Death and Transformation

There are a few cards in the tarot deck that have such foreboding imagery, that the very sight of them can make a person feel ill at ease.

Hello Kitty Tarot by Joe Rosales
The thirteenth card in the Major Arcana, "Death" not surprisingly is one of these cards. Typically portraying a skeletal figure, often robed in black, walking or riding into town, scythe on one side, petrified figures underfoot, there is indeed a very grave, if you'll pardon the pun, feeling to the whole thing. The menacing central figure is cloaked in symbolism as it personifies death through it's resemblance to the grim reaper as he is depicted in most artwork influenced by the aftermath of the Black Plague.

The Grim Reaper
Della Roca Card -- unnamed
To understand the symbolism we need only to answer one little question....."what is death...?" I think that no matter what your beliefs, there is no denying that "death" involves a change, from one state of being into another, and it's this concept of transformation that the death tarot card is referring to.  Change, transformation, birth and rebirth - that's the true meaning of this ominous looking 13th card.

Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza
I think one of the more interesting Tarot decks out there is the Deviant Moon Tarot. Shown in the picture above, this death card is absolutely fantastic, a woman, pregnant, and clearly demonstrating the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

So here's my depiction of the Death. I'm starting all of my cards as original collages...the final card will be photoshopped and put into a more traditional format, but for now..... I'm going to break down how I've added specific elements to heighten the symbolism and meanings behind this card as I interpret it.

The grim reaper, here is redefined as an angel of death, the black robe replaced by black wings, the figure is somewhat androgynous at first glance, but further inspection will reveal very clearly that death is being portrayed by a woman.  As women are so clearly linked to the concepts of birth and rebirth, it seemed like a natural choice. The aspects of transformation are addressed in multiple ways. The skull makes its appearance, the transformation from life to death and back again...exaggerated here by having the image on a two dimensional plane, and having the skull protrude into three dimensional space, playing between realms. The white rose, again a traditional symbol of rebirth, is placed over "death's" hand -- her offering, her promise of something new that will await you. A ghostly, semi-transparent, version of death, whole, but not, as she fades into the background, the process of transformation itself. The background with its intense colours, reminiscent of fire which consumes, destroys, and then allows for new growth. Images of skulls neatly and purposefully piled up, a reminder of all that has already transpired, changed, transformed in the past to allow us to be where we are today. And all of it behind a symbolic gate, keeping the past where it belongs, but allowing us to look back and reflect on what we see there.

Change, certainly can be most foreboding, however there are times when it is absolutely necessary.

Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself. If all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.
- Simone de Beauvoir
And on that note, I think I'll leave you with this little number...