The Tarot has a creepy card …. the thirteenth card of the major arcana. In most decks it’s called Death. In older Tarot decks it doesn’t even have a name; it is signified by the number XIII.
“If Death appears in a reading, does it mean someone is going to die?”
The design of the card often contains a morbid figure such as a skeleton or reaper. The Rider Waite Smith deck shows the figure on horseback, carrying a symbol of purification, and with a hopeful rising sun in the background. When you accept the modern thoughts on this card, you walk away with the feeling that card XIII has a much less severe implication other than simple mortality: it can represent the loss of bad thinking and the birth of a new consciousness; it could symbolize the natural cycle of rebirth. Or maybe it means your old career is dying and a new, more exciting job is on the horizon.
And that’s wrong.
It means Death.
It’s the most penetrating card in my deck.
Yes this is scary, but maybe that feeling should be savored a bit. Everyone is going to die. Death comes indiscriminately and without prejudice. It comes before we are ready. It ignores class, position, and wealth. It is complete in its purpose and doesn’t use half-measures.
“Well…that’s just stating the obvious. Of course everyone dies. The Death card has a broader esoteric meaning.”
Really? The Fool card isn’t stating the obvious? Strength doesn’t mean strength? No, card XIII is, at its core, literal. Death is foremost honest. It doesn’t obfuscate anything. It lifts the shroud covering what you have buried, that which is scary, and at times…terrifying.
When card XIII appears in a reading, you are faced with the best and the worst card in the deck. It frames the entire reading into a vivid portrait of your life, and delivers the message with a knock-out punch. XIII sets the tone and answers the ultimate question we are asking, even if we can’t bring ourselves to admit what we have been thinking all along. You may be asking the cards about the prospects of a new promotion, but have you considered how your career may pale in comparison to the life you’ve led? What will the promotion cost you before the inevitable occurs? XIII has a way of taking our Tarot questions and extrapolating them to their ultimate and bitter end.
“But what about the card meaning something like…an old relationship dying and a new and better one coming in the future?”
Ok. Maybe that’s true. But Death is still coming.