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Understanding Tarot Cards: Death in Reverse

Death shows up in reverse when life has gotten stale. The best question to ask ourselves is why has a situation grown stale? And how do we press forward? When Death appears reversed in your Tarot spread, it’s time to clear obstacles and build up your momentum again.

Nobody is going to die

It is a common misconception that the Death card in Tarot signifies the actual death of you or someone close to you. This is not the case 99.9% of the time. While the Death card can symbolize physical death, it usually symbolizes a major ending. Remember, the cards in the Major Arcana represent concepts more than concrete things.

The Death card really stands for change. It illustrates the cycle of death, rebirth, and life. You will see a major ending that will lead to a new beginning. The new beginning is important as well. Perhaps you are relocating to a new city. Death encompasses the end of your time in your current place and your transition to the new area. You may be close to starting a new job. The changes that manifest the Death card are usually major, beyond your day-to-day life.

The Obstacles ahead

The message grows a little more complex when the Death card appears in a reversed position. Reversed Death still signifies a change, but one that has been delayed or prevented in some way. This change may require extensive planning, or moving in baby steps.

What does delayed change look like? Imagine that you’re planning to move to a different city and start fresh. Now imagine random emergencies keep popping up, preventing you from saving up enough money to make that move. Maybe you were planning to move in six months, but the delay is going on two years now. Persistent obstacles are blocking you from closing the book on this city and starting anew in the next one.

What Death reversed represents

When you see Death reversed in your Tarot spread, it is very important to note where it appears. A Tarot layout displaying past, present, and future can have all sorts of implications. Death reversed in the Past spot means that, fortunately, most of your obstacles are already behind you. At the same time, that challenge is extremely relevant to your current situation and inquiry. When you see Death in the Present, it signifies a current challenge preventing your progress. You need to address this challenge and overcome, but how you do that is up to you.

Some Tarot spreads, like the Celtic cross spread, include spots that symbolize other people. If Death shows up in this position, someone is impeding your progress. It may not be done maliciously, but you still need to work with or around this person to move forward. Have patience. Everyone is not enthusiastic at the prospect of change, and so it is not uncommon to find someone in your circle who is less than supportive.

Some Tarot spreads have a position that offers insight on your true feelings. If Death appears reversed in this space, it is like that you are dealing with a lot of internal conflict. Maybe you aren’t convinced that you’re ready to make a major change. Maybe the change is not coming about by your own choice, and so you’re resisting it. (Situations like this also attract the seven of Swords card in your spread.) If the biggest obstacle to your progress is you, reflect on why that is. Work through your feelings, perhaps with spiritual guidance, and plan the most comfortable transition you can. This change is already going to happen, you just need to make it as smooth as possible.

Most card spreads also have a position for a card that reflects the outcome of your situation. This is basically the card that answers your main inquiry. Whatever your question is, Death reversed is an important message to receive in a final outcome position. In this case, the card is a warning that you need to make a change to get where you want to be. Whatever path you are currently on needs to be reevaluated, and may not be optimal for you. It may not give much detail in this spread, but you can do another with a more specific question for more insight.

Do not see the Death card in reverse as a harbinger of doom or failure. It is neither of those things. It is a cautionary message to review your current strategies, because they can most likely be improved. Heed the warning and look for a better way to reach your goals. Your new beginning is just ahead of you.

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