Mythic Tarot - Death


Hades, shrouded in black robes with his face hidden beneath a dark helmet, looms over three naked humans with his hands open to receive the gifts they offer him. The little girl offers him a flower, while the man offers him gold coins and the woman offers him a crown. The landscape is barren and brown. The river Styx flows behind them. In the background, the sun rises over green hills.

River Styx
  • translates into “hated”
  • was thought to be leaden and forbidding because it was seen as a stage that one must pass through in order to reach the riches of the underworld
  • indicates sadness and mourning, without which there is no happiness and celebration
  • the dividing line between this world (the barren plain) and the next (the green hills)
  • that which divides people, ideas or environments
  • represents everyone’s life path or direction since everyone has to cross the River Styx at some point; the passage of life
  • the gods swore by the sacred Styx and would be banished from the council of the gods for 9 years and spend one year speechless and breathless if they broke their oath
  • the waters of the Styx were deadly poisonous, yet they also gave immortality
  • Metaphors/Proverbs:
    • “to send someone down the river” is to betray or take advantage of them
    • “to send someone up the river” is to incarcerate them
Rising Sun
  • a new future (of which the kneeling figures are unaware)
  • dawning of a new idea, cycle or chapter of one’s life; rebirth, spiritual birth, literal birth
  • beginning of enlightenment; a new insight or beginning
  • symbolizes the primal state of humanity
  • vulnerability, innocence, freedom from illusion
  • represents the loss of one’s façade (the social or hierarchical markers represented by clothing); stripping the self of worldly wealth and ambition
  • the fear of being exposed
  • unconditional subjugation to the will of God
  • indicates that we all must go naked into the underworld, leaving behind our previous patterns and attitudes
  • Metaphors/Proverbs:
    • “to see something with the naked eye” is to see for oneself
    • “the naked truth” is the facts
  • represents trust in change, which can help when dealing with the process of mourning because the child is unafraid of expressing grief
  • symbol of perfect belief and faith, hope and simplicity, spontaneity and innocence
  • one who is free of anxiety
  • flower represents something that’s about to blossom; represents beauty, hope and new life
  • crown represents ego, authority, power or success
  • coins represent the offering that needed to be made to Hades or else the soul would be doomed to wander forever on the shores of the River Styx
  • Metaphors/Proverbs
    • “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” means that it’s wise to be suspicious of offers or friendly gestures made by enemies or opponents
    • “never look a gift horse in the mouth” means that when offered something for nothing, accept it with gratitude and don’t find fault with it
    • “a small gift usually gets small thanks” means that when people are given less than they expect, they may be less grateful than one would like
  • god of Death, giver of fertility and king of the underworld
  • he was also called Pluto (riches) because his realm was full of hidden wealth
  • his helmet of darkness makes him invisible (his name means invisible)
  • his power was greater than Zeus’ because his law was irrevocable – once a soul entered his kingdom, no god could retrieve it again
  • symbol of the finality that’s felt with all endings and the mourning (symbolized by his dark robes) that’s necessary to prepare for the new cycle
  • even joyful events such as marriage and childbirth mean the death of one way of life so that another can begin; until the ending is recognized and felt (paying coin to Hades), the beginning can’t be fully experienced
  • Death is an image of the inevitable changing cycles of life, which always contain endings; therefore life is a constant series of deaths, and Hades is our invisible companion throughout everything

Written in my workbook on 13 Aug 91:
Hades is a representation of his surroundings. His hands are the death of the plains on which he stands. His helmet is the fear of the river that we all must cross before a new cycle can begin. His robes are the sadness of the hills which must be overcome before the new cycle of growth (the rising sun) can begin. The adults kneeling before Hades are hope and despair at the prospect of death. The child has the clarity of vision to welcome the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one.
My key color was jade (growth, Spring, fertility).