Bohemian Gothic Tarot - Death


I'm quite new to tarot and thus have neither a lot of knowledge nor experience with it – therefore I can just write about my personal impression of the card.


For me this card has two clearly separated areas: the skeletal figure of Death itself with two bodies in the front and the architectural structure in the background of the picture. The three figures in the foreground seem very real and material to me. Death tells me that this is his part of the reality, his viewpoint on truth and our world: the fleeting nature of everything physical. But this is nothing to be feared – it's just exactly this: a point of view (therefore his eyes, turned on the bodies on the ground), a single aspect of our reality. This card shows me how Death (or the Running Time itself in its symbolic form) sees me: as a changing assembly of matter.
There is no scythe in his hand because he is no executioner (as he is depicted in other illustrations – threateningly looming over the living). I don't get even the slightest feeling of menace from this picture. Instead he carries a hourglass as an insignia, thus telling me that he is just an aspect of time itself. Time can be seen as creating or destroying – both being actually two sides of one and the same process: the course of time. So Death is in my understanding the personification of our way to look at one side of the Wheel of Time.
On his shoulder is a cloak in a regal red draped. It seems to signify his position as someone whose decisions can't be ignored, someone who „reigns“ over physical matter. But on the other hand red is the colour of blood, of passion and life. And suddenly I see a short daydream-like sequence: The red cloak moves, wraps itself around the naked skeleton, becomes muscles and living flesh – and the circle of life is closed, the hourglass has been turned again.

The hall in the background gives me a completely different impression: Whereas the figures in the foreground seem to be very physical and on the material side of reality, the corridor appears to be somehow insubstantial (my card is from the Silver Edition and the silver ink is blurring the contours somewhat). To me this associates the part of reality which lies beyond the material – the transcendental. When we encounter our Death we leave our physical remains behind and step into this hallway. Where will it lead us to? I don't know. There are some candles on the far end of the corridor – perhaps they are beckoning to us, leading us our way through unknown territory. But to me they don't radiate any feeling of warmth – these are not candles like those on birthday cakes or Christmas trees. They stay distant and unapproachable. They are beacons, guiding lights for our first steps after we left our bodies behind. What is fascinating me most in this card is the dark space above these candles. I see a black mirror there and I feel a strong curiosity what it will show me when my time comes to look in its depths. My soul? Who I really am? Future lives? Or past ones? God? My feeling is, that the reflection in this special mirror is the deepest mystery in the centre of our existence and that it will be different for everyone who looks into it.

Having wandered through this card (and really enjoyed the experience) there are still some questions open for me: Why is the skeleton missing a hand? My feeling is, that – if it was in its place – the skeleton would stretch this hand out to me, inviting me to share and learn from its point of view. But with this hand missing the distance is kept. The reality of our physical existence can't (and shouldn't) be overcome so easily. Perhaps it's not yet time to take the hand of Death? My other question is: What is this object on the right wall of the hallway (by the way: It's form doesn't seem to be consistent with the shape of its shadow)? Is it a baptistery? What is its purpose there?

Thank you so much for your patience with my awkward English!


Wow! Awesome examination of the card! I very much like your take on this Death card--Death as a kind of tour-guide giving us a glimpse of the future rather than, as you say, an executioner come to put an end to something. The hourglass rather than scythe, the bodies on the ground almost bones themselves, the hint of "ghosts" in the distant background. It's almost like we're being given a lesson on the nature of Death rather than a demonstration.

The Death card, to me, has always been about that time in our lives not only when something comes to an end, but also when we get stripped back down to the "bare bones." And this Death card emphasizes those bare bones not only in the skeletal figure, but in the bodies on the ground.

I think the card indicates the meaning of the Death card quite accurately: that while it may not be time for our actual Death (the scythe), we are being shown someone (something) that has died and the emerging bones of those remains tell us that there is no bringing it back. We have to deal with its loss, even as what does remain of it (that distant light, the ghost, if you will of what it was) haunts us.

Those trio of candles, by the way, seem to be planted on the edges of a broken bit of wall. Were those bodies on the ground walled up? Has the wall been broken open and their bodies brought forward? The diamond area with the candles is ambiguous. It might be a broken area of wall or a mirror. If it does suggest that these bodies were walled up...that becomes very interesting, as it suggests that we have denied this death or that we were unaware of it. Now we know, and there is no question. We must face it, deal with it. Even, in the positive, finally gain closure.

This is the Death card through and through. A finality of ending--though not necessarily our ending--that brings with it an inescapable period of loss and feeling haunted by the loss. The hourglass certainly reminds us that everything has only so much time...but it also reminds us that we have to endure a time of experiencing loss as well.