© Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
Traditional depictions of Death show us a knight in armour on a white horse, a king dead underfoot, a religious figure in its path, sometimes children. The image in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli tarot is a variation on that theme; here the horse is black (the colour associated with death in some cultures), its rider a skeleton. The skeleton’s headdress is a swaddling cloth, used at birth, reflecting the link between birth and death and the unending cycle of life. The skeleton carries an hourglass, reminding us that everything has its time.
In the distance, we see a river – another reminder of the ongoing process of transformation, this time in the form of the hydrologic cycle (the river water evaporates and forms clouds, the clouds rain, rainwater falls back to earth). The boat is said to symbolize both the cradle and the coffin. In the foreground we see a raven, thought to be a harbinger of death in many traditions. The theme is Scorpionic – transformation and change; endings creating openings for new beginnings.
XIII Death (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.