One of multiple versions of
the DEATH tarot card
is included in every copy of
Being and Showtime.
The Death tarot card gets a bad rap. Popular culture associates it with doom, misfortune, bad things to come, and, all-too-often, death. True, there are some tarot readers who still interpret the card to mean mortality, corruption, destruction, and
morbidity. But most realize that is has a more complex history and a
more complex meaning, choosing to the see the card as seldom being
about the querent's own death and more likely being about something
coming to an end in general for the querent: a relationship, a project, a
plan, or a phase of life.
"Last night I stayed up late playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died."
"Death" from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot.
More than this, there are some tarot historians and experts who see the thirteenth card in the major arcana as an incredibly positive card. Alejandro Jodorowsky—the author, filmmaker, and tarot aficionado—is one who believes that this card isn't even appropriately called "Death." True, the thirteenth card in the major arcana has traditionally been the only one without a name, without a label of any kind. It has just been called "the thirteenth card." Only in modern times has it received the name "Death." This, Jodorowsky argues, is misleading, as it forces us to interpret the central figure in a particular (and particularly limiting) way while ignoring all of the rest of the imagery and history.
If the thirteenth card were meant to be death, meant to be an ending, then why does it come a little past the middle of the major arcana series rather than at the end, asks Jodorowski. The position, in fact, encourages us to see the card as a representation of a cleansing or renewal in preparation for some change to come—for another part of the journey of the Fool toward completion in the World. As a result, when the thirteenth card comes up in a spread, Jodorowski suggests that the reader help the querent think about what major transformation is on the near horizon—and if the change appropriately calls for mourning what was while simultaneously being energized by what is about to come.
If this card could speak, Jodorowski imagines it saying, "What immeasurable joy! My permanent destruction opens the way to constant creation. If there is no end, there can be no beginning. I am at the service of eternity, your eternity. If you devote yourself to transformation, you will become the master of the ephemeral moment, because you will live it in its infinite intensity."
"Arcanum Nameless, XIII" from Tarot de Marseilles,
the only 'true' tarot deck according to Jodorowski.