

The planet Pluto rules the Death card. This planet refers to the great cycles that govern the universe, especially in its most destructive form where the slate is reset. Think the extinction of the dinosaurs, the great flood, or a pandemic.

Death - Tarot Card Description

While the Death card appears differently in different decks, most pull on the symbology represented in the Rider Waite deck.

Death appears as a skeletal knight in fine armor riding a white horse. He is the angel of death from the bible and a herald of things to come. The skeletal body represents what remains of us when we are gone, and the armor the invincibility and unavoidability of death. His dark cloak, which represents mystery, contrasts with his white horse, which represents purity and strength.

Death carries a black banner that is decorated with a white rose with five petals. This symbol represents beauty, purification, immortality, and change; all factors that form an inherent part of death.

At the feet of Death’s horse is a dead monarch, and a woman, child, and bishop plead before Death. It is unclear whether they are pleading for themselves of their dead king, but in either case, Death will not be swayed from his task.

A boat sails along a river in the background, representing the barges that ferry people to the afterlife common in many belief systems. The sun sets between two towers in the distance, reproducing iconography from The Moon Tarot card. This represents the start and end of each day as a kind of symbolic death and renewal.

Read about Baron Samedi, the Voodoo god of death.

Death - Upright Tarot Card Meaning

When the Death card appears upright in a Tarot reading, it means that change is coming. That change is likely to be significant and surprising, and the Death card appears to help you prepare.

It is likely that the change you face means sacrificing things that have been important to you or core to who you consider yourself as a person. But it is important to remember that endings are also always beginnings. Often endings happen to clear out things that you no longer need to make space for new blessings, though they may not seem like blessings at the time.

Change is often hard and painful, but these experiences are essential to making us who we are as a person. We are not ready for the destination if we do not go through the fire.

What to do?

When the Death card appears upright in a reading, you need to prepare yourself for a major change in your life. The change ahead of you is likely to be sudden, large, and initially unwanted. But remember that the universe has a plan for you and that this is essential for you to transform into who you are meant to be. Your best course of action is to embrace the opportunity rather than resist.

Death - Reversed Tarot Card Meaning

When the Death card appears reversed, it usually means that you are actively fighting against change and hurting yourself in the process. You are holding onto things that no longer serve you. This is keeping you imprisoned in a negative situation and stopping you from growing and changing.

It is time to stop saying no in an effort to pause time and start saying yes to new opportunities and see where they take you. Nothing thrives in a stagnant environment, change is necessary.

The card may also indicate that you are going through a personal transformation that others can’t see. This has put you out of tune with your inner circle. It may be time that you speak to the people around you and tell them how things need to change, or it may be time that you change the people that you surround yourself with.

What to do?

When the Death card appears reference, you should look for where change is happening in your life and where you are resisting that change. Why are you resisting? What are you afraid of losing? We often hold onto things that aren’t good for us just because we spent a lot of time and energy to get them. But that is not a good reason to hold onto something that no longer serves us.

Death Tarot Reading

When Death appears in a Tarot reading it is a signal that change is coming and that the only constant in life is change. The Death card helps you prepare for the often dramatic and surprising change that is ahead of you and can show you how to embrace it as an opportunity rather than a setback.

While change is often beyond our control, remember that much of our life is dictated by our previous actions and that some of the challenges that you are facing now are Karmic debt coming full circle. Use this knowledge to make better decisions for your future self.

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