I’ve written interpretations for every card in the Wild Unknown Tarot. As the box of the deck states, there are no rights or wrongs. These are simply my perspectives on the tarot card meanings. I hope you find them useful!
Click here for a directory of all posts in my Wild Unknown series.
Deck Creator’s Keywords: necessary ending, closure, transformation
Carrie’s Keywords: closings, elimination, transformation
Death Tarot Card Meanings in the Wild Unknown
There are no holds barred in this Death card. It’s a literal picture of decay, showing the fading remains of a deceased bird. The feathers show that what is now bones and dust was not so long ago vital and alive. ‘How can this be? It isn’t fair.’ We have countless questions with no satisfying answer. It just is.
The card is entirely black and white. The lack of color hones conveys what at first glance seems to be an inherent harshness. But the truth is, Death is not harsh. It seems that way to us because we are scared of what we can’t control or fathom. Death – not only physical death, but any matter of transformation – is an indiscriminate, sweeping force. It is unbiased, unattached, dispassionate.
There is a comfort in the impersonal quality of death. For all of our differences, for all of the strange and unique types of lifeforms in the world, we all will eventually meet death. Regardless of the clothes we wear or the personas we adopt, we are all subject to this inevitable energy.
Of course, this card means much more than literal physical death. We see the Death card and realize that some situations in our lives are beyond hope of having life breathed back into them. Relationships decay, friendships dissolve, careers are vanquished. Habits, thought patterns and beliefs are laid to rest.
Sometimes we choose our endings, but often they are unceremoniously forced upon us. We can try to deny, we can cling to situations even as they are rotting before us. But no amount of wishing and will-power can counteract the sweeping force of Death.
There is wisdom in respecting closures, and even embracing them. After the hollowness of winter comes the regeneration of Spring. After one chapter comes the next. We see these cycles repeated throughout nature, the universe, and our own psyches. Infinite deaths make way for infinite transformations.
Death Tarot Card Meanings in General
This card frequently features skeletons or grim reapers, physical representations of the concept of death. In older decks this card did not have a title and is still sometimes referred to as the untitled arcanum. This card is given the number thirteen, a number which for various reasons has long been associated with ill omens.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith depiction, Death is upon a horse and has already trampled over a king. This reminds you that no matter what privileges you have in the earthly realm, you are still subject to swift endings. A priest makes an offering to Death, and a woman faints away at the site of Death. Only the child pictured in the card looks on at Death with openness and curiosity. This reminds you not to assume that endings are BAD. Sometimes endings seem brutal as they occur, but they pave the way for your next chapter.
The Rider-Waite-Smith depiction also shows a hint of the sun rising in the distance. This is a reminder that all of life is cyclical. Endings and transformations are just another part of life’s infinite cyclical dance.
In a reading
In a reading, this card does NOT need to be negative or scary! But it does pack a punch, and may ask you to dig into your shadow. Death might ask you to examine what changes, transformations or endings are currently at work for you.
From a personal growth standpoint, this card may particularly challenge you to confront what YOU need to end. If you’ve been entrenched in unhealthy patterns, if you’ve been keeping yourself in a situation you know is not good for you…it’s probably time to end that stuff once and for all.
Death is a part of life, and most deaths are metaphoric NOT literal. Remind yourself that we are all subject to these indiscriminate energies. There are times that you can enact your will to keep something going, but Death asks you to accept the times when endings are imminent.
Cultivate the belief that whatever transformations occur for you are making space for you to emerge into a fresh new chapter. Decaying material must be trimmed from plants in order for them to grow new life – in a metaphysical sense, you must also be willing to be pruned of what is dead in order for you to become more fully alive.