13 - Death Tarot Card Meaning

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Death Tarot Card Meaning

This post covers the Death Tarot Card Meaning in the traditional tarot deck. Featured card is the Death card from the Tarot of the Ages deck.

Planet: Mars (ruler of Scorpio), Saturn (skeleton and scythe); Mercury (the guide of the dead)

Astrology: Scorpio – rules transformation, sexuality, transformation and ego death,

Element: Water

Hermetic Kabbalah Element: 24 Nun


  • Endings, everything expires, destruction of a situation, death process but not necessarily finality.
  • Evolutionary change, energy can never be destroyed, transformation (involuntary), decay of old forms that are no longer serving us
  • Time Passing
  • Forced change (sometimes)

Death Tarot Card Meaning In a Reading

Transformation and Change

  • The querent may soon (or now) be going through a transformation. When a caterpillar has been hanging in its uncomfortable cocoon for long enough, it breaks free and emerges as something different and new. As a butterfly, they are able to fly and reach new levels in life. The ending can be painful and scary, but it’s also always the beginning of something different; the emerging of a new you – be ready for a different phase in life. 
  • The querent should not resist sudden (and usually unstoppable) changes that are coming. They must try and leave the past behind – if they cannot they may lose opportunities coming into their life.
  • If the death card comes up and nothing has changed in your life or you haven’t experienced a loss – there may be a pull to evolve, grow, or change. Think about thought forms, behaviors, habits, what you consume, impulses, and reactions that may need to change.

A Period of Loss

  • This may be a period of loss. There is always grief with loss so it is important to deal with the grief and trauma that comes with loss. Grief teaches us what we care about, what we want, how we want to live or what we value.

Embracing the Unknown or Change

  • The querent may be being asked to confront the unknown.
  • Usually in hanged one year comes before the death card year and you have gained an insight (there is something you know) that you can’t unsee (or un-know) – and by knowing this thing and in the death year – it is time to embrace the change or make the transformation.

Not a Literal Death but there is a Need to Let Go

  • The death card most often doesn’t mean someone is going to die – rarely should it be taken literally.
  • Often indicates a need to let go of the things in your life that you are keeping alive or putting energy into that are no longer serving you. Clear away the things that are failing to thrive. It is ok to feel relieved when you let things go (projects, material items, relationships, etc) and remember that magic loves a void. Clear it all away and see what comes in to take its place.
  • Death of an unhealthy ego. The death card can show up as a nudge to rearrange, heal, or transform an aspect of our ego that is keeping us stuck or unbalanced. Does it feel like Groundhog Day in your life? Look to these patterns as information. Transformation of ego can free us. If we want different results – we must do different things.

Symbolism in card

  • Originally this card had no name – it was referred to as the “The Nameless Card” because death can’t be spoken about. Death is an absolute mystery and unknown.
  • Skeleton with a scythe – Death
  • Scythe (shape of the waning crescent moon) – Saturn, Hekate (death, magic and sorcery, endings and banishing)
  • Gates in the background – a call to the gates in Moon card and pillars in High Priestess card.
  • Flag with a lotus flower – peace and transformation
  • Dead king – “You can’t take it with you” (wealth, material, etc)
  • Youth looking away – denial and pretending death doesn’t exist
  • Bishop or person of the church – greeting death but looks like they are begging or bargaining with death; This is also a call out to the Hierophant – tradition fights so hard to stay alive even though it has served its purpose
  • Young boy with flower – curiosity about death; makes death an offering (embraces death)
  • Numerology – 13 – lucky number; correlates to the goddess; can only be divided by itself; 13 moon cycles and represents half of a lunar cycle.

High expression

  • Being willing to cut away what no longer serves us so we can grow
  • Embracing change, confronting the unknown, and having faith that we may not know what is happening next

Shadow Side

  • Denial, fear, and resisting the endings of things or situations.
  • Clinging, bargaining, or hoarding to protect against change or death.
  • Being an energy vampire or spending time with energy vampires. If you feel uncertain, tired, or exhausted after spending time with someone you may need to reconsider the relationship.
  • Fearing the unknown
The Death card from the Tarot of the Pagan Cats deck (paid link)

Magical uses

  • Use this card to help stop a habit or remove things that are no longer serving us. Endings clear the way for a fresh start and a new beginning. We need to clear out and make room for the new things we desire. This includes clearing old relationships, and ways of being, removing habits, and cutting off emotional ties.
  • Calling on the death card to help cope with a loss.
  • Invoke death care to create space for the Void in magical work
  • Give a funeral to something that you want to remove from your life

Related Articles

  • Tarot Card Meanings Library (all tarot articles on my site) – CLICK HERE

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