The Death card is one of the most feared and baleful cards in the tarot. It portends endings, final endings, and a culling of the old ways which ultimately paves the way for regeneration.

It is associated in astrology with the sign of Scorpio and the 8th house which govern death, transformation and primal instincts. Perhaps the querent has been merrily leading their life unaware of changes that need to be made and are caught unawares by a sudden change in circumstances.

Or it is possible that the change they are experiencing is caused by an outside party whose actions have forced the querent's hand to relinquish their grip on the status quo and accept that a new chapter is dawning. Whatever the reason or the circumstances, the overarching message of the Death card is that the current and old path must be consigned to the past and that change and transformation are not only ineluctable but entirely necessary. Pain is also associated with this card as transformation, which whether inner or outer, is never especially easy. However, the querent can take some solace in the fact that what has occurred is for their highest good, that a new path will open before them, and that they will rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

The Death card is numbered 13 and in folklore 13 is associated with calamities and misfortunes. The individual numbers composing 13, 1 and 3, each have their own numerological significance. The number 1, to the world, signifies self-mastery, actualisation and asserting one's independence and ingenuity. The number 3 is a root number of creation, manifestation and a building block of physical reality. From this we can deduce that the Death card invites us to regenerate ourselves and forge a new identity to go forwards in life.

In the Rider Waite deck an armoured skeletal figure is seated on a white horse; this imagery is derived from the Book of Revelation of St John which details the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and indicates that indeed a cataclysmic event is at hand. By the side of the skeletal rider, a man who appears to have once been king lies on the ground with his crown thrown from his head, thus symbolising the death of a reign or an era. In the foreground we can see another man who appears to be a clergyman attempting in vain to halt the advance of the menacing rider, to little avail, indicating that though the progress of the rider may be slow, it is inexorable. From this imagery we can intuit that change is coming however long it may take to see the outcome and little can be done to stop its passage. In the distance the sun can be glimpsed and its presentation is somewhat ambiguous as it cannot be clearly discerned whether it is rising or setting. In this way it shows that the querent is in a period of transition from one state to another and that with the ending of one path, another will open.

In a love reading the Death card unambiguously foretells the end of a relationship. Even if one is the type to relish and welcome change, this is not the positive kind hoped for. Death also appears when a relationship has been slowly reaching its end point; it is not a card which signifies a sudden split, such as the Tower. The ending foreshadowed by Death has been in process for some time. Occasionally the Death card can symbolise that an event will push a couple to their limit and a pivotal moment, indicating whether or not they remain together, will occur. If this is the case, they must be prepared to endure a multitude of hardships or else they will separate. In terms of feelings, the Death card indicates that your person of interest has no regard for you and you would do well to explore other options.

In a work or career reading the Death card heralds the end of trading, that a company or time at a company will come to an end. This change brings new opportunities but nevertheless, it will be an arduous transition. This card can also foretell a change of career and change of lifestyle to accompany it. In any event, the Death card in a career reading urges the querent to cut their losses, be grateful for the lessons learned and to start again.

Timing: Timing is dependent on placement within a spread. However, Scorpio season may be relevant.

Major Arcana: Card 13

Astrological Correspondences: Scorpio and the 8th house of the astrology wheel

Element: Water

Quality: Fixed

Positive Aspect: transformation, regeneration, rising from adversity

Negative Aspect: ending of an old life, business failure, end of a relationship