The Death Tarot Card Meaning, Explained

Change happens, whether you want it to or not.

Last updated on Dec 06, 2022

death tarot card volkovslava / Shutterstock

There are 78 cards in a tarot deck, 22 of which are considered Major Arcana cards. These cards are used to offer advice in the areas of love, relationships, career, family and health.

The Death tarot card is the 13th card in the Major Arcana, and often comes up in tarot readings when there is a major life change that is or will be in process.

But don't confuse this specific card as a bad omen!

Death Tarot Card Meaning

Upright keyword meaning: Spiritual transformation, new beginnings, transitions, letting go, closure, unexpected change


Reverse keyword meaning: Inability to move forward, fear, resistance to change, continuing unhealthy patterns

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The Death tarot card, while sounding slightly scary, only really means that one chapter is ending so another can begin.


You need to be able to appreciate these transitions because they allow you to grow into better versions of yourself. To let go means you are also open to receive.

While the Death card does not relate to an actual physical death, it does often signify unexpected and swift changes in your life.

Many times, these situations can be so sudden that they create a feeling of mourning you have to process in order to see the positive on the other side.

Even though it is natural to have some hesitation when you encounter big life changes, resisting it means you are going against the natural flow of life, and that always creates more challenges and difficulties.


To pull the Death card in a tarot reading indicates that you must release what is no longer serving you. You must let go of what you have outgrown so you can welcome in what will.

Not surprisingly, it is the deep-water sign of Scorpio that is ruled by Death, as they are both the alchemists. Alchemy is transformation through a seemingly magical process. Even though Scorpio and Death tend to carry darker energies, there is still an air of mysticism about them.

Death Description

While there are so many interesting and artistic tarot decks available, in the traditional Rider-Waite tarot deck, this card depicts a skeleton riding on a horse heading to the right.

That figure is usually depicted as the Grim Reaper, who personifies death, who carries a black flag in his left hand; the black flag depicts a white rose. Other depictions have the figure carrying a scythe.


death tarot cardPhoto: volkovslava / Shutterstock

All around the figure and his white horse are the bodies of people from all walks of life, showing that no one is impervious to death; eventually, we all die. Also of note is the figure's armor, which represents invincibility.

The white horse he rides is a symbol for purity. And though it appears that the horse is stepping over those that have died, it's actually facing towards receiving a blessing from others. This means that your difficulties are over and the situation is about to become easier.


As for the animal symbolism of the horse, this creature represents victory and intelligence, signifying that the transition currently in progress is one that will bring greater success.

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Death Upright Meaning

Drawing the Death card upright is a positive and beneficial sign.

Upright Death means that whatever challenges or struggles you are experiencing will end well for all those involved. It also likely means that if you have been in a difficult or confusing situation for some time, the end is in sight.

The most common meaning of the Death card is that of spiritual transformation. This means that one phase of your life is ending so another can begin.


You can pull this card as you go through transitions in your romantic relationships, education, schooling, or even beginning to heal some of your emotional wounds from childhood.

When you see this card come up while in a big life transition, it can mean that you need to release the past and all that came with it. This does not mean to completely forget it, including the valuable lessons learned; instead, it is to make the choice to no longer carry it with you.

While Death upright can be unexpected and shocking, ultimately it is about the beginning of a brand new chapter in your life.

Death Reversed Meaning

To receive Death reversed carries with it a completely different meaning — one that is far more difficult.


The reversed position of any tarot card is the harder path because you are refusing to go with the natural order of the current energy.

For the reversed Death card, it means you are resisting letting go of things or people from your past that are starting to negatively affect your present, and soon your future as well.

To receive the reverse of this card means you are hanging on when you should be letting go. But it is also a reminder that nothing new can begin until you allow an ending.

Death signifies that you are taking the harder road by resisting what is naturally trying to be, not that you are able to change the situation.

Whatever the Death tarot card is touching in your life — whether it is relationship-, career- or self-based — will ultimately happen, no matter how long you try to resist.


Death Meaning in Love & Relationships

Usually, when this card is drawn during a reading, many people jump to the worst-case scenario, thinking a breakup is imminent. But that is not always the case. You have to remember that this card is all about transformation.

Love and Relationships: Upright Death Meaning

If you have been single for a significant period of time and pull this card, it could mean that you will soon meet someone.

If you have been dating casually for a while and get this card, it could signify that you will be moving in together or becoming more serious.

If you get this card after being with your partner for a longer time, it could indicate marriage or starting a family.


Death is all about letting go of one phase of your life so another can begin. Yes, it can be scary to draw this card in a reading specifically about love and relationships, but it is exciting because it means great things are on the horizon.

Love and Relationships: Reversed Death Meaning

While this card often signifies a transition of sorts, it can also help bring awareness to that relationship that has been trying to end for some time. This will be more apt to come up if the card is reversed, but to that degree, if you do get it, you have to take a closer look at the truth of your relationship.

Asking yourself uncomfortable questions — Am I truly happy? Does this relationship fulfill my needs? Am I pretending that this relationship is more than it really is? — can allow you to get a better sense of your truth, which will prevent you from resisting this card’s energy.

Overall, the Death tarot card signifies that things are going to change whether you want them to or not. Hopefully, it allows you to accept what is so you do not waste valuable energy trying to resist the inevitable.


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Death Meaning in Career

In a career reading, the position of the Death card is the difference between pursuing a certain career path, or fearing an inevitable change. But how you act depending on this situation will ultimately determine your success.

Career: Upright Death Meaning

Upright Death indicates that now is the time to move forward with a career change you may have been pondering. Whether you've outgrown your workplace, dislike your current environment, or simply want something new, it's essential to move on.


Think of this change as opening up new possibilities for you. Without taking that leap, you'll never know what positive changes you will find. So, instead of getting too comfortable with the way things are now, take the plunge, so to speak.

Career: Reversed Death Meaning

Reversed Death in a career reading means you are hesitant to accept the change coming your way. You've been trying to do all you can to put off that change, but you need to realize that if you cling to your current situation, you'll never progress.

Another interpretation is that you've been experiencing toxic behaviors, habits or patterns in the workplace. You must act on this and work to break those patterns that are holding you back.

Death Meaning in Finance

A financial tarot card reading can either cause worry or joy, depending on the position in which a card is drawn. But when the Death card appears, it represents your relationship with money and making necessary changes.


Finance: Upright Death Meaning

When drawn upright in a finance reading, Death indicates a loss of money or business dealings. But rather than reacting negatively to this information, it's important to embrace the financial changes you are about to experience.

Consider this a period of learning where you can reevaluate your relationship with money and what is actually important to you.

Finance: Reversed Death Meaning

Drawn reversed, the Death card signifies that you will be or currently are experiencing a decline in finances that will leave you in a hard spot. These financial difficulties mean that you will need to reassess your spending habits and practices.

Even though you might have an inclination to enjoy material items, this card indicates that you will most likely have to give up buying things just to bring you happiness. It might be difficult to cope at first, but know that it's for the best.


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Kate Rose is an artist, writer, spiritual astrologist, relationship and life coach, and motivational speaker. For more of her work, visit her visit her website.