card meanings & reading









The Meaning of the Death
Major Arcana Tarot Card in Readings

The Tarot Death card meaning in a nutshell:
A costly loss
- sometimes, but not always,
the death of someone.

Grim reaper - coming to an end.

       Death is, no doubt, the most terrifying of the Tarot cards to get at a reading. Therefore, guides to the Tarot usually point out that it's not necessarily about death, but some significant loss, change, or revelation. Well, it's about death, too. That's part of life.

       I've had Death appear just a few times in my Tarot readings, but in those cases it has proven to be about real death, or at least something almost as sinister. Not my own death - yet - but one happening in my surroundings or the surroundings of the person I did the reading for.

       We have to respect the simple fact that life has its horrors. Therefore, so do all methods of divination. If we want to peek into the the future, everything isn't going to be good news. We have to prepare for that, before trying any system of divination.

       Just looking at the Tarot Death card gives a hint of its grimness. Death on a white horse, black flag in hand, people mourning beside a corpse. The bishop, too, indicates that something definite and shocking has happened. It could be the scene after a battle, or an accident, or a plague ravaging the country.

       But the sun in the background of the Tarot Death card image reveals that life will go on, anyway. The child on the picture gives the same message.

       Death is part of life. We're born, so we will die one day. Although it's the very first rule of existence, it's the most difficult one to come to terms with. That's why we tend to be shocked when death appears - in our lives, or as a card in a Tarot reading. It's as if we pretend it can be escaped by being ignored. But the only way of learning to live with it is to accept it.

       That said, the Tarot Death card is not always about physical death, although that can be the case. It can also indicate a drastic change including a costly loss, a painful farewell, and things of that kind. It's sure to be difficult and the change is lasting. The situation after this event is quite different and will not be reversible. So, it's always a death of sorts.

Death catching a pedlar. Illustration from Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526.
Death catching a pedlar. Illustration from Dance of Death by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526. Portraying Death as a skeleton started in the 15th century and soon became the norm. Artist around that time made many such pictures, with the basic message that nobody escapes death.

A. E. Waite about the Tarot Death Card

Click the header to read what A. E. Waite had to say about the Major Arcana Death Tarot card symbolism and meaning in divination.

The Major Arcana Tarot Cards

  1. The Magician

  2. The High Priestess

  3. The Empress

  4. The Emperor

  5. The Hierophant

  6. The Lovers

  7. The Chariot

  8. Strength

  9. The Hermit

  10. Wheel of Fortune

  11. Justice

  12. The Hanged Man

  13. Death

  14. Temperance

  15. The Devil

  16. The Tower

  17. The Star

  18. The Moon

  19. The Sun

  20. Judgement

  21. The World

  22. The Fool

The Book

Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tarot Unfolded

This book focuses on the Tarot card images and their allegorical symbols. Several spreads are introduced, as well as the meanings of all the 78 cards and their pictures. The book will help you find your own intuitive way of making inspired Tarot card readings. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

More about the book here.

My Other Websites:

I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.

Complete Horoscope

How predictions are done in classical astrology with the full horoscope chart. Many examples.

Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.

Other Books of Mine

Your Health in Your Horoscope. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Your Health in Your Horoscope

What the horoscope says about your health, according to the old tradition of medical astrology. Click the image to see the book (and Kindle ebook) at Amazon.

Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd

About me

I'm a Swedish author. In addition to fiction, I've written books about the Tarot, Taoism, astrology and other metaphysical traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.