Written by Jacob. Published on January 7th, 2012 at 02:06.

Death Rider Waite Tarot

Death Artwork Description

“The veil and mask of life is perpetuated in change, transformation and passage from lower to higher, and is more fitly represented in the rectified Tarot by one of the apocalyptic visions than by the crude notion of the reaping skeleton. Behind it lies the whole world of ascent in the spirit. The mysterious horseman moves slowly, bearing a black banner emblazoned with the Mystic Rose, which signifies life. Between two pillars on the verge of the horizon there shines the sun of immortality. The horseman carries no visible weapon, but king and child and maiden fall before him, and a prelate with clasped hands awaits his end.” 1

Death Associations

  • Thirteen: 13 Termination, Transformation.
  • Element: Water.
  • Rune: Dagaz “Day”.
  • Crystal/Gem: Obsidian.
  • Kabbalah: Nun “Fish”.
  • Astrological: Scorpio.
  • Astronomical: Ophiuchus.

Death Basic Meaning

End, deletion, wiping the slate clean. This is a time of mourning, grief, and loss. Death is not something you can cheat—death is a part of the life cycle, and is not in opposition to it. Death is necessary, and although may come suddenly, helps us level the playing field so that we can rise up much more easily. What we lose when death comes cannot be replaced verbatim; however, new and genuine life will take root in the ashes and grow. Death is not just about loss but transformation to something new. Change, and rebirth are strong meanings of this card.

Death Controversies and Observations

Can death mean that some one involving the Querent is going to die? Well, it is possible, but death occurs in the natural world so it exists on every level. This means that death is a part of everyday life and we also experience it different ways. We lose friends, we lose jobs, we lose faith—and even if it is void that takes the place of what we loved or even despised—death allows us to transition to a new life with new surroundings so that everything is fresh and full of potential. Things live, and they die, but they always rise again, even if in a new form.

Something I’ve noticed in the artwork of this card is that, as mentioned above, you will see two towers on the cliff side in the distance. These towers look a lot like the same towers you will see in The Moon card. It may possibly be foreshadowing, but that’s on my own inference.

“The method of presentation is almost invariable, and embodies a bourgeois form of symbolism. The scene is the field of life, and amid ordinary rank vegetation there are living arms and heads protruding from the ground. One of the heads is crowned, and a skeleton with a great scythe is in the act of mowing it. The alternative meanings allocated to the symbol are change and transformation. Other heads have been swept from their place previously, but it is in its current and patent meaning more especially a card of the death of kings.” 1

Additional Interpretations

“Meaning: End, mortality, destruction, corruption.

Reversed: Inertia, sleep, lethargy, petrifaction, somnambulism.” 1

“Change; transformation; communicating with the dead; abrupt ending; release of outmoded life patterns followed by new growth; new ideas and opportunities.” 2

“Basic Tarot Symbols: Skeletal Death, black robes or armor, sometimes with a scythe or a flag featuring a white rose on a black field. There is often a rising sun. Sometimes there are other figures, the most common being a child.

Basic Tarot Meaning: Perhaps the most common question asked about Tarot Cards is, “Can the Death card mean a real death?”

Yes, it can. The Death card is about endings, and that includes the ending of a life. What everyone seems to forget, however, is that the Death card is not exclusively about the end of a human life. In fact, it’s far more likely that the card is telling you that a goldfish or a houseplant will die. Death can mean the ‘end’ of anything: The end of an era, the end of a trip, the closing of a restaurant, the breaking up of a band, the conclusion of a very rough week. Any and all of these as well as a million more possible interpretations can be applied to the Death card. So it is foolish to fear it for the fact that, once in a great while, it will let you know that some sick, elderly relative might not be long for this world.

Even more important to remember: the Death card is less about something dying then about how a person deals with endings.

We might be delighted that something is finally over and done with, like a terrible job we hated. Or we might be heartbroken, like over the loss of that poor goldfish. Either way, we require time to come to terms with the fact that something we were used to is no longer a part of our lives.

With Scorpio as its sign, the Death card is as much about transformation as about loss. Scorpio has three forms: scorpion, serpent, eagle. The Death card indicates this transition from lower to higher to highest. In addition, Scorpio is also about sex. So even as something is taken from us, something new is created.

That new thing will not be the same as what was lost, but it will step into that empty space and give us reason to carry on.

Thirteen’s Observations: The connection of sex and death in Scorpio (the sign stands for both) is a strong indication of what this card is all about. We westerners see ‘Death’ as a frightening card because we often see Death as an end, and we hate for things to come to an end. However, in other traditions, Death is just a natural and important, if sad part of an on-going cycle. In a karmic sense, you die so that you may be reborn. Winter comes so that there can be a spring, and we can only appreciate what we have when we know that there is loss. The Death card signals such things. This is a time of change.

Before or even as this change occurs, however, the querent needs to mourn, cry, and grieve. Wang notes that Death ‘humbles’ all. Which means that we are brought low, feel empty or stripped to the bone. Once we have gone through this low point, however, we will find that there is room for something new, fresh or different to come into our lives. Something that might exult or transform us. So while a Tarot Reader needs to tell their querent, quite honestly, that they will be going through a time of sorrow and mourning, we can also tell them that this, too, is not forever. Our sadness will end in a sunrise, in a newborn phoenix rising from the ashes of the old.” 3

Axank’s Dream Recollection

January 4-5, 2012
Not relevant…my dreams had a lot to do with TV shows.