The Death card, more than any other card, is what inspired me the most to create my own tarot decks. Death is my favourite card in that I think it reflects the most meaningful changes we can ever experience as a human…. but the artwork on other decks are so often the macabre, skeletal, doom-laden images that kept me feeling like tarot just wasn’t for me.
I designed my own in order to bring the essence of the card into a more accessible, less fear based light. Saying that, I think fear is still an obvious element to the card as, even with small changes, fear shows up. So for my first deck, Everybody’s Tarot, Death is a butterfly because - ridiculously - I have an irrational fear of them flying around me. Nothing but respect for them really, as long as they do their respectful respecting things from a safe distance.
For my Creatures Tarot deck, the imagery is moodier… much like the entire deck. The death card, in a tarot reading, means transition. Massive change, a significant end to something, but there is still movement there. It isn’t THE END like in a film, it is a veil. A doorway. It is what life itself is made of… huge bittersweet changes with grief, loss, and hope all mixed together. Death is transition, which is another reason why the butterfly image suits. Mushrooms too… our amazing little intelligent not-human/not-plant friends that are so vital in decaying when needs to decay, in order to make space for life itself. In these cards, the mushroom image is in the standard Creatures Tarot deck while the moth image (see previous reference about my respectful fear of these babies) is in the Additional Arcana, the 22 card major Arcana you can add separately to your deck or use on its own.
I speak about death a lot, and have written about it here in my blog in my The Decay Of Grief post. When examining our human journey, bringing death into the conversation is essential. It is the very essence of change itself. The loss of a job, the ending of a relationship, moving house when you didn’t want to leave… these are all little deaths. Death of hope, death of a plan, death of a dream. But life can not start without death. The great cycle of everything requires rich, nourishing decay for us to grow from. We do not develop empathy without previously living through trauma. We do not grow without loss. And, of course, we inevitably live through the deaths of people we love, people who have made their own transition into The Next Thing. To be our healthiest selves, we really must be able to sit with these things and listen to them. In my own small way, I hope bringing gentler imagery to these Death cards helps in supporting that.