13:   Death

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The Death card - B.O.T.A.
BOTA (Builders of the Adytum)
The Death card
R. Black
The Death card - Universal Waite
Universal Waite

An ending and a new beginning; renewal; transformation.

The old things have passed away; new things have come (as in II Cor. 5:17).

"Get rid of the old to make way for the new."



This card generally does not refer to physical death.

The Death card says, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life.   It is also the last day of the first part of your life."

Death is an ending that makes transformation possible.

In some early (pre-1909) decks, such as the Tarot of Marseilles (pictured here), the word "Death" wasn't printed on the card   —   the idea being that death was too terrible a word to be written or spoken.   In the Tarot of the Old Path, this card is "The Close."

In the "Ancient Italian Tarot" (published by Lo Scarabeo), this card is Il Tredici   -   "The Thirteen."

"As with an atomic explosion, disintegration is necessary for the release of energy."   You have to die before you can be reborn.

The sun in the background is a rising sun (we are told), not a setting sun.

The two pylons in the background (in the Universal Waite version, above left) show up again in the Moon card.

The Tarot of Prague deck contains two different Death cards: one shows Death in armor riding a horse, and the other shows Death as a robed skeleton.

The image of Death riding a white horse comes from Revelation 6:8:   "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

Click here to see other versions of the Death card.

Pertaining to the Craft Tarot Death Contact Home

Here's what Arthur Edward Waite says about this card (in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot):

The veil or mask of life is perpetuated in change, transformation and passage from lower to higher, and this is more fitly represented in the rectified Tarot by one of the apocalyptic visions than by the crude notion of the reaping skeleton. Behind it lies the whole world of ascent in the spirit. The mysterious horseman moves slowly, bearing a black banner emblazoned with the Mystic Rose, which signifies life. Between two pillars on the verge of the horizon there shines the sun of immortality. The horseman carries no visible weapon, but king and child and maiden fall before him, while a prelate with clasped hands awaits his end.

There should be no need to point out that the suggestion of death which I have made in connection with the previous card is, of course, to be understood mystically, but this is not the case in the present instance. The natural transit of man to the next stage of his being either is or may be one form of his progress, but the exotic and almost unknown entrance, while still in this life, into the state of mystical death is a change in the form of consciousness and the passage into a state to which ordinary death is neither the path nor gate. The existing occult explanations of the 13th card are, on the whole, better than usual, rebirth, creation, destination, renewal, and the rest.