Before, we begin on the matter of Tarot, physical death and which cards interpret death, I have included some common questions people have around Tarot, death and consider if you can and should be predicting death. Please make sure you read this before you jump into which cards represent death.
The matter of death is a touchy subject for Tarot readers. While several readers acknowledge that Tarot cards can predict physical death, there are many who shy away from the subject and, even, deny that physical death can be predicted through Tarot cards. They argue that a major transformation or figurative death can be foretold but not real death and dying.
Can Tarot Cards Predict Physical Death?
I am not in the camp which believes Tarot cannot predict physical death: I know that it can. The truth is, that death is a major part of life. Death is all around us, constantly, and is a feature in the cycle of the universe.
During a Tarot reading, I once predicted death. It was the summer of 2015 and I was reading someone who, at the time, was rather close to me along with her boyfriend (it was a joint reading).
I pulled them three cards and they received The Knight of Swords, Death and the 4 of Swords. In my mind, I interpreted it to represent the approach of death, the actual death and the mourning period afterwards. I didn’t tell the couple what I had seen but she began to panic because she said that the cards looked like a death (her mum was also a Tarot reader). Two weeks later, her boyfriend’s aunt was driving down the motorway and suddenly died of a brain aneurism at the age of 31.
Should you Predict Death?
While I believe you can predict death, I do not believe it is a good idea to set out and try. And if you do, you certainly shouldn’t be informing people you are reading for that they or someone close to them is going to die.
As a diviner, you have a moral obligation to look out for your clients and your own welfare. You should not put anyone (yourself included) into a stressful situation and causes them to panic over dying.
That being said, although Tarot card predict death, that doesn’t mean that Tarot cards cause death. Death causes death, and is a matter of life so you should not fear your Tarot cards. Physical death is going to happen whether you predict it or not.
So, How Did I Predict Death with Tarot that Day?
It is very difficult to predict death by accident. I think one of the reasons I had predicted death was because, at that time, I had been teaching a lot about Tarot and death: in fact, I had taught that exact combination just that day and it kind of freaked me out how I had just taught it and it appeared in a reading.
As you go along on your Tarot journey you will notice strange coincidences. Frequently, the more you focus on one area of Tarot, the more you attract seekers (people wanting readings) who you can apply what you’re focusing on. So, if you don’t want to see death, put your attention on other subdivisions of Tarot such as love, business, or spirituality.
Top Ten Tarot Cards for Physical Death
Below I have included the top 10 Tarot cards I would take to represent death. I should say, that the main cards I would take to predict death is Death, the 4 of Swords, the 5 of Swords, and the Knight of Swords. The other cards are less likely to symbolize death, but they can.
I should note, that you will be looking for a combination of cards to represent death, or any subject really. One card does not symbolize death, but many cards in a sequence will. Death will appear in stages, and your cards will reflect this.
So, to accurately predict death, you should look for a card which can represent an illness or a sudden and shocking, quick event. Then, you would pull a card which represents the death. Once death takes place, you would expect to see a period of mourning or, even, a card which indicates an inheritance.
In the example I gave of when I predicted death, I recognised that The Knight of Swords can symbolize a shocking event and, in ancient times, it could mean the approach of death: this matched the manner which she died which was quick and unexpected. Then, the couple got the Death card, which was obviously the physical death. Finally appeared the 4 of Swords; the period of mourning.
The Knight of Swords
As I said previously, the Knight of Swords can represent the approach of physical death. While many deaths happen in old age or after illness, the Knight of Swords can mean that the Grim Reaper is going to appear quick and suddenly.
Many readers would like to replace The Knight of Swords with The Tower as an event which is quick and shocking, like a sudden death. While this is true, I find that Death has a very particular personality which makes it more like the Knight of Swords. Death swoops in and leaves a presence, it encompasses things, and leaves an energetic residue just as this Knight does. By contrast, The Tower breaks stuff down and then leaves you to pick up the pieces, it doesn’t linger like the Knight. Therefore, for me The Knight of Swords is more like a sudden death, not The Tower (but you may read them differently).
The Queen of Swords
Traditionally, many people would not take the Queen of Swords Tarot card to predict death at all and you’re probably reading this thinking I am crazy for thinking the Queen of Swords is a card of death. But, given this Queen’s traditional interpretation, it is not hard to make the link between this card and death.
From experience, I have found that many women who identify with the Queen of Swords, throughout their lives, have the worst luck when it comes to men. Many of them have partners who died young and an interpretation for the Queen of Swords is that it can represent a widowhood. Therefore, the Queen of Swords can predict the eventual death of a husband or partner, especially if you keep seeing it or have always felt it has been you (or whoever you’re reading).
The 9 of Swords
The 9 of Swords is a funny card for predicting death. It can predict serious illness, anxiety and the worry which comes from doing so. Things are usually not as bad as they appear to be with the 9 of Swords so I am not so keen in saying that it represents the approach of death. However, it is possible that the 9 of Swords can symbolize an anxiety over dying, so death will be on the seeker’s mind; if death is on their mind, they may have good reason to worry about it.
I think the 9 of Swords is more likely to represent the mourning period after a physical death than it is to represent dying from an illness. I feel this way because there is often a time which follows death where people can’t sleep and are grief stricken - this fits with the energy of the 9 of Swords.
For the record, I should inform you that prior to modern times, the 9 of Swords was viewed as a terrible omen because it represented time spent in churches with clergy which implies that you will be around nuns, and priests because of a death. You will notice that, in playing card divination, the 9 of Spades has a similar interpretation and is said by diviners to also predict death.
It is pretty obvious that Death is the most common card which predicts physical death, so does not require much explanation. While the Death Tarot card doesn’t always mean physical death, there will be times when it will predict real death. Although rare, it does happen.
If you’re unsure whether Death in a Tarot reading is a real death or a figurative one, one thing which you can do is look further into the future. If the future is filled with long periods of mourning, loss, pain and a whole load of shit, then the Death card is predicting a real death. However, if the future after death contains relatively positive cards which can mark new beginnings, then the Death card predicts a metaphorical death, not a physical one.
The 10 of Swords
The 10 of Swords is very similar to the Death Tarot card in that it can predict physical death or a major negative, almost, life changing event to happen in your life.
Although the 10 of Swords can be a ‘physical death’ and transition Tarot card, it can represent a number of diabolic situations, not just death. For example, it can symbolize a major illness but one which you or your seeker may recover from, and this is one of the reasons why you should make predictions based on the entire Tarot reading, not just one card.
The 4 of Swords
As I have said previously, I often interpret the 4 of Swords to be the card of mourning after a physical death. Not only is this a traditional interpretation, but the card can predict a time when you have to rest, practice self-care and look after yourself (as you would following a death).
On Rider Waite Smith Tarot decks, you will notice that the character on the card lies on a coffin; again, this is a sign that the card can signify death. However, the card also comes up during times that you’re recovering from illness so, if you have been ill but are taking care of yourself, try not to worry too much.
The 5 of Swords
I have included the 5 of Swords in this list, because there is a superstation among some Tarot readers that this card can predict that you will attend a funeral. Therefore, the 5 of Swords is a Tarot card which can predict physical death. I have not heard Tarot readers discuss this belief or write about it for a while, but you may want to use it in your Tarot practice.
The 5 of Wands
The 5 of Wands can be a Tarot card which predicts death for a couple of reasons. Writing in 1888, Mathers noted that the 5 of Wands was a card of inheritance. Obviously, to receive an inheritance someone must die.
In modern times, the 5 of Wands is a card which can predict conflict and competition. It is not uncommon for families to fall apart after the death of a key member, such as a parent or grandparent. The 5 of Wands can predict that there will be arguments over inheritances. For these reasons, I would take the 5 of Wands to be a card of death.
The 5 of Cups
The 5 of Cups is a card of death for two reasons. One, in ancient times it predicted riches from an inheritance. Secondly, it can represent heartache, pain and loss. While the 3 of Swords often speaks of the loss of a romantic relationship, the 5 of Cups is often about the loss of any type of relationship, in any way. Therefore, the 5 of Cups could be a card of death.
Ace of Pentacles
The Ace of Pentacles is another inheritance Tarot card. Although most of the other Tarot cards which predict death are overly negative and scary, the Ace of Pentacles is a very positive card so most Tarot readers wouldn’t assume that it means death.
There will be times when you or someone you are reading will experience the death of a loved one - which is obviously terrible - but something positive will come out of it, such as an inheritance. The Ace of Pentacles can mean that you will inherit more money than you thought. Sometimes the Ace of Pentacles can symbolize jewellery, so the card predicts that after the death of a loved one you will receive one of their most prized possessions.
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Cards used in this post are from The Wooden Tarot