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Death (XIII) is the thirteenth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in Tarot, tarock and tarocchi games as well as in divination.
The Death card usually depicts a skeleton, sometimes riding a horse but more often wielding a sickle. Surrounding it are dead and dying people from all classes, including kings, bishops and commoners. The Rider-Waite tarot deck depicts the skeleton carrying a black standard emblazoned with a white flower along with the Crashing Towers from The Moon with The Sun rising behind them in the background. Some decks, such as the Tarot of Marseilles, omit the name from the card.
The king is trampled by a reaping skeleton horseman, as the Pictorial Key to the Tarot describes him, which appears to be a personification of death. The fall of the king may represent the importance and magnitude of the critical event of this card, or that death takes us all equally.
The reaper carries a black banner emblazoned with the Mystic Rose, which according to Waite symbolises life or rebirth.
As in other cards, the gray background may indicate uncertainty surrounding this event.
The bishop may represent faith in the face of death, faith in the divine plan, and faith that “God works in mysterious ways”.
The maiden seeming distraught by the fall of the king represents the sorrow and great pain that often accompanies death.
The child, seemingly entranced by the occurrence, may represent bewilderment or curiosity.
In the darkness behind, according to Waite’s PKT, lies the whole world of ascent in the spirit.
Although some believe the New Jerusalem appears as a silhouette across the Sun, it does not appear clearly enough to be certain and may instead be the tops of The Moon’s mountains.