“The Death card is a symbol of the alchemy of change. The embrace of inclusion, normalization and representation for LTGBTQ+ community is, in itself, a rebirth of a positive future for us all.” – Matt Hughes (Pride Tarot Guidebook, © US Games Systems, Inc)
Suggested Archetype: The Grim Reaper
Death has commonly been associated in Christian-based mythology as an animated skeleton since the early medieval period. 1800s English literature adopted the moniker for death as the Grim Reaper from a translation of a theologically-minded book called The Circle of Human Life. Skeletons often symbolize revealed secrets or the start or conclusion of a mystery. Looking at death as not simply an external force we’re struggling to avoid but an agent of transformative even alchemical change within us can be really empowering.
The black armor: In tarot, black is a color symbolizing mystery and the unknown. When paired with white as it is here (black armor, white skeleton and horse) it represents Yin in polarity with Yang. Black or dark knights are easily associated with death, darkness, and the embodiment of our fears.
The field of roses: Red roses in the tarot represent concepts like passion, courage, action and the forces of Yang. They are also often a funeral flower and associated with grieving Aphrodite and a sorrowful or mourning Virgin Mary. The way they are sprawled on the vine in this card very much makes me think of death, decay, and rebirth.
The pale horse: Beyond the myth of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, a grey horse being associated with death, kingship and sacrifice is found in a number of cultures. In this particular card, the author drew upon a famous painting of Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler, a grey American Saddlebred who was legendary in his own right for his performance on the battlefield.
The rainbow flag: In the original RWS Death card, Death’s banner is black and has the white five-petaled rose that was the emblem of the House of York. The substitution of the Rainbow flag creates a new inclusive and more transformation-embracing narrative. Old paradigms and culture norms have to be destroyed, uprooted, discarded, and no longer tolerated in order to create more inclusive and equalized society. Death in this card is a catalyst for progressive, LGBTQIA+ embracing change.
Reading Death (In General)
Upright this card could mean something like:
- Feeling fear, grief and regret during this time of change and transition is normal. Keep moving forward. Better things await you in the near future.
- Dying is sometimes a metaphorical process of transformation and change. That is what is going on for you right now.
- Find your inner courage to face letting go or ending the relationship in your life that is trapping you from wellness and being happy. Forgive yourself and the other parties involved, but leave the relatiuonship.
- Don’t feel guilty over bringing some kind of situation or relationship to a decisive end. Look forward to the better times ahead.
Reversed this card could mean something like:
- The central person in this situation is highly resistant to change and simply trying to convince them that its in their own self-interest isn’t going to be successful.
- If you feel stuck, trapped, or hopeless right now? You are going to have to let go of a personal truth or belief that is at the root of this situation. Be brave and let people help.
- Release the past, embrace the present, let yourself believe in a better future.
- Reframe what is happening in a way that improves your mood and sense of objectivity and/or compassion.
Death In Questions About Relationships
You as Death Upright: There are some dramatic changes either going on or about to start in your life. Discard everything (and everyone) that is causing you obvious harm but rely on the people you can freely love and trust to walk with you through this transition. Don’t start new relationships with anyone outside this major life change, however, until you are on firmer ground.
You as Death Reversed: The question to ask yourself is “What do I need to feel joy?” and bring that into your life directly through your own actions rather than expecting a current or perspective person to do it. Romance yourself for a little while and see how that effects your relationships with others.
The Other Person as Death Upright: Don’t panic but this person might be a catalyst to some huge life changes for you. These changes aren’t automatically bad or dangerous but they could be scary or overwhelming. Look at the bigger picture of what is going on in your entire personal life as well as theirs to figure out what is going on for both of you in your shared relationship.
The Other Person as Death Reversed: This card suggests this person has unresolved grief, depression, or other emotional baggage to process through. They might be resisting self-development, possibly masking or using unhealthy coping mechanisms. A lot of important changes are going to need to happen in their life for them to be able to offer you what you most need out of a relationship with them.
Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things. -Arthur Schopenhauer
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