"When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness."

- Joseph Campbell

Death - Waite Smith
Death - Thoth

Associations / Attributions

Hermetic Title
The Child of the Great Transformers, Lord of the Gates of Death
Hebrew Letter
Nun (Fish)
Sephirotic Path
Tiferet (Beauty) to Netzach (Victory)
Potential Uses
Laying something to rest; initiate transformation

Card Meanings / Keywords

Golden Dawn

Time, ages, transformation; change involuntary (as opposed to the Moon).


End, mortality, destruction. Reversed: Inertia, sleep, lethargy, hope destroyed.


Transformation, change, voluntary or involuntary.


Transformation, dissolution, inevitability.


This trump is associated with transitions and transformation, the necessity of letting go to proceed on a path to a new life. Death is the great equalizer: All in this world must face and personally experience the dissolution of corporeal life. How one faces this experience is key in not only to how one physically passes, but how one can live more richly this world.

As an aspect of Scorpio, this card can be elementally associated with water, meditations on sex and death as positive forces of creation and dissolution, and the last ten days of October through the first twenty days of November in the northern hemisphere. Death as a universal human phenomenon is reflected in the mythic stories and images of all cultures. In the neo-classical western mind from which the tradition of modern tarot springs, Death is often seen as a lord or lady of the lands of the dead and/or a figure that carries one there. Charon, the Grim Reaper, Hades, Persephone, Pluto, and Osiris are all images that help to invoke the transformative power of Death. This card may also indicate far travel that transforms one completely.

The underworld holds many gems that are valuable to the world we live in—this is reflected in the image of Pluto-Plutus, both lord of the dead as well as caretaker of the great wealth held inside the earth. Vast treasures are held in the lives and memories of those who rest beyond the gates of death and those who sleep in the earth. For those with courage to face their own mortality, great wisdom may be gained on the transitions of life and the essence of one's calling in this world.


Hail Hades in Scorpio!
The depths of the far dark sea are your domain
The scythe staff turns the axis and axle of the wheel of rebirth
The blade rends the veil between the worlds so one may step through
Mortal eyes gaze no farther than the red-orange jewel in your hand
Yet the dawn lies beyond
To all that crawl in and upon the earth
Your black mantle imparts the vessel of life

What is the inevitable that I must encounter and how will I engage with it? What secret treasures might it hold if I am able to make Death my ally?