Basic Card Symbols
Skeletal Death, black robes or armor, sometimes with a scythe or a flag featuring a white rose on a desolate black field. There is often a rising sun. Sometimes there are other figures in the field. The most common, reoccurring figure on Death cards is a child.
Basic Tarot Story
Having left the tree from where he hung, the Fool moves carefully through a fallow field, head still clearing from visions. The air is cold and wintry, the trees bare. Before him, he sees, rising with the sun, a skeleton in black armor mounted on a white horse. He recognizes it as Death. As it stops before him, he humbly asks, “Have I died?” He feels, in fact, rather empty and desolate. And the Skeleton answers, “Yes, in a way. You sacrificed your old world, your old self. Both are gone, dead.” The Fool reflects on that, “How sad.” Death acknowledges this with a nod. “Yes, but it is the only way to be reborn. A new Sun is rising, and it is, for you, a time of great transformation.” As Death rides away, the Fool can feel the truth in those words. He, too, feels like a skeleton, all that he was stripped away. This, he understands, is how all great transformations start, by stripping things to the bone, and building fresh upon the bare foundations.
Basic Tarot Meaning
Yes, the Death card can signal a death in the right circumstances (a question about a very sick or old relative, for example), but unlike its dramatic presentation in the movies, the Death card is far more likely to signal transformation, passage, change. Scorpio, the sign of this card, has three forms: scorpion, serpent, eagle. The Death card indicates this transition from lower to higher to highest. This is a card of humility, and it may indicate the Querent as being brought low, but only so that they can then go higher than they ever have before. Wang notes that Death “humbles” all, but it also “exults.” Always keep in mind that on this card of darkness, there is a sunrise as well. .
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. Time for something to end; but time also for something new to begin. The Querent may honestly be told that they may feel sad or empty, low, but that this will give him a way to rise again, like a phoenix from the ashes. Death is not the end. It is only the precursor to resurrection.