The Meaning of the Death
The Tarot Death card meaning in a nutshell:
Major Arcana Tarot Card in Readings
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 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.
The Death Card as a Person
If the Tarot Death card refers to a person, which is quite rare, it is either someone marked by death or something similarly sinister, or it is a person bringing it. Such a person is an acquaintance that can be very costly to you, even dangerous. Be wary.
The Death Card as an Event
If the Tarot Death card in your divination spread relates to an event, it is something that sinister - though not necessarily death - happening in your surroundings. It may afflict you, more or less, but it is probably not happening primarily to you. Still, there is reason to be careful.
The Death Card as You
If the Tarot Death card has a position in the divination spread referring to you, it may very well be a serious warning about your health or some other very serious problem already striking you. If you can change the route you are on, you should. It is a warning. It may also mean that you can cause problems, even serious harm, to others.
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 Magician
- The High Priestess
- The Empress
- The Emperor
- The Hierophant
- The Lovers
- The Chariot
- The Hermit
- Wheel of Fortune
- The Hanged Man
- The Devil
- The Tower
- The Star
- The Moon
- The Sun
- The World
- The Fool
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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.