Writing about the Tarot Death card only two days after the death of my mother brings a sharp sense of the potency of this card. Death changes things drastically and permanently. It brings a sense of loss and makes us have to readjust to life since the conditions are no longer the same. Though it is true that Death can mean transformation rather than the loss of life, it would be a bit ridiculous to completely exclude physical death from among the card’s meanings… I mean which card would we use instead? Death is part of life and to be in denial about this never-ending cycle that is necessary for new life to spring forth benefits no man.
On the day my sister told me that our mother was dying, the Death card was my card of the day.
1. Death has been depicted as a skeleton since at least the middle ages. In the famous medieval painting below from Täby church in Sweden, we see death playing chess with a man. This is not a Biblical scene but rather a scene from a morality play. It is largely from Christian medieval morality plays that we get the cast in the Tarot Major Arcana.
2. One of the main meanings of the Tarot Death card is that death is the great equalizer. None of us are immune to the changes brought by time and death comes to us all, high and low. To be born means to be dying. In both the medieval Marseille version and the RWS version, we see a royal person dead on the ground (only the head in the TdM). Think about what it might have felt like to see this image in a day and age when images were quite scarce and you had been raised to believe that people in power were your betters. Quite subversive, yes?
3. The astrological correspondence for the Death card according to the Golden Dawn is Scorpio.
4. The highest spiritual potential of the Tarot Death card is transformation that initiates us to higher levels of consciousness.
5. When the Tarot Death card shows up as the challenge, some questions for self-examination might be: ‘What inevitable change am I now facing?,’ ‘What is dying in my life?,’ ‘What am I still clinging to against better judgment?,’ and ‘How can I begin to let go?’
6. Death corresponds with Archangel Azrael, ruler of Pluto. Azrael is known as the ‘angel of death’ but far from being a grim reaper, he gently guides departing souls and comforts those left behind. Crystals to use to connect Azrael are white and light yellow calcite.
7. On a day when the Tarot Death card energy is strong you might…
- Let go
- Be let go of
- Face an inevitable ending
- Go through some kind initiation
- Have news of the death of a loved one or some public person you have an attachment to
- Deal with issues around our own mortality
- Attend a funeral
- Fixate on something (Rx)
- Embrace the unknown
- Resist change (Rx)
- Get down to the bare bones of a situation
- Accept the inevitable
- Put your affairs in order
- Close one door to open another
- End a relationship
- Get dumped
- Eliminate excess
- Deal with health issues relating to the genitalia the process of elimination (Scorpio correspondence)
The Frideborg Tarot Death Card
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
~ Viktor Frankl