The death tarot is a card of beginnings and endings, birth and rebirth. These ideas play an important part in the Promethean Series.
At the beginning of Blue Prometheus, Lucy gives an intuitive tarot reading for Thomas. The final card she turns over, representing the likely outcome, is the death card.
As Lucy turns over the card, a brick crashes through the window of the bookshop, and the London riots begin. A second beginning occurs when a spaceship lands on Clapton Pond, and Thomas and Lucy have the chance to travel to a distant planet.
The Death Tarot—Rider Waite
Blue Prometheus is an adventure, and deaths occur as he fights the forces of evil. But on a deeper level, the rationalistic Thomas is challenged by ideas of intuition, magic, and especially rebirth and reincarnation, which he encounters on Prometheus. This theme continues, in a slightly different way, in books two and three of the Promethean series.
I've always had an interest in the Tarot, but when I wrote Blue Prometheus, I researched the meanings in more detail. Below, you can read the traditional meaning of the card.
The image above is one of the classic card designs, from the Rider-Waite pack. Death rides a white horse and holds a black flag with a white rose. Dismembered bodies lie all around.
Before the white horse are three figures facing death: a child with an arm missing, a young person and a bishop. None can stand before death as he rides on, no matter their age or rank.
The death card depicts death, but not only physical death. As I mentioned above, it’s about beginnings and endings. In a reading the meaning is much more likely to signify the ending of one phase of life and the beginning of another, and it can be quite a positive card.
The white rose is often used at funerals, and it represents purity and humility. The card is number 13 in the deck. The associations with the number 13 are numerous. At the last supper there were thirteen people: Jesus and the 12 apostles. Some say Friday the 13th was when Christ lay dead on the cross. Also, 13 can be reduced to 4: 1+3=4. And 4 represents totality or completion. The completion of a stage of life, or of life.
Notice that in the background there is light; the sun is rising giving new life and new hope. Although there is pain, there is also the possibility of a fresh start.
In the case of physical death, this of course symbolizes life after death: resurrection or reincarnation, depending on your belief. Eternal life is shown.
Knowledge of this reduces the fear of this card in a reading, and death in real life. Of course, it’s still painful, especially for those who remain, and when one you love dies there are no words to ease the pain. But I always think that this card, despite the pain of transition, is one of hope of a new life.
I was once given a tarot reading by a Brazilian friend who took the death card out before shuffling the pack. I always thought this was unnecessary. The card seldom indicates physical death.
Finally, an important point. No one knows the future. As the Mariner, the last of an ancient species, says in Blue Prometheus: “The future is indicated not predetermined.”
Read books by Ned Marcus to find out more. When Blue Prometheus is released in November, you can discover more.
You can also read more articles by Ned Marcus here.