(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
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