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Dealing with Death




When tarot cards fall on the table, there are a few that provoke fear. One of the most famous one is the Death card. This card usually shows a skeleton or Grim reaper cutting heads or working through a dark field with its scythe. The word death is so frightening that in many old decks, its name is omitted. It was sometimes called ‘The nameless Arcana’ or simply number 13.


13, a number quite charged with many superstitions. Friday the 13th connects to the fall of the fearsome knights templar. To Christians, it is Judas, the 13th one at the last super who gives Jesus the kiss. Many are the examples and the number itself is very anchored in our psyche.


Death is understood as the end of life. We are born, we live and we die. And so do all things in our universe. For those who believe in a possible after life, death is only a passage into an other form of life. Even if one does believe that all there is is the material universe with no spirit, through death we become something else. Our bodies decay and nourish the soil so nature can thrive. In a sense we transform ourselves into something different, either it be food for the earth or we pass on to another plane of existence.


With this dark card, the tarot teaches us a lesson. The first thing to notice, is that the Death card is given the number 13. In the journey of the fool, we have 21 cards or stations that the fool travels through; 21 major arcana that we experience. The fool, either having no number or being 0, travels through them. The last card of this journey is the World who holds the number 21 and therefore Death is not last. 13 is not to the end of the journey. Death is not the end of it all as there are more stations to go through, we have to see death as a rite of passage. Something we go through. In the station before death, we see the Hanged man, numbered 12. After death, Temperance who carries the number 14. Both of these cards hug death from both side. The hanged man suggest a moment of reflection and looking at a situation from a different angle. It also brings the ideas of sacrifice and letting go. Temperance brings a healing message. Through the ability to change our view, we are able to let go, die and heal. We are going through death, we can say that we are going through a transformation. We are cutting or killing something.

An appropriate analogy here is the caterpillar getting inside its cocoon (Hanged man), completely killing its old self (Death) and being reborn as a butterfly (Temperance). Notice the wings in the temperance card.









Death can come up in many situation. It could represent something rather small and not so significant to a huge life changing moment.


As I was on my balcony, working the soil in one of my clay pot, I couldn’t help thinking that I was doing the same thing that the death card does. I was removing the dead plant and its decaying roots to make space for the new one. My hands were black, full of dirt but I was breaking down the soil so new life could appear.


Death can also be a tremendous release. If you have had the experience to be near someone who is close to death, you wish that their suffering would stop immediately and that death would come and claim them faster. The release could not come quick enough.


Reading tarot is about gaining insight about the events in our lives. We don’t often get to understand immediately why things happen or what is to be gained from this particular experience.

How do we deal with Death? How can the tarot help us get a better grasp on the experience we are going through?

As we saw above, Death is a rite of passage. We go through Death; we go through a transformation. Like every metamorphosis, there is a before and an after a with the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. So why not use the cards in the same way they are presented to us in the Fool’s journey?


I suggest you find the Death card in your tarot deck. Once you did, place it on the table. Take a minute to focus on the current situation you want to understand. You could simply ask: What am I meant to learn from this death-like situation? Shuffle the rest of your deck and pick 2 cards. The aim is to place a card before and a card after. The card before would indicate who you were before this experience, and the card after would shade light on what you have learnt or become. What has this traumatic and important experience taught you? How has it changed you? Do you like the result or would you like to change it? Does the result bring you a revelation? As usual, try to get empowered by the answer the tarot gives you and have agency. Do not give up if you don’t like the answer but do your best to embrace the new you or to reframe your answer.



Death can be an incredible opportunity for growth and change. This card is also associated with he sign of scorpio. The sign of transformation. The sign of the phoenix. Don’t fear it, but embrace the chance to be reborn into something greater than you already are.



Before Death




After Death



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