Death Tarot card

The Death Tarot Card Meaning

The Death card is the card that fills most people with dread, fear or regret.

The Death card is probably the most dreaded and misunderstood of all the Major Arcana cards. Remember, not all deaths are literal. Death symbolizes a level of permanence that many of us have a hard time dealing with. But what this card really represents is the end of a cycle, coming to the point of making a large transition or change in your life rather than true or physical death. If the Death card is prominent in your reading you will find that there is a large amount of change coming your way and you should not fight or resist it. Death is transition; you have a higher power guiding your way that knows more than you do in this moment and that is a fact that must be accepted for the road before you to clear. Think of it as the death of the phoenix. There are aspects to your life that are ending or changing dramatically and these changes may even be exceptionally hard to deal with. Like the phoenix, these transitions in your life are leading to a glorious rebirth or something new and better. Often we like to hold on to aspects of our life even after they serve no more purpose. Now is the time to let go of that which is not aiding you or bettering your life in some way. Allow these things to fall away from your life so that you have room for new fantastic prospects that bring you joy.

Within the Tarot there is no death, only rebirth and new life and a continuing story. Death is only a small part of the story that is the Major Arcana. Consider where we started with the Fool so full of adventure and whimsy. Up to this point you have learned so much and death is not the end of the story. If Death shows up in your reading, you can expect that new growth is going to be arriving in your life and you should choose to welcome the change, not fight it. The worst part of death is the struggle of acceptance. Yet death, like birth, is completely natural. In this day and age we attach to a potential level of immortality; we like to think that we never leave this space and time. After all, we have put a lot of time and energy and money into to our lives and we don’t want that to suddenly just go away. But the Death card reminds us that it is time for you to confront your fear of the end of the chapter. Many say that Death is a journey and that ‘the only constant is change’. This is undeniably true. You must not fight death, only practice acceptance.

Keep in mind that all things come to an end, but this is not just referring to life. Our lives are filled with the different cycles of relationships, jobs, partners and experiences that are unique to your existence. New data comes in, is processed and utilized and then, spent it dies to make room for more new data. This energy is constantly being recycled. Death is life-giving transformation and it is telling you that now is the time to allow room in your life for this transition. Friendships end, people pass, jobs are lost that give way to new jobs and better experiences. Allow the waters from the river of life to wash you clean so that you might start anew. For just like weeds must die to make room for new growth, so must we all, make room for new life by letting what does not serve us pass on.

Take time to reflect on the ways in which you are resisting change in your life. If you are a person that naturally despises change or avoids it, think about the new opportunities that you are missing out on by holding on to the old. Allow the cycle to complete and be true to yourself. This is a time to embrace the new, accept the changes that are happening, and to let go. In letting go there is sometimes a sense of freedom. You deserve to experience all that life has to offer.

Death in Love

When the Death card arrives in a reading about love and relationships you can expect several things to occur depending on your situation. If you are single and looking for love, Death gives you the message that it is time for you to slough off the old parts of you that do not serve so that you can attract someone brand new by being sparkly, fresh and exciting. Death tells you that the pursuit of love now through transformation of self is an exceptionally productive step forward and you should take that advice. If you are in a relationship and you are seeking wisdom regarding your future, the Death card expresses that a change is coming that you need to be aware of. Either something is going to happen that will make you see things differently thereby changing your whole relationship, or this could also happen to your partner.

Sometimes the Death card can indicate the end of a relationship or divorce. In cases like this, it can be a frightening time indeed. If this is the case for you try to focus on why this could be happening. Usually, it will indicate that the relationship was beyond the point of repair because emotions had been too damaged or that the relationship was unhealthy. It can also indicate that the relationship is going to end as it currently is. For example, it may not be a divorce per say but the dynamics of the relationship need to change completely. In cases like this, it usually takes two exceptionally dedicated people to work on the problems of the relationship. If you are absolutely certain you want to keep this relationship and you have spent time honestly meditating about it you may want to consider a marital or relationship counselor. The issues that accompany the Death card are usually ones that include very deep hurt or trust issues and can be difficult to navigate without guidance.

Try to respond to this change with a positive spirit. Reacting negatively might only serve to sabotage. If your relationship is rocky, then the Death card is telling you that a change might be on its way and that if you want to stay together you should weigh the pros and the cons of the relationship and find out if it is really serving you and your partner, or if you are only staying together to avoid change. If avoidance is in the equation, Death tells you to call it out and bring it to light. Good conversations and productivity will come as a result of this.

Death As Action

Death indicates that the situation will not change. There is nothing that you can do it is out of your hands. Death as the main interpretation is focused on accepting a situation as it is and the door is no locked and you need to move forward to discover another way. It can also signify the end of the situation. When this card appears in advice reading it more than likely refers to a situation in your life that you need to move on from. Notice how Death, represented as a woman on this card, has her arm rested forward, almost beckoning. It symbolizes the need to leave - if you don’t your path will become dark and clouded like the sky behind the death figure. 

You’ll likely find a particular situation or relationship pops into your head when you see this card, though it may not be easy to accept, this card suggests that what you’re thinking of needs to end. It is not an ambiguous card, something must change in your life if you are to find new opportunities and let go of a negative situation. Let an old part of your life die and you will be liberated. If you refuse to move on and close the chapter, you may suffer difficulties as a consequence, this card highlights that a clean break is best.

Death Yes Or No

Death is a dramatic card - it usually relates to change, transformation, or loss. If you are looking for a yes or no answer and the Death card is drawn, you need to reflect on your question. In most circumstances, this card points towards an unwavering ‘no’ because of its strong association with the negative. However, in a very certain reading, it may point a different way. Remember, this card is primarily about leaving a part of your life behind - so keep that context in mind when interpreting the card and its meaning. In the vast majority of cases, this card represents a firm and certain ‘no’ - an answer which should be respected at all costs. 

Death Past

Seeing this card in your past position is a clear sign that you have moved on from something major. This is usually a positive position to see this card in because it refers to a change or difficult period which has already past. Of course, that does not mean moving on was easy. Indeed, this card specifically points to a dramatic, life-altering situation. The Death card regularly appears in this position for people who have had a difficult childhood, gone through a heartbreaking separation with a longterm partner, or even those who have experienced grief for a person who left their life (whether literally or emotionally). It may be painful to remember or reflect on these events, but you should be assured by the certainty and conviction of this card - you have moved on and these past events have laid a solid basis for your present life. 

Death Present 

When the Death card appears in relation to your present situation it likely refers to a period of great upheaval. As already touched upon, it is important not to panic. Except in rare circumstances where the Death card is regularly appearing, it is unlikely to indicate an actual, physical death. Instead, it is the death of something which makes up a major part of your life as you know it. It could be your job, a friendship, a relationship, even your home. This is a time to batten down the hatches, the change incoming is usually for the best, but sometimes it can be something unplanned or unsettling (such as loss or theft). Whatever the case, resistance is futile when it comes to the Death card, it is inevitable and certain (as is the nature of death). Your best course of action is acceptance and nonresistance, stay strong, you will come out the other end. 

Death Future and Outcome

Of course, death is in all of our futures - but that’s rarely what it is pointing to when drawn in the future position. Instead, it is a suggestion of something in much closer proximity. Change is definitely on its way. If a relationship in your life is beginning to show signs of toxicity or a part of your day-to-day life is turning stale, these areas are likely to be purged or transmuted later on. Generally, there is little you can do if this refers to a troubled relationship - it will run its course and end, as this card suggests it should. However, in more changeable scenarios - for example, in business or finance - it might be worth reviewing your situation to see if there is any action that can be taken on your part to ensure security for any upcoming challenges.

Death As Relationship Outcome

I’m sorry but this sometimes means the end of the relationship. When I have carried out readings for myself and the Death card appears I know it is the end or something major will happen. I know that it may hurt to think that right now but it is what the universe is trying to tell you. Death is about cycles and for some reason the two of you are not supposed to be together right now. Sometimes Death can mean that someone wants to change the relationship profoundly rather than this actually ending. The Death card sometimes indicates a transformation, it could be a major personal transformation if reversed. Such as losing weight or taking on a new career that will affect the relationship. 

Death Love Reconciliation

When the Death card presents itself in a love and reconciliation spread it is abundantly clear that your romantic life is in need of transformation. Relationships can die before the people in the partnership actually realize this has happened. 

Generally, this occurs in longterm or committed relationships, are you staying with your partner for the sake of your children? Are you financially dependent on them? Do you have a happy past that has long since faded? Whatever the situation, the force keeping you connected has become stale and is ultimately causing unhappiness. Like the figure of death presented on this card, you are dressed in a rich tapestry of experiences - remember that setting yourself free and starting a new chapter isn’t about removing your history, just moving on from it. 

In very niche circumstances, this card may be a sign that your relationship needs to mature and develop, rather than end altogether. This may be the case if an unhappy chapter has befallen your partnership. It will take effort from both parties to reinspire passion and heal past wounds. 

For those who are single, this card still carries a heavy meaning - the exact interpretation depends on your own, personal life at present. If you have been living through a dearth of romantic connections, then this is about to change dramatically. Conversely, if you have been playing the field and having one whirlwind relationship after another, this card may suggest it is time to find something or someone to commit to (whether that be a new person or yourself).

Death As Feelings

It can be disconcerting to see the Death card when trying to understand how another person feels about you, but this card is not always a bad sign. In fact, if the person in question has shown indifference towards you in the past then know that they are likely experiencing new, strong feelings for you now. Of course, if you already have an established relationship with this person then the outcome may not be so positive. It can indicate boredom or that this other person takes you for granted, your presence is simply inevitable in their life. If this is the case, you, of course, have the right to seek more gratitude - but tread carefully, the Death card rarely changes its nature. 

Death As Friendship

The Death card is usually drawn in a friendship reading when distance or separation is about to occur in the future. This is often in a physical sense, perhaps a friend is moving to a new location or going traveling. It doesn’t always mean that your emotional intimacy will wain, just that your actual nearness to one another will come to an end for now. Of course, the person moving could also be yourself. If that is the case, the same ideas apply - though if your friends have not yet been informed of this decision, you can expect some possible hurt of misunderstanding on their part. Try and remember that this comes from their attachment to you, but also avoid wasting huge amounts of energy on unreasonable people. 

If your friendships are not currently undergoing any change in physical distance, then this card more than likely suggests the end of a toxic relationship. Perhaps you are a loyal person who dislikes letting go of friends, even ones who are draining your mental and emotional energy. This card is telling you it really is time to move on. Sometimes there’s nothing more you can do for a person, and the only way they’ll find redemption is to look within themselves. 

Death in Health

There are many who fear the Death card when it arrives in a Health reading. They think automatically that that means they or someone they love are going to die. But as we have established, that is not the case in all circumstances. Perhaps in rare occasions when Death comes up it does mean the loosening of the mortal coil from this life experience, but more often than not Death is trying to tell you that a change must happen and that this change is natural. So if you or someone you love is having an issue of health, Death explains that the change is coming but that you can control which side it goes. For example, by changing your entire thought process about healing from an injury or recovering from a disease you can inherently control the progress that you make. If you desire to feel well, your entire body and senses must be focused on that healing in order for that to change. Another way that Death influences health is Death describes the end of a disease, or in applicable circumstances: the removal of growths or of physical pains. No matter what happens, what you know now versus what you will know six months from now will be entirely different circumstances. Do not get stuck believing that the way life is now is how it is always going to be. Make positive changes to better your life experience.

Death in Work and Wealth

Death in matters of wealth and work is integral to business strategies. For example if you are trying to start up a business with a friend, but your old job is taking up most of your time, Death would tell you that the change is necessary and so you would want to spend more of your time perpetuating the new business. Death in business and wealth tells us that the way that we spend our money, the way that we spend our time, all is subjected to the constant of change and one should never get too attached to one thing and one thing only. The concept of not putting all of your eggs into one basket becomes very important when Death influences your business.

Death reversed tarot card

Reversed Death in a Reading

The Death card makes an appearance in the reversed position when one is depending too much on old habits and routines that are not encouraging a level of physical emotional or spiritual growth. Part of the reason that change is so necessary is that new environments encourage new stimulate which provides creates in us the ability to flourish in a vibrant and lush atmosphere. We must join the rock tumbler so that we may become more smooth and shiny. Create a new space for opportunities to connect with you in your life.

Death Reversed - Love and Romance

When you see the Death card reversed in a love spread it usually indicates that you are on the brink of positive change, but you are getting in your own way with feelings of uncertainty that are preventing this transformation from taking place. While seeing the Death card upright points to a need to move on, reversed it suggests that resistance to change is coming from within. 

More often than not, in a romance reading, this card appears reversed because you are holding onto an unhealthy relationship. Do not allow your fear or feelings of loneliness to keep you in a bad relationship, it will only cause you more pain in the long run. 

For those who are single, this card reversed is a sign you need to learn from your past. It is easy to fall into bad habits in prospect relationships, but you need a new dynamic if you are to really find true love. Honestly evaluate your approach to romance and try and understand what needs to change within yourself, you can then begin to establish a healthier love life. 

Death reversed - Family and Home

In a family and home reading, the appearance of the Death card reversed is a loud and firm signal that something is not right. Because this card has been drawn reversed it adds an extra layer to the reading, you are likely experiencing familial tension which is driving a wedge between you and loved ones. It is likely that this strain relates to a difficult history or unhealed wounds, someone in the family cannot move past this scenario - maybe it’s you, maybe it’s someone else. 

Either way, something’s got to give. Depicted on this card (upright) is death facing forward, confidently, and with determination - she is not frightened by the mist behind her, and her fated destiny is symbolized in the constellations overhead. When it is reversed, it signals the opposite - a determination to linger or avoid the reality of the present, to be taken over by the mist. 

Communication and respect will be integral in moving on from the difficulties currently at play in the family dynamic and the home. Acknowledging past problems is fine, but dwelling on them only stops wounds from healing. 

Death Reversed - Work and Finances

Seeing the Death card reversed in regards to your work and financial situation, points to stagnation and lack of satisfaction. You are likely not happy in your career, yet you aren’t doing anything to change it. Comfort zones are easy to get stuck in, but sometimes we need to break out of routine in order to improve prospects and chances of happiness. 

Have you been continually overlooked for a raise or promotion at work? If so, now is the time to stop being timid, and start speaking out. If it is your job itself which has become stressful or uninspiring, it may be time to set your sights on new horizons. Remember, toxic work cultures seldom change - you may want to fight to make your workplace fairer, but if you haven’t had success so far, this reversed card is a sign that you should cut your losses and move on. Do not resist transformation, it is a way to lighten your burden and make the way forward clearer and brighter. 

Death Reversed - Health and Wellness

The presence of the reversed Death card when looking for signs about health and wellness is usually a signal of some medical trouble. As the card is reversed, it refers to a continual struggle - a health problem that is chronic or slow-burning. 

It is very likely you’re already aware of this illness or health problem as its nature is ongoing, rather than sudden. It can also suggest that you are in recovery, but that the process is slow and wearying. The important thing here is to stay positive and focus on endurance, you may need to weather this storm, but your ultimate recovery will be repaid in a newfound strength and self-respect. 

In rare cases, this reversed card can appear when someone has begun to self-identify with a longterm illness. In this case, the Death card reversed is a warning sign - allowing yourself to become used to the role of “the patient” may make overcoming your illness an impossibility.

Death Reversed - Personal Spirituality

The reversed Death card in a spirituality reading points to an inner journey that has stagnated. Your spiritual progress has become stunted and you either can’t or won’t get back on track. For those with psychic abilities, this reversed card indicates resistance to your powers and natural abilities. Or perhaps you have been feeling too tired or despondent to invest energy into your own development. 

Be aware that this situation will not improve on its own. You may have become infantilized by the material world and all that’s going on in your life situation. Focus on inner transformation and devote time to your spiritual quest. Enlightenment is worth working hard for and will bear far greater fruits than laziness, but only if you are willing to put in the time. 

Upright Death Tarot Card Meaning in Keywords

  • Transition
  • Transformation
  • Major change
  • Endings
  • Letting go
  • Rejuvenation

Reversed Death Tarot Card Meaning in Keywords

  • Inner change / growth
  • New Traits
  • Improvement
  • Progress
  • Exploration

By Flo Saul
Jul 9, 2012