“I’m afraid to get my cards read, what if I pull the Death card.” I cringe every time I hear someone say this, as I’m sure every tarot reader does. So, I thought I’d take a moment to unpack this infamous card, card number 13. There’s no coincidence this number is considered unlucky. I happen to think it’s very lucky and hopefully you will come to see its charm too.
First and foremost, I need everyone to know that predicting death using tarot is irresponsible and should NEVER be done. So then why is there a death card?
In tarot, the major arcana represents the fool’s journey, news flash, he doesn’t die. In the traditional Rider-Waite deck, this card shows a skeletal knight atop a white horse. He is believed to be one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. He is carrying a black flag, as he rides over a dead body and meets a priest and the remaining members of the deceased’s family. On the horizon the sun is rising, or is it setting? It’s both, a new day, and the close of one.
Death represents a total transformation, the end of something, and the beginning of something else in its place, something that is hopefully more aligned with your soul’s purpose. This card signifies letting go of something that is no longer serving you. Whatever it is needs to be addressed before one can move on to the next thing, to experience growth and regeneration.
In the Goddess Tarot Deck, card XII is called Transformation and represented by Japanese Shinto Goddess Uke Mochi, which translates to Goddess Who Protects Food. Legend has it that she was able to spit out a fish, land animals and rice from her mouth and even in death, she continued to produce food that would feed humanity. From death came life.
According to Kazanlar Tarot, when tarot decks first started to be printed, it was practice to omit the name of this card. The image depicts a couple, remembering a relative who has passed on. They sit in front of a lamp, as a genie emerges.
The imagery on Golden Tarot of Klimt shows Death as one might expect. A grim figure of death stands over a family. A mother holds her baby, surrounded by other relatives. They appear to be in mourning, as death has come to collect.
Interpretations can vary depending on the deck, but the underlying theme of Death is change whether we like it or not, whether we’re ready or not (hint, we’re ready). It is a powerful opportunity for transformation, into something better. While change can be tough to handle for many, it is inevitable. We would be wise to embrace it so that we can use it to our advantage. Resisting the cycles of life and staying trapped in fear does not serve us. In all, there are much worse cards to pull in tarot, but more on those later.