One of the most common comments I hear from people who request a reading is that they are nervous. Or afraid. I’m rather puzzled by this, but I have never gone into the full details of asking them why since often time is very limited and it’s not what they came to elaborate on.

I do wonder though, if the classic impression of a tarot reader pulling the Death card out is beneath this fear (along with other “unsavoury” cards like the Devil – which is actually a favourite of mine but that’s another story). In thinking about this, one comes to the realization that it’s our poor understanding of death, in fact our collective abysmal misunderstanding of the process, that’s the root cause – at least in certain parts of the world. I’d like to think eastern and buddhist cultures have a deeper and more refined outlook on the process, though since I have not travelled to Asia (yet!) I cannot say with certainty. In my experience, it’s one thing to read philosophic principles and another to experience the tangible visceral daily reality of a culture.

If “tarot helps you meet whatever comes in the best possible way” as Mary Greer writes, then I can only see the Death card in a reading as helping to prepare the client or their loved ones for the process or transition related to death. Of course it is exceptionally rare for the Death card to actually mean physical death in tarot. Nonetheless, the rarity of this happening should not mean one dismisses this completely. If anything, extra preparation wouldn’t go amiss in responding to the Death card appearing in such readings, since we have such an embedded collective fear of it.

I learned the hard way about this, though it only happened once. I say the hard way because in the first instance it was not a proper reading (more of a casual laying of the cards), and secondly I quickly brushed it aside and mentioned the more acceptable terms of “transformation” or endings or beginnings. It just so happened that in this particular instance, Death meant the death of a close relative which happened very soon after. So I learned tarot is not something to treat casually, and neither is the Death card.

I seem to have these really difficult lessons with tarot, sometimes almost like a slap in the face. For the most part I do not mind, and I actually take it to mean that tarot, for me, is the path and I am to treat it with reverence.

Many blessings,


8 thoughts on “

  1. Angela November 6, 2011 / 4:39 am

    This happened to me in August – not one death, but five followed over the next six weeks.

    I also received it a lot in my dailies, before a dog died, plus in readings before I and my parents started to show our ages (on the outside), a reminder of permanent, ongoing change that none of us want.

    • Monica November 6, 2011 / 5:19 pm

      Hello Angela, thank you for your insights. I am sorry to read of such difficult circumstances and thank you for sharing these. I wish I could alleviate the challenge of “showing our ages”, since I’m relatively comfortable with this – I mean, I actually even look forward to having white hair. But I guess it brings up issues, particularly if we haven’t really explored this subject and all of a sudden, the wrinkles are there. I don’t think we live in an era where it’s acceptable to grow old either – and that comes at a great loss of wisdom I think.

      Many blessings, Monica.

  2. Ditto November 6, 2011 / 10:02 am

    I agree with everything you said Monica, I also had an early experience of doing a reading with the first card (the issue) being the death card crossed with the 10 of wands. I skirted around the issue completely only to be told by the querant, after I had completed reading that her husband had just died and left a half build house that she has to complete.

    • Monica November 6, 2011 / 5:25 pm

      Hi Paula. I take some comfort in reading of your experience – I wonder how often this actually happens. Nonetheless, it makes for invaluable learning. If only there was a big universal school of tarot and other divinatory arts – a la Harry Potter (despite the bad magic I have a closet fondness for the story). We could blissfully immerse ourselves in a three year full time study of such topics and come out better prepared – I hope so, anyway 🙂 Life experience will have to do in our case I guess.

      Many blessings, Monica.

  3. Magic Mentha November 8, 2011 / 1:06 pm

    I, too, have had an experience where Death meant literal death.

    However, amazingly (I think it’s amazing, anyway!), I knew it meant death. It was really one of those where I just KNEW. It was regarding my great aunt, and I saw Death right next to the Empress and I just knew it was literal. A few days later she died.

    So I definitely think that although Death does not usually indicate death that it certainly can. But I try not to be paranoid about it. Regardless of this, I usually rather like the Death card.

    Lotsa hugs to you,

    • Monica November 9, 2011 / 12:11 pm

      Hiya Mentha 🙂 Yes it’s good to not get too caught up in it, still I think I’ll refrain from doing “health” readings until I’m comfortable dealing openly with the subject. I’m with you on having great fondness for this card (my favourite is the Anna K and Haindl interpretations). Blessings x

  4. Helen November 8, 2011 / 6:37 pm

    A good post Monica,

    I think people tend to skip around the death card calling it as you say transformation – although I guess death is a process of where one form transforms into another.

    I think as readers we should explain that the death card means what it says, which is death, something will die, or is reaching its natural end, what that is depends of course of the other cards that surround it and the question. As you say it is rare for it to mean an actual death of a person, but we must remain aware of this possibility when interpreting the cards.

  5. Monica November 9, 2011 / 12:15 pm

    Hello Helen, thank you for your thoughtful comment. It’s very true. It’s just taken me a while to get comfortable with saying that – and actually I think more importantly, how to say it. As you say, surrounding cards are an indicator, though I think for me, I need to work a little more on approaching the subject when it actually means the death of a close one.

    Many blessings!

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