Mystical wanderers,,,,hello. I, Troy Parrott, Tarot Pro, am continuing our journey through and exploration of the Tarot. We are now over halfway through our our examination of the 22 major arcana cards, using a special North London themed deck of my own design. Draw the cards, gentle reader. See what they have to say.
Today, we move on to Card XIII: Death. Put on your shinguards, kids, this one can be a little painful.
Endings, transformation, transition
Death. It comes for all of us, with devastating good looks and sharp elbows. Major arcana card No. 13 is almost certainly the most feared card in the deck, and also definitely the most misunderstood. Drawing Death does not mean your death is imminent, nor does it even necessarily portend a long-term injury (though the figure on the card is almost certainly carrying a minor knock or at risk of dislocating his hip or something, IDK). This is one of those times when the imagery of the card does not necessarily match up with its importance in the deck, or its meanings.
Let’s look at the figure, first. Yes, there are tropes at play here, because of course there are. Death comes riding in on a pale horse. He wears full plate mail armor, representing the invincibility of death. He holds his own personal standard, as he is unafraid for people to know who he is. Death is not afraid of anyone — while he can be subtle, generally he wants you to know he is coming. He’s a bit of a shithouser in that way.
He rides on what appears to be a battlefield, possibly a potter’s field. A dead monarch of some kind likes before his horse, and despite their pleas, Death ignores the mother, her child, and the Pope. Death comes for us all, it is undefeated, and he’s coming to go two-footed right damn through you, smiling the whole way.
In the background a river — Styx? — flows by behind him. The sun rises like a yellow card between two towers.
Bleak, right? That card can’t mean anything good. The only thing missing is a dead dog. But we must look past the obvious imagery here. Death is not (just) about... well, death. It is the card of endings, and new beginnings, and it can be one of the most positive cards in the entire deck.
Upright, drawing Death does not mean you’re going to keel over, but it does suggest that something in your life is drawing to a close. Perhaps you’re getting ready to move to a new city in, say, Italy, after an extended period in another country, or you’re ready for a new challenge with new people around you. Perhaps you are ending a period of convalescence and are ready to rejoin your friends with a fresh mind and body. Perhaps your dad abruptly leaves and reappears in the north with a new family. leaving you with a new stepfather and an uncertain future. Death represents the closure of a chapter and the beginning a new one, embodied by that hoary chestnut “When God closes a door he opens a window.”
Death is also the card of transformation. Perhaps to facilitate the change you must change something about yourself. Here the overlap with the Hanged Bird is apparent — Death could appear in your spread after a period of reflection and contemplation when you are looking at things in a new way. You are purposefully leaving something behind to create something new. After all, there are whole new worlds out there to elbow in the face!
Inverted Death isn’t necessarily negative either, but can suggest that perhaps you are resistant to the call towards closure. Endings are hard. It’s tough to wrap your brain around trying something new sometimes, especially if you are in a place where you feel secure and comfortable. It can leave you feeling stuck, both physically and psychically, and that’s not a good feeling either.
Like so many cards in the tarot, Death is a call for contemplation, not an omen. What is the card telling you? What chapter is coming to a close? Why wouldn’t you want a return to Rome in the twilight of your career?
Viewed in the above context, Death is not a scary card. It can be an ominous one. We should not fear the appearance of Death, because the card rarely means the ending of our lives — just part of it. If Death appears in your spread, consider welcoming it with a smile and a cup of maté. It has a message for you. Just don’t let it sneak up behind you unseen, it can still be very painful — Death is a lovable, handsome shitbird, but he’s still a shitbird.
Come back tomorrow and we shall discuss the next card in the Tottenham Hotspur Tarot.