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When the Death card comes out in a reading, it means that, inevitably, something will change. The message is that all things eventually come to an end. Like harvesting the fruits of your labor, this is a time to embrace transition and take what good you can from it.
The Death card does not mean that someone will die, but it does indicate that no one is immune to transition. Whether you are a king or a peasant, you must adjust to accommodate growth and transformation.
The guidance is to recognize that changes are at your doorstep and invite them in as graciously as possible. To resist the call of the Death card is to risk stagnation and unhappy results.
The Death Tarot Card Keywords and Facts
Before you understand the specific meaning, take a look at the keywords and phrases associated with our 14th Major Arcana Card.
|Transition, ending, inevitable change, harvest
|Resisting change, holding on, feeling stuck
|Yes or No
|Mars and Pluto
The Death Tarot Card Symbolism and Appearance
Death is a skeleton in black armor riding a white horse. Both rider and horse appear to smile as they transform everything they encounter. It symbolizes that the forces that bring about change are more powerful than we are and unstoppable in their progress.
Death carries a black flag decorated with a white flower, symbolizing that Death is blameless in pursuing transformation. Good or evil is in the idea of the beholder, but change is simple, lacking any disposition to do harm or to help.
What appears to be a king lies dead beneath the horse’s feet. A priest and some children, images of holiness and innocence, appear to pray or swoon in the face of Death’s advance. This symbol indicates that no one is immune to the impact of change on our lives. Transitions are unavoidable even if one is very powerful, devoted, or innocent.
There is a river in the distance, perhaps symbolizing the river Styx. It represents a trial or obstacle one must overcome to progress to the next chapter in life.
The Sun sits on the far horizon between two towers on a hill. It tells us that redemption awaits the one who will cross the river.
The Death Card Upright Meaning
The Death card represents the inevitability of change. It says you will go through a transition. It may or may not be challenging.
It is no time, however, to resist the shifts upon you. No amount of pleading or denial will work to keep things the same.
The guidance is to exercise radical acceptance. See the reality of your situation and embrace it.
When you allow change to work in your life, you are empowered to choose how you will react.
The meaning of the Death card in a love reading is that one feels trapped in an unbalanced situation that isn’t working. It’s essential to remember that when one door closes, another opens. When one chapter ends, a new one begins.
If you are currently partnered, you must embrace some changes for the relationship to continue. If your romance has been on the rocks, the Death card may also point to a desire to end the relationship.
To see the Death card in a love reading can raise a personal challenge, but its simple meaning is that one or both of you are ready to grow as individuals. Regardless of how you weather this transformation, it is for your best good in the long run.
If things are going well in your partnership, think of the Death card as an optimistic sign that the next steps in your commitment are coming up, such as getting engaged or starting a family.
If you seek love, the Death card asks you to look at the personal thoughts, attitudes, and dispositions that may be getting in the way of your ability to create lasting bonds.
Whether you resist or embrace the Death card’s insistence on transformation, your life will inevitably be changed for the better.
Health and Spirituality (Upright)
The Death card in a health spread points to an inflection in your physical or mental well-being. If you understand that you’re going downhill, you can choose to mitigate harm by taking action.
When things have changed for the better, this card invites you to notice. The improvements you’ve made for your wellness are worth seeing.
Keep up the excellent work!
Spiritually speaking, the Death card can speak for the spirit or one who has passed on, telling you the differences you see in your life are unavoidable.
You will have the most peace when you embrace the facts as part of your faith path.
Money and Career (Upright)
When the Death card shows up in a spread about careers, it points to an inevitable job transition. You might want to leave an unfulfilling career path or workplace in favor of something that delivers more satisfaction. If you’re considering making a change like this, the Death card is a positive sign to act on your instincts.
You could hesitate to change in a setting where you recently felt committed to the company or career mission. When the Death card comes up, it’s a reminder that an ending and a new beginning are inevitable.
Financially speaking, the Death card points to impending financial loss and the inevitable adjustment one must make. It may lead you to develop a new attitude regarding your money as a resource and how you want to handle it.
There is no way to avoid the experience of loss. The occasional investment will go sideways and waste money. Or it could come from a simple misplacement of trust or funds.
Whatever the case, the Death card relates that there is always more where that came from. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the feeling of loss. Accept the setback and continue to push forward.
The Death Tarot Card Reversed Meaning
When the Death card shows up in reverse, it shows that one resists unavoidable change. Whether from fear of transition or being stuck in a situation, you may be repeating thoughts and behaviors that reinforce pessimism and stagnation.
An example is if you didn’t study for a test and then failed it. This setback will create more work for you, so you get discouraged or overwhelmed and think, “I’ll never pass this test, so why even try?”
The less you try, the less you do well in all of your classes, and the lower your self-esteem, the less you try. It’s a self-imposed stagnation because you didn’t rise to the challenge in the first place.
The guidance is to accept that specific challenges, hurdles, and obstacles will have to be cleared, and it is up to you to do it if you want to progress on your goals and aspirations.
When the Death card reversed comes out in a love reading, it says you might resist the inevitable changes in a relationship. It’s essential to notice and acknowledge moments of transition in your loving attachments because fighting them will only cause negative relational patterns to persist.
When one falls in love, it’s normal to wish that things could stay the same between you forever. It feels like perfection, so why would you change a thing?
The guidance is, to be honest with yourself and your partner about the changes you notice. Accept one another as you are, not as you once perceived.
Embracing those moments will make the transitions more manageable, even if you have to part ways.
If you’re seeking love or newly involved with someone, the Death card comes across in reverse as a reminder to welcome new developments but move forward with caution. An exciting new love interest may come with more challenges than you bargained for.
Health and Spirituality (Reversed)
In a health spread, the Death card shows up in reverse to indicate a failure to address mental or physical imbalances impeding your well-being. The message is that your health will deteriorate if you refuse to transition to healthier practices.
You don’t have to change everything you do, but it will help if you implement small changes that bring your state of wellness back into equilibrium.
Spiritually speaking, the Death card in reverse points to stagnation in your connection to the spiritual life. Without that connection, life can seem bland. The guidance is to embrace something new that inspires you.
Money and Career (Reversed)
If you see the Death card reversed in a career reading, it signals you feel stuck with work that doesn’t fulfill. Lacking a sense of growth or advancement, you can fall into negative work patterns. To remain in this position indefinitely is unthinkable.
If you feel miserable in the workplace or career you’re in now, it isn’t likely that you’ll enjoy it any better in a year. Allowing bad habits like tardiness or bare-minimum effort to impact your work will only make things more difficult.
The guidance is to recognize that you’re better off trying to find something new that holds more interest for you.
Regarding Money, the Death card signals that you have lost some money or gotten into debt. This is no time to give up! The guidance is to accept circumstances and embrace an opportunity to change your habits.
The Death Tarot Card Yes or No Meaning
In a “yes or no” tarot reading, the Death card is a “no.” Specifically, it calls for you to put an end to something or seek another path. More options are available when you embrace change.
Important Card Combinations for the Death Tarot Card
Death and the World
The Death card and the World card both refer to the end of a chapter. Together, this pairing indicates an achievement to celebrate. You could be about to graduate, get married, or sell a house.
Whatever happens, the Death card and the World card confirm the finality of this event. You have risen to the challenge, and your progress to a new life is assured.
Death and the Ace of Wands
The Death card with the Ace of Wands is like someone put your fire out. Ace of Wands represents spark, drive, initiative, and enthusiasm. The trample of Death’s steed can kill that confidence or transform it into unproductive loathing.
The message is that you need help finding the support you need to pursue your ambitions. It may be time to make some new friends.
Death and the King of Cups
In a love reading, Death comes out with the King of Cups to indicate a lover who is possessive and seeks to control one with emotions. This kind of attachment feels oppressive and can be dangerous.
The advice is that something has to change. A good lover won’t ask you to give up your autonomy so that they can feel secure. It could be time to step away from this person’s influence.
Death and the Chariot
It’s time to settle down with a partner when you see the Death card with the Chariot card in a love reading. Whether this means getting married, moving in together, or celebrating a new milestone in your commitment, it’s positive news.
Whatever change you’re marking at this time, it indicates progress on your goals. You’ve attained this honor by practicing determination and self-control.
Death and the Ten of Wands
When Death appears in a health reading with the Ten of Wands, it says you need a new routine. The Ten of Wands represents the burden of managing too many tasks simultaneously.
The time has come to delegate authority and streamline your efforts so you can manage more with less personal struggle.
Death and the Ace of Cups
The Ace of Cups points to the bottomless well of love and spiritual connection we’re capable of experiencing. When it comes out with the Death card in a reading about spirituality, the message is “I’m not feeling it.”
In other words, one lacks the incentive or motivation to pursue the transcendent connections that give life meaning. Lacking that, it can be hard to see the point of pursuing any goals or aspirations.
The guidance is to seek fresh inspiration, even in places you don’t think you’ll find it. Try new things until you find something that will refresh your desire to connect.
Death and the Magician
In a career spread, the Death card will turn up with the Magician to indicate a lack of expertise or competence within a particular field. It is positive if you can isolate what skills you lack and embrace learning something that will make you qualified.
It’s normal to occasionally brush up on your capabilities or mastery of new systems or technologies. The guidance is not to drag your feet about getting started.
Death and the Ten of Pentacles.
The Ten of Pentacles is the ultimate expression of material security, and Scorpio rules the Death card, the sign related to death and other people’s money. So this pairing naturally indicates an inheritance is coming to your way.
The news is good, whether precipitated by a family member’s loss or a legal matter’s resolution. Be prepared to receive a financial boon you may not have been counting on.
The Death Tarot Card in Numerology
Although it is the 14th card of the Major Arcana, the Death card’s number is 13. The number 13 warns of a challenging transition. Things will be better once you surmount the obstacle.
Challenges do not keep one from making progress. On the contrary, they exist to strengthen your resolve by reminding you what you value and why you started on this journey.
Keep your eyes on the goal and do your best to embrace the changes you must undergo to meet it.
Next Card: Tarot Card Number 14: Temperance Meanings
Rider-Waite images used with permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT c. 1971 by U.S. Games Systems.