Tarot Talk

Death (13)


“Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.” ~Ayn Rand

Image Description:

The Rider-Waite deck depicts an apocalyptic skeleton wearing armor on horseback and carrying a banner emblazoned with a symbolic flower. Four figures appear before him: a Bishop, child, woman, and a fallen King.  In the distance, the sun can be seen setting between two pillars on a hill. Embedded in the side of the hill is the entrance to a dark and mysterious cave. In the background, a river lazily flows nearby.


Banner Showing a Flower with Five Petals: Life Force

Skeleton Riding A Horse: The Apocalyptic version of Death

Sunset: The end of a day (death)

Four Figures (Fallen King, Child, Woman, Bishop): Temporal, spiritual, male, female, young, old – a representation of people of all ages, gender and vocation.

River: Circulation of the Life Force

Horse: Power

Key Words:

Endings, Transformation, Rebirth, Elimination, Mortality

Fool’s Journey:

While traveling along, the Fool notices signs of movement in the branch of a nearby willow tree, and he stops to investigate. To his amazement he discovers a cocoon. He watches the tiny sack slowly open as its occupant completes its transformation from caterpillar to newly formed butterfly. Witnessing the creature’s rebirth reminds the Fool of his own mortality and all the changes he, too, has experienced while eliminating outgrown aspects of his own life. By watching the caterpillar metamorphous into a butterfly, the Fool develops the understanding that endings can sometimes result in a new, more fulfilling existence. Secure in this new knowledge, The Fool continues upon his journey with a deeper feeling of enlightenment.


To learn how to face endings, experience growth as a result, and understand and accept the multiple levels of death that occur throughout our lives.


To experience renewal one must endure the process of elimination. By stripping life to the bone, and building fresh upon the bare foundations, we can transform ourselves into something entirely new. Death in whatever form it might take, symbolic or real, is simply a rebirth into a new existence.

Contrary to popular assumptions, in readings Death rarely points toward physical death. This view is simply too limiting, for death can occur on many levels during different stages of our lives. Instead card thirteen speaks primarily of endings and changes that ask us to ‘die’ to the old to give birth to the new. Only after the past has been relinquished can the future unfold.

In readings, Death can signify an ending where one door closes so another may open. At such times there may be sadness and reluctance to change, but one may also embrace the comforting knowledge that every ending heralds a new beginning. When these moments occur, sometimes the best approach to the situation is to willingly accept fate’s direction and follow its lead.