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The Death Card

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

The Death Card in the Tarot Cards represents not physical death but symbolic death. I experienced such death this week and I hope this understanding of death will come to you at the right moment.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world would come to an end, it became a butterfly.”

In this simple metaphor of the caterpillar, we find the meaning of the Death Card in the Tarot Cards. When gloom and doom are at your doorstep, and you feel an end is coming, don’t panic! Instead, rejoice and know that great opportunity is awaiting you on the other side. Who knows, perhaps you will grow wings and learn to fly!

“The flesh exists to direct you to the soul. For the flesh enables you to experience all things temporary ~ your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions. The world around it is temporary. The body itself is temporary. Eventually, disappointed of all things temporary, you will seek permanence and eventually discover the soul. You grieve for the flesh, right now, without even realizing the reason it exists.”

- The Bhagavad Gita

Deaths Symbolism in the Tarot

The Death card depicts the Messenger of Death – a skeleton dressed in black armor, riding a white horse. The skeleton represents the part of the body that survives long after life has left it; the armor symbolizes invincibility and that death will come no matter what. Its dark color is that of mourning and the mysterious, while the horse is the color of purity and acts as a symbol of strength and power. Death carries a black flag decorated with a white, five-petal rose, reflecting beauty, purification, and immortality, and the number five representing change. Together, these symbols reveal that death isn’t just about life ending. Death is about endings and beginnings, birth and rebirth, change and transformation. There is beauty in death, and it is an inherent part of being alive. A royal figure appears to be dead on the ground, while a young woman, child, and bishop plead with the skeletal figure to spare them. But, as we all know, death spares no one.

In the background, a boat floats down the river, akin to the mythological boats escorting the dead to the afterlife. On the horizon, the sun sets between two towers (which also appear in The Moon Tarot card), in a sense dying each night and being reborn every morning.

Fear of the physical death can literally steal our lives from us. Yet physical death is the one inevitable thing that will happen to each and every one of us! Tell yourself that now, I will die, we all will… at least our physical bodies will. What we should be more concerned about is this… Have you truly lived? Or will you wait until your deathbed to regret a life not more fully lived?

“On my deathbed, I wish not to regret never having lived.”

By Unknown

(I probably misquoted it! But its close!)

The Death card is probably the most feared and misunderstood of all the cards in the Tarot deck. Just mention the card’s name and most people freak out - worried they will suddenly cease breathing and die as soon as this card appears. Relax! The Death card can be one of the most positive cards in the deck.

When it shows up in a tarot reading, the Death Card shows us that the wheels of life is turning and that there will be a significant change. There will be an opportunity to release an aspect or perception of ourselves and to take a step towards a new beginning. This happens to us all, but most don't realize that you can not stop it and that it is as it should be! Death will happen so will change - in the Tarot, they are one and the same.

The Death card often symbolizes the end of a major phase or aspect of your life. This is an opportunity for you to realize that there is an aspect of your life that is no longer serving you and needs to end, thereby allowing the manifestation of something new and valuable. We must close one door to open another. We must put the past behind us, part ways, in order to be ready to embrace new opportunities and possibilities. It may be difficult to let go of the past, but you will soon see its importance and the promise of renewal and transformation. If you resist these necessary endings, you may experience pain, both emotionally and physically, but if you exercise your imagination and visualize a new possibility, you allow more constructive patterns to emerge.

I explain it as having a closet that is so full of things that you can not open it for fear of what will fall out. When the door finally bursts because of the weight behind it you have no choice to look at the mess and begin organizing, sorting, throwing away and donating items. While doing this your entire room will look as if a bomb hit it, eventually when you get to work you will find how lovely your closet is and how the unwelcome burst of closet stuff was nothing more but change, and a welcome new beginning with a large clean closet! Hopefully you will have learned your lesson and broken the cycle so that next year you will not find yourself with the same full closet and wondering why this continues to happen to you.

The Death card guides us to let go of unhealthy attachments in our lives, to let go of outworn and outgrown ways of life and to move forward, paving the way to a more fulfilled life of deeper meaning and significance. This is the perfect card to encourage us to break a bad habit or pattern of behavior. See this as a time to cut out excess and let go of what is unnecessary. Purge the old belongings, memories and baggage that are getting in the way.

This is easier said than done, but if you find yourself in a place amongst havoc, fear, dismay, or illness , it may be a sign that change is happening and you have stubbornly chosen to ignore it!

Change/death will not be ignored! If we do not embrace it courageously it will happen anyway - manifesting in ways not of our choosing.

The Death card can be looked at as a veil in the mystery of this life being lifted for a moment, beckoning us to move forward toward change and the possibility of great opportunities - of the dreams you have always wished for.

But where is the stability? Where can firm footing be found?

There are of course, no guarantees! That's why death/change can be so frightening . This is when we must choose faith, for faith is the opposite of fear. By choosing faith we are saying, ‘I may be afraid because life seems to be upside down and I don't know where to turn and what to do, but I have the faith to know if I take a step forward, towards God and Love that there will be a place where my foot will land.’ Thus life becomes magical.

“Om Asato Ma sadgamaya, tamaso jyotirgamaya, Mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya, Om santih, santih, santih.”


“Om the supreme Being! Lead me (by giving knowledge) from the unreal to the Real.

From darkness (of ignorance) to light (of knowledge); from death (sense of limitations) to Immortality (limitlessness, liberation)”.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace

“Human beings spend their lives preparing, preparing, preparing…Only to meet the next life unprepared.”

Drakpa Gyaltsen

Choose faith, choose love, choose life, choose kindness!

Live your life now, not tomorrow!

Hari Om Tat Sat


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