The Death card is often misunderstood in tarot readings. People think, oh now, someone is going to die!
In fact, the Death card is a positive, and often essential card for people who feel stuck or trapped in certain life situations. Think of a job you don’t like, a relationship that no longer serves you, or some other circumstance that makes you feel hopeless, unmotivated or stale.
When the Death card shows up in a reading, the most significant and powerful message it conveys is that of transformation.
Meaning of the Death card
- endings – of a cycle, implying a new beginning is imminent
- transformation, metamorphosis – letting go, or shedding old habits, beliefs, attitudes
- change, transition – moving into a new environment (physical, mental, emotional)
Symbolism of the Death card
This card is so full of symbolic messages, it takes a while to absorb it all. I looked at this card for quite some time and did a bit of reading afterwards, and after a while I began to see just how each item in the picture connects to the main message it’s trying to convey.
- Skeleton in armor
- White horse
- People on the ground
- Sun between the towers
- Number 5 on flag
The skeleton represents the part of our body that remains after death – only the bones remain.
The skeleton is wearing black armor – this shows that even after transformation happened from life to death, the skeleton is invincible and protected. He/she is ready for the new beginning.
The horse is white which represents purity, strength, power. But the message prevails: no one is immune to death (of something, including life).
The people on the ground represent the different classes, race and gender, as well as age – the king has already died and the others, a religious person, a mother and child who appear to be peasants are pleading with the skeleton to spear them from death.
The sun is setting between two towers – the day is dying but we know there will be a new day after a night of rest and regeneration, a re-birth of sorts.
The flag shows a five-pedal flower indicating beauty, purification, innocence and immortality. Flags represent messages; they announce and proclaim something that is meant to be communicated.
When the Death card appears in a reading
A major phase, or cycle, in your life is ending or has ended. But an end is not the end – a new beginning is next. Put the past behind you when you are done with it so you can focus your energies on new things.
Another way to look at is that you are going through a transformation. Look at it this way: the old you no longer serves you. However, for the new you to emerge, the old new has to die. Only then can you be unobstructed and more forward and ahead.
Sometimes, the message refers to unhealthy attachments we must let go. This could refer to addiction, relationships with people who are toxic or do not serve our needs, or undesirable circumstances at work.
It can also point to outgrown attitudes, old beliefs, or help to break patterns and behaviours which hinder our personal development.
Death in my life
When I saw the Death card the other morning I was a little taken aback. I had been going through this massive transformation recently and yet, every few days or so I would feel overwhelmed by fear, anxiety or apprehension. There was all this resistance distracting me from my path. The Death card reminded me to let go of the old and allow the new to emerge, take hold and develop.
I’m back on track now. 🙂
If you enjoy my tarot card learning journey, you can read more articles on this topic on my tarot page here.
As always, thank you for reading, and see you in the comments.