Renaissance Tarot (Jones / Lyle) - Death XIII


The dreaded Death card.
I like this version a lot, mainly because I love the phoenix and it makes it a lot less scary when reading for other people.
I don't think I've read for anyone who hasn't turned pale at the site of the skeleton with his scythe.
With this Death card, I don't think that folks would even notice it too much.

Against a deep purple background we see a very large golden phoenix. It's emerging from flames with it's wings unfolded and a very impressive sight it is too.
He looks to his left (our right) and to the future.
Below the phoenix is a sort of pewter coloured plinth which is engraved with a central skull and cross-bones flanked by 2 griffins, each one looking towards the edge of the card and away from the skull and cross-bones.
It almost looks as if the plinth is a coffin or sarcophagus and the phoenix is rising from it.
The physical body may be dead but the soul lives on.

The phoenix is a symbol of rebirth and tells us that things have to die and to come to an end before rebirth and new growth can happen.
Death is the one certainty in life and without it, there would be stagnation.

I'm not too sure about the significance of the griffins (will have to go and look them up) but the other card that features griffins in this deck is The Chariot.

The skull and cross-bones is a sort of warning sign to me as it's usually seen on the Jolly Roger, the pirate flag. Here I think it's just a reference back to the traditional skeleton usually seen on Death cards. I have a feeling there is more significance to it than that but it's escaping me.

Griffins anyone?


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Don't know about the griffins but this ties to the Judgment card by using the resurrected phoenix, I think. Less final than that reaper.


I like this image a lot! The whole phoenix rising from the ashes is a nice association for the Death card.

I agree it does tie it in more with the rebirth notion of the Judgement card. Astrologically speaking they aren't that far apart either. Pluto being representative of the Judgement card and Scorpio being attributed to Death. Pluto being the secondary ruler of the sign of Scorpio.

I feel like the main difference between the two, Death and Judgement, is with that with Judgement you have a choice, with Death, you don't. With Judgement you can choose not to answer the call, to say thanks but no. I liken the Judgement card as the Universe throwing little pebbles at you, it is softer... with Death the Universe throws a brick. Sometimes I think the brick of Death is because you ignored the pebbles of Judgement though.

The Death card seems to appear when things are pretty crappy, stuff has happened and it isn't nice but I think sometimes that it is human nature to dig the heels in and refuse to budge, even though things are severely less than perfect. Death offers change, transformation but also the unknown and the unknown, like what happens after literal death is unknown, hence hugely scary, which is probably why it is so feared and so hard to come to terms with.

I tried to do a bit of research on griffins but there doesn't seem to be a lot of information, other than that they are a mythical, with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle. The LWB says that the griffins on the card, link it with the Chariot in this deck as griffins appear on that card too. However, that association is alluding me at the moment.

With the head of an eagle and the body of a lion you cannot help but think of strength, courage and bravery. Perhaps much like the qualities of the house Griffindor in the Harry Potter books. Certainly, those characteristics are necessary when facing Death (as a card and literally). Because little is known about griffins I just think that that makes them so appropriate for Death... they like death are a bit of a mystery.


Wow Enchanted, thanks for that excellent post.

I too tried to find out some stuff about griffins but couldn't find much at all and then you come along with some pearls of wisdom :D
I love what you've said about the qualities of strength, courage and bravery and how you need those qualities to face death.
That would also explain the griffins on The Chariot too.
And yes, death is the greatest mystery...

Thanks :)


agreed. thanks Enchanted.
I think the Death card reflects the flow our natural cycles so it shows up on a pretty regular basis.....I mean we're always redefining ourselves as we evolve so the process of transformation is an ongoing process.
I often think of Death as the cosmic farmer.....I never see Death as good or bad or frightening.....simply indifferent....Death is what it is just like the 4 seasons.........writers very often use the quality of the seasons as metaphors to mark a point in ones life. my experience, I see that now more intimately linked with Justice.
think of the grain that Death reaps.....the grain of your life, and the quality of that harvest being weighed on the scales of Justice.......all things must balance out in the end.


Wonderful insights! Papageno, although I can see what you're saying here theoretically, I'm afraid when I ACTUALLY think of death (meaning, mine or the death of those I love) I don't feel indifferent! I just learned that my neighbor died --a reclusive man, discovered in bed a few days after an apparent heart attack when someone called the police because he hadn't shown for an out-of-town appointment and couldn't be reached. I can see this as a part of the cycle of life but now I'm arranging with other neighbors for us all to keep our eyes on one much for equinimity in the face of death! But for the purpose of reading the cards, I think you're exactly right.

Papageno said:
I often think of Death as the cosmic farmer.....I never see Death as good or bad or frightening.....simply indifferent....Death is what it is just like the 4 seasons.........writers very often use the quality of the seasons as metaphors to mark a point in ones life.


Sorry to hear about your neighbour Debra. Good idea to rally the support of other neighbours though and keep an eye out for each other. Strange how death brings people together like that, but nice though!

Thanks for the compliments guys, I just write what I think and feel but I'm never quite sure if I am not speaking out of my own backside or have just lost the plot entirely! :laugh: Probably a bit of both sometimes! :D

I too see a link between Justice and Judgement, I guess I think of that in a more karmic sense and the link between Death and Judgement in a rebirth sense.

I like the seasonal aspect that you bring up Papageno. That is one thing through learning tarot that I have come to a greater appreciation of, cycles, seasons and nature. I notice things now that I never did before. Ain't it great! :)


Enchanted said: griffins....with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle.

But these 'griffins' don't have eagle heads, they have ears and no beak. They look like lions with wings!

However I really like the Phoenix for the Death card. And I know three things about the skull & crossbones:

1) Pirates :)
2) The skull and thigh bones are used in Tibetan rituals. The thigh bones especially.
3) We have a Bone Crypt in our town, All the bones are skulls and thigh bones. Seems that there's a passage in the bible about them.

Any further info. about the non-griffins? (They're used in Alchemy).