13 – Death


Note: When the Death card appears, don’t panic. Remember: the language of the Tarot is symbolic. In the vast majority of cases, the Death card should be read as a metaphor, not as a warning of impending doom! Use common sense, and let context be your guide.


Ending, conclusion, transition, passage, departure

Range of Meaning

Light: Bringing an unpleasant phase of life to an end. Recognizing and celebrating the conclusion of something. Putting bad habits to rest. Becoming a new person. Leaving one person, place, or thing for another. Letting go.

Shadow: Obsessing on death and dying. Refusing to give up old habits or unhealthy relationships. Insisting that everything and everyone should stay the same forever. Failing to take good care of yourself.


Archetype: Death

Hebrew Alphabet: Nun/Fish/50

Numbers: 13 = 1 + 3 = 4 (stability, persistence)

Planetary/Astrological/Elemental: Scorpio

Mythical/Spiritual: Christ in the tomb. Hades. Hypnos. Thanatos. Stories of journeys into the underworld.

Story: At the midpoint of the story, the main character believes all is lost. Alternatively, a helper or valued ally dies or is believed dead.


Relationships. Identify what’s not working and put it behind you. Take stock, too, of the relationship itself. Dying flames can be rekindled with mutual effort, but embrace an ending if, in fact, an ending is what’s best for you. Poets used to call orgasm the “little death,” so, at times, this card can also point to a consummated relationship!

Work. Close out lingering projects and tie up loose ends. Now is a good time to consider all your options, including the possibility of moving on. Alternatively, you could put an end to feelings of unrest by deciding, once and for all, to stay put. Do what’s best for you.

Spirituality. Spiritual scribes write of “dying to the world”—realizing that the physical world and its concerns are illusory at best. For you, the Death card is a reminder to focus on what really matters. Alternatively, the card can suggest a need to contact or honor your ancestors.

Personal Growth. Grasping the short, fleeting nature of life is one of life’s hardest and most sobering lessons. Acknowledging your own impermanence can help you live your life more fully.

Fortune Telling. A relationship or illness ends suddenly. Limit travel and risk-taking. General gloom and doom.

When? Between October 23 and November 21

Symbols and Insights

The rose flag. Oddly, in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, Waite writes, “[The] black banner emblazoned with the Mystic Rose … signifies life.” In your situation, how might ending one thing give rise to another?”

The skeleton. Bones persist long after the decay of the body; so, they are symbols of the enduring and eternal. Which aspects of your situation have persisted over time? Which aspects are temporary?

The pale horse. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death” (Revelation 6:8). How do you feel about death? How might your feeling about death be a metaphor for how you feel now?

Sunrise/sunset. In many illustrations, it’s difficult to tell whether the sun is rising or setting. Is your own situation just beginning, or is it coming to an end? How can you be sure?

Doomed figures. The sprawled bodies and scattered body parts seen on many cards reflect death’s disruptive force. How might the need for disruption figure into your situation?

Questions to Ask

  • What needs to end?
  • How might an ending actually be a blessing in this situation?
  • What’s next?