Tarot Death

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Death

Tarot's ominous Key 13, Death, becomes less foreboding when we examine the symbolism and astrological rulership in detail. Representing the sign Scorpio, which is traditionally ruled by Mars but more modernly by Pluto, everything about this key signals the process of change or transformation and the life-death continuum, kept in motion via sexual reproduction. The horse carrying the skeleton and the river in the background both imply movement or change, while the rising sun suggests the passing of the night and the rebirth of a new day. The white rose on the banner carried by the horseman indicates both purity and unity. In tarot symbolism, red roses symbolize personal desire, whereas white roses symbolize universal desire. Another clue to the meaning of this key is the fact that when the Major Arcana is arranged in rows of 7, starting with Key 1, ending with Key 21 and leaving out Key 0, Key 13 appears underneath Key 6, The Lovers. In the center of the white rose are seeds which are the result of sexual unity, whether it be between a male and female plant, animal or human.

The prelate or pope-like religious figure in front of the horseman is a suggestion, due to his fish-shaped head-dress or mitre, that the roughly 2,500 year long Piscean Age is in the transformative, death phase, ready to transition into the Age of Aquarius. This symbolism is unique to the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot arcana, and does not appear in other versions of tarot.