Tarot Card Meanings
The Death card signals that one major phase in your life is ending, and a new one is going to start.
The Death card depicts the Messenger of Death, a skeleton riding a white horse while dressed in black armor. The skeleton represents the part of the body that survives long after life has passed; the armor represents invincibility and the fact that death will come regardless. Its dark color represents mourning and the mysterious, whereas the horse represents purity and acts as a symbol of strength and power. Death carries a black flag adorned with a white, five-petal rose symbolizing beauty, purification, and immortality, as well as the number five, which represents change. These symbols reveal that death is more than just the end of one’s life. Endings and beginnings, birth and rebirth, change and transformation are all aspects of death.
Endings and beginnings, birth and rebirth, change and transformation are all aspects of death. Death has beauty, and it is an inherent part of being alive.
A skeletal figure of a royal figure appears to be dead on the ground, while a young woman, child, and bishop beg the skeletal figure to spare them. But, as we all know, death has no mercy.
A boat floats down a river in the background, similar to the mythological boats that transport the dead to the afterlife. The sun sets on the horizon between two towers (which also appear in The Moon Tarot card), dying each night and reborn each morning.
NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.
Of all the cards in the Tarot deck, the Death card is presumably the one that people fear and misunderstand the most. Most people panic when they hear the name of the card, fearful that they will collapse and die if it appears. Relax! The Death card has the potential to be one of the most positive cards in the deck.
Following a period of pause and reflection with The Hanged Man, the Death card represents the end of a major phase or aspect of your life that you realize is no longer serving you, making way for something far more valuable and essential. You must close one door to open another. You must let go of the past and part ways, ready to embrace new opportunities and possibilities.
It may be difficult to let go of the past, but you will quickly recognize its significance and the promise of renewal and transformation. You may experience pain, both emotionally and physically, if you resist these necessary endings, but if you exercise your imagination and visualize a new possibility, you allow more constructive patterns to emerge.
Death, too, represents a period of significant transformation, change, and transition. You must transform yourself and purge the old in order to welcome the new. Any change in your life should be welcomed as a positive, cleansing, and transformational force. Death and the removal of limiting factors can open the door to a more expansive and satisfying life experience.
The Death card is associated with a sudden and unexpected change. Death happens to everyone, regardless of who you are, how much money you have, where you live, or the color of your skin; the same is true for significant change. As a result, the Death card may indicate that you are caught in the path of sweeping change and cannot escape its effects. Although the upheaval may appear unwelcome and painful, this massive change may bring with it a slew of unexpected surprises that open up new doors and opportunities for you.
Finally, death is a sign that you must learn to let go of unhealthy attachments in your life in order to live a fuller, more fulfilled life with greater meaning and significance. Death teaches you to let go of worn-out and outgrown ways of life and move on. This card is ideal for breaking a bad habit or pattern of behavior. Consider this a time to cut out excess and let go of what is no longer necessary in your life. Get rid of any old possessions, memories, or baggage that are impeding your progress.
Upright, Death is a transformation card that typically refers to the need to start over by letting go of the past. Death in reverse can indicate that you are on the verge of meaningful change but are resisting it. You may be hesitant to let go, or you may be unsure how to effect the necessary change. You still carry negative perspectives from the past that could stymie a new opportunity. Life has stalled as a result of your refusal, and you feel stuck in limbo.
Death in reverse allows you to embrace change rather than resist it. See what wonderful opportunities open up for you as you say ‘yes’ to change. The future becomes even brighter as you learn to let go of the past and surrender to the present. Repeat this affirmation to help the process: “I embrace change in all forms.” You’ll be surprised at how this subtle shift in energy allows new doors to open in unexpected ways.
On a deeper level, Death Reversed can indicate that you are undergoing a massive personal transformation, often in private and out of sight of others. You are letting go of what no longer serves you in order to make room for the new. Draw another card to help you understand what you need to release and purge, or look over the other cards in the reading.
You could be getting rid of fear and limiting beliefs, changing your habits, or going through a physical purging and transformation with plant medicine or other spiritual healing. You might not want to share this with others just yet; instead, wait until your personal transformation has occurred before sharing your story as a source of inspiration.