The Death Tarot Card Meanings & Symbolism
Last Updated: September 17, 2021
“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
- Haruki Murakami
Death rides a pale horse, a skeleton in armour. He rides across a decaying land and doesn’t discriminate. Some fear the changes he brings; others welcome such change. Either way, he is necessary. The white horse slowly canters forward and stops at your feet. Death looks upon you, neither smiling nor frowning. He just is. The changes he brings depends on you and whether you will accept them…
The Death Tarot Card Key Facts
|Upright||transition, change, transformation, new beginnings, letting go|
|Reversed||fear of change, stagnancy, delayed endings|
|Yes or No||No|
Death is the card of endings, change and rebirth.
What does the Death card mean in Tarot?
Change and Death are the two things most feared in life. In terms of tarot, this card does not necessarily indicate actual death, but the death of the old, stagnant energy and in with the new. Death is card number thirteen in the major arcana – a number with heavy superstitious connotations, lucky for some, and unlucky for others. In numerology, 13 is the number of independence and self-expression, and when broken down to 1 +3 = 4 this number represents solid foundations, endurance and patience.
In the traditional Rider-Waite deck, Death is seen carrying a black flag with a white five-petal rose which represents purification and immortality, and the number 5 reflects changes. In the background of the card, there is a royal figure appearing dead on the ground, and a woman, child and bishop pleading for mercy, to be spared. In the background, the sun sets between two towers signifying endings but also rebirth, as the sun will rise again.
In astrology, death is Scorpio energy. Scorpio is ruled by the planet Pluto which governs destruction, death, change and transformation. But Scorpio is also passion and sexual energy which can enliven us to pursue our passions.
Death indicates a time of transformation, change, and new beginnings. Things must come to an end in order to achieve the new. Death is the card of personal metamorphosis – we need to change through our lives or else we will be stagnant and never learn through personal growth.
Sometimes this card can represent a very sudden change, which is also one of the elements that cause people to fear this card. Change can be scary, especially when we have grown accustomed to our own comfort zone. Some of us also really hate endings of any kind, it can be hard to let go. But change can also be exciting, positive and beneficial. The deadwood needs to be cleared to allow opportunities to grow and flourish.
The card prior to this, The Hanged Man taught us how to look inwards and take time to pause, the death card teaches us now is time for movement and change, it is time to say goodbye to this phase in life.
Love & relationships upright meaning
In a love reading, this card can indicate a change in relationships – either the ending of a relationship or a change in the relationship dynamic. If a relationship has become stagnant then this card can indicate more needs to be done to help it to thrive, and if not, then it may be time to accept it has come to an end.
If single, this card can mean you need to make some changes to beliefs and behaviours, and you may need to be more open to change and transformation for the right type of love to enter your life.
Health upright meaning
In a health reading, again this card very, very rarely means actual physical death. This card can relate to health matters and ways to approach healing. If your health has been poor, this card can indicate there will be a change in your treatment, or remind you to be open to other treatments. It can also mean a radical change is needed for your overall day to day wellbeing.
The Death Tarot card as a feeling
If you pull the Death tarot card, it may indicate that you feel the finality of a current chapter in your life. This may bring with it more feelings of loss, of retrospection, of sadness, but overall it brings feelings of hope. Things are about to feel very differently.
What does the reversed Death card mean in Tarot?
In a tarot reading, this can mean you are being too resistant to change. This card reminds you to let go of things you no longer need to hold on to. The main message is embracing change. It can also turn up to indicate a period of deep and intense personal transformation.
Love & relationships reversed meaning
In a love reading, this can mean you are holding onto a relationship that has already run its course and you need to let go. It can also indicate a past love coming back into your life and rekindling a new romance.
If single, this card can mean there is no new relationship on the horizon at this time. This card can turn up to remind you of self-sabotaging behaviours, and that you need to work on self-love and building your self-esteem instead of looking for new love at this time.
Health reversed meaning
In a health reading, this card can indicate that you are burying your head in the sand in matters of health. Are you being too resistant to change? Are you letting fear of the unknown prevent you from getting checkups or treatments? In general overall health, this card can indicate exhaustion, so if you have overdone things, now’s the time to listen to your body and let it get some rest.
How to use the Death card in your Spellwork
We know when we need to embrace changes in our lives instead of fighting against the current, this spell can help you to be more open to the changes going on, and help you flow along with them.
Light a black candle and name this candle for all the things you wish to let go of, all your fears, failed relationships, all the stagnant energy holding you back. Light a white candle and name this for all the opportunities you desire, the things you are thankful for already, the areas in your life you would like to change. Place the death tarot card between the two candles, this represents the transition between the two phases of your life: the stagnant bubble you’re afraid to leave and what’s outside of this.
Take a few moments to think of times in the past where your life changed and how it scared you but you ended up in a better place because of it. This could be a new job, moving home, meeting a new love or making new friends etc. If you had stayed exactly where you were, you would never have all the blessings you have now.
Yes, there will be challenges in making these changes, the transition may not be easy or smooth, but you know that by seeing it through you will get to where you want to be.
You can allow the candles to burn now fully, or snuff them out and repeat this spell on a daily basis.
Using the Death card in Dreamwork
Ten minutes before sleeping, sit in bed holding the death card. Look over all the symbolism and detail, the colours, the way the card makes you feel, your overall impressions.
Hold it up to your third eye and close your eyes, and affirm to yourself that you are open to learning what the card can teach you. Alternatively, you can ask the card a specific question at this point I.e. “What do I need to let go of?”
Place the card under your pillow and allow yourself to drift off naturally to sleep. As soon as you wake up write down everything you can remember from your dreams and examine any patterns and symbols that may have shown up and what they mean to you.
If you’d like to learn more about tarot cards, feel free to check out our other articles on tarot card meanings.
Written by Pamela Norrie
Pamela Norrie is a writer and blogger based in Scotland. She enjoys writing about folklore, witchcraft and short fiction. Some of her
work can be found on her blog hagothehills.wordpress.com and through Instagram @hearthandhame