When the Death card comes up, querants often tense up a bit. Sometimes there’s a slight intake of breath (natural when confronted with the thought of death since we are only ever guaranteed an out-breath.) Other times they outwardly remain calm but their eyes continually flicker over to the card with the dramatic name.
But the Death card is neither good nor bad. And very, very rarely refers to anything related to an actual physical death. It is only change. Inevitable change and completion. Change that one way or another we have to deal with. The beauty of Death appearing in a reading is it’s a chance for us to shift our minds back into that mode. It gives us the chance to unhook the ropes we’ve attached to certain hopes, desires, fears, expectations. Death lets us know that it’s a good idea to remain flexible and fluid. Transformation is painful, but it is neither unnatural nor disastrous.
I’m particularly fond of the imagery for Death in the Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (pictured at left). The phoenix succinctly represents the concept of a completed life-cycle without the seeming finality of the Black Death imagery found in the Smith-Waite deck. It’s easier to let go of the paralyzing fear of change in this light. It’s an expected part of the cycle. Painful and dramatic, yes. But inevitable and natural with the potential for renewal and a fresh start.