Why the ‘Death’ tarot card is really a blessing disguised as the Grim Reaper


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After a series of Murphy’s Law-style life events knocked me on my butt last week, I grabbed my treasured tarot cards and asked for help from beyond. I shuffled the 78 cards of my deck and laid out what’s called a past, present, future spread, in which a trio of cards peers into the timeline of a given person’s problem. I flipped over the present card and, ah!, “Death” stared right back into my very soul.

Unless my ghost is writing this, you can assume I’m alive. Still, the card (which, in my deck, shows the Grim Reaper) shook me to my melodramatic core. So rather than stewing in my WTF-is-this attitude, I asked celeb tarot card reader Angie Banicki to shed some light on the dark cloud of my reading.

“Death” is the thirteenth card of the Major Arcana: the group of 21 known for holding life’s lessons and secrets. This one—I soon discovered—really, really needs a rebrand. “Pulling the Death card is like, are you ready to move onto the next level? Are you ready to transform yourself into the next version of you?” says Banicki. “You’re releasing stuff to make room for more—a bigger life. This release may feel challenging. It will bring up emotions you don’t want to feel and if you fight it, it will be hard. But if you surrender, you will come through feeling more powerful than you ever have [before].”

When I read Banicki’s response (via email), a small ray of hope pierced my heart. The advice that life’s challenges are, in fact, wearing you down to shine you up for something better isn’t new. But it never hurts to hear an encore. And really, one of things I love about tarot is that it taps into your intuition.

“Pulling the Death card is like, are you ready to move onto the next level?” —Angie Banicki, celebrity tarot card reader

Depending on how the card appears in your reading, its interpretation may vary slightly. In reverse, for example, the Death tarot card tells you that your transformation has already begun. (You’ve felt the hard part because you’ve allowed the change to begin,” explains Banicki.) And in the context of the past, present, future spread, Death bears different messages in its aesthetically ominous wake.

How to read the Death tarot card

If it appears in the past position: “Get ready. You are in it! it is time for a big change. You are feeling all the feels now,” says the reader.

If it appears in the present: “This is still you in the process of transformation, and the first and last show how you are changing. Perhaps in what area of your life, or how you can best handle it,” says Banicki.

If it appears in the future: “You are about to go through the big change and the cards in front are probably showing how and why it is coming to you,” she says.

In the words of the Blue Öyster Cult, “Don’t fear the reaper.” His sickle may look a tad bit extreme, but he’s here to help you grow.

Did you know there’s a tarot card out there that represents you? Here’s how to find it. And make sure you’re cleansing your deck on the reg

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