Death (XIII) Upright

(Card Descriptions Based On Original Rider-Waite Colors – Still Under US Games Inc. Copyright)



And so, eventually we come to the Death Card XIII,  number 13, the most commonly feared card of the Tarot. Even though this fear is unjustified the Death Card has struck terror into the hearts of those whose reading it has turned up in. The poor Death card has had some its share of bad press over the centuries. To atone for our typical knee-jerk reaction to its appearance, let us now dispel some common held myths and get down to its true spiritual and everyday meanings.

A skeleton dressed in black armor rides in on a white horse. In other decks, this skeleton is often depicted as Azrael, the Angel of Death. He carries a black flag depicting a white rose. The horse is surrounded by different figures. A king, a bishop, a woman and a little girl. In the background a boat sails out to sea leaving two hunched figures and a small black cross marks a grave. Beyond in the distance, on top of the mountain, stand two stone towers. Between the two towers the rising sun is just visible.

Yes, the card is to do with death, but not physical death. To represent a possible, and I mean possible physical death, there would need to be at least four to five of the following; The Tower, Judgement, the Three, Four, Ten of Swords, Five of Cups.  The Blank Card may figure in this line up too.   Several other reversed cards may give an indication of failing health but the above cards turning up in a reading would give the reader cause for concern.

The Death Card stands for sweeping change and transformation which can often feel like a death when its force of impact hits hard.  It symbolises the death of a situation in our lives. Death comes in many shapes and forms and throughout our life we go through many little deaths which prepare us for the ultimate, the final death of all, the physical death. Little deaths start from the moment the umbilical cord is cut, being weaned off the breast or soother, learning to sleep in our own room, going to school, going to college, leaving home, getting married. These are the normal deaths we all experience in life and are usually accepted quite readily. No one would view these occasions as deaths but more so as beginnings and new starts.  However, along with the new comes the old, and along with beginnings come endings.  Therefore every transition involves a death before the rebirth process.

These normal transitions in life may seem inconsequential when compared to actual physical death but even these little deaths bring their own level of grief and mourning. All you have to do is take a look at the tearful mothers saying good-bye to their little ones on their first day at school.  The sadness when your children flee the nest, the emotional tears when they leave home for college or to get married. Yes, it is all positive progress but that does not mean to say they do not cause emotional pain.  There is nothing wrong with this form of grieving and is actively encouraged to remain healthy and emotionally balanced.  It would be wrong and impossible to avoid them.  In general, people deal with these bitter-sweet times in a normal and functional manner, observing and accepting them for exactly what they are, part of being emotional and psychologically influenced human beings.  Life settles down into a new normal and people let go of the old and get on with their lives.

However, not all of us are as willing to let go as we should. These deaths can become a problem when they are not accepted for what they are, a death, that there is no going back, and that one must re-adjust and move forward.  These particular types of death feel very different to the deaths above.  The Impact of such deaths can be powerful and shocking to our system.  When the one you love, no longer loves you. No matter how hard you work to rekindle the fire, you are told that it is over. The marriage you thought was forever is cast aside leaving you alone and insecure. The business that you put all your life savings, heart, energy and passion into is now going under. The best friend who lets you down, betrays and belittles you. The company you loyally and faithfully worked for  is letting you go. The promotion that was given to someone else.  The family secret discovered that is too shocking to bear. These  deaths are not so easy to stomach.

The Death Card deals with not just these kind of deaths in our lives, but most importantly how we react to them. Do we spend time grieving and mourning for what has just gone, until we finally accept the loss, and slowly and carefully move on? Or do we resist and struggle against the changes, determined to keep things the way they were, in denial of the situation? Do we fling ourselves around and believe that our life is over and take to the bed? Is all considered lost? Do we rant and rave and demand the life back? Do we lose faith in life and become bitter, negative and pessimistic?

The Hanged Man through reflection came to realise the material things, people, or aspects of himself that had to be surrendered and sacrificed in order for him to grow spiritually.  It is in The Death Card they are taken away from him. If he is prepared and agreeable to surrender that which has to go, then his passage will be much smoother, and he will recover more easily. However, if he has not spent his time of suspension wisely, he may clutch and grab on to what needs to go, believing that he will be destroyed in the process, his life ruined or over if he lets go.

Death riding into town will not consider his pleas or listen to his wailing, for it will be accepted that The Hanged Man understands the reasons Death has arrived to visit him in person. Death will gallop through and vanquish everything in his path. When the dust settles only the strongest and worthiest will have survived his raid.  Death will approach rapidly, unexpectedly, do his work and be on his way. It must then be decided if what he has taken with him was really worth holding onto in the grand scheme of things. The Hanged Man must be very honest with himself, for when Death rides in, it is on the understanding that change has been sought on a subconscious or spiritual level. The Hanged Man may have been wanting something to give, something to change for a long time, but was too afraid to do anything about it himself.  Death heard his unconscious call and responded.  Death does not call to where he is not needed or invited, but when he arrives, he takes matter in hand and under his control.

The Universe will not allow stagnation to set in for any prolonged period of time, so if you sit on something negative in your life for too long, it sends in Death to clear the boards and sweep away all that is useless, outdated, destructive or unhealthy. No one really wants to stay in a bad place or situation, but sometimes we get paralysed by fear. Fear that we shall lose our identity, fear that we will not be able to cope, fear that we will be out on the street, fear that we will not be able to start again, that we will never get another chance. The thing is that for new life or new energy to be released, we must first be prepared to release the old energy. When the old energy is gone, a void is left. The Universe  acts to support this release by supplying new energy to fill the void. From Death comes Birth or New Life. Remember that it is not just physical changes being dealt with in the Death Card, but also attitudes and  beliefs.

Look at the King in the Death Card. He refused to accept the changes, resisted the new, and perished as a result. The bishop uses his spiritual understanding of Death and his faith to survive the dawn raid. The young woman has tried her best to accept the changes that Death brings, has even brought him flowers to show her understanding and respect, but at the last-minute panics believing she will be trampled by the hooves of the horse Death rides. In her fright and terror, she drops the flowers. Not strong enough to look Death in the face she turns away hoping he will not notice her and ride on by. It is only the little girl, innocent and trusting, that is fearless in the face of Death. She is ready to accept change for she believes in life and is positive in her outlook. She kneels before him and offers flowers. She is ready to accept whatever Death brings to her and is excited and curious about her future. Judging by the black crosses in the background Death has already left a trail of victims behind him. The white horse that Death rides symbolises the purity behind his actions. Death is only doing this for your own good. The horse appears gentle. It is only the fixed rigid beliefs of the figures before him who look on Death as the annihilator.

The sun rises between the two stone towers on the mountain symbolising that from dark comes light, and the worst is just about over. From Death comes Rebirth. The sun also represents new hope and new life. If we remain strong and positive through the dark times we are assured that the sun will rise once again and dispel all the gloom.

The Death card represents the Sun Sign of Scorpio. One of the lessons for Scorpio is to learn to accept  change and not be so fearful of it. There is often strength in surrender.


A chapter in your life is ending and it is important how you react to this. Acceptance and release are key here. The death of a situation which you have been seeking on a deep level.  The end of an era. Let these changes in and take effect. It is proper and right at this point in time. Trust that what is being taken from you is for the best and will be replaced by something infinitely better. The changes may appear unwelcome initially, but in the long run things will work out and you will wonder why you waited so long. There is no point struggling against these changes for they are going to happen anyway. Don’t force the changes either or try to speed them up. Everything is in divine order at this stage so just let it happen naturally. Sit back, take a deep breath, don’t give in to knee-jerk reactions and watch what happens.  If accepted in the right manner Death will bring relief after the end of a difficult period.

When it comes to relationships the Death Card will indicate that a change is coming in your relationship or that your relationship is ending. The change could be that you decide to marry or even to have a child, so it does not have to be negative. Look to surrounding cards for deeper insight. One of you may have grown away from the relationship and now want other things in life. You may have had suspicions for some time that things were not going well and that you weren’ t getting on like you used to. Feeling miserable but also fearing the disruption in your life the end might bring, you have put your head down hoping that it would all go away and sort itself out.  The arrival of Death into the scene will do the work for you and find a swift way of ending the relationship. The wondering and apprehension is over when Death appears, which probably brings a sense of relief along with sadness and if-onlys. Maybe your attitude to relationships in general is changing. Of course the appearance of Death in a reading could also indicate a Scorpio person in your life.

Remember, it is perfectly okay to spend a period of time grieving and mourning the changes in your life before moving on.  Death is not intentionally cruel and does not abandon you once his work is done.  On the contrary, for those who understand his nature he hands them over into the care of Temperance, the next card in The Major Arcana.  He knows that Temperance will work with those affected by his energy to bring stability, harmony and peace back to their lives.

Now Go to Death Reversed

Back to Lesson 6

The Fool Upright  The Fool Reversed

The Magician Upright  The Magician Reversed

The High Priestess Upright   The High Priestess Reversed

The Empress Upright   The Empress Reversed

The Emperor Upright    The Emperor Reversed

The Heirophant Upright    The Heirophant Reversed

The Lovers Upright     The Lovers Reversed

The Chariot Upright   The Chariot Reversed

Strength Upright     Strength Reversed

The Hermit Upright   The Hermit Reversed

The Wheel of Fortune Upright   The Wheel of Fortune Reversed

Justice Upright   Justice Reversed

The Hanged Man Upright   The Hanged Man Reversed

Death Upright     Death Reversed

Temperence Upright     Temperence Reversed

The Devil Upright   The Devil Reversed

The Tower Upright     The Tower Reversed

The Star Upright     The Star Reversed

The Moon Upright    The Moon Reversed

The Sun Upright     The Sun Reversed

Judgement Upright      Judgement Reversed

The World Upright     The World Reversed


Lesson 1   Lesson 2    Lesson 3   Lesson 4  Lesson 5

Copyright © 2006-2016 Vivien Ní Dhuinn

5 replies »

    • Sorry Ethan for the delay in this response. I am under heavy assignment deadline pressure in college right now in a subject I am struggling with, Adobe Illustrator! The Blank Card carries many meanings and I will be writing in more detail about it. In the meantime I can give you some guidelines. Some of the meanings for The Blank Card are as follows:

      * In general, The Blank Card suggests that the Universe has or had plans for you that are great than your own depending on whether the Card falls in a future or past position.
      *The Future is unclear
      * The Future or Outcome is being withheld from you – this could be for a variety of reasons but a lot of the time it comes down to it being involved in your spiritual karma, fate, destiny etc. You may not have journeyed enough on your spiritual plan to be given advance information which may give you an unfair advantage or cause you to get laid back about something. It may interfere with your Karma. For instance, a young person setting up in business asks what the outcome of their new business venture is going to be. A blank card turns up in the Outcome position which is confusing. He is determined and wants to work hard, however, if the Outcome Card revealed the 10 of Pentacles or The Answer, The World, he may begin to sit back on his laurels and not work so hard, safe in the knowledge that his business is going to successful .It depends on the individual personality and their tendencies. The same with a relationship. Asking about how successful a relationship or marriage is going to be and the Blank Card appears, it may be for the best that the individuals don’t know in advance. If it is bound for success then they may not make the same effort with each other, not work so hard at it, and if it is bound for failure, they may throw the towel in immediately without trying to sort things out and learn nothing in the process. You will need to get your head around why the Cards/Universe withholding information from a Querant may be in their best interest. If you are told the end of the movie or book before you start reading it, then it may not be so enticing to you. Many will watch or read it anyway as they are interested in the story in between, while others just won’t bother. Sometimes the Universe does not want us to be told things directly for it is part of our spiritual plan to discover them ourselves.
      * Your future or path is going to take you in a direction you had never anticipated. For example, your goal is to become an accountant and eventually open your own accountancy business. However, you friends drag you away on a mad weekend and you try your hand at surfing for the first time. You are blown away by how fantastic it is and book a course of surfing lessons. Surfing begins to take over you life and the world of accountancy seems totally out of step with the high you get while riding the waves. This is where you belong and what you love. You suddenly know what it is you want to do. Instead of becoming an accountant you change track and the goal now is to qualify as a Surfing Instructor and open your own surfing business. Not in you wildest dreams did you anticipate your life changing so dramatically.
      *If in a Past Position, then something totally unexpected happened in your life. By unexpected I don’t mean a surprise, but something far greater than that. For example, an ordinary young girl is in an expensive shoe shop trying on shoes and checking them out in the mirror. Of course she has no money to buy them, but she likes to try them on much to the annoyance of the shop assistants. She barely has the bus fare home. At the same time a talent scout for a top class modelling agency just happens to be in the same shop looking at boots. She sees the girl and watches her and decides there is something about her. She approaches her and explains who she is. She asks the girl if she is already modelling, and if not, would she be interested in trying out? She hands the young girl her card and asks her to have a chat with her parents about it and ring if she would like to set up a meeting. Two years later, the young girl is one of the top supermodels in the world and has a dazzling future ahead of her. She has all the shoes money can buy, if fact she gets most of them for free. Her fate and destiny changed because of a chance encounter in a shoe shop that she shouldn’t have been in. That is the Blank Card in action.
      * The Blank Card can also highlight a sudden unexpected event in life that no one saw coming. It could be a sudden accident, an illness, a disaster etc. The Blank Card would highlight the passengers boarding for a flight that is destined to crash into the ocean or mountainside. The victims who get caught up in a killing spree; in the wrong place at the wrong time.
      * The Blank Card in future positions can be a little worrying because essentially it is telling you nothing. There is nothing to be said. Something is likely to happen that will turn your world upside down for good or bad but you won’t be given any advance warning or sign. Your bungee jumping cord could snap just as easily as you could scoop a huge win on the lottery. Any of the cards that precede the Blank Card may amount to nothing in the grand scheme of things.
      * On another level, if several of the cards associated with death appear in a Reading and The Blank Card is drawn in a future position or as the outcome, the you may be looking at actual death, as in the person the reading is about does not have a future in the physical sense. I would advise caution on this one.
      * The Blank Card in the past could also point to a near death situation or someone who had to be resuscitated. Surrounding cards may give further information.

      These are just some examples of how the Bland Card is used and many readers do not include the Blank Card in their deck for it can be quite disturbing when they do turn up as future cards. If the blank card is in the past it is not so daunting and is easy to work with the querant to discover what the particular event was.




  1. Hi Vivien,
    Does it mean that if you were to include the blank card in your readings, you would be reading with a 79 card deck instead of the usual 78?


    • Yes Ethan it would as you cannot replace any of the other 78 cards for the blank Card. Just add it to the deck. Think before doing it. I think I would only use it for important questions and not on a daily basis. Try not to use it all the time.


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