I recently had a few readings that each included the Death card and it struck me how different the meanings were in each reading. The deck I was using for each was the same so I was seeing the same image in each reading. But the card had very different meanings based on the position the in the spread, the nature of the situation being examined, and my own psychic intuition impressions received during the session. If one card from the same deck can have such different meanings, it struck me how the literal definitions ascribed to cards can become almost meaningless when you compare the same card from different decks. The Death card is a good example.
People receiving readings often fear the Death card, but I find it very rarely means literal Death. More often it is just associated with change, transition, out with the old and in with the new. Very often this is a very positive card to see! I own several decks so I thought it would be interesting to compare how the artists portray Death in a few of them.
At one end of the scale is the “Legacy of the Divine” Tarot. Let’s face it, this image does not engender a warm fuzzy feeling at first glance. A half skull, a spider, a scorpion, a shadowy figure on a barren landscape. There is a blooming white rose at the bottom, but is that a symbol of rebirth, or a funereal flower? Is that shadowy figure in on the horse moving on from the dark landscape?
Next, we have Death from Tarot Illuminati. A more vibrant picture, but still looks like the grim reaper coming along. It is difficult to see the man with blood around him as anything but a dead body. It all looks rather foreboding, yet there is a sun on the horizon. Is it setting or coming up? And what is to be made of the ship in the background?
In the Enchanted Tarot, Death is still a skeletal figure, but this time he is grinning. He almost appears to be dancing. Things are already in bloom around him. This one does not look quite as “scary” as the first two. In fact, aside from the dancing skeleton, it is almost cheerful!
Death in the Shadowscapes Tarot is one of my very favorite cards from any deck! In fact, I recently had this card framed and plan to hang in my room. This card could easily be titled “Rebirth” instead of death, and this is more often the meaning that comes up for me in readings regardless of the deck being used. A naked figure appears alive with vibrant red and yellow flames establishing her as the phoenix reborn from the flames. New growth and a bright sun appear all around. Very much a “circle of life” and not to be feared. In fact, if you showed this card to strangers and asked them to describe it, I’ll bet very few would label it “Death”.
While these cards are all depicting the 13th Major Arcana card, you can see the artists’ depictions of them vary dramatically. Given that the Death card in a single deck can have several different meanings all on its own, it is fun to imagine the possibilities when comparing the same card from multiple decks side by side.
What do you think? Would you feel differently if you saw the card from the first deck in a readings vs. the card in the last deck?