Today I decided to address the DEATH CARD, because for many it’s the scariest card in the entire Tarot deck.
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me not to use the cards during a reading, specifically because they’re afraid the death card will turn up. So I thought I’d take some time to dispel some of the rumors and falsehoods around the death card and shed some light on how I use it in a reading.
First – and this is important! For me the death card has NEVER foretold someone’s demise. It has indicated a death or loss in the past, and for that it can be quite accurate, but it’s never come up to indicate someone WILL die. As an example, I was reading a man and the death card came up as part of the spread. Based on my intuition and the placement of the other cards, I interpreted that to mean he had recently suffered a loss, probably of someone close to him. Sure enough, his wife had died just a couple months prior. The reading turned out to be full of messages from her, and the death card was her way of saying “hello.”
So don’t worry…. you’re not going to die tomorrow
Now that we’ve cleared that up, what does the Death card mean? In the deck I use most often, the Revelations Tarot, the Goddess Kali dances on the card, symbolizing endings and change through time. It represents the cyclical nature of life and phases of life, so I often interpret it to mean you’re about to end a chapter or scene in your life’s story. Depending on the tone of the reading, this can feel very heavy (as in loss or change you don’t want) or very freeing (as in getting out of a bad situation or letting things go that no longer serve you). I always tell people to embrace the dance of death and greet the change coming their way with eager expectation of the new.
In many other decks, this card depicts a grim reaper sort of figure, which indicates to me a purging or emptying of the soul to allow new to come in. New things are often scary, sometimes terrifying if they are way outside your comfort zone, but rather than trying to incite fear and foreboding, the grim reaper acts as a guide to get you safely through the changes ahead. Again this card and the change it brings is to be welcomed as it indicates not only an end but the beginning of what is next.
In my deck, the reverse of the card (the card viewed upside down) is the figure of a sleeping baby resting on a row of teeth. This is most exciting as it indicates that new beginnings are right around the corner. The teeth represent the spoken word, and as creators we literally speak our worlds into existence. This is a call to allow a new phase of life to incubate and grow, then for you to speak your truth out to the world so it can manifest. Very exciting and empowering times lie ahead!
Going a bit further, the Death card is the 13th card of the Major Arcana. When we look at the numerology of 13, we see that 1 and 3 combine to make 4. 1 is a number of new beginnings, leadership and taking charge as well as putting yourself first. 3 is about creative expression, sexual and physical energy and expressing your true self to the world. When combined into a 4, we have the number of patterns and work. Thus 13 talk about standing up for yourself and what you want, taking charge of your life, and using your inner power and creativity to bring forth that which you want. Doing so takes inner work, as everything we create begins inside us. The work can be difficult, as gaining awareness and achieving inner growth often is, but the reward, a new beginning of the next chapter in your life, is well worth the effort.
Just an aside on 13 – I know it’s considered unlucky by many people but that’s a belief based in folklore and superstition. Just Google “why is 13 unlucky” and you’ll quickly see that it’s really quite a silly notion.
So summing up, the Death card isn’t really about you dying at all, but more a card of change and transformation. Yes it signifies endings and yes, they can be scary and carry a sense of loss, but overall this card also brings new hope for better things to come.
I hope this cleared up some of the questions you may have about this card and has calmed some of your fears that it may come up in a Tarot reading. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, or drop me a line via the contact form at the right.