XIII. Death


Key words

Upright: ending, transition, rebirth, transformation

Reversed: fear, resisting change, purging


An armed skeleton rides a white horse among ill and dying people. The skeleton carries a black flag bearing the Roman numerals VIII and decorated with a white rose (a symbol of life). A bishop is either praying over the dead or perhaps begging Death not to come to him. Among those afflicted is a king, showing no one is exempt from the natural order of life and death. In the background we see the pillars from the Moon card with the sun rising between them. We see that the stream depicted in the Moon card leads to a waterfall. The sky is gray, so the bishop’s outfit and the shining sun stand out.


13 = 1 + 3 = 4: Structure, foundations, stability

Death Upright

Contrary to what many who are new to tarot fear, the Death card does not indicate a literal death. It is about transformation, usually with a positive outcome. Change can be uncomfortable, and the imagery in the Death card is uncomfortable to reflect that. If we can see past the grim scene in the foreground, we can see a new dawn breaking and ships sailing in the background. We must let go of things that do not serve us so we can make room for new life. Take time to reflect on what you really want in life, and what stands in the way of you getting there. You may need to let go of a relationship, job, physical possessions, or something else that is weighing you down. Rather than framing this as a potential loss, ask yourself what you are making room for.

Death Reversed

The Death card is about change, and it can show up in reverse when you’re feeling stuck. You might be unable to let go of a person, attachment, or material object because you fear change, and it’s holding you back. Alternatively, Death in reverse can mean you’re going through a personal change but are not ready to share the details yet. You don’t have to tell your story before you’re ready. You’ve done the real work, and you can share it with others at your own pace.