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What Does the Death Tarot Card Mean?

Unpacking the Tarot - Death

The Tarot have been used for centuries to predict the future and answer our deepest questions. The traditional deck contains 78 cards — the 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards.

While the Minor Arcana can help shed light on the actions and decisions we make every day, the Major Arcana helps us understand our life’s purpose. Each card represents situations we face through our journey and the lessons we all must learn. 

Here is a closer look at the next card in the deck, Death.


A much-feared card, Death is often misunderstood. It shouldn’t be taken literally. His message is not one of physical death but of transformation and change. In a Tarot spread, Death is a positive sign suggesting the start of something new. It usually symbolizes the end, or “death”, or something to create room for this new beginning. 


Death is represented by a skeletal figure wearing black armor riding a white horse. He holds a black flag with a white rose on it. There is man lying on the ground beneath him, his crown askew, while a woman, child and bishop appear to plead with Death. These images symbolize that Death cannot be defeated. He is strong and powerful, yet purifies. There is beauty in this cycle. Death doesn’t discriminate — not kings nor priests can avoid this fate. 


A significant change, transition or transformation is coming. It could relate to your career, your family, a romantic relationship, or a new phase of life. Whatever the change, it will be important and permanent. You’re better off accepting this transition instead of resisting it. It may be difficult or painful, but it’s a part of life. We must but the past behind us in order to fully embrace the future that lies ahead.


In reverse, Death still symbolizes change and transformation but it suggests that you’re resistant to it. Your hesitation to accept change keeps you in a state of limbo. You hold yourself back when you should be moving forward. There are some transitions in life you cannot avoid — don’t cause yourself pain by refusing to let go.