Pulled The Death Tarot Card? Here's Everything You Need To Know

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Everything You Need To Know About The Death Tarot Card

Few cards in a traditional tarot deck appear more ominous at first glance than the Death card. Well, it turns out that there's more to the 13th of the 22 major arcana cards than you might assume—and no, it's not a death sentence. Here's everything you need to know about the death card in your tarot deck.

What does the Death card mean?

You can think of the Death card as symbolizing a more metaphorical death, according to author, tarot reader and founder of Witchy Wellness Leah Vanderveldt. "This is a card of big changes, transformation, and, yes, endings," she says. "It's a big piece in the process of personal evolution, in which we release old patterns. It's a shedding of the skin (aka your ego), to grow into a new version of yourself."

Death represents the shedding required to continue progressing along one's path, Vanderveldt notes. "There's a feeling of grief present, along with a fear of the unknown that's difficult to make peace with in the moment, but if you can stick it out, there's a new beginning on the other side."

Other cards in the tarot deck carry a similar message, Vanderveldt adds, explaining that the 10 of Swords is like a mini Death card: "This card says: It's time to do it differently. Once you decide to let go of a damaging negative thought loop, you can begin a new path."

Additionally, the cards on either side of Death, The Hanged Man (XII) and Temperance (XIV), are also part of the "death journey," in which we prepare for an ending by surrendering and releasing fears of judgment (the Hanged Man), and then go through a rebirth by transmuting our past pain (Temperance).

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What does it mean for love and relationships?

When pulled upright:

To pull a card about endings might seem alarming if you're in the middle of a reading about your relationship, but it may not always translate to an ending of the entire relationship; it could be the end of a phase in a relationship.

"There can be lots of endings and changes within a relationship that have nothing to do with the relationship itself ending," Vanderveldt says. "It could mean an evolution as a couple—like making a commitment, moving, having a kid—that could challenge your identity. Or it could be an urging to let go of something in order to move forward. You're being asked to change the way you've been doing something in order to open up new possibilities for your love life and/or relationship."

The cards come alive through your own experiences and how you relate them to what you pull, so ask yourself, What needs to change? when you get this one. You can also pull more cards for additional guidance, Vanderveldt adds.

When pulled in reverse:

To pull Death in reverse in a relationship/love reading suggests something is keeping you in a cycle of fear or anxiety, according to Vanderveldt. "What are you holding onto in your relationship? What are you resisting and why? It might be the reverberations of something that happened in another relationship or with your current partner in the past, but it's affecting your present."

In this case, she says the card is asking you to really look at what's coming up for you, acknowledge it, and hopefully let go so you can move forward.

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What does it mean for professional and financial matters?

When pulled upright:

If you asked the cards a question related to your career or finances and you pulled Death upright, it likely signals that something in that sphere of your life needs to change or end. It could be the job entirely or some facet of that job like a particular project.

"Whatever it is, know that it's all part of your journey," Vanderveldt cautions. "Often we can't see the benefit of some career choices and shifts until we've reached a place where we feel like we're in our flow, doing what we're meant to do. Know this is a trail marker on that path, sending you in a new direction that you might not understand yet."

When pulled in reverse:

To pull Death in reverse suggests a resistance to change—like a grasping. Vanderveldt recommends asking, "Are you staying in a job or personal scenario out of fear rather than growth?" This card implies you may need to "get real about what you really want out of your career and/or bank account and make a plan," she adds.

And odds are, if you're receiving a reading about your professional life, you likely do want to see growth and improvement. If you pulled Death in reverse, it's time to open yourself up to the idea of change, and according to Vanderveldt, acknowledge that "staying stuck will feel worse over the long term than the fear of change and the unknown that you're feeling right now.

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What does it say about challenges that lie ahead?

When pulled upright:

As a card that's all about endings, this one can definitely mean some challenges and changes lie ahead. How you respond to or overcome those challenges and changes is really up to you. "Something will come to an end and you'll need to adjust," Vanderveldt says, "and while change is never easy, it's a necessary and inevitable part of life."

And the nice thing about tarot is, it's a call to action. "Do you want to fight it, or do you want to work with it to proactively craft your life? Your challenge is to face it with as much grace as you can," she adds.

When pulled in reverse:

Again, pulling this card in reverse suggests resistance. Whatever it is that's coming up for you with regard to challenges you may be facing, Vanderveldt says it's time to face it: "Being aware of your inclination to kick and scream in opposition to change is useful information because you can start to notice when you're doing it and detach a little bit."

We're all human, so be patient and gentle with yourself as you adjust to the changes to come. Reassure yourself that you are resilient and capable. "Make a list now of all the things that make you feel supported, so you can refer back to it when things get tough," Vanderveldt suggests.

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The bottom line.

Pulling the Death card in a tarot deck may seem unnerving, but the truth is, this card can hold a lot of insight into where your life needs change moving forward to support growth. So don't be alarmed the next time it comes up in a reading, but do be prepared for change to come.

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