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Death Art and Meaning

Medieval Tarocchi Deck Fragment

About the Deck

Also mistakenly known as the Gringonneur deck, but this is a misnomer. This could not have been the deck of Charles VI, because it is too late, and it is Italian in origin.

Provenance

Italy c. 1500

According to Many Schools of Thought

A. E. Waite's Secondary Meanings

Death. The method of presentation is almost invariable, and embodies a bourgeois form of symbolism. The scene is the field of life, and amidst ordinary rank vegetation there are living arms and heads protruding from the ground. One of the heads is crowned, and a skeleton with a great scythe is in the act of mowing it. The transparent and unescapable meaning is death, but the alternatives allocated to the symbol are change and transformation. Other heads have been swept from their place previously, but it is, in its current and patent meaning, more especially a card of the death of Kings. In the exotic sense it has been said to signify the ascent of the spirit in the divine spheres, creation and destruction, perpetual movement, and so forth.

S. L. MacGregor Mathers's Divinatory Meanings

Upright

Death, Change, Transformation, Alteration for the worse

Reversed

Death just escaped, Partial change, Alteration for the better.

Papus's Divinatory Meanings

Death.

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