The 78 Cards: Death

Death, Rider Waite Tarot

We’re moving a bit out of order here, but for good reason! I pulled this card at the beginning of my week staying in the lovely redwood trees of California, asking my deck for insight on where my focus should be for the week. I will be sharing a bit more than usual on this card for that reason, but we’ll still be moving through the regular details first!

Upright: spiritual change, transformation, endings & beginnings, sudden shifts
Reversed: inner and/or unseen change, resistance to change, blocks to transformation and growth

I believe we have a tendency (as readers) to disassociate this card from actual, literal instances of death, myself included. This is for a good reason, that being that this card very rarely is speaking to something like that, and clients can tend to be scared or confused when faced with this card, and we don’t want you to miss out on the actual meaning because of that (because it’s beautiful)! The vast, vast majority of the time, Death is simply representative of a large, natural change. It’s not always particularly fun or painless while it happens, but, in my experience, it very frequently brings about something positive.

Major truth time: because of all of this, I have tended to disassociate this card with an actual instance of death at all. But at the beginning of the week, when I pulled this card, there had been a loss of a dear mentor and friend very recently in a community I hold very close to my heart, and I couldn’t help but feel as if this card, sitting in this very beautiful forest where that community resides, was speaking to the passing. Lo and behold, on several occasions throughout the week the topic of death was discussed in detail or mentioned in passing to me, almost as a daily reminder to keep the thought at my center.

Death is depicted riding on a white horse of strength and confidence, carrying a flag with a white rose, indicating purity, renewal, and rebirth. Such is why Death is heavily associated with change rather than just something ending; there is always the implication that out of an end comes something else, even if in different form.

Not only is this compatible with how life and death operate on Earth, but it’s exactly where this meaning’s roots are derived. I find my treatment of this card until now as unfair, and extremely silly. Infrequently the card means to point out actual instances of life coming to an end, yes, but there is nothing wrong with the times where it does. Death brings forth an often unwelcome, unkind change, forcing us to grapple with something that is both natural yet so seemingly unfair and sudden. And with an end to a human life, the pinnacle of an instance of Death (as a card), it can feel virtually impossible to locate where something new is birthed from this.

This week I searched endlessly for that black flag and white flower, and I saw our beloved friend in the trees and winds that passed through them, in our shared tears and expressions of love and care.

Whilst I will not pretend to have conquered the full meaning of this card within a week, I do feel much more in tune with the card than I did a few weeks ago. I will likely find myself returning to this card again with wholly different set of thoughts and perspectives — but that is the beauty of tarot being so expansive, after all.