The Spiritual Meaning of the Death Tarot Card

The Spiritual Meaning of the Death Tarot Card

Getty/Jose Luis Gallego Aviles

Though the Death tarot card may not indicate literal death, it does forebode change. Explore the spiritual meaning of this misunderstood tarot card.

When the Death Tarot card appears, the Death Light is upon us. This is the knowing that comes when we face the inevitable aspect of life that is death and endings. A lot of people fear this card, but it need not be taken literally. Its messages, however, are very important to pay attention to.

In traditional images of this tarot card, a skeletal figure in knight’s armor rides his white horse at sunrise. People kneel and drop at his feet, asking to be spared. The mythological figure of Death appears in many ancient traditions, here most recognizable as the Grim Reaper, who carries both a scythe to sever the soul from life and an hourglass to indicate that one’s time has come. As feared as he is, however, the Grim Reaper is not evil. His work is to safely carry the soul from its body to the afterlife. Sometimes Death is interpreted as an angel.

Lessons From the Death Tarot Card

Death is one of those things in life that is inevitable and uncontrollable. Part of its lesson is about surrender. We may try to stave off death, and there are certainly things we can do to prolong life and stay healthy. But at a certain point, it’s up to Death, not us.

As morbid as all this sounds, it’s really not so bad. Death is a natural part of life and the order of things. In Hindu mythology, Shiva is the Lord of Death, and his work is vital to keep the cycle of everything continuing. In one famous story, Shiva retreats from his work into a long, grief-stricken meditation after his first wife dies, and the world begins to crumble out of balance without him. The other gods are desperate to bring him back to do his necessary work of ending things that must be ended. They employ the wisdom of the Great Goddess and eventually do bring the Lord of Death back to his life of endings.

What the Death Tarot Card Indicates

The Death card does not always refer to literal death. Often, it predicts an ending of some sort: the death of an identity, a certain chapter of our lives, a dream that has not become reality. Sometimes it is asking us what we are holding onto that it is time to let go of. What are we not seeing? What are we trying to control when what is actually needed is surrender?

Death is a necessary step in rebirth and renewal. As difficult as grief can be to feel, it often means we are finally coming to terms with the fact that something has ended. In turn, that opens the possibility for new life. The placement of the sun in the traditional Death tarot card is in the east, which indicates that it is a sunrise, and the beginning of a new day.

The Death tarot card is very much the mood of the deep wintertime. In the Northern Hemisphere, the months of November, December, and January are dark, quiet, and severe; a time for slowing down, reflecting, and letting go. When we can spend some time in this season letting go of the things that we cannot control and allowing things to end that need to end, we are more prepared for the new life that will inevitably come in the springtime.

What to Do If You Pull the Death Tarot Card

If the Death card has appeared for you in a spread, you may need to come to terms with the natural order of things. This may or may not be about a literal death, and, either way, it’s appropriate to feel sadness and grief for whatever has been lost.

But remember that Death is a necessary energy and one that we cannot fight. Allow it to do its work, and keep in mind that Death’s work often moves us toward some new state that we may not yet be able to see. Honor the power of the Death Light in your life, and let it show you whatever it is you may have been thus far unwilling to see.

Excited about reading cards? Check out our guide to oracle cards.

The Spiritual Meaning of the Death Tarot Card

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