DEATH you will die

Placement: The Major Arcana


The overall motif for the Death card requires little explanation. A Grim Reaper skeleton personifies it. Sometimes the skeleton rides a pale horse, sometimes they stand around carrying a scythe, although there are certain historical decks in which they wield a bow and arrow, or an hourglass. Sometimes they wear armour or a cloak or both, or stands entirely naked. Sometimes, if they have room in their long bony hands beside reins and weapons, they carry a flag blazoned with a single white rose. They pose alone or surrounded by a field of corpses. They wear a wide, friendly smile, as do all skeletons.

Death is the thirteenth card of the deck, for no particular reason.


Right side up:

“The Death card is not about physical death! It’s a metaphor about renewal! Rebirth! Growth! Metamorphoses! One thing ending so that another may begin!” What a delightful, if defensive, sentiment. Death upright as a form of puberty.

Death is indeed a metaphor. Most things are. The humble magnifying glass is a metaphor for investigation, cages represent captivity and champagne represents celebration. These metaphors are effective because one may literally use a magnifying glass to investigate the murder of a dear friend, then hopefully capture his killer in a literal cage and celebrate said capture by drinking champagne while we discuss what we should do with the villainous wretch.

Do not be fooled by placating assurances: a hundred percent of those who find the Death card in their hand must, in due course, die.*


Upside down:

The Death card reversed may be interpreted as inertia, which is both obvious and uninteresting to write about. In another interpretation, your transformation may not be a new beginning but a kind of warping. In other words, whatever fails to kill you only makes you more twisted and disturbed.

No one understands the real you. The Man now expects both childlike innocence and a fully competent navigation of their mundane system. Death reversed as a form of puberty. Please pass the eyeliner.


*Vampires, Zombies, High Elves, and Wolverinians nearly always discover, immediately after purchase, that the Death card is missing from their decks. When such a creature complains to a tarot publisher of their incomplete product, the envelope containing a replacement Death card becomes invariably lost in the mail. If you accidentally receive an envelope addressed to a known immortal, please report it immediately to your nearest occult bookshop, exorcist, or neighbourhood oracle.


Classic Death Deaths:

  • Your mammalian warmth keep the eggs of parasites safe until they are ready to hatch, grow, and lay new eggs in your friends. New life from old. It’s quite sweet, really
  • You become the example that propels a company to finally recall and replace their leaky canoes.
  • Werewolves