Card XIII: Death

Translated from Le Tarot De Marseille by Paul Marteau

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The number 13 equals 12 + 1. It symbolizes the commencement of a new phase in the fundamental evolution signified by the Tarot.

This card is connected with The Hanged Man to take into account of the knowledge acquired by the preceding cycle, which must be pruned of things useless or detrimental, and unsuitable for the nature of the new cycle; and also because the spirit of sacrifice, suggested by the Hanged Man, leads to the light whose doors open with the disappearance of the physical body. It is the activity that does take place during a state of things frozen in place.

General and Abstract Meaning


This card indicates TRANSFORMATION; IT SYMBOLIZES MOVEMENT, THE PASSAGE FROM ONE LIFE PLAN TO ANOTHER LIFE PLAN. It is, in the realm of the visible, the opposite of its appearance to our world; it represents, in effect, immobility in this physical life, and that of moving forward in The Beyond.

Specific Analogies


The flesh color of the skeleton indicates the persistence of human individuality, thus expressing the fact that is doesn’t have to do with physical death, and that there remains in the Being another life form.

The loss of all its terrestrial attributes is characterized by the fact that it has been denuded of clothes and flesh, keeping nothing save for the armature necessary to bear a new covering. The principle of life which its color symbolizes shows the transformation which it is bringing about, and without which Man would be frozen in place, and so experience a true death.

It is reaping in a black space, symbolizing the dark passions of people as well as the path of the next process of evolution, which is for us still obscured. His hands and feet have not been cut off, but represent principles of action and of progress. They signify that death delivers Man from his physical life, leaving him with the power of gesture and of going forward. In fact, going forward, as indicated by the placement of the feet on the plane, shows that Man progresses from one incarnation to another; gesticulation, indicated by the land, symbolizes tact and sensitivity; placed on the ground, this is what he does in his incarnate state. Hid feet are on the black part to indicate that despite death, Man remains connected to the earth, and that he is supported both on the earth and within the earth so that he may be reborn. The two hands which are above the black part show that death spurs Man on to disengage himself from the material and to raise his gestures toward That Above. The two bones, being white, represent the emptiness of materiality; there are two of them and thus represent the polarities of masculine and feminine. The head of the child with long hair makes it clear that strength and intelligence do survive death, but the Divine Intelligence has always been present in Man since his infancy. The head with a crown signifies that each time death occurs, Man enters into his kingdom. The head is that of an adult, the royalty of Man being an immutable thing which has neither childhood or agèdness.

The yellow and blue leaves symbolize fertility; death does not cut them down, and they sprout every time Man goes down the passage of death. This fertility comes as much from the knowledge acquired on the physical plane as the forces of evolution appertain to the spiritual plane.

The handle of the scythe is yellow, because death comes from a Divine Will and Intelligence, and the scythe is red because death is always slicing into matter; moreover, this scythe in this card is not the representation of a cutting instrument, but the symbol of an activity which stirs up matter in order to renew it and bring it into being.

The figure has but one foot to show that death implies a disequilibrium and can operate only on the physical plane and not in the spirit. It is not a harmonious thing, but a consequence.

Orientation of the Figure

            Its profile, entirely facing to the right, shows transition, renewal, successive actions, owing to the suggestion of going forward; a transformation with every step.

Specific and Concrete Meaning

             Contrary to the other cards, this one does not have a name, its image being a classic representation of death. It does not exist cannot be named because that would endow it with a pejorative force, one which it does not have. Its true sense is that of transmutation, but even this isn’t exactly the right word, because transmutation is at the very origin of life, and this origin is ineffable.

Meanings as They Relate to the Three Planes

            MENTAL.  Renovation of ideas, completely or in part, because one thing is going to intervene and change everything, like a catalystic phenomenon, where a new body modifies completely the action of the present bodies.

ANIMISTIC. Estrangement, dispersion—of affection, or of the attachment to a sentiment, or of a hope.

PHYSICAL. Death, the cessation of something, immobility. In the matter of business, complete transformation.

INVERTED.  Stagnation from the point of view of health; death can be avoided, but the illness is incurable. According to its surroundings, it signifies death whose effects persist beyond itself in bad actions.


In sum: in its elementary sense, Card XIII represents the changes of states of conscience in Man which accompany the end of a cycle completed and at the beginning of a cycle of a different nature.

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